Thursday, September 29, 2005

Me On Live TV! (Last Week Though)

Last Friday (Sep 23), a reporter hosting an IT-related news show called me up (at 17:00) to ask whether I would like to appear live (at 22:30) on the show which will discuss online behaviors of children. I said yes and you can see the video clip and its transcription here. A Better Society One Child At A Time

Friday, September 23, 2005

Corruption & "Thailand's Iron Lady" (My Heroine)

"Corruption is truly a national priority. Unless this gets better Thailand is going to stall out. You could get away with it before, but not now with the economy at the level it is."

Michael E. Porter,
a world famous strategy professor/guru,
revered by top Thailand's politicians,
at a seminar in Bangkok in 2005.

Now, this is from the Associated Press:

Thailand's 'Iron Lady' Pressured to Resign

The biggest problem for Jaruvan Maintaka is that she knows too much — about corrupt politicians, shady tycoons and multimillion-dollar rip-offs. And that may well cost Thailand's "Iron Lady" her job as the country's first auditor-general.

Jaruvan has been locked out of her office and had her salary frozen, but she refuses to resign unless King Bhumibol Adulyadej endorses the government's pick to replace her. In a move with few precedents, the revered constitutional monarch hasn't signed off on the nomination.
The case has heightened political tensions, generated debate about possible rifts between the government and Royal Palace and focused the spotlight on massive corruption in and around the regime of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"Jaruvan's tenacity in going after big-time crooks has become the stuff of legend," The Nation newspaper wrote recently. "With only half of her term gone she has amassed a menagerie of adversaries — from vested interests to corrupt politicians — and in the process became a target for elimination."

Cry, my beloved country. The wheel of Karma is turning way too slowly.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Links To Essays In "Best Software Writing I"

Joel Spolsky compiled a list of essays into a book called Best Software Writing I.

I found the book to be an interesting collection of solid, interesting essays. However, I'm not sure it's the "Best Software Writing." To me, the best software writing is Fred Brooks' No Silver Bullet.

Neil Kandalgaonkar compiled a list of links to the original essays collected in Joel's compilation.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Wise Words From A Wise Man*

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

When I was a teenager, the most fun science book was the first volume of The Feynman's Lectures on Physics. I frequently slept with the book lying next to me. It actually got me into physics training.

To read his words in the above article brought back a lot of those joyful feelings again.

*Richard Philips Feynman

Data Transformation Adventure
If you are lucky, you will find the contorted logic in this comic strip totally alien.

If you are like me, it would be way too familiar.

For those of you who are not sure how to store your marketing (or any type of) data: Enter it in one sheet of Excel and export it as tab-delimited text or as the csv format. This will be the simplest and easiest to work with computers. Make sure there is no empty row or column. Make sure the column headers are descriptive. Note that Excel can only store up to about 65,000 rows of data.

If your data is too complex for a sheet of Excel, you might want to consider using some kind of a desktop database such as Access. It's not as simple as just typing in Excel but still pretty simple.

If you have a large amount of data and many people will access it frequently, it's time to use a reasonably nice database such as Postgresql, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, IBM DB2, etc. The choice depends on your budget and the skill of the person(s) who will help you. Postgresql and MySQL are open source software so they don't cost you any money. The others cost some money but you might be able to piggyback your data onto your company's existing databases.

I remember asking my database administrator friend 15 years ago: Why don't we store everything as simple text file? Turns out that simple text files are quite good for transferring the data between applications but not so good for fast manipulation of data (such as ranking, grouping, summing, etc.) So, if you want to manipulate your data a lot, use a real database (Postgresql and friends...), if you want to transfer the information between different applications, export it from the database into some text format. Tab-delimited text is quite serviceable; for more fancy stuff, you can use XML which is a very fancy text file.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

4D Ultrasound Of My Second Baby (Part II)

Today I brought my wife and my son Titus to Bangpo General hospital for my wife's pregnancy checkup again.

The fetus is now 25 weeks old. (The previous post was when she was 12 weeks old, and yes, now we know it's a she.) She is expected in early December.

The first video (7 MB), in which you can see both cross sections and the 3-D reconstruction, is here and the second one (6 MB), in which you can see her arms, is here. For the record, she did not spontaneously transform into a piglet monster--it was just a digital image reconstruction artifact.

For more information about 4D ultrasound, see this guide and this page (where there are many many clips of babies.)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

T. Rex Might Have Had Feathers

This is certainly the most exciting discovery for me, considering how ingrained the images of T. Rex are. (I have not seen the pictures of the fossils though, so it might not actually be feathers.)

According to the Times (Britain):

The feather revelation follows a series of discoveries in fossil beds at Liaoning in northeast China where a volcanic eruption buried many dinosaurs alive. It also cut off the oxygen that would otherwise have rotted them away. Some theropod (“beast-footed”) dinosaurs were preserved complete with feathery plumage. Theropod is the name given to predatory creatures that walked upright on two legs, balanced by a long tail. The feathered finds include an early tyrannosaur, a likely ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex, two small flying dinosaurs and five other predators. Feathers are thought to have evolved first to keep dinosaurs warm and only later as an aid to flight.

Alien Mind Control

If we were grasshoppers, our body could be invaded by a thread-like alien species (whose length is many times longer than our body length), our mind could be controlled to committed suicide by plunging into the water to our destruction.

From 31 August 2005 news service:

A parasitic worm that makes the grasshopper it invades jump into water and commit suicide does so by chemically influencing its brain, a study of the insects’ proteins reveal.

Since we are human, we only have to worry about the constant barrages of advertisements making us into docile consumers, doing destructive things to our bodies and souls.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Knowledge Today: Bulbous Bow

I remembered when I was a kid, I wondered what those round thingy in front of the battleships (especially the WWII battleship Yamato) were. Now I know. It's called the bulbous bow.

Although the detailed physics is not known, bulbous bows are known to give around 12-15% gain in fuel efficiency for the range of speeds they are designed for. The gain is likely to be caused by destructive interferences of the waves in front of the ship and the waves that ride up the bow, giving less drag to the ship.

From the Wikipedia concerning its development:
It is unclear when bulbous bows were conclusively first examined, but research into the effects of bulbous bows was first published in the 1950s. Engineers began experimenting with bulbous bows after discovering that ships fitted with a ram bow were exhibiting substantially lower drag characteristics than predicted, and eventually found that they could reduce drag by about 5%. Experimentation and refinement slowly improved the geometry of bulbous bows, but they were not widely exploited until research conducted at the University of British Columbia in the 1980s increased their performance to a practical level. Bulbous bows were also developed and used by the Japanese before World War II. One example of this was on the battleship Yamato. This research does not seem to have been connected with western research in any way.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Abilene Paradox

Have you participated in a committee making decisions that nobody wants but nobody objects anyway? Turns out there is a name for this phenomenon. It's called the Abilene Paradox.

The standard parable goes as follows:

Four adults are sitting on a porch in 104-degree heat in the small town of Coleman, Texas, some 53 miles from Abilene. They are engaging in as little motion as possible, drinking lemonade, watching the fan spin lazily, and occasionally playing the odd game of dominoes. The characters are a married couple and the wife’s parents. At some point, the wife’s father suggests they drive to Abilene to eat at a cafeteria there. The son-in-law thinks this is a crazy idea but doesn’t see any need to upset the apple cart, so he goes along with it, as do the two women. They get in their unair-conditioned Buick and drive through a dust storm to Abilene. They eat a mediocre lunch at the cafeteria and return to Coleman exhausted, hot, and generally unhappy with the experience. It is not until they return home that it is revealed that none of them really wanted to go to Abilene–they were just going along because they thought the others were eager to go. Naturally, everyone sees this miss in communication as someone else’s problem!