Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The unlikely day

Today I was "late" to work (later than usual - I try to get in before 8:30, but I arrived and it was almost 9) because school started at UW and, besides being normally late to catch my bus, the first bus that went through my stop was so full that the bus driver didn't even stop. And then the bus that I eventually caught stopped way more than usual. On my way in I saw an probabilistically unlikely event:

The building I work on has 11 floors (American way of counting, meaning that the ground floor is counted in these 11). 7 people got into the elevator and pressed: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11. 7 different floors for 7 people. How likely is that? Let statistics answer the question:

Model 1: all floors have the same likelihood to be selected (1/10):

10/10*9/10*8/10*7/10*6/10*5/10*4/10 = 6.0%

Model 2: the first two floors have half the chance of being selected (because many people that work on those floors walk up the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator)

18/18*16/18*14/18*12/18*10/18*8/18*6/18 = 3.8%

Model 3: the same as model 2 but taking note of the fact that nobody chose floors 2 or 3 (which I think is a little bit of a stretch to consider, but it makes the number pretty small, which enhances the point)

16/18*14/18*12/18*10/18*8/18*6/18*4/18 = 0.8%

So statistics says it's not very likely, but it doesn't seem as rare as my intuition says (maybe except for model 3, but that was added "arbitrarily"). Maybe it's because I have this policy that if somebody presses the floor just above or below me I'll just use the stairs for the difference. However, this time I was the first one to enter the elevator, so I wasn't able to make that decision.

Anyway, I probably should get back to work here. To add to the unlikeliness of today, I'm doing a third blog post is less than 24 hours. Quite odd indeed.

The strange way dreams tell us things

Last night I had a very odd dream that was a perfect example of how dreams sometimes are very good at distilling down what happened in the near past (generally in the previous day, sometimes it can extend further than that depending on how important those things are to your mental cataloging system). Before I go and talk about the dream, I'll talk about what I believe dreams are:

(note: this is not really my idea, but it's also not anybody else's idea. It's just a probably incorrectly mix of ideas that exist out there in the literature and interpolation points of my own here and there)

Dreams are a way of our brain to reclassify information in order to fit more things in less space (thus, using less energy). Every input we receive is somehow stored in a very close-to-raw state (where inputs include our thoughts at the time, feelings, etc. not only from our "externally-facing" sensors). Then we dream and those thoughts are mixed with the concepts that they are related to to strengthen those connections and weaken the parts that are not very interesting in the raw memory itself. And it's all made into a "partially believable" story in order to keep us asleep and not let signs of unexpected danger (something being amiss) wake us up.

So dreams show us two things: (1) What we have stored from the previous days and (2) the dimensions in which we are storing this experience.

Onto the dream:

In last night's dream I was at a friend's place (actually something that was supposed to be more like his mother's place) having a party with many other people. Then suddenly this friend "turned evil" and locked everybody in some rooms and left us there for a long time. I felt betrayed because for some reason I had invited most of the people that were in that party, but oddly nobody else thought it was a bad thing.

After some time the doors were opened and I went to talk with this friend and he was handling it all in a very friendly and fatalistic way saying something like: "That's how it's supposed to be, I can't help it"

And that's when I woke up. It makes so much more sense now! Alright, onto work!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A new year

So here I am back from the whole Jewish New Year experience. It's certainly my favorite holiday in the Jewish calendar, but I'm not really sure why as I generally don't do what I'm supposed to: contact people that I may have wronged during the previous year (generally by either taking a long time to reply to their emails, or not writing emails when I should have) and be sorry for it. What I end up doing is just thinking of my year in a much more abstract level, trying to identify what I shouldn't have done and be sorry for that.

Many things happened this year. Certainly the biggest one is that I decided to get engaged (even though many of my friends and family already consider me married). But there were other smaller things that happened (and I've blogged about many of them in the past). Here are most of them in no particular order:

* I bought a house. It's been so long that I almost forgot that this was still this last Jewish year.
* I joined a Jewish choir, which has been an interesting experience
* I have decided to start working on a robotics project with a co-worker, which made me remember a lot of my undergrad education (actually it reminded me that I've forgotten a lot of it). It's still pretty early in the project, but just going through the state of the technology today has been quite exciting. I'll probably post more about this in the future when I have more to write about. Right now most of the things that I have done have been more in the "experimentation" realm and a little boring for the rest of the world.
* My older sister and her husband moved to Australia where they are enjoying their time amid sand storms and economic downturns.
* Work has been quite "exciting". Management changes, lots of hiring activity, a lot of time spent on future planning, and a lot more still to come (in all those areas, maybe except for hiring - we only have one position left).
* Trips? Not too many. Went to New York about a few weeks ago, drove around the Olympic Peninsula earlier in the year, hiked up Mount Si, and certainly a few others.
* Cooking? A lot of different things, including making Cheddar and Brie (the Brie didn't work so well, the Cheddar was ok, it had a strange sharp taste to it), I've subscribed to many cooking magazines but lately have been having more fun mostly inventing my own recipes.

There must be other things I should list here, but I'll stop now. I feel like if I try to be complete I'll never finish my post. I probably need to go to bed right now and continue my recovery from the 10+ hours of mostly standing that I did yesterday (Monday, actually).

Cheers! And I'm sorry for not communicating much. I need to learn how to just let go of the hundreds of things that I want to read/think and do something. Consider that my resolution for this year (although there isn't such a thing as an year resolution in the Jewish tradition, just an yearly reset of all your promises).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

US Healthcare Reform

You might think that it's odd that I'll be posting about the US Healthcare Reform, huh? Well, maybe you won't find it that odd when you realize that I'm not really going to be posting anything useful about it. It's a very complicated topic that I will make strong claims that I don't really understand much to comment. I'll just say that the US Healthcare is completely broken and needs a reform. How to reform it is a completely different subject.

But to lighten the mood a little, and to give you the reason why I decided to post this, here is how much people are investing on trying to get their ideas out about this topic:

Protect Insurance Companies PSA

PS: I need to change the template of my blog. It really annoys me that this template is way too narrow for me to paste good images or videos. I'll figure something out sometime soon (eventually when I decide to use this blog more often again)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recommendations - so easy to be wrong

I was looking at a small part of an interesting talk that happened in the JVM language summit, aboute the .NET reactive framework and then my eyes decided to look around at the "noise" in the page and I realized a very odd recommendation (highlighted in red):

Maradona in India? Huh?

It just shows how easy it is to get recommendations wrong. Probably it's a talk that has attracted soccer-enjoying people, like Europeans or South Americans, that are over 30 years old (to maybe still have a positive connection to the name "Maradona") and then suddenly there you have a recommendation. So right, but so wrong. Just tells you more about the few people that watched the talk than anything what the talk is about. Some people might claim that this is a sign of a good recommendations engine, I'll be ashamed of it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Time keeps me away from my blog

I know I haven't been posting much lately. Life has been quite hectic, with a lot of things to think about, and not much time to figure out what to write here. Right now, for instance, I'm getting ready to leave to go to PAX. I'm not that excited about it, unfortunately, because it's going to be a zoo. They are completely sold out and, considering that last year was already a big chaos to do anything there and they weren't sold out, I'm not very hopeful I'll be able to actually try much. But we'll see...

Anyway, I'll get back to this in the near future. Let me get going not to arrive there way too long after the mobs of people.