Thursday, February 18, 2010


I am lucky enough to be in Berlin during the Berlinale, the annual film festival. It turns out to be a pretty big deal, and while I was initially skeptical, I have bought into the whole thing, and we've bought tickets to see five different movies. So far, I've just seen two, but they were both pretty good:
  • Summer Wars is an anime about a boy who is paid to be the popular girl's boyfriend during a family reunion. During this reunion, hackers compromise the all-encompassing Google-like network called Oz, and wreck havoc. The nerdy main character has to rescue the world. I thought this movie was pretty good. I guess I like anime a lot more when it's not in the fantasy genre, my least favorite genre. Of course it contains its moments that are cringe-inducing in their cutsiness, but I think that's par for the course. Best part? The artificial intelligence behind the virus came out of "a Pittsburgh robotics laboratory." Wonder where that could be?!
  • Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was a biopic about Ian Dury, the singer/songwriter for some punk/new wave bands like The Blockheads. Actually I thought I was going to see a documentary, but that idea was dispelled about fifteen seconds into the movie. Also, I didn't know anything about Ian Dury. I'd maybe heard the song Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll once or twice in my life. But still, it turned out to be a pretty good movie. Ian had polio as a child, so a lot of the movie is kind of about his struggles as a kid, and the parallel struggles of his son's life, since he, you know, has a father who is largely absent. Best part? This movie contains the actors from The Office (U.K.) who play Gareth Keenan and Chris Finch!
All that, and three more movies to see by Sunday. I'm pretty pumped. The only funny thing is that the Berlinale has some of the worst lines I have ever seen in my life. They are both long and completely disorganized. Like any true American, I love and respect lines. I guess when the line philosophies of dozens of nations come together in one city, it's pretty much a recipe for disaster. People love complaining about roped-off lines and how they make you feel like cattle, but at least you know where you stand, to use a pun.

Also, new Sick Ridiculous song Duckles Chuckles. Please check it out!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Berlin, February 2010

Well folks, I am back in Berlin! I'm here for the next three weeks, and looking to see some neat stuff as well as continue some cool research projects I am working on. I've just been here since Wednesday, and most of that time has been spent either working on recovering from jet-lag, but there were a few highlights:
  • In Pittsburgh, I showed up to the airport early and asked them to put me on an earlier flight. They did! And I credit this decision for my ability to actually get out ahead of the impending snowstorm. While NYC also had an impending snow storm, it was slightly less, um, impending, so my 8pm flight was just fine.
  • In Berlin, it's cold! Much colder than it was in November, and just about as cold as Pittsburgh. Strangely enough, no one shovels their sidewalks here. It's a complete joke. There is a thick layer of ice everywhere. I sort of thought Pittsburgh was bad in this way, but by comparison to Berlin, Pittsburgh is awesome.
  • Last night we went out for dinner at a burrito place! It was actually pretty good, believe it or not. It's rare to get good Mexican food in Europe (or say anywhere outside of Mexico and the southern United States) but this was pretty tasty. I had flautas!
  • Also last night we went to a Ping Pong bar called, "Dr. Pong." At Dr. Pong there is only one table, but dozens of patrons, so what happens is, everyone gets a paddle and then walks around the ping pong table, hitting the ball back and forth. If you miss, or hit it out, you're eliminated, and then at the end the final two people play a game to five. The best part is when there are three people left, so they're really running around the table to keep the ball in play! Apparently these bars are pretty popular here, especially with hipsters, and I could see it catching on in the U.S. Gooski's anyone?
  • Tomorrow I want to go to the Museum of the German Resistance. We'll see how that goes...
Okay, I guess that's about it. I sure do love bullet points... They really help me organize my thoughts...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The New Orleans Saints Win the NFL Superbowl

I am writing this now because I want to remember this moment. Tonight the Saints won the Superbowl. It was awesome. Here's what I remember:
  • Every single pundit picking the Colts. That's okay, I don't hold it against them. But this is just for future reference. In the NFL, especially in the playoffs, you never know what is going to happen.
  • What do you even say about the on-sides kick to start the half? Awesome. In fact, Sean Payton was back with the more aggressive calling that we expect from him, and that we sort of missed in the last game.
  • Blitzing! As in, we didn't do nearly as much as last game. This turned out to be a great strategy. I thought we blitzed a little too much last game, so this game was perfect. Standard defense until the fourth quarter when we threw in some new ones. (We did run some 3/4 though.)
  • The Colts started off hot, but from the second quarter on the Saints look great, like the regular season Saints!
  • When Porter made the interception, I went buck wild. Amazing. Same reaction as the Favre interception * 100.
  • Wish I were in New Orleans, getting wild with those bonkers Saints fans. Insane.
Dream big kids. One day it could happen to you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snotorious B.I.G.

Snowpocalypse2010 (3 of 10)
Originally uploaded by DixiePistols.
Snow pictures up! These are all shots from my backyard.

Thanks Rob for the phrase, "Snotorious B.I.G."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Question about function... optimization?

Computer science people, I am looking to be pointed in the right direction. I am looking for a solution to a problem, and I think the answer might lie in an area of Computer Science/Statistics/O.R. that I know very little about. Here's the deal:

I have two mathematical functions, f_1 and f_2. Both functions intersect with the Y axis at exactly two points (and basically what happens below the Y axis can be ignored). f_1 is fixed; it's input. But f_2 is defined in terms of two parameters that I can tweak. Here's what I am trying to answer:

How can I pick the two parameters of f_2 so that the area under f_2 is as large as possible and yet still contained entirely within the area under f_1? 

I have come up with sort of a brute-force algorithm that I think will solve the problem, but if there's a 'best' or well-known way to solve this class of problems I'd like to learn more about it. I have heard about topics like 'function optimization.' Is this relevant? Also, because what I am doing is sort of a surprise, I'd like to hide most of the details, but I can give more if that will help the quality of your responses.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Top 10 Tweeted Links of 2009

2009 was a great year. In fact, it was the first year where I really started using Twitter. Oh I'd used it before 2009, but not seriously. (And come on, it's only been around since, what, like 2007?) Anywho, I went back through my 2009 Tweets. I took a look at all the videos and links I felt were worth sharing, took my ten favorite, and now present them to you, dear reader. So without further ado, my top ten tweeted links of 2009:
  1. A Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video
  2. Preservation Hall Hot 4: Saint James Infirmary (King Britt Remix)
  3. Freedom Tray - So free it hurts
  4. This old Nextel commercial that I love
  5. Ben Folds Five reunites to play Reinhold Messner live
  6. 1300 Bad Words
  7. The Wikipedia Entry for M.A.S.K., the only cartoon besides TMNT that I remember really loving as a kid.
  8. The iPod is revolutionary
  9. These American Apparel leotards look ridiculous
  10. TWIPES!

That's it everyone. Have a great twenty-ten.