Color Coding

Random quick thought..

Lots of kids toys are brightly colored. Lots of adult tools and things are dull colored. The baby is starting to learn that when we put something in front of him, it's usually because there's a more "interesting" (i.e. dangerous or breakable) thing behind it. In a way, I think we're training him that brightly colored objects are boring and dull colored objects are fun to play with.

I may have to go buy a neon green keyboard soon :)


This morning, I'm trying to sleep while my wife is in the other room entertaining the baby. All of a sudden I hear a scream from her.


Then I hear her say "That's AWESOME!!!". So, I breathe a sigh of relief, roll over, and try to get back to sleep, thinking that if something truly awesome happened (we're waiting for the baby to start crawling, to say a word (and know what it means), and similar things), she'd come get me.

Turns out, he got his first tooth. Well, not really, he has a rough spot on his gum where a tooth may or may not be coming in soon. So it's not even really a tooth. A "proto-tooth", I guess.

Needless to say, this does not fit my definition of "AWESOME!!!". Sure, it's cool that he's finally getting a tooth after months of what looked to be teething pains (but maybe weren't- who has teething pains 4 months before the tooth arrives?). But really, meh. It's just a tooth, you know? I'd be much more excited if he learned an actual skill.

Or maybe it's that, since he likes chewing on my nose, I'm in for a lot of pain in the near future..

Minority Opinion

In the face of all the outrage and complaining (and, frankly, bandwagon-jumping), I feel compelled to come out and take a stand.

That's right, I liked the Lost finale.

I'll admit that I was in the "The writers have no clue where this is going camp" at the beginning, but I really do think that they came up with a plan over the last few seasons. Admittedly, I was helped a lot by finding a place where there were lots of good ideas, and theories, and analysis. So, yeah, this season was fun for me, and I had a good handle on what was going on before Sunday, and I was pretty happy with the way they wrapped it all up.

But I know a lot of people weren't, so let me try to take on the common objections I've been hearing.
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Which is a shame, because I think that while, sure, it has its flaws, there is a lot of good stuff in there too. Say what you want, but I like having a show that makes you think and has original ideas and plots, even if it falls short sometimes. Better that than another CSI or Law & Order variant. Or worse, some new horrible reality show.

Object Permanance

Around now (7 months) is the time when the child should be learning "Object Permanence"- the fact that things still exist after they leave his line of sight. The classic description of this is something like:

"If you get the baby interested in a toy, then cover the toy in a cloth, the baby will remove the cloth to find the toy".

But I don't know how to test this in practice. The problem is that I can get him interested in a toy, but then the act of covering it is moving a big white moving cloth across his field of vision, which gets him interested in the cloth. So he removes it, revealing the toy. But I'm pretty sure he's doing it because he finds the cloth interesting, not because he's removing an obstacle in the way of the toy he'd looking for.

And now that I'm dealing with it in practice, I can't figure out a way to hide something he's staring at without giving him a distraction to go after instead. One thing I tried doing was dropping a ball into an opaque box. He gets interested in the box, but again, that could be because he just saw lots of color and movement in the vicinity of the box.

So yeah, I don't know..

Commence Rocky Theme Now..

So, PokerStars has these new things called "Knockout tournaments"which are really just bounty tournaments. Interestingly, they seem to have started deploying them at the Sit-and-Go level, which strikes me as kind of odd.

As it stands now, if you're a cheap wimp like me, you play at the $5 Sit-and-Go level, where 9 people sit down, pay $5 each (plus an extra $.50 for the house), and the top 3 places get paid:

  • First place gets 50%, or $22.50

  • Second place gets 30%, or $13.50

  • Third place gets 20%, or $9

In the bounty version of the tournament, everyone kicks in an extra $1.25 (and, no extra money for the house, which is nice). But with only 9 people contributing, it seems kind of strange..

For one thing, whoever wins the tournament gets 2 bounties (their own back, and the bounty of whoever came in second). For another, you have to knock out at least 2 people before this shows you a profit over a regular $5 sit-and-go (and once you knock out two people, it's extremely likely that you'll be in the top 3 places and get paid anyway).

So, I started wondering, is this really effectively the same as a $6.25 Sit-and-Go? (If one existed). Well, if each of the 9 players each put $6.25 into the prize pool, the payouts would be:

  • First place gets 50%, or $28.125, an increase of $5.625, or 4.5 bounties

  • Second place gets 30%, or $16.875, an increase of $3.375, or 2.7 bounties

  • Third place gets $20, or $11.25, an increase of $2.25, or 1.8 bounties

Obviously, this won't be the case, even on average, because some of those bounties will go to people who don't make the money in most tournaments. So it seems that if you think you're likely to make the money, you'd rather this was a "real" $6.25 Sit-and-go, so you will win your 50% (or whatever) of the full prize pool. And if you're not likely to make the money, you'd rather play at the $5 level, because you're only going to make money on the bounties if you knock out 2 people, in which case you've probably made the money. If you only knock out one person, it ends up being the same as if you played at the $5 level anyway.

(It's also possible that this is more favorable to whoever comes in first, because they often go on a roll and eliminate several people. But they have to eliminate 4-5 people just to break even with the $6.25 Sit-and-go, and I don't think people "run the table" enough to bring the average up to that point)

So, I don't know. I think what I'm going to do is to treat this as a separate level in my bankroll management (albeit one with much more variance), and only play it when I make enough money at the $5 level to afford the shift up.

Also, none of this applies to having bounties in tournaments, especially the several-thousand player PokerStars tournaments. There is is possible to eliminate 10 or more people, and not finish very high in the money, which changes the formula somewhat.

Yes, we experiment on our child. Why do you ask?

A couple of weeks ago I took the baby down to Ohio State so he could participate in a "cognitive development" experiment. The research question they wanted to explore was how children learn how to categorize objects (say, "dogs") from seeing a few specific objects (say, specific instances of dogs).

The way they tested this was a little strange. They had him looking at a computer screen, and tracked his eye movements. Then they put on the screen some strange abstract shapes, that I guess were supposed to represent the "categories" of objects he was supposed to learn (but I was holding him and watching the screen, and I have no idea what was similar or different about the objects). The idea, I think, was that as he got used to the "categories", he would spend less time looking at things in that category, but when a category he hadn't seen before comes up, he'd spend (relatively) more time looking at it.

At least, I think that was it. Some grad-student type person ran the experiment, and didn't have access to our specific data (it was all just fed into some program). Which I guess is a good research method, but frustrating for me as I try to figure out what was going on.

There also seem to be a bunch of innate confounding variables in the experiment. For example, the kinds of families that have the time and resources to spend an afternoon taking their child into the campus for the experiment on a Wednesday afternoon for no money kind of self-selects your pool a bit. Or the fact that babies are pretty easily distracted and may look someplace randomly.

I think these are pretty typical problems for social science research, because they didn't seem to worried about them. It's a very different world from what I'm used to, where I can make a computer program do pretty much exactly what I want it to (and if I can't, it's a flaw that needs to be fixed)

The Olympics with the new addition in the family

No, I'm not talking about the baby. I'm talking about the Tivo we got for Christmas. Which in a short time, has changed our lives. Maybe more than the baby has. (No, that would be a lie). But still, it's amazing how much our TV watching habits have changed in just a couple of months.

You can especially see this in the Olympics. I pretty much Tivo-ed every Olympic program over the two weeks, and then watched them on my own time. I know lots of people are complaining about the over-commercialism and the lots of sitting around and talking, but with the "fast forward" button, you don't see any of that. Yes, you can get though a 4-hour program in under an hour (especially if you watch things like skiing and luge on fast play, so you can see what they're doing, but have it all move faster. Unless there's a crash, then you rewind), but given the amount of things I had recorded, that's a good thing. It's also cool to be able to watch a whole hockey game in an hour. You can fast-forward through all the play stoppages and intermissions, and just get the 60 minutes of actual play. (For a while I was speeding through some of that too- if a team clears the puck during a power play, speed forward till it comes back into the attacking zone)

I guess all of this could be done with a regular VCR except for the fact that the Tivo holds way more, can be paused while I watch another program, and can record 2 things at once. It's actually amazing how restricted you get when you can only record two things at a time. I'm really amazed that Tivo hasn't come out with a 4-head DVR, like some other companies have.

This is starting to sound like a Tivo commercial, and I do like it a lot, but there are some things I wish it would fix.

  • When you tell it to record a "season pass" (all the episodes of a show), it automatically puts it at the lowest priority (so it won't record your new show if there's a conflict with an older one). If I want it to be a higher priority, I have to manually change the priority, and I have to manually tell it to go back and record all the things it didn't want to record when it was a low priority

  • If you're recording a long, 6-hour program (like, say, the Olympics), and there's a conflict with a small portion of it (say, a half hour in the middle), you can't record any of your 6-hour program. I'd like an option to say "Record as much of this as you can, but leave gaps when you need to record something of a higher priority". You can simulate this with the "Manual recording" option (which records off a station like a VCR program), but it's a pain to deal with.

  • Lots of shows (like the Daily Show) have the exact same program several times a day. I'd like the option for it to move a scheduled recording to another time automatically for me, to reduce conflicts.

  • Tivo gives you the option to start recording early, and stop recording late (And BTW, I found myself a few times wishing I could start recording late, and stop early, to manually fix conflicts). If you are recording the same channel with two programs that you set to overlap (for example, we have the Simpsons on at 5 and 5:30), then for a couple of minutes, you're using both recorders to record the same channel at the same time. This leads to conflicts. I'd like the option to have it "realize" that it's all the same channel and snip one of the two recordings if there's a conflict.

Most of this wishlist is probably for ways to make the Tivo a little more "programmable", so maybe they're not good requests for a general audience. Still, it's really awesome to have it automatically figure out what shows you want on a bunch of different channels (like the Olympics were) and have it record for you.


Now, let me assert before we begin that Monopoly is a crappy game. You know it's a crappy game because nobody actually plays by the rules. There are so many other games out there that are better (especially for the time it takes), and I think that in our years-long Quest To Teach the Child Good Games, we'll be teaching him Monopoly relatively late in the spectrum, if at all. (And probably only then so he'll know how to play something if he's stuck playing games with the "normies")

But it's still a classic, and so when I saw The new version of Monopoly, I just get sad.

They've had the ATM machine (so no actual money, apparently the current generation of kids is too stupid to deal out bills) for a while now, and I don't mind the inflation of prices ($2 million for passing go instead of $200)- though I don't see the point either. But a circular board? Musical selections from "popular songs" when events happen? Really?

I don't know, this whole thing gives me the kind of feeling I get when I see a 45 year old guy try to hang out with high school kids and be cool with them. You just look at it and say "No".

And that's what I'm saying here. No. Or else where does it end- should we jazz up Checkers as well?

Maybe I'm a Luddite, but..

..I don't get the benefit of "tabbed browsing" or "tabbed email". Personally, I'd like my web pages to open up in several windows, so that I can click on the bar at the bottom of the screen, see all of my options, and go to the correct one right away. The difference is that if the pages are in different windows, I can see the title bar of all of them at the same time, by clicking on the Firefox (or whatever) tab at the bottom. If they're different tabs in one window, I can't do that (and, if I have a lot of tabs, I can't even easily figure out which is which in the tabs (because they scroll off the screen).

And now, Thunderbird 3 has "Tabbed email!" Like it's the most awesome thing ever that people have been clamoring for. All I see is screen real estate for the tab that could have been used making the message panel bigger.

I guess I'm behind the times. Someone pass me a punch card..