These are my links for May 22nd through May 23rd:
- Improve MySQL Insert Performance – Summary – use LOAD DATA INFILE
- Scratch | Home | imagine, program, share – Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create and share Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively
- Alice.org – Programming language environment for teaching kids, built on Java, geared toward a story telling approach.
- Jason R Briggs | Snake Wrangling for Kids – “Snake Wrangling for Kids” is a printable electronic book, for children 8 years and older, who would like to learn computer programming. It covers the very basics of programming, and uses the Python 3 programming language to teach the concepts.
- Benchmarking BDB, CDB and Tokyo Cabinet on large datasets – CDB comes out significantly faster. (It's for unchanging data though, so not totally surprising) Benchmark data for 11M key-value pair dataset stored in Berkeley DB, CDB, and Tokyo Cabinet.
These are my links for May 14th through May 15th:
- Congratulations, Google staff: $210k in profit per head in 2008 | Royal Pingdom – Google had $209,624 in profit per employee in 2008, which beats all the other large tech companies we looked at, including big hitters like Microsoft ($194K), Apple ($151K), Intel ($64K) and IBM ($30K).
- Statistical Data Mining Tutorials – A nice collection of presentations reviewing topics in data mining and machine learning. e.g. "HillClimbing, Simulated Annealing and Genetic Algorithms. Some very useful algorithms, to be used only in case of emergency." These include classification algorithms such as decision trees, neural nets, Bayesian classifiers, Support Vector Machines and cased-based (aka non-parametric) learning. They include regression algorithms such as multivariate polynomial regression, MARS, Locally Weighted Regression, GMDH and neural nets. And they include other data mining operations such as clustering (mixture models, k-means and hierarchical), Bayesian networks and Reinforcement Learning.
- Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life – Why Twitter’s Engineers Hate the @replies feature – Looking at the infrastructure overhead required for Twitter's attempted change to @reply behavior.
- Scratch Helps Kids Get With the Program – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com – On my candidate list for 7th grade introductory programming and analysis. "Scratch, an M.I.T.-developed computer-programming language for children, is the focus of worldwide show-and-tell sessions this Saturday. "
These are my links for May 12th from 10:52 to 21:56:
A fine depiction of field positions in a typical youth soccer match, from Rhymes With Orange.
This is the first weekend in quite a while that Emily and I haven’t had soccer committments. Her spring soccer team played at the Davis World Cup last weekend to wrap up their season. The team got knocked out in the elimination round in a very close match that was settled in a penalty shootout to break the 0-0 tie. Even the shootout was close, it went to 1-1 on the 5 kicks for each side, which brought the game to sudden death. Eventually it went to 10 kicks for each side (and U10 plays 9 on a side) before the winning goal for the other side (which went forward to the end of the tournament).
So this weekend has felt a little different, with no practice and no game. This afternoon we went to see Gracie, a soccer-themed movie which Emily saw a trailer for this spring. It’s about a teenaged girl who wants to try out for the boy’s soccer team after her brother (also a soccer player) dies in a car accident.
We enjoyed the soccer-related parts of the movie, but kind of wished there was a little less personal drama. There are two different movies that could have been made with the material here, one mostly about being a girl trying to play soccer in 1978 (before the rise of women’s sports programs), and one mostly about being a girl trying to deal with her family and find her way through high school after losing a sibling. Both fine topics, but today Emily and I were looking for the movie about a girl playing soccer and we could have used less of the teen drama. (Emily says that some of the drama parts are not quite appropriate for her age group (10ish), and I generally agree.)
In another couple of years perhaps she’ll be more interested in the non-soccer parts of the movie. As her dad, though, today I’m thankful that she’s mostly worried about not getting another chance at the Davis Arsenal.
We caught the moonrise this evening to check out the lunar eclipse. Unfortunately the west coast is on the tail end of the region in which this one is observable, so there wasn’t too much to see. A nice deep yellowish color as it came up, but if you weren’t looking for it you might not have noticed anything other than a full moon. I wasn’t motivated enough to try shooting a photo that would come out visibly different than a normal moonrise photo. It would probably be more visually representative to take a regular photo and tweak the color in Photoshop.
On the other hand, it did precipitate a fun dinner discussion about solar and lunar eclipses, and what it would look like on the moon. I don’t think they’ve been doing much astronomy in 5th grade this year.
My 10-year-old daughter and I went to see The Bridge to Terabithia yesterday. She read the book last year and wanted to see the movie, which has been advertised regularly over the past few months.
For movies that are based on a book, my general rule for my daughter is that you should try to read the book before you see the movie. In this case, I didn’t follow my own advice. Although this book is well known in children’s literature (winner of the 1978 Newberry Award), I never got around to reading it, and thus was utterly blindsided by the movie.
The movie advertisements make it look like mostly a fantasy and adventure story, kind of like Chronicles of Narnia or perhaps Neverending Story. It’s not. It’s mostly about friendship and pointless tragedy in middle school. I found it enormously disturbing. It pushed a lot of my emotional buttons, both as a parent today, and in recollection of being an odd kid out in a rural school system in the past.
I don’t think I was the only one who got caught off guard at the movie theater, either. I think this is actually a better-than-average family/kids story (for perhaps 4th-5th grade and up), it just isn’t what they marketed, and parents should be prepared for a conversation about death, which might not work for everyone.
When I was in high school, I used to enjoy (emotionally authentic, depressing) movies like this more. Now, I’d rather just see stylized fantasy or heroic death (Kill Bill, Lord of the Rings) or entertaining family cartoons (Cars, The Incredibles). There’s enough authentic tragedy in the world, I don’t need more of it from the movies, and I don’t find it enlightening or uplifting.
In reading the Wikipedia entry on the movie, I see that the issue with the marketing has come up before:
The filmmakers have disavowed the advertisement campaign for the movie saying that the advertising is deliberately misleading; making the movie seem like it was about or occurring in a fantasy world like that of Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia. David L. Paterson in the SCI FI Wire article was surprised by the trailer but understood the marketing reasoning behind it saying:
“Although there is a generation that is very familiar with book, if you are over 40, then you probably haven’t, and we need to reach them. … Everyone who read the book and sees the trailer says, ‘What is this? This is nothing like the book. What are you doing, Dave?’ And I say, ‘You know what you’re seeing is 15 seconds of a 90-minute film. Give me a little leeway and respect. Go see it, and then tell me what you think.’”
I’m generally positive on the movie, but I wish I’d read the book first.
Around this time of year I usually review our charitable contributions. This year I’ve enlisted my 10-year-old daughter in part of the review process. We recently received a donation “catalog” from World Vision, which lists a range of targeted donations for livestock, medicine, education, water, and other basic needs. I’ve given her the responsibility to read through the catalog, learn about the various needs, and choose something that we will fund. (Along similar lines, last year some of the kids at her school had a project to buy a cow at Heifer International.)
It can be hard for kids (and grownups) living here to relate to the idea of scarce and/or unsafe water, subsistence farming, or a general absence of health, education, and basic physical and economic security. Spending time travelling in and around the developing world has given me a greater appreciation for the mundane efficiency of everyday life when I return home. (Drinkable tap water, stable electricity, Whole Foods, etc.)
I’m inclined toward systemic solutions and assistance rather than one-time fixes, so I’m biased toward providing aid that enables people to help themselves. This obviously doesn’t work for disaster relief, but I’m starting to think of that as a separate recurring category of its own.
Overall, here’s where we allocate most of our donations, from local to global:
- Our local public elementary school (California state funding is lame)
- Various community funds (helps agencies here in Palo Alto)
- Our church (keeps it running, and funds external national and global programs)
- My high school (boarding school, which I attended on financial aid)
- My college (which I attended on financial aid)
- Local United Way (designated to regional agencies)
- Various global charities (different ones from year to year)
Emily is apparently leaning towards an alpaca, because they’re soft and furry. I’m trying to make a case for one of the water related items, although at this point I figure I’m happy simply having a framework for a discussion with her about life in the rest of the world.
Charity Navigator is a good resource for checking out charitable organizations. At the moment I like the Grameen Foundation and World Vision for global programs.
See also: Merry-go-round and see-saw powered water pumps, DIY UV Water Treatment System, Voltage Stabilizers and Hidden Costs of Rural ICT
The local AYSO soccer season officially started this weekend. I’m coaching a girls Under-10 team again this year.
A major difference between AYSO and other youth leagues is that the emphasis here is on participation, teamwork, and developing each player’s skills, rather than on the win/loss record per se. This means that anyone who wants to can sign up, regardless of experience or talent, and all teams are assigned a roughly balanced mix of players.
It’s interesting to watch the progression over the season from mass flocking around the ball to a passing- and position-based game. I especially enjoy games later in the season in which girls who were initially considered to be weaker players are able to compete successfully through practice and teamwork. (It also helps that they’ve spent hours of moderate aerobic activity time by the end of the season and can often outlast other players.)
At higher levels of competition, you’d generally want to choose the best available players for your team rather than pot luck. But for learning life skills and developing productive habits, I think it’s great for the teams to develop organically. I really want to leave the girls with the confidence that they can succeed in trying new things and achieve more by working together than by having one “super” player to pull them through. They’ll have enough opportunities for someone to tell them they’re “not good enough” later, whether or not it’s actually true. At this stage of their development, the largest obstacles are often self-imposed, and I truly enjoy seeing them discover what they are able to do when they “have permission” from a coach, their teammates, and themselves to do more.
Another fun softball season ended this Saturday.