Thursday, August 30, 2007

Silly things that keep me up

Sometimes there are some silly things out there that keep me up until late at night. Last night this was my reason:

Extremely addictive! The data is a little problematic in some classic areas like units of measure (are implied from the relationship type, but not explicit anywhere) and uneven structuring (contains things like "factbook:publicdebt '50% of GDP'" or sometimes some comma-separated values to deal with lists of things, instead of having multiple relationships)

But you can query for things like: give me the countries that have a life expectancy greater than 65 years and does not produce any oil:

?x a factbook:Country .
?x factbook:lifeexpectancyatbirth_totalpopulation ?life .
?x factbook:countryname_conventionalshortform ?name .
?x factbook:oil_production ?oil .
FILTER ( ?oil = 0 && ?life >= 65 )

(I first tried the neighboring countries of these countries, but got some exception of missing table... odd)

And here is where this link came from: Open Data: Information wants to be linked

What do you need to be intelligent?

There was an interesting post at Cognitive Daily today (well, technically yesterday):

Does an artificial intelligence require a body?

Certainly the authors and the readers courageous enough to leave a comment don't quite agree with this assertion (well, at least most of them). I don't agree myself, but with a small exception: I believe that the only way you can have something to be intelligent is if it can interact with the environment. In other words, you can't make something that is intelligent by just making it consume monstrous amounts of data (e.g., Google's amazing search index will never be intelligent). Intelligence comes from the feedback to the data itself, to its ability to organize and predict data based on organization. You can't correctly predict if you don't have some sort of control over the things you are predicting.

Well, at least that's what I believe. I'm certainly not as "educated" in the subject as the people that read the Cognitive Daily blog, but, as most software developers, I've tried my "luck" in AI-like things and you learn...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

25 years of the CD

It's strange how silly events like this makes people start thinking about the current state of music in the world. It feels like everywhere I look there is an article or a discussion about how crappy the music we are listening to is right now. Starting with the dynamic range (IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article with examples about it) to really sound quality - imagine that some songs you buy online are compressed to ridiculous rates like 128 kbps. And people are so used to bad quality that they can't even tell any more.

I can say that I've been feeling part of this issue. For some time I tried to listen to music on the bus on the way to work and back, and it's painful. Anything with any real dynamic range forces you to keep changing volume all the time or else you are either destroying your ears on the fortissimos, or not listening to anything on the mezzo-pianos (yes, buses are quite noisy). Right now I don't listen to anything besides the news on my iPod. And for that it's pretty useful.

There I went adding a little bit more literature to the whole "the CD has destroyed music" subject. Digital compression has destroyed music, actually. And we are still going this route, with a lot of ground to cover until we will find ourselves either lost or at a precipice.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Doing this and that

So here I am again to write something, so that people don't think I completely abandoned the idea of blogging. I haven't really, but I'm never sure what to write. Lately life has been a little unfocused, to say the least. And when you don't focus much on one thing you end up not really having much to say.

What I have been reading? Well, I finally finished reading Steven Erikson's Midnight Tides. Good book, but quite long. Not a very easy read, mostly because there are a lot of characters spread around the world and with somehow similar names. There is a section on the characters, but it doesn't really help much (it contains useless info like:

Arahathan, a mage


I've also finished reviewing yet another version of the major paper of my Ph.D. research and now it's back to the reviewers for another round. Everything just takes so much time, and with my terrible lack of free time, it makes cycles even longer. Writing papers takes a lot of effort - a lot of continuous time invested on it. Every interruption is very expensive. And I've received a confirmation that another paper that I've co-written with a lab-mate in Oklahoma is getting published sometime in October, I think, on JASIST. It's exciting.

In the middle of all this excitement, I have stopped pretty much all my ontology projects. I was building three large-ish ones at home, but they have stalled and now it's hard to get back to them. They are a great exercise for anybody trying to do any modeling of anything. It's hard. You have just to learn that you will be wrong and you will be changing your mind many, many times until you are finished. So be ready to almost fully rewrite everything you do every couple of weeks for some time. Especially when you are still learning how to use Protégé and for some reason it decides to mangle all your work.

Mastie is doing alright. She seems to have odd cycles: some days she is very active and hungry. Some other days she is very scared and doesn't eat very much. But, well, I can't say I see her many times anyway. But now it's the weekend, so I have a little bit greater chance.

I guess that's all for now. I finally I'm getting a little tired after my dinner that ended with a nice shot of espresso (with some star anise ground with the coffee beans).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A new female in my life

(sorry, Amy asked for this title)

Anyway, it is true. Last weekend, after a very long deliberation period, I've decided to get a pet. My restrictions on which pet to get were:

- Doesn't need attention all the time
- Doesn't need to be fed every day
- Doesn't stink
- Should provide some interaction
- It's not too hard to take care of

So, after a lot of walking around and looking at pet stores, the final choice was a Uromastyx maliensis, Mastie:

She has been great so far (or so I've been told - since the weekend I haven't actually seen her, as I leave to work before she woke up and get back home after she had gone back to sleep). We'll see how it goes.