books/computers: As part of my struggle to become more conversant with statistics, I’m working my way through Data Analysis and Graphics Using R. The cool kids (the ClimateAudit crew and Amman and Wahl) have been publishing their paleoclimate code in R. It’s free software, which I like for both political and practical reasons. It’s relatively straightforward to use. It’s a full-up programming language, which for me works better as a learning tool than the pointy-and-clickly JMP, with which I’d also been playing. The R Project.
movies: Kasparov and the Machine, a retrospective documentary about Garry Kasparov’s 1997 loss to Deep Blue. I’ve also thought the whole “humanity versus machine” angle of the match overblown. There are all sorts of tasks where the speed of computers makes them better suited for tasks than the human brain. (See statistics, above.) Chess as played by humans has long seemed ill-suited because of the importance of pattern recognition and the resistance of chess to brute forcing. But sooner or later someone will/is gonna come up with hardware and software that finally overcomes the barrier and uses brute forcing cleverly enough. I assumed that had happened in 1997 with Deep Blue. Kasparov and his people suggest that may not be what happened, that the evil IBM may have cheated. Whatever. Fun film.
cycling: Rode for an hour yesterday morning in the cool moist monsoon morning air, out the bike trail from my neighborhood, where I’ve ridden a couple of times a week for time immemorial. It was lovely. It’s still not normal bike riding at all. As with walking, I’m hyper aware of my right leg, because it doesn’t feel right. But day by day it feels less wrong. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is how much I use my feet, clipped into the pedals, as one point of contact in holding onto the bike itself.
evolution: The little finches are back, a bird small enough to sit on the sunflower stalks and reach over to eat the seeds. L and I sat in the backyard with lunch today watching the bigger birds – sparrows and the like – can’t pull off this trick, which means the sunflower feast is largely left for the little finches. I’m pretty sure it’s the lesser goldfinch.