My friend Cynthia her friends have a tumblr on inclusivity in STEM. See also the quarterly Model View Culture, which I think I had seen an article from but didn’t realize it was a whole journal. Thanks to Lily Irani for the link.

This list of streamable Errol Morris movies is dangerous.

Maybe when I am in Bangalore I will get to learn more about The Ugly Indian.

How Chicago’s neighborhoods got their names. It does not explain Mr. Wicker’s crazy hat though.

Alex Smola gave a talk at DIMACS recently where he talked about the alias method for generating biased random variables. I think he even snagged the figures from that website as well…

I wrote to Ventra a week ago to ask them if there was any way for me to get an automated notice when it would charge my bank account. This was a nice feature of the Chicago Card — by letting me know when it added another $20 I could get a rough sense of my transit usage. A week after asking, I got the following response:

Dear Customer,

I am very sorry, but at this time, we do not have any alerts set up to notify customers when their card is auto loaded with value. If you have transit auto load set up, you just have to be aware that when your balance gets to $10.00 and below, that is when the funding source you have on your acct is charged for what ever value preference you have selected to be added to your card. Or if you have Pass auto load set up, then you just need to be aware that it will always charge your funding source for the pass you have chosen and add it to your acct, three days prior to your existing pass expiring. You can keep track of your balance via your web acct on the internet or can call us to check your balance, and can also check your balance at any Ventra Vending Machine as well. We do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but if you have any further concerns, please feel free to contact us for assistance. Thank You And Have A Nice Day.

The old CTA system would even flash your current balance and how much was being debited when you went through. On each transaction you could tell your balance, at least at train stations. Given that I have had to tap my Ventra card 10+ times (no hyperbole) to get through a turnstile at a CTA station, I have almost no confidence that the system is charging me the correct amount. Add to that Ventra’s penchant for charging debit cards in people’s wallets without informing them, there’s only one conclusion: Ventra is wholly set up like a scam. They say “give us your bank account information and then log into our website (with its awful UI) periodically to verify that we are not overcharging you.”

I guess it’s all moot since I’m leaving Chicago, but still… arrrrrrrrrgh.

A rather pretty video of an L-system made by my friend Steve.

LACMA, which I finally saw with a friend in February, has decided to offer high-resolution downloads of many of the items in its collection. This Ganesha has a pretty impressive belly. Via MeFi.

This may answer David Bowie’s question.

This slideshow makes me want to go to Slurping Turtle again.

Sometimes I wish we could just name p-values something else that is more descriptive. There’s been a fair bit of misunderstanding about them going on lately.

I’m sick today so here are some links.

Click That Hood, a game which asks you to identify neighborhoods. I was lousy at San Diego, but pretty decent at Chicago, even though I’ve lived here for half the time. Go figure.

For those who care about beer, there’s been some news about the blocked merger of Inbev and Modelo. I recommend Erik’s podcast post on the structure of the beer industry (the three-tier system) for those who care about craft beer, and (with reservations) Planet Money’s show on the antitrust regulatory framework that is at work here.

Remember step functions from your signals and systems course? We called them Heaviside step functions after Oliver Heaviside — you can read more about him in this Physics Today article.

Did you know that Pad Thai’s “birth and popularity came out of the nationalist campaign of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, one of the revolutionary figures who in 1932 pushed Thailand out of an absolute monarchy?” Neither did I!

I need this album, since I love me some Kurt Weill. I can also live vicariously through NPR’s list of SXSW recommendations.

The City of Chicago has a big open data initiative, and they are putting data online at the City of Chicago Data Portal. Lots of interesting stuff here, and some potential to get data sets for machine learning tasks.

A really touching video about Tamale Lady in Chicago.

The voices of the CTA. Reminds me a bit of the article on the Voice of the MBTA.

How to visit Chicago like a Chicagoan (h/t Mimosa) — warning, it’s pretty profane.

Ta-Nehisi Coates interviews Harold Pollack of the UChicago Crime Lab.

An animation of integer factorizations. Goes well with music. (h/t BK).

Graphics from the Chicago L (via Chicagoist)

Tony Kushner is kind of a tool. I find this unfortunate. But I still want to see Lincoln.

Aaron Roth reports that the DIMACS tutorial videos have been posted. A perfect time to brush up on your differential privacy!

An analysis of the Thai government’s menu served to President Obama.

A Choose Your Own Adventure version of Hamlet, from the creator of Dinosaur Comics.

The ACME Catalog, for your roadrunner-catching needs.

Somehow, I had never heard of the Arnold cat map. Meow.

I am definitely guilty of reading and walking at the same time.

Serious Eats Chicago ate all the things at Hot Doug’s, to which I have still not gone.

The Bombay Royale is an Australian band that covers 60s era Bollywood tunes. They have a new album and a video for the title track. You can also get the mp3.

PZ Myers takes Kevin Drum to task for lazy utilitarian arguments.

I saw Teatro Luna’s Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way, by Diane Rodriguez. Teatro Luna usually does pieces written by their own collective, so it was a shift for them to do someone else’s play. Living Large tells the story of Lilly, a Latina who has made it into a nice neighborhood in LA and is running for head of the neighborhood watch, but who has just lost her husband and cannot face the reality of her new lonely life — she hides bills in grocery bags in the closet and lives under the illusion that Joe has left her well-cared for. In the meantime, she tries to teach English and refinement to two domestic workers, Big Maria and Little Maria. She’s sure they have their papers (they don’t), and she strikes upon a brilliant idea to get one or both of them to move in with her. As the prospect of this increased contact looms, the comfortable deceits start to unravel. The play is a refreshing tragicomedy and strikes at the heart of the class differences and divisions in the Latino community. It’s well worth seeing, even if it is a little out of the way (The Viaduct near Western and Belmont).

This post is a bit of a start towards thinking about things. The two things do not immediately connect, but they are both in my mind.


We have chosen the wrong weapon for our struggle, because we chose money as our weapon. We are trying to overcome our economic weakness by using the weapons of the economically strong – weapons which in fact we do not possess. By our thoughts, words and actions it appears as if we have come to the conclusion that without money we cannot bring about the revolution we are aiming at. It is as if we have said, “Money is the basis of development. Without money, there can be no development.”

Arusha Declaration (1967)

The president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, was the speaker at my commencement at MIT in 2002. While it poured rain upon us, he basically said “we messed up the world, it’s your job to fix it.” (I am paraphrasing). It was a non-startling abdication of responsibility, but it has stuck with me since.

Yesterday I marched in common cause (the meaning of the word “solidarity”) with a few thousand others against the militarization represented by NATO and its presence in Chicago. The Chicago media and the city have, through repetition, convinced many in the city that the protest is primarily a disruption of their lives. It’s like the snow, only one can blame someone for it. This media campaign is aimed so that people will not ask the questions. Why are people are protesting? What does NATO represent? What actions are being taken in out name? The city asks us to not think. It analogizes as animals — sheep who meekly follow, parrots who unthinkingly repeat soundbites : “the protesters are scary, I am afraid of being hurt,” “why do they have to come here and disrupt our city?”

Don’t be sheep or parrots. Be humans. Think and listen and try to understand. If you disagree with the message of the protest, take the effort to actually disagree. Don’t fall back on the petty concerns of how you are inconvenienced.

On Saturday evening I saw In The Family at the Asian American Showcase. It’s a film by Patrick Wang, who I may have last seen in a production of Grand Hotel at MIT when I was just starting college. It’s a film that is definitely worth seeing — an affecting and truthful story, it may make you tear up at times. It will also make you believe that a deposition can be the most important moment in a person’s life.

The trailer for the movie is here:

The synopsis says

In the town of Martin, Tennessee, Chip Hines, a precocious six year old, has only known life with his two dads, Cody and Joey. And a good life it is. When Cody dies suddenly in a car accident, Joey and Chip struggle to find their footing again. Just as they begin to, Cody’s will reveals that he named his sister as Chip’s guardian. The years of Joey’s acceptance into the family unravel as Chip is taken away from him. In his now solitary home life, Joey searches for a solution. The law is not on his side, but friends are. Armed with their comfort and inspired by memories of Cody, Joey finds a path to peace with the family and closer to his son.

The trailer starts almost towards the end of the film, and I think doesn’t really show the things which are the most beautiful about it. There is a scene after Cody’s funeral when Joey and Chip return to the house, shocked. Joey sits at the kitchen table, and Chip (where do they get these child actors — the kid is amazing!) has a long silent scene in which he gets the mail, climbs on the step stool, gets a glass, gets the Coke from the fridge, pours himself some, gets his dad a beer, opens the beer with some effort, then clinks the bottle and glass for cheers, and that is what snaps Joey out of it and he start sorting the mail. This is what I mean by a truthful scene — in the face of trauma and loss, at some point we go on, as Beckett might say. Watching those moments is important.

So the film is 3 hours long almost. But it’s worth it, because it shows you that kind of truth. Moment by moment. You get to understand what is at stake in this story, why Cody and Chip mean so much to Joey. It’s a beautiful debut film, and was rejected from a number of festivals but they are self-distributing it and it’s going to appear soon in a venue near you, hopefully. Do try to see it — it will move you.

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