Friday, June 27, 2008

Blogging About Twitter Is Like Swimming About Bathing

It took me a long time, but I've finally got into Freebase. No, not that freebase, actually I mean Freebase, 'an open, shared database of the world's knowledge.' It's shares similarities with wikipedia and Google Base. What's cool about it (to me) is the query language. Would you like to give your daughter some examples of powerful women? Show her a list of Female CEOs of Public Companies in order of Market Cap. If it weren't one of the sample queries you can just click on, here's the query in Metaweb query language that would extract that info:
"query" : [
"employment_history" : [
"company" : {
"/business/company/market_capitalization" : [
"amount" : null
"/business/company/ticker_symbol" : [
"ticker_symbol" : null
"id" : null,
"name" : null
"title" : "Chief Executive Officer"
"hide:/common/topic/image" : [
"hide:gender" : "female",
"id" : null,
"name" : null,
"sort" : "",
"type" : "/people/person"


I'm not being facetious here, I think it's great that they're making an effort to semi-structure the web and make searching for info less of a crap-shoot. It's part of that whole semantic web thingy.

Anyhow, this might inspire your daughter, and she'll need that inspiration to deal with being taken away from you after she goes to school and tells people Daddy uses freebase.

I'm not being entirely facetious there, either. Naming the thing after the drug associated with Richard Pryor setting himself on fire and that scary scene in 'Boogie Nights' might make it difficult for Metaweb to reach Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch, as Guy Grand would call them. Anyhow, I respect what they're doing and this is one of those things where I'd be happy to be wrong.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Oh yeah. I forgot to include the proof.

Re: a couple entries ago, the one where I engaged in EWD worship, I mentioned a nifty proof in his essay but left it out.

It's a cool proof because: 1) it requires no knowledge of math 2) it requires no knowledge of chess 3) it makes his point about looking at a set as a whole rather than bit by bit.

To recap, say you remove the 2 squares on opposite corners of a chess board. Prove you can't cover the remaining board w/ 2x1 dominoes.

The proof: those squares will be the same color (see chessboard). So you'll have 30 white and 32 black sq. Or 32 black and 30 white. It's not important which, the important thing is there are an unequal # of black and white squares.

Every 2x1 domino will cover a black and white square. So if there's a covering, there will be exactly the same number of black and white squares covered. Only there isn't the same number of black and white squares, so you can't. QED.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Battle of the Bands: Backyardigans vs. Vampire Weekend

As a parent of a now 4 1/2 year old, I occasionally write about matters of interest to parents.

This week we discuss the very important matter of music for kids. Many then-new parents were driven insane by the musical stylings of Barney the purple dinosaur in the 1990s. Making music that appeals to the very young without driving parents to suicide or merely to the ill-advised actions culminating in the great American Housing Bubble and SubPrime mortgage collapse may seem like rocket science, but music is supposedly a universal thing, so why should that be so? My daughter thinks Steely Dan is OK - if, like me, she hears 'drink Scotch whiskey all night long and die behind the wheel', like I did many times in 70s when I was a kid and it doesn't bother her, where's the harm? Neither one of us really wants to listen to the Veggie Tales.

Like (I'm guessing) a lot of parents I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief on discovering the music of The Backyardigans (musical director Evan Lurie - brother of fellow Lounge Lizard and star of 'Fishing with John' John Lurie). While the high-pitched voices take a bit of getting used to at first, they navigate from genre to genre with ease, not embarassing themselves like your friend in college whose band did a reggae song to show how down he was with black people, but is now an executive at a Fortune 500 firm who got embarrassed on 60 Minutes a couple years ago because he made those jokes about black jelly beans getting stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

Unsurprisingly my favorite track is the samba-esque 'Castaways', although I also really like 'Into The Thick Of It', which I'm not sure what genre it's supposed to be. It features a lot of strings, but not in a little Einsteins 'open wide, kids, we're gonna cram some classical music down your throat now' way. My daughter likes (surprise, surprise) Lady Tasha's 20's-ish 'Queens Are Never Wrong' and (somewhat surprising, but not really) - the mid-80's pre-gangsta hip hop of 'Cowboys Cowgirls' with some sweet singing in the mix by (I think) Tasha. Also a worthy effort is the very James Brown influenced 'Yeti Stomp' by Pablo, who shows beanie-wearing computer-generated penguins are much more adept at doing the James Brown thing than drunk white guys who want to be funky. 'Hear my Yeti yell/smell my yeti smell' is good for some laughs, too.

Vampire Weekend also throw some strings into the mix, in fact, some of their more moronic fans have been heard comparing them to 'the Strokes with Strings' a statement so stupid it nearly gives me a stroke with or without strings. Vampire Weekend are not morons - in a recent article about bands and their SAT averages, VW had one of the top scores. VW also make an effort to mix it up musically, with the aforementioned strings, and influences ranging from reggaeton (we are told, but I don't know reggaeton well enough to spot it) to South African 'township jive' (or possibly, Paul Simon's 'Graceland', which nobody could miss hearing for a couple years in the late 80s).

Vampire Weekend has some youthful, kid friendly vocals, and the lyrics - well, 'who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma' isn't going to win them a gig scoring the next VeggieTales movie, but it's not showing an appallingly casual attitude about drunk driving ('drink driving' for my Irish readers) either. But they don't really stretch out and take the musical risks the Backyardigans do, and their popularity among very slow-witted hipsters (oh yeah - another reviewer called their album 'the 2008 version of 'Graceland'') is troubling. The Backyardigans seem to straddle the gap between parental and kid musical sensibilities much more skillfully, so in conclusion as helpful advice to other parents out there we will take the bold stand of recommending the Backyardigans over Vampire Weekend to those seeking music for the youngsters.