Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

“I’m sorry, but I’m married …”

Monday, March 5th, 2007

As I enjoy going out with friends and mingling a lot, I noticed a very interesting trend lately. Some of my single friends will go and chat up some woman they find attractive (and sometimes with success) and if the woman is not interested, she will tend to show them a ring on her finger and tell them that she unfortunately is taken. So far, so good. I was out with some friends of mine. We were just talking and observed some gentleman asking a woman out right of the bat. She showed her ring and politely turned the guy down. Chris ended up talking to this lovely lady later – we all met as part of some group going out, and Chris and she had a longer conversation. After a long conversation, lots of laughter she excused herself for a minute. Once she came back from the bathroom, her ring was gone. He didn’t notice it at first, but as she suddenly became a lot more flirty, he asked her about it straight up. Her answer: “It’s a fake ring. Just to keep guys in bars from hitting on me.” They talked for a bit more about this and that, and she started hinting more and more that she would be very interested in going on a date with Chris. He thought about it, and walked away. Chris told me later that he just does not like to date woman that lie; trust and honesty are important to him. His reasoning was that if she is willing to lie (or: use little “white lies”) right from the start, how can one expect that it does not get worse over time? What if she uses little white lies to get out of every situation she does not want to be in?

What do we learn from this? A fake wedding ring might keep all the drunk loosers away, but will possibly confuse or scare off Mr. Right when he comes along. I’ve heard similar stories from a couple of other guys; it just does not go over well.

Online Dating

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

As I’m currently visiting Germany over the winter break, I couldn’t help but notice the advertising for an online dating website here. They spend a lot of money to get this stuff into peoples heads here. I’ve seen some of that stuff advertised in the US (such as and TRUE) so for the hell of it I went and checked out the website. First thing I noticed is that they require you to create an account to see peoples pictures or browse more than a couple of pages in the search results. That, of course, leads to many many stale profiles from people that just want to window-shop and are not really interested in giving it a serious try. To interested parties (i.e. people that pay) this of course might look like there are so many members on the website that it might be worth paying for.

It just helps add to my impression after reading about Bad Experiences with canceling accounts, which gives a not-so-honorable mention to certain US based dating websites. Apparently you can’t just cancel your membership using the website, but have to take a phone-exit interview. Otherwise, your profile will be kept and your credit card will be continue to be charged. It seems that dating websites are forced to keep people active as long as possible (or at least keep up the illusion). The reason for this might be less mean-spirited than one would at first assume. For example, just to have a couple of thousand people in each major city of the US a dating website would have to have roughly 100.000 active members. That is tough to accomplish, esp. given that without the illusion of activity nobody else would join.

With all that said, a friend of mine found his girlfriend through the Denver Personals on Craigslist. It can work.

Lucky me

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

This is another example how bad things can turn into good things. Sometimes … I’m spending Christmas in Germany with my parents and I had to move my original return flight date from the 22nd to the 18th. Moving a flight by only 4 days did cost me $100 in “penalty” by the airline – at first I was not happy about this at all. But then again, a blizzard struck two days later, US36/I25 closed, DIA closed down and a few thousand people are stuck in Denver (luckily things are clearing up a bit know so maybe everybody can make it home in time). Not waiting around for a day was worth $100. Lucky me.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you all!

Just got back from NIPS 2006

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Just got back in town from the NIPS conference. I’ve been to a couple of Machine Learning conferences before, but this was my first time at NIPS. A couple of papers were very interesting (you can download them at :

  • Manifold Denoising
    Matthias Hein, Markus Maier
  • Fundamental Limitations of Spectral Clustering Methods
    Boaz Nadler, Meirav Galun
  • Learning with Hypergraphs: Clustering, Classification, and Embedding
    Dengyong Zhou, Jiayuan Huang, Bernhard Schoelkopf
  • Recursive Attribute Factoring
    David Cohn, Deepak Verma, Karl Pfleger

However, I found the single-track style of the conference boring at times. My interest in the latest results from fMRIs etc. is low right now, so at times there was nothing to do, but mingle or just do nothing. At ICML there is always at least one conference-track that is interesting to me. The poster sessions at NIPS were very interesting, though.

The workshops were more interesting than the conference. Only the room-sizes were misallocated. Some workshops (the one with the big rooms) were rather empty, and the ones I attended were overcrowded. And, of course, the traditional workshop summarys at the end of the workshop were funny. The ones that stuck out in my mind the most were Man vs. Bird from the Acoustic Processing Workshop and the novel applications for the non-linear dimensionality reduction with their swiss-roll video. I got a few new ideas from the workshops that maybe will work out.

Also there were no T-Shirts. At this years ICML plenty of free t-shirts were given out – unfortunately during the reception, which forced everybody to carry their T-Shirts around during the entire reception (it looked very amusing, though) – yet at NIPS all we got was a mug… ūüôā

Last, but not least, I’ve heard about the legendary NIPS partys from my friends and had some high expectations :-). Friday night I attended the GURU-party from Garry’s Unbelievable Research Unit, Saturday was the legendary Gatsby-party. Both partys were rather disappointing, so I actually went to check out the nightlife in Whistler instead. The bars and clubs I found were pretty quiet as well. Uh well… I’ve heard from people that Whistler had less people than last year around that time.

Perception of Beauty / Advertising

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

I just found this video on YouTube. Check it out. All I can say is “wow”.

Edit:¬†A parody of the video is very funny…


Random Number Books

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

A friend of mine just pointed me to the book of A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates. It’s a book full of random numbers from back in the days when random number generation was hard. However, check out the reviews at Amazon of the book. They are hilarious.

Las Vegas and Roulette

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

I just got back from a brief stay in Las Vegas. I didn’t gamble, but¬†got thinking about the game of Roulette. Obviously all the games that are played rely on unpredictability in one way or another and require real randomness, just like many cryptography applications such as SSL. If the state of, say the deck of cards in a¬†black jack game would be known, the outcome becomes predictable (see also: cracking the Netscape SSL random number generator). The black jack card counting thing is getting old (and I noticed that they cut the deck of cards and throw away a number of cards – which leaves the gambles with no information what cards are now in the deck), but recently I read about people using a laser scanner to predict the roulette wheel¬†outcome. An interesting bit I noticed was how Roulette is played differently here in the US. Besides that there are two zeros on the table (giving the bank an even greater chance to win) the croupier changes the spin of the wheel (he/she stops the wheel and starts spinning it again) and puts the little ball in after all the bets have been made. I recall that in Europe they spin the wheel and put the ball in and then allow for bets being made for a certain amount of time. That certainly makes it impossible to predict anything at all at the time of betting (unless the wheel would be biased somehow, say by a slight tilt). Also the displays that show the last couple of numbers seem to malfunction occasionally and display the wrong numbers. I guess the only way to win in a casino would be if any of their “random number generators” were unbeknownst to them were not truly random – but then again they won’t like it if¬†people win.

Funny sidenote… you can find amazing, “infallable” Roulette Systems on the web for only $27 ūüôā Then there others that are available for free. For example, the pivot system. The inventor claims that :”It is a fact that numbers on a roulette wheel tend to repeat often.” Some of them might even work (play simple chances, double your bet everytime you loose) assuming that there would be no limit at the table (and ignoring that the house still has an edge).

Data mining used to find new materials

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

¬†I just read an Eureka Alert (see also ZDNet’s blog)mentioning that a couple of researchers at MIT found new, potentially useful crystal structures with AI and Data Mining techniques. You can find the abstract of their paper here. I’ve seen randomness and Genetic Algorithms around alot lately (such as the self-reconfigurable-modular-robot/) and a robot that can do bioinformatics experiments (DNA sequencing) all by himself (link?). I think that this is a very useful application of AI. However, it is only an application of the scientific knowledge. It’s fast testing based on the current physical models and insights. It automates science to an extend, but does not come up with new insights. It’s more data without¬†more people to add an interpretation. For example, it took a few years before somebody found an application for Teflon.

I haven’t seen this around (will search¬†again), but what would be really interesting is an algorithm that can form a new hypothesis (e.g. a differential equation) based on outcomes from Physics experiments. An algorithms that explains the data and forms a theory. It’s probably harder to build than regression algorithms…



Gates Foundation helps company buy papers

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Here’s something strange I found:

Gates Foundation helps company buy news-papers – I wonder how that fits in with the whole charity thing.

See also: MediaNews Buying in California Boosted by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.