Math is hard

Killing pumas doesn't lessen attacks on man
Sport hunting of mountain lions in the American West does not reduce the number of attacks by the animals, also called cougars and pumas, against man and livestock, said a study released on Tuesday

"Sport hunting is nothing more than the random shooting of mountain lions for fun, it does not reduce attacks on people or livestock, as far as we can tell from any of the evidence," said Lynn Sadler, president of the Sacramento, California-based Mountain Lion Foundation which initiated the study.

Suppose you go out and kill a thousand lions. One of those lions would someday have eaten a jogger. What happens here is that karma from the dead lion goes out into the air and seeks out another lion. Now that lion will do the deed -- because as this study proves, that dead jogger will still happen.

In other news, hunting is less popular today than it used to be. Apparently mountain lions like to reproduce far more than humans like to hunt, so hunting has little effect on their numbers.

Evolution only works upon species capable of exponential growth, but whose numbers are reduced by some limiting factor. For species like Deer, helpful Predators like the mountain lion fulfill this function. For Mountain Lions, in the absence of an effective predator like humans, their numbers are only limited by the available food supply.

I can't wait to live in a world where Mountain Lions have expanded until there are not enough deer to feed them, and they start wandering into cities to feed on cats, dogs, and small children. When the environmental movement passed the California proposition banning the hunting of Mountain Lions — a non-threatened species — I think they didn't think their clever plan through. By wasting environmental effort on Mountain Lions who didn't need it, they not only hurt some other species that actually needed help, but they've ensured that environmentalists will someday be hated for a rash of Mountain Lion attacks.

Today in Stupidity

So there's this site called "Couchsurfing" which is basically a registry for people who want to crash on somebody's couch when travelling, or who are willing to host couch-crashers. The owner of the site says:

I have devoted the last three years of my life to CouchSurfing. I have literally poured every cent I have into the site. I've sacrificed my health, my time, and my own ability to travel and meet people. In many ways I've put my life and wanderlust on hold to build this network.

Devoted enough to make sure the backups are done right? Not so much.

Meet the new boss

I'm officially employed again Friday. It's basically a puny underfunded company that was started by picking up the remains of the last company in court at the Chapter 11. This will be interesting.

I gave them a list of my requirements (computers and four weeks vacation) and they accepted it. So at least I won't be using an antique computer like last time. Not that there's anything wrong with an antique. I'm one myself.
  • Current Music
    The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again

MPEG-2 and Television

The new TV standard uses MPEG-2 to compress video. I think this is going to have serious negative effects upon cinematography.

MPEG as most of you know does inter-frame compression and works best when two adjacent pictures in the video are similar. On a static image with lots of detail, the detail becomes crystal-clear immediately. By contrast, if there's lots of stuff happening dynamically in the video, the compression loses so badly that the blocks in the video become visually apparent - MPEG subdivides the picture into individual coding blocks, and when there's a lot going on, about all the encoder can do is to tell you what each block's color and brightness should be.

So what does this do to cinematography?

Well, I've seen horrific shows like Boohbah (a kids show which is roughly Tellytubbies on a bad acid trip, which is really saying something when you consider that Tellytubbies is pretty weird to start with). Being a kids show, there are segments where an actor and a few props are messing about in the frame. And to calm things down for preschoolers, the frame is outdoors with scenery, with a fixed camera position and zoom, and few scene cuts.

This works fabulously in HDTV. The scenery, which was pretty to start with, is just amazing. You see incredible details in the trees, beach, plants, desert, or whatever in the background. And with just the actor and props moving about there's plenty of bits available for coding all that nicely enough.

I've also seen stuff like a darkened room in a lightning storm kinds of shots. Since MPEG doesn't have a way of coding "change the DC brightness by X", when the lightning flashes you are treated to a room full of blocks. Oh yeah, that looks sooo good. Same thing happens for explosions where the brightness changes dramatically -- it just looks blocky.

The principle here is a bit more broad than just simple brightness explosions and flashy lights. The Smallville title sequence (ya know, the part with the theme song and all that) now has meteors flying about, fast cuts, multiple video sequences being layered into different locations on screen simultaneously, and all that. It looks bad. Really bad. The first meteor comes in, and as it gets close it becomes too large and dynamic, and turns to blocks.

DVDs don't have this problem so bad because their bandwidth is more dynamic. If they need more bits for a lightning storm sequence, they can steal those bits from some softer part of the movie. Because HDTV is broadcast over a bitrate-limited medium, they can only steal bits from the few seconds surrounding the bit-intensive scene.

So the future? If HDTV really becomes predominant as I expect, I'd bet cinematography and editing will change. Fewer scene changes. More static shots so you can see the background. Say goodbye to the use of darkened rooms with flashy lights in Halloween screamfests.

Mediocrity magnified.
  • Current Music
    U2 - City of Blinding Lights

The bright side of liff

It looks to me like pretty much every proposition is going to be defeated. That at least is a bit of a victory — there has been far too much interference-by-proposition in the state government. We typically have a dozen propositions in each General Election. Maybe this will discourage every Tom, Dick, and Enron from financing an initiative every time the whim strikes.

Vote early, vote often

So I did my civic duty today and voted. But looking over my votes, I'm puzzled.

When, exactly, did I become a Republican?

Are there any solvents that can wash that off?
  • Current Music
    Rush - Superconductor

Got Name?

The complete list of hurricane names for the Atlantic season has been used up. The next storm is forecast to form tomorrow will be Tropical Storm Alpha, as they now go through the Greek Alphabet for names. This amuses me immensely.

The current list only had enough names to match the most storms ever seen (which happened during the 1930s). You'd think prudence would dictate having a margin of error -- allocating a few extra names more than the worst season known.

In programming, we normally try to avoid fixed-size allocations that could be theoretically exceeded. I think this software principle should be hereinafter known as the "Hurricane Alpha Principle".
  • Current Music
    Rush - Making Memories

Slashdot makes me crazy

Slashdot's running an item titled "Armed Dolphins Released Into Gulf of Mexico". Their source? The left-leaning UK Guardian, which never ceases to find wrong about the US, facts notwithstanding. The Guardian's source? "Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator." Cause you know, if he's respected, it must be true. Oddly, they can't be bothered to cite a source for that whole respect thing though. Sheridan's source? He has "received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped." Note the "close to", as opposed to "member of." A quick Google uncovers that the fisheries service is a branch of NOAA, members of which do not have any type of security clearance, so how would they know anything about classified Dolphins? Second, note that in the Guardian's article, Sheridan doesn't say that his sources claim the Dolphins are armed, but rather that he wonders if they are.

I'm pretty sure that NRA dolphin-safety classes teach dolphin owners to unload their dolphins before they put them away.

So even if true, which I doubt, this chain goes something like this:
  • Military forgets to disarm dolphins before bugging out before the hurricane.
  • Military leaks this info to NOAA
  • Someone at NOAA leaks this to a friend
  • friend of NOAA passes this info to Leo Sheridan
  • Somewhere along this chain, someone didn't leak the fact that the dolphins are armed
  • Being a genius, Leo instantly makes the connection that they might be armed, and passes this to the Guardian
  • Moron submits story to Slashdot with misleading title
  • Idiot working for Slashdot can't be bothered to notice title error, but thinks it's so damn funny he posts it. (I would note that Idiot appears to be named "Zonk" lately and works at night, more often than not).
  • ...
  • Profit!
  • Current Music
    Enya - Wild Child


The overnight weather forecast amuses me enormously. I told the littleuns about it, and now the four year old is afraid there will be thunder which she's apparently heard is supposed to scare her.
  • Current Music
    Rush - Vital Signs

Housing Bubble

From an SFGate article about Bay Area home price appreciation, an industry shill is thus quoted:
Last month marked the 17th consecutive month that year-over-year appreciation was in the high-teens, signaling a stable, healthy market, according to DataQuick researcher John Karevoll.

Double digit percentage increases. This must be some new definition of "stable" I'm unfamiliar with.

  • Current Music
    Rush - Manhattan Project