Machine Learning Finds a Higher Purpose

I have ranted at length in previous posts on the fact that “predictive” patterns discovered by machine learning cannot add up to, cannot imitate and cannot constitute good taste, but the beer barons at KU Leuven (Louvain) may have arrived at the first counterargument by correlating the chemical signatures of good taste with potentially representative assessments of the same beers by people ostensibly possessed with good taste in matters of beer. Thus, this is the first attempt at correlating the chemistry of the taste of beer with the perceived taste and quality of beer. Sadly, even this attempt seems to have fallen short because the machine learning algorithms failed to identify unique chemical signatures that identified each beer type’s flavor and quality profile.

For now, one should continue to trust human experts more than “expert” algorithms.

Algorithm correlates online reviews with chemical profiles of hundreds of beers, providing a roadmap to enhance taste

Source: Machine learning improves beer flavor

There Will Be Beer in the Apocalypse

As global warming threatens agriculture, one German farm provided relief from heat for its harvest of hops by providing shade with a massive array of solar panels. It is no cold comfort to know that of the many things the climate apocalypse will deprive us, beer will not be one of them

Solar panels over hops farm.
Solar panels over a hops farm in Germany.

A farm in Bavaria is covering its hops with solar panels, providing electricity to 250 households and shading the plants from the increasingly scorching summer heat in the process.

Source: Hops for beer flourish under solar panels. They’re not the only crop thriving in the shade.

The Proper Context for Oppenheimer

If you plan to watch Oppenheimer, then be sure to watch this absolute gem of a documentary, which features many interviews with the Nobel Laureates who worked under Oppenheimer during The Manhattan Project, to have the proper context. For my money, there is nothing more valuable than the original source, even it is a bunch of really lovable old men.

Pay close attention to the fact that Leslie Groves ignored all the gossip around Oppenheimer and fought to assign him as the leader of the project. This critical decision by a legendary general and even more legendary manager is a beacon for our time: the character and capabilities of people are infinitely more important than their perceived politics. Groves was perhaps the greatest judge of character.

Peripherally, the documentarty revives the ultimate debate between which is harder, science or engineering. All the scientists interviewed in this film agree that the atomic bomb was conceptually simple, and its realization was a matter of mere engineering. Who wants to dive in?

Pink seesaws at US-Mexico

The elegance with which a symbol of division and incipient racism is shattered by a favorite children’s playground toy is truly staggering. The design award is well earned.

The installation allowed children to play together from both sides of the US-Mexico border.

Source: Pink seesaws at US-Mexico wall win design award – BBC News

Only Russia Can Rescue California GOP

The poll, which is linked in the article below, looks legitimate, with most Los Angeles area television stations identified as the sponsors. An apparent new-nazi is the most popular Republican candidate in the California 2018 senate race.

It is difficult to determine whether candidate Little is benefitting from the ignorance of Republican voters in California or from their genuine malice. Either way, the California Republican Party can only hope that Russia will be unveiled as the financial backer of Little so that it can call the candidacy “fake news”. Barring such a revelation, the California Republican Party’s self destruction will be complete if this clown emerges as their candidate in the fall senate election. It is a necessary outcome to the pandering the GOP has made to the basest factions within its base, yet it is unlikely they will change their pandering.

Source: Neo-Nazi running as Republican polls second in California Senate race

Microsoft Still Suffers from Persistence of Legacy Systems

About 10 years ago, pictures of crashed ATMs and other public systems that operate on Windows NT and XP were the subject of much ridicule for Microsoft because, well, Wimdows stability was quite inadequate for demanding applications. Now that Windows is quite an excellent operating system–with Windows 10 wrapping one of the fastest and most stable operating systems ever in the worst graphical user interface in the history of GUIs–one wonders if Microsoft is expending any effort in getting legacy systems like the one below at New Orleans airport upgraded or moved out of circulation. 

No, Microsoft no longer sucks, but it’s still fun to mock them as if they do. 


Desert Solar Plant from Above

Above the Spirit Airlines Airbus A319’s engine, the vast area of solar arrays can be seen in the Mojave. I think this is the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm.


To Which Crime Will Rob Ford Confess Next?

Rob Ford, embattled Toronto mayor, admits he has bought illegal drugs | CBS News

“What is this man thinking? What was this man thinking?” Those are the questions that every human being on earth asks after each Rob Ford revelation. How could an avowed conservative and ostensibly scrupulous man commit the lowest of crimes and then confess to them? Worse yet for the man–but absolutely wonderful for the entertainment starved world–each crime confessed is more outrageous than the last: getting drunk too often, smoking crack cocaine, buying crack cocaine! To what will he confess to next? Here is a list submitted for consideration, in no apparent order.

  • Shooting heroin.
  • Speed balling every time one of his initiatives pass the city council.
  • Running over a hobo before every Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Acting as a mule for free joint.

Somewhere in the United States, former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is assuredly sitting, aghast, mouth open, and utterly incensed that a pasty Canadian honky is flourishing under the spotlight for the same acts for which Barry was jailed.

Marion Barry ultimately reclaimed his elected position, and Rob Ford’s appeal seems not to be waning. Yet, this feels decidedly different from the apparent maturity we ascribe to the French populace when they wisely ignore their politicians’ dalliances.

Marion Barry was indignant even after he was re-elected. Ford is repentant to the extent that he seems to be preparing to offer “I was on crack” as an excuse for any poor decisions he may make or may have made as mayor. He and Barry are the only two politicians in all of history who could use that excuse. This is rarefied company, indeed.

I extended my warmest thanks to the citizens of Toronto for having provided the distraction that I desperately needed, as did countless overworked Americans.

Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news |

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.

The Annual Joke That Still Delivers

BBC News – World air guitar championships won by American

In September, 2007, the New York Times had one of the most hilarious articles I have ever read. The subject was the highlights and the lowlights–meaningless ascriptions, really–of the 2007 Air Guitar Championships in Finland. To laugh at the contest even more, watch the video of the grand champion runner up from that year below.

The following passage is the least funny in the article:

The contest showed the participants’ individual styles and approaches, from the polished routine of Mr. Litz to the improvised moves of Mr. Stathatos, who tended to play more with his hair than with his air guitar. (He finished last.) Contestants played their nonexistent guitars behind their backs, jammed on their knees and leaped into the air. There was a lot of crotch-grabbing, lip-licking and tongue-flicking.

Leading the American comeback this year was a fine fellow who dressed up like a viking and rocked the crowd with his antics. You can see that video in the BBC article linked above. I plan never to attend this fiasco, but I am eternally grateful for all of the laughs it provides every year.