Friday, March 31, 2006


I'm sitting in a meeting right now, and just got this in an ACM TechNews e-mail. I found the coincidence amusing.

Device Warns You if You're Boring or Irritating
New Scientist (03/29/06); Biever, Celeste

Researchers are scheduled to present a device that will inform people with autism that they are boring or annoying the person they are talking to at next week's Body Sensor Network conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" device is an improvement from previous computer programs that detect the basic emotional states of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust because it focuses on the more complex states of agreement, disagreement, concentration, thinking, uncertainty, and interest, which appear more frequently in conversation. Built by Rana El Kaliouby of MIT's Media Lab, colleagues Rosalind Picard and Alea Teeters, with Peter Robinson of the University of Cambridge, the device consists of a camera (small enough to be attached to eyeglasses) connected to a handheld computer that uses image recognition software, and software that can read the emotions of the images. The software makes the handheld vibrate when its wearer does not engage the listener. The device, which gets emotions right 64 percent and 90 percent of the time when presented with video footage of ordinary people and actors, respectively, is based on a machine-learning algorithm that was trained by showing it more than 100 eight-second video clips of actors expressing different emotions. The researchers say they still need to reduce the device's computing demand for a standard handheld, find a high-resolution digital camera that is easy to wear, and train autistic people to use it. In addition to autistic people, teachers could benefit from the device.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ok, trusty friends list, I need your help.

I need a backronym for "Balboa," the Spanish conquistador and currency unit of Panama. Not (well, at least outwardly) to be confused with Rocky Balboa, the fictional Italian Stallion featured in endless sequels (including another coming out this year), but, hey, the cheesier, the better.

This is for a software component which deals with payments. I've already argued that it has the Portugese/Spanish theme (almost a requisite at Amazon) and currency relation going for it, and since it is being delivered to replace existing legacy services it is a sequel in and of itself. My manager is trying to veto it, though, because of its cheesiness, so I need a stronger case here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Looking for a new bed or mattress? Be glad you don't live in Germany.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My desire/willingness/motivation/whathaveyou to do work today has hit rock bottom. Then again, I've been tasked with writing specs and attending meetings -- how did I ever have the motivation to do this?

Thursday, March 9, 2006

I've started declining meeting invites sent out by my boss that clearly don't add any value to the work we're doing. We'll see how this goes.

I've also started the process for transferring to a different group.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Large scale late-70s/early-80s game show

I need some help trying to recall the name of a one-off game show that was broadcast in either the late-70s or early-to-mid-80s.

This was a fairly standard quiz show which eliminated contestants from one round to the next. The twist was that it started with thousands of contestants assembled in a stadium (I think in Los Angeles, which would point to the Coliseum). They would select their answer (2-part multiple choice) by moving to one half of the field or another.

After the field was whittled down a fair bit, the remaining rounds took place in other parts of the world (I remember London being one such site; maybe Hong Kong was another?). There was a lot of camera time devoted to showing the location itself, along with the plight of the eliminated contestants.

The only question I remember is from the stadium rounds: "Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the moon with his left or right foot?"

I don't think I'm just imagining this... does anyone else remember such a show?

Edit: found it! It's The All-American Ultra Quiz, which aired in 1981:
This two-week game show special (aired 11/10/81) was emceed by TV comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. The program started with 932 contestants at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. After a series of elimination competitions, the remaining 84 contestants were then shipped off to various cities around the globe (Washington, D.C., London, Rome, Paris and Athens) for additional competitions. The winners moved on to the next challenge and the losers paid their way home. When the two finalist returned to the NBC studios, they competed for a $100,000 grand prize. Craig Power was the winner.

And it wasn't thousands of contestants. Then again, everything seemed a lot bigger back then (my parents' old house, my grandparents' house in Chicago, etc.) -- I've been astonished to see just how small they really are when revisiting them.
55 saves lives. [Google Video]

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Happy St. David's Day to all my Welsh friends!

Ok, so just here, but hey... I'm all for more holidays. And Wales was cool enough to put a red dragon on their flag.