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Monthly Archives: April 2009

Happy Easter!

Look, bunnies!

Junior Boys at the Biltmore

Junior Boys at the Biltmore, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Saw Junior Boys at the Biltmore last night. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t been to a show in a while, but I had a great time. They sounded much more polished than the last time I saw them, and while I haven’t hear the new album yet, all the songs they played off it sound terrific. And the Junior Boys brand of whispery, synth-powered indie-electronica is well-suited to the cramped and sweaty subterranean confines of the Biltmore Cabaret, where the entire audience is within about three meters of the performers.

The only real downside of the show is that their audience seems to have gone from introverted electonica nerds to include a lot more annoying cool-dudes and their trendy drunk girlfriends. Such is the price of success.

unreasonable, effective

I don’t want to bore you with the technical, academic stuff I’ve been wresting with lately, but there is one paper that is probably worth checking out even if you’re not a Machine Learning person. On the Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data is noteworthy because (i) it’s geared to a (science-literate but) general audience; (ii) it’s provocative; and (iii) one of the authors is Peter Norvig, Google Director of Research and one of the most prominent people in AI today.

The most interesting insight to me is that the authors come down against the kind of elegant, engineer-driven (parametric) models that are widely associated with AI, and embrace simple, data-driven (nonparametric) models. The difference is, in machine translation, say, the difference between designing a system that “understands” the grammar and semantics of the two languages and translates one to another trying to preserve it, and one that looks up words and phrases in an enormous table (which kind of reminds me of the Chinese Room thought experiment, though the point is somewhat different). It’s not exactly a new argument, but it’s great to see it so strongly and clearly expressed, and to hear how it arose from Google’s experience.

yup, still alive, have some links

I kind of wish I had more to say — interesting stories, amusing anecdotes, sordid tales of nuns gone astray — but my life has been pleasantly dull lately. All I’ve really been doing lately is working, going to school, going to the gym, and finally catching up with the final season of Battlestar Galactica (how ’bout that ending, huh?). I sent this past weekend cleaning my apartment and finally reading Akira Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography, which I picked up at a used bookstore last year. However, I don’t want you to feel like you’ve wasted your time coming here, so here are some links that I liked lately: