Dreams from an ML Perspective

Some really fascinating research suggests that dreams could be our brain’s way of avoiding overfitting when learning from experience. The idea is based on the fact that data scientists often introduce noise and voids into training data in order to keep models developed by ML like neural networks from becoming “over-fitted” — that is, very good but too narrow to be useful. This idea draws upon a long-standing interest in cognitive and computer sciences with analogy and the way humans both learn from analogous situations but somehow our mental models remain flexible enough to adapt to less-analogous events.

Coverage and publication.

Losing the Thread

The Army has a new recruitment campaign which allows you to explore interactively where your interests lie and how they might fit within the Army. I first came across it on Reddit, and I was curious to see what it might reveal to me.

It starts straightforwardly enough:

Choose Your Army Adventure: Step 1

And the next step seems a logical follow-up:

Choose Your Army Adventure: Step 2

But then you have to choose one of the following:

This feels a bit like a version of the Sesame Street Which of These Things Is Not Like the Others? game.

Pasteboard Links

Top 100: The most popular social media platforms and what they can teach us | Knight First Amendment Institute

The Mathematics of How Connections Become Global – Scientific American

Social Media Analytics in Cyber Defense Intelligence – Rob Guidry – YouTube

Real-time social media monitoring with Echosec. – YouTube

Social media algorithms threaten democracy, experts tell senators

Recognize That China Has Huge Demographic Problems

United States Army Futures Command – Wikipedia

CCDC’s road map to modernizing the Army: the network | Article | The United States Army

6 Major Disruptions to Your Network and How to Reduce Their Impact | THE RELIANTS PROJECT

Seeing the XML Contents of a Word DOCX “File”

Ah, the file which is not one but is really a zipped directory of XML files and directories of XML files. In its defense, this isn’t uncommon for Mac applications — and I assume for other application-generated “files” on other operating systems as well. In case you have the bad luck of trying to understand what’s going on with a particular Word docx file, you can do the following in a terminal window:

cd path/to/your/file.docx
unzip file.docx -d file-content

A Small Appliances Departs

After many years of faithful service, I am saddened to announce that the Sweda Multi-Blend 2000 stick blender has finally bitten the dust. Given to me by my paternal grandmother, who had no use for it within her world of making magic emerge from cheap aluminum pots juggled on cheap gas stoves, the Sweda Multi-Blend 2000 did not have much use in my world save blending to smooth perfection the base of tomato ragus so that all possible traces of the originaly vegetality of the tomato were removed to my daughter’s satisfaction. The Sweda Multi-Blend 2000 is survived by my maternal grandmother’s Oster Kitchen Center who will take upon it the duties of blending (as well as food processing, meat grinding, batter mixing, bread kneading, ice chipping, and a host of other assortments I have never quite figured out and may actually be devices left over from the Inquisition for all I know). Thank you, Sweda Multi-Blend 2000, for staying with us so long. May you find rest in that great small appliance paradise that we hope awaits all such little good things.

Stevie Awards

The Stevie Awards are, according to their website, “the world’s premier business awards … created in 2002 to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals worldwide.” I learned about them through a LinkedIn post about their storytelling webinar, which bills itself as:

Every business has a story, but effective business storytelling is a lot harder than it seems. Corporate storytelling has become the go-to approach for every marketer to get their brand noticed, and moreover, valued by current and potential customers.

Of course I am curious, but I also wonder where the boundary for an interest in narrative lies? There’s a good research project, perhaps a dissertation, lying there for someone to pursue: all the ways the business world uses stories, storytelling, and narrative. I once did a survey of how culture is used in the business literature, but that was a while ago.

It Gets Crowded in There

Nicole Perlroth has a book out, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, and Wired has published an excerpt focused on “The Untold History of America’s Zero-Day Market.” I LOLed at this:

The first thing spies do after breaking into a machine, Sabien told me, is listen in for other spies. If they found evidence that the infected machine was beaconing out to another command-and-control center, they would scrape whatever others were catching. It wasn’t abnormal, Sabien said, to find multiple spies listening in on the same machine—especially in the case of high-profile diplomats, arms dealers, or terror networks.

I think I imagined dozens of tiny spies inside the various pieces of the computer’s mother board, sneaking around, spying on each other, unaware (or indifferent) that they were themselves being spied upon. It’s like something out of a Pink Panther movie, like that scene in The Pink Panther Scene where the assassins, who are all trying to kill our beloved Inspector Clouseau, end up killing each other as he makes his way unwittingly through Oktoberfest: Youtube.

M1 Macbook Air and the CLI

Not all is right yet with the transition to the new ARM-architecture Macs. In particular, my MBA seems not to want to install numpy using pip. To get to that point, however, I did the following:

Set the shell to the preferred architecture:

arch -x86_64 /usr/local/bin/zsh

Set my preferred shell:


It looks like the architecture is correct.

$ bash --version
GNU bash, version 3.2.57(1)-release (arm64-apple-darwin20)

I may try re-install MacPorts and then Python and PIP from scratch, in the hopes that 6 weeks after I first did the above, things have changed and are less wonky.

USB-C is a Mess

The graphic below is care of Adafruit and it reveals that we still have a long way to go when it comes to USB-C being the “one cable to rule them all.”

USB-C specifications laird out in a table

Trust the People Who Do the Work

I do occasionally read in the business press, like the Inc. article linked below but also Forbes, Fast Company, and _Bloomberg. As an academic who spent some time in the business world, I think the chance to think about things from different perspectives is important, and I am especially curious about the evolving culture of business(es) as the world around us changes. I was especially struck by Inc.‘s coverage of Siemens’ new remote work policy, which comes down to two things:

  1. Focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office.
  2. Trust and empower your employees.

This is based on Siemens assertion, to itself if no one else, that if you don’t trust your employees, then you are hiring the wrong people.

Article Link.

The Teenager’s Use of the Present Participle

Teenagers, or perhaps just my teenager, appear either not to have a grasp of what the present participle means or to have a far more expansive view of the present than I do. In our household, the teenager regularly proclaims “I am doing X” when she is patently not doing X nor even remotely in a position to start doing X. Thus, either the teenager does not understand what it means to “be in the process of” doing something OR, and here is where I think I may have made a breakthrough in my understanding, the teenager’s conception of time is fundamentally different from mine, and perhaps yours too, dear imbiber of Facebook posts. For her, the present in the present participle is an expanded horizon which clearly has concentric circles of “doingness” thus allowing her to be “doing X” even though she clearly not even considered it yet. This is the outer circle of “doingness”, the one in which the world, possibly a parental unit, has pushed an action into the awareness horizon, but it is so far away, the circle so distant, that any particular awareness is not yet triggered until the world, which may or may not be the parental unit speaking a bit more urgently now, has registered a second request — because what more can the world do but request? and it should be happy that you are even feeling receptive this fine day. This is a fuzzy boundary to be sure, one in which an action can be considered not to have actually have an existence yet since it is available to be negated by the simple rebuttal of “I didn’t hear you.” But whether the request if the first or the second, or perhaps is now made manifest by the parental unit suddenly appearing directly in your view, perhaps even blocking your way so that, no, you cannot continue to “vibe” to your current favorite song, the incipient action has perhaps moved more centrally in that it is now something you are considering and your consideration is, in fact, a form of doing. And, really, shouldn’t the peons, and by that you mean the parental units, be grateful for that? I mean, honestly, you’ve done quite a bit and you are exhausted by this processing of the request to “do X” and so maybe now is a good time to do something else…