Thursday, March 23, 2006

Things Jim Can Do: Ice Skate

The women in my improv group, The Improv Show, were talking about how they thought I could do anything, and came up with a list of thing they did not know whether I could do or not. They are giving me these tasks one by one, and I must either admit that I cannot do the task, or prove to them I can. The first was ice skating, or as we say in Canada, "skating."

The last time I rememeber skating is on my frozen pool with my sister when we were small, but I did just fine. I rented some hockey skates and went at it. During the winter here in Kingston there is a public skating rink.

I have another blog...

I collaborate with Alison Way, a good friend of mine on another blog. We discuss the funny online weekly comic strip "The Perry Bible Fellowship." She's a commedian too. Enjoy.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Big Jimmy's Erdos Number: 5

Paul Erdos (pronounced "AIR-dish") was a prolific mathematician who published some 1500 papers with collaborators all over the world. It is the part of the culture of mathematics to calculate your "Erdos Number", which is the number of degrees of separation you are from Erdos through co-authoring papers.

Turns out I have an Erdos number of 5, through:

Paul Erdos (0): David Avis (1): David Rappaport (2): Henk Meijer (3): Janice Glasgow (4): Jim Davies (5)

Through the following publications:

  • Glasgow, J., Kuo, T. & Davies, J. (2006). Protein structure from contact maps: A case-based reasoning approach. Information Science Frontiers, Special Issue On Knowledge Discovery In High-Throughput Biological Domains. 8: 29--36

  • Glasgow, J.I., Jenkins, M.A., McCrosky, C. and Meijer H., ``Expressing Parallel Algorithms in Nial", Parallel Computing, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 331-347, 1989.

  • J. M. Diaz-Banez, F. Hurtado, H. Meijer, D. Rappaport, T. Sellares, The Largest Empty Annulus Problem, International Journal of Computational Geometry and Applications, Vol. 13, No. 4, August 2003.

  • D. Avis and D. Rappaport. Computing monotone simple circuits in the plane. In G. T. Toussaint, editor, Computational Morphology, pages 13-23. North-Holland, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1988.

  • D. Avis, P. Erdos, and J. Pach, "Distinct Distances Determined by a Subset of Points in Space," Computational Geometry: Theory and Applications, Vol. 1, pp. 1-12 (1991).

  • I'm currenly reading a neat book about him called My Mind Is Open.

    Infinity (I'm no mathematician)

    I dont know if infinity is odd or even, but my gut tells me it's even. Doesn't yours? What's up with that?

    The five best albums ever

    It should go without saying that this is my personal opinion, but these are the five best albums ever made:

    1) Graceland by Paul Simon
    2) Paul's Boutique by Beastie Boys
    3) Big Science by Laurie Anderson
    4) Hello Nasty by Beastie Boys
    5) You've Come A Long Way, Baby by Fatboy Slim

    I know what you're thinking: "Beastie Boys get two top five albums and the The Beatles* get none?"

    Yes, genius, that's exactly what I'm saying. If you want a top five list with rock music on it then make your own blog. This is Big Jimmy Style, not Big Reader-Of-Big-Jimmy-Style Style.

    * or Led Zepplin, U2, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Public Enemy, Aphex Twin, Radiohead, etc.

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Cat / Transformer War

    Today I got to play Cat War. Fun! We found that it's better to place two cats down, and only bet with the second cats. This makes the game go faster and removes the problem that the one who starts with the cutest cat in the deck will always win. You can buy a copy of the deck we used at

    There was one cat that looked ugly, kind of like a pug. But like pugs, the look of the cat grew on me, and by the end that cat was making some big wins. Katherine and I both had such integrity in the game that often I would think her cat was cuter, and her mine, so we'd have to have a war. Clearly we were both more interested in expressing our opinion on the cuter cat than winning.

    I have a deck of cards with transformers on them. I was thinking that you could play a transformers war where the more bad-ass transformer wins a fight. Daniel suggested a cat/transformers war. You shuffle the transformers in with the cats. If the battle is between two cats, the cuter cat wins. If you get two transformers, the more bad-ass transformer wins. If you get a cat vs. a transformer, you have to decide if the transformer is more bad-ass than the cat is cute.

    Katherine is interested in playing this.

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    This Fall I'll be on the Faculty of Cognitive Science At Carleton in Ottawa

    I'm pretty excited. I just accepted an offer from Carleton University in the Cognitive Science department, after some rather harrowing negotiations. I need to be there by August first. Ottawa is a neat city and I'm excited to move there. And I'm most excited about being in a department of Cognitive Science, which is much more in line with my interests than a typical computer science department.

    It's kind of neat that my attitude toward Canada has switched from a place I'm visiting to my home. I'll apply for Canadian citizenship soon (I can be a dual-citizen with America). Ottawa is a pretty city about an hour and a half north of where I am now. Yes, it's colder, but it's very lovely. I've posted an attractive image of the city.

    Carleton is between the canal and the a river. The canal freezes quickly and people ice skate on it all winter. I need to buy some ice skates. My office is on the 22nd floor of Dunton Tower and overlooks some rapids in the river. It's quite lovely.

    The picture from the air shows the university. The big tower is Dunton-- I'm on the top floor, facing the river on the bottom of the image.

    Turns out there's a pug meetup group and east-coast swing dancing in Ottawa too.

    Cat War

    Last night my friend Katherine told me about a card game she invented: Cat War.

    It's played like the children's card game "war" except that instead of the higher card winning, the cuter cat wins. If there is disagreement on which cat is cuter, or both parties think the cats are equally cute, it constitutes a "war," the stakes are raised, and the next cards are drawn. She says that playing with cat-lovers with integrity makes it a great game. I can't wait to play it! It sounds so much better than just plain, unsalted war.

    Note that it's the cuter cat that wins, not necessarily the more beautiful cat.

    Of course, I'm also interested in creating a dog or pug war variation. I wonder if I can get a deck of playing cards with different pictures of pugs on each one?

    If you want to see cute pictures of cats and other animals, see

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    NOW does anyone want to go to McDonald's with me??

    Seems that eating fat isn't as bad as everyone (other than me) thought. Two major studies have come out recently regarding the (lack of) effect of eating fat on obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

    Here's the heart and cancer article (this one surprised me):

    I can't seem to find a link to the article that shows it, but a few weeks ago a major study showed that low-fat diets are, if my memory serves me correctly, only weakly related to obesity. Anybody have that link?

    It's always bothered me that people take this nutrition crap so seriously. If you're fat or at a particular risk, then watch what you eat. But please don't try to tell me that everyone should eat a low fat, low carb, high fiber diet that avoids beef because of mad cow and bird because of avian flu and pork because a pig's a filthy animal.

    I asked a public health professor at Emory once what the relationship was between diet and longevity, and he said that a low-fat, high fiber diet gives you an estimated 3 months to live. Yeah, I'll have the bacon double cheeseburger. When I bring this up people do not bring up studies that contradict this. Which means that there aren't any, or people have very strong beliefs that are not tied to science-- that is, there's a popular notion of what you should eat and that's good enough for most. What people come back with is "quality of life." They're like "yeah, but if you eat better you will feel better." Uh-huh. For me, eating fatty food is life's highest pleasure, as anyone who's ever had a meal with me can corroborate. You want to talk about quality of life? Watch me eat a Reese's Pieces Sundae at Friendly's. It's 5 scoops of Valhalla, peanut butter Heaven sauce, and sprinkled with Nirvana. And a cherry on top.

    The only reliable link that appears to hold between diet and longevity (and even this has only been proven in non-humans) is severe caloric restriction. I tried to severely reduce my calories for this reason, but had to give it up. It was the most miserable four hours of my life.

    And don't start with me about the Italians. They are healthy because of genes, not because they eat olive oil. If you don't believe me, please, please, read Matt Ridley's Genome.

    But people have a hold on nutrition ideas like they are religion. As the heart and cancer article says:

    " "Nothing fascinates the American public so much as the notion that what you eat rather than how much you eat affects your health," said Dr. Libby, the Harvard professor."