Tuesday, August 30, 2005


300$ worth of sushi split between 12 people.

Boris arranged a sushi-eating event for the first year Robotics students. I've never eaten so much sushi in my life; it was a good time. Instead of sitting in the normal tables at Sushi Too in Shadyside we sat in a special section located upstairs. I never knew Sushi Too had an upstairs section. Even though we paid extra (~50$) for the special treatment, it was worth it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Umphrey's Mcgee

I just got back from an Umphrey's Mcgee show at Mr. Small's theatre in Pittsburgh. It was dank-a-licious! It was my frist time seeing them, and I'd rate the show as 8.3/10. It would have been more fun if I didn't go alone.

I'm very excited about Al Di Meola playing at Mr. Small's on October 1st. I also found out that String Cheese Incident will be playing on October 14th (a friday!!) in Carnegie Hall, and Particle on September 13th at Mr. Small's(I don't know if I'll go to this weekday show).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

[Computer] Vision people are a waste of energy

At least Manuela Veloso thinks so. There are two types of people.

The first type doesn't do Vision because they never had a need to (The "what's Vision?" people, aka rustic folk). I don't have much to say about these people. The second type does Vision (aka the vision hacker). These people generally like to think about object recognition.
There are also two types of people who do Vision (maybe even consider it drudgery), but do not like to be called vision hackers (at least they don't hack on vision problems for vision's sake). I will call these people the non-vision people (but they do Vision, so they are not rustic folk).

Roboticists who have to deal with visual sensors are one type of Vision-doing non-vision people. They don't think that the Vision problem will be solved anytime soon, but they cannot escape the Vision problem alltogether. They are merely frustrated by the lack of development in vision in the past 30 years (nevertheless a warranted frustration), and the goal of their research is something which must use Vision (but are not obsessed with Vision like vision hackers). These people will generally say things like, "Do something productive" to Vision hackers.

We also have Machine Learning (ML folk) people who call Vision hackers people "the vision people" and they make the quotation mark gestures with their fingers when they call them that. These ML people think that Vision people are just doing Machine Learning but are living in some sort of denial.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Love and Marriage

The Robotics Immigration Course started today. This week-long event is a mandatory orientation for incoming Robotics students (PhD/MS/MSIT) at CMU. I had a chance to visit the cubicle which will soon become my playground. Even though the arrangement of my cubicle is far from ideal, I'm somewhat excited about having a new computer to work with. At the end of the Robotics IC I have to create a list of desired Professors I want to work with; getting hooked up with a professor is known as "the marriage process" here at the Robotics Institute.

I started coding again. I'm going to work on a side project for a long time (because I'll only dedicate a few hours a week) and I don't plan on telling anybody about it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Organic Food

Wholefoods has introduced itself into my world. From the pleasant shopping atmosphere to the friendly staff I was impressed.

Capitalism: The story of {a,my} life

Driven by ambition, shaped by competition, and mesmerized by greed; the story of my life is the story of a pawn. A pawn in the sense that my movement has been limited to one square at a time or two squares in the first move. From my life-long dreams to my daily academic hobbies, I have fallen victim to a deadly train of though, ie capitalism. Not a mere economic system, in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market (capitalism), but a lifestyle which is obsessed with value and the individual.

We should understand capitalism as a stage in our lives, a lesson we need to learn from. A friend of mine, g.eof(), said "Competition was fun to learn the game, but now that we can play it so well we ought to all be on the same team." Even though this is a very valuable statement, I don't think the world is ready for a new paradigm shift, ie "being on the same team." I believe that we will not be able to transcend capitalism until we all "learn the game." Even though capitalism is here in the United States, it is not yet everywhere. I think that we need to nurture this beast until the entire globe is covered by its muscular wing span before we can trample it. In some sense, the two complementary beliefs that we can one day undermine capitalism and that the entire world has to first learn how to play the game make me a vehement capitalist. If there are parts of the world as of August 2005 that are not passionately pursuing capitalist ideals, then what good is it being an anti-capitalist?

What's next? What new paradigm will usurp capitalism? Whatever the new system might be, it must utilize capitalism as a stepping stone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Semantic Information Hiding: Mary thinks Joe is intelligent, but how smart is she? Perhaps I am not smart enough to be called truly intelligent.=0110

The English language contains a lot of redundancy. If one chooses to convey some information X, there exists a collection of sentences {L1,...,Ln} that could express X. For example, replacing words with their synonyms is one such simple operation that doesnt not alter meaning. Consider a sentence L* that contains a word W', which has synonyms {W1,...,Wk}; then the replacement of W' with Wi, where W \in [1,k], does not alter the meaning X. Now for an example.

The statement "Tombone is smart" is semantically equivalent (up to a threshold) to "Tombone is intelligent." Imagine that I write a program called Propaganda to fetch thousands of random blogs (which will inevitably contain the words "smart" and "intelligent") and concatenate them into one gigantic blog. Inside this gigantic blog, everytime I encounter the word "smart" or "intelligent" I am free to replace one with the other or keep the original word. I perform my swaps whenever I see them necessary, and repost the blog on the web. I also write another program called InterpretBlog, which simply reads in this gigantic blog (which looks like a bunch of text that normal people would write on a daily basis such as rants, love stories, debates, etc). While reading in the gigantic blog, the InterpretBlog program writes another file. When InterpretBlog encounters the word "intelligent" it writes a 0, and when it encounters the word "smart" it writes a 1. This new file that InterpretBlog writes can be anything we desire such as an executable program, an image, a hidden message, or a Dickens novel (given that the number of "intelligent"s plus the number of "smart"s is large enough).

The point is that two hosts can communicate via hidden messages embedded into blogs.

An hour later:
After a bit of googling, I found that the scientific term which most accurately captures the essence of my idea is "Lexical Steganography." I found the following webpage on Lexical Steganography very helpful.

Monday, August 15, 2005

cvs update -Pd

Does anybody know what "cvs update -Pd" signifies? Well, it means that I'm back in the game.

I miss ParaView, and the beauty of Kitware software. All I need to do now is make sure that ParaView,VXL, and VTK are updated (this will probably take the rest of the day). I'm excited about the new changes to ParaView for two reasons. Primarily there are always so many new changes because many people are working on it. Secondly, as long as high quality hackers like Mr. Brad King are contributing, I'm updating!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Edmond Dantés is a part of us all: On The Count of Monte Cristo

Monsieur Le Comte de Monte-Cristo is a deliciously evil protagonist. This gargantuan plot is nothing more than Newton's third law, for every action there is an equal and oppostie reaction. In brief, this tale is about vengeance. Despite his vehement determination for retribution, the Count is indeed an icon worthy of idolization.

On the Selfish Gene

Although written by a biologist, namely Richard Dawkins, the book The Selfish Gene has furnished me with many new ideas about evolving algorithms and the notion of Intelligent Design. These new ideas are centered around the idea of an evolving objective function.

An objective function measures how well something performs; an easy example is the mean squared error fitting function used to find a function that fits some data points. Genetic Algorithms/Genetic Programming are gradient free optimization techniques used to find a vector/algorithm that minimizes some objective function. However, this objective function must be engineered by the human if one of these evolutionary computational techniques is to work. An interesting question is, how can we understand the objective function that we (humans) are trying to minimize? In other words, how does nature measure how fit one individual is? If one can demonstrate that this objective function has remained fixed over time, then perhaps one might be justified in believing in Intelligent Design (perhaps Providence only engineered the perfect objective function, instead of creating man in his image). While reading The Selfish Gene, I started thinking about how we (humans) are more than victims of some vicious objective function. When other humans are viewed as part of our environment, then it's easy to see how they must be factored into the objective function. In other words, the fitness score that other humans give us must be factored into the overall objective function. Evidently, if humans are responsible for some part of the fitness score and humans have evolved over time, then the objective function must have evolved simultaneously.

I am interested in computational evolution because I believe this holds the key to object recognition. If humans (which evolved) are masters at object recognition, then why not utilize evolution to find an algorithm that can recognize objects? There is something lacking in the traditional formulation of Genetic Programming. First of all, GP theory does not help us define an objective function, namely the most important driving force of evolution. Secondly, I'm not convinced that haphazard crossovers are superior to mutations.

Harmonic Minor Scale

Striving to break out of the Major Mode soloing mentality, I've recently discovered the Harmonic Minor sound. I can't seem to memorize new scales; I need to understand them in relation to already learned scales, thus I found the To Harmonic and Melodic page rather insightful.

Now I view the the Minor (Aeolian) Scale as an extension of the Minor Pentatonic Scale, and the Harmonic Scale as a perturbation of the Aeolian Scale. Although I have yet to tackle the applicability of this new scale, I find its sound rather charming and exotic, much like the Hirojoshi scale.

Free wireless in my apt

I hope I keep picking up this unencrypted wireless signal in my apartment until I get my own service.

The start of a blog.

I'm starting this blog for several reasons. Primarily, I want practice writing. Secondly, I want to be able to write down crazy ideas I have from time to time.

Back in 2001, when I was learning CSS and XHTML, I wrote my own code to maintain a web log but I stopped updating my log once the word "blog" was inaugurated into American vernacular. Now all these fancy templates will allow me to blog in style without the drudgery of HTML maintenance.