Jimmy Carter on War
Mar 09, 2003

I don't want this to turn into a political 'blog ("warblog") but I have a few comments to make, focused by an article by ex-President Carter. I'll try to make sure the points are "fresh"... i.e., I haven't seen them made elsewhere. I assume you read the article first.

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Space Elevator - keep the dream alive
Mar 06, 2003

For those who don't track Slashdot, a very interesting review of a book carefully studying the feasibility of a Space Elevator was posted.

For those who don't know what a space elevator is, here's the basics: A satellite is put in geosynchronous orbit around the earth, which is where the satellite always stays above the same point on Earth. A tether from the satellite is extended down to the surface of the Earth, and another is extended away from the Earth a roughly equal distance.

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Free idea for aggregator writers
Mar 06, 2003

The next generation of News Aggregators should use Bayesian-style filtering to allow a user to indicate what kind of stories they like. Possibly even sorting them out by categories, because you may not be able to capture my preferences in a single filter.

This is not a new idea any more then Bayesian email filtering is, but perhaps the focus it has received in the email filtering role will encourage people to recognize its power in other applications as well.

There are some interesting complications that arise: You probably still want to have the aggregator display all of your featured channels, but have the Bayesian filter cast a wider net and select out the best articles from 200 or 300 channels that you would not want to read all of. In other words, have the Bayes-filtered channels be in addition to current channel selection mechanisms, not in place of. This also makes the bandwidth considerations more importent, because if there's anything worse then being slammed by aggregators, its having most of them discard the content before showing it to a user.

One possible bandwidth answers is to allow semi-centralized servers to receive many people's filter specifications (which if transmitted efficiently need not be that large, on the order of 100KB to 1MB), and have the semi-centralized server run the filter on a wide variety of channels that only it subscribes to, and send the stories directly back to the users it is proxying for. There's no reason that desktop aggregators can't set this up on an ad-hoc basis, within their own software groupings. (While you're at it you can do some of the more conventional caching schemes that have already been proposed elsewhere.)

The best part is that Bayesian filtering can actually work fairly well in this application because unlike spam, the channel writers are not trying to attack and bypass the filters. It's not a hostile environment in that sense.

I'd love to write this but I'm already booked with other personal projects. Do see if you can take Bayesian code from the email filter projects to make it easier; in the case of the code I've examined, there's little or nothing email-specific about the Bayesian code, certainly nothing that would get in the way or be hard to remove if it did.

Contentedness can be cheap
Mar 04, 2003
I've spent most of today moving stuff from the house to the third dumpster. If the stuff in the house was that valuless, in a sense I was living in a dumpster. Most of the stuff I'm throwing away now, on shelves, in the house, had not been touched in years. I got a clue about this when I spent most of the last quarter of 2002 in New York. I did pretty well with a suitcase, knapsack, laptop and cellphone. There really wasn't much more that I needed, or much more that I could even use.... I realize I probably would be happier with a really nice room, a large one, with a deck and a hot tub, bathroom and shower, and access to a kitchen for the rare times I create a meal, and that's about it. Having a car is nice, but I don't need anything on the order of the kinds of possessions that have accumulated in this very nice house-dumpster. [Scripting News]

I was raised middle-class to upper-middle-class (in later years as my father progressed). I always wondered how I'd do being much less well off when I lived on my own while I was going to college and getting my grad degree. And the answer has pleasently surprised me; I'm quite happy the way things are, with a two-bedroom apartment and a quite modest amount of stuff.

I do want a house... well, actually what I want is "a yard" to grow a garden in, and a residence not physically attached to another one so nobody can decide that what I really need to do is listen to more rap music. And I suppose a reliable car wouldn't hurt. But other then that, it's pretty cool.

We are, of course, just amazingly rich in this country. You don't need to make a lot to be very content, and that's cool. Enjoy.

A Public Service Announcement
Mar 02, 2003

My laptop just self-immolated. Other then the fact that the warrentee repairs will take "up to three weeks", am I saddened? Nope. I finally got a decent backup scheme going, and I only lost perhaps a sum total of an hour of work.

It is likely that the repair technicians will not have to wipe the hard drive (unless the sight of Linux freaks them out when they fix it), but even so, I'm not afraid of data loss, because I've got it all right here.

So.... is your data backed up?

This is a Public Service Announcement brought to you by your non-local friendly 'blog.

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