Monday, May 19, 2008

Iron Man Review in LOLCAT comic form by Daniel Saunders

My man Daniel Saunders made this review of the film Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008) using stills from the film, and LOLCAT software to put in captions, most or all of which are actually from speeches given recently.

I think it's very clever and very smart. It shows me a perspective on the film I hadn't thought of at all, making it a chilling metaphor.


Book Wrap-Up 2007

I have been keeping a book diary since 1993. Now it's online at

Here is a wrap up of the books I read in 2007. It's a short list, I think in part because I've been reading a lot of magazines.

The Paris Option by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds

Mediocre potboiler novel.

What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Edited by John Brockman

Interesting and provocative. It's a bunch of people writing short essays about their ideas that they deem dangerous for whatever reason. Great fodder for conversation.

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy

Garbage. If you want my full, scathing review, email me and I'll send it to you.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Wonderful, fascinating look at how we are very bad at predicting what will make us happy. Gives me comfort. Maybe the choices I make are not that big a deal.

Pillars of the Earth*** by Ken Follett
Very good novel about reading a cathedral.

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
Great book, the second to last in a very long fantasy series, the author of which died before he could write the final one.

Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes by Stephen J. Gould
Decent book. Gould's a good writer. He writes broadly but has an emphasis on evolution.

Blood Work*** by Michael Connelly
Very good potboiler.

Metamagical Themas by Douglas Hofstadter
Wonderful and inspiring. Full of great ideas. All cognitive scientists should read this. It is a collection of his essays for Scientific American.

The Body Artist by Don DiLillo A boring and arty novel.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Selection for genes in post-reproductive ages

I have to quibble with some text from Matt Ridley's otherwise awesome book Genome (1999). On page 201 he writes

Natural selection cannot weed out genes that damage the body in post-reproductive age, because there is no reproduction of the successful in old age.

The idea behind this is that natural selection works through gene propagation by those most able to reproduce. The phrase "survival of the fittest" (not Darwin's, by the way) is a bit misleading-- it doesn't really matter how well or how long you survive, only how much you reproduce. So if a person can no longer reproduce, then having great lungs in old age, or having crappy lungs in old age, it doesn't matter; it can't affect evolution.

Makes sense, doesn't it? The problem is that people past their reproductive ages often help raise and protect their descendants. That is, grandma and grandpa survive long enough to be able to effectively help out in raising their little grandchild Simon. Simon will out-compete Alexander, whose grandparents died early. Since Simon has his grandparents' longevity genes (genes that allow him to live into an older age), those genes will get propagated.

So goes my thinking, anyway. Note that I am not an evolutionary biologist.

Pictured is Simon, the Ocelot who out-competed Alexander's genetic ass!


Ridley, M. (1999) Genome. The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. HarperCollins.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Elance and Outsourcing Your Life

Elance ( is a web service that hooks you up with freelancers for writing, programming, etc.

I've been reading The 4-Hour Work Week (Ferriss, 2007) and it has a great suggestion about "outsourcing your life."

I used Elance for the first time recently and it was great.

I got my Ph.D. at Georgia Tech. I had webpages there (a lot of webpages). The problem is after a year of being there they freeze your account. This means you can't change the webpages anymore. This is a problem, because webpages can become outdated and surfers need to know there's a better version out there. I didn't want to delete them either, because the pages are still on the web, just not on tech's servers anymore.

I've asked every year (since 2004) to give me an extension, with the intention of replacing all of my webpages there with links to where I now keep them ( I don't like doing this kind of programming and I have been procrastinating it for three and a half years!

I started working on it in the fall of 2007 and it was annoying and I stopped because I had classes to teach, students to supervise, etc. I read about Elance and put up a post describing what I needed.

You describe the product you want and people bid on it. You choose a bidder and they do the work for you, and you pay them. The minimum is US$50. I found someone, they wrote the script for me in perl!

It changed all of my .html pages on the Tech server to point to the new companion page at (it has the same directory structure). You can look at

to see the results.

Pictured is a pizza, an example of a food I adore.


Ferriss, T. (2007) The 4-Hour Work Week. Crown publishers.