Archive for the 'odd and ends' Category



News IQ Quiz

Tonight, I took the Pew Research News IQ Quiz. It is a set of 12 questions on current events and people. At the end of the quiz, the site asks you some basic demographic info about you. I was surprised at my results: I apparently had a perfect score.

But what was more interesting was the graphs showing my percentile rank vs. others.

My overall results.

My overall results.

Other than the obvious, my overall results does not show much, in my opinion. There were only 12 questions, so missing one question could prove bring someone down a good percentage. I would think that 50 questions would be better. But given the short attention of the Internet, I think I understand why quiz needed to be short and sweet.

My results by gender.

My results by gender.

The gender results are quite interesting. I am not exactly sure what the percentiles mean relative to my percentile score, but the graph definitely shows that men pay more attention to the news than women. There, I said it. I am sure that there are very smart women in the world, but statistics don’t lie. In America, most women just don’t care about current events.

Take my wife, for example, she buys newspapers for the coupons. She reads comics and the Parade Magazine that is included in the Sunday edition, but that’s about it for the newspaper. On the Internet, she mostly reads are the silly stories that show how stupid people can be (via Digg or Reddit). She is a smart cookie, but I do think she can answer most of the questions on the quiz. I sent her the link to the quiz, so I will see in the next few days,

My results by age group.

My results by age group.

In one aspect, this graph is not surprising. The older you are, the more you know current events. I remember when dad was alive, he read the newspaper a lot. He not only read the newspaper every day, read every single bit of it. Just like my dad, people 50+ like to read the paper or watch the news.

Under the covers, a disturbing fact also shows. The gap between 18-29 and the 30-49 group is huge, which can only mean that people under 30 are living under a rock. With the abundant amount of news available on the Internet, one would think that the most tech savvy group would excel. What can I say? This group is more interested browsing social networking sites that learning current events.

What’s worse? This graph only shows results from people who actually took this test! I think if you were to ask people in the 18-29 group these question on the street, I would imagine most of them will not get half the questions correct. Hey, you can even see evidence of this on The Tonight Show whenever Jay Leno does his Jaywalking segments.

My results by education level.

My results by education level.

The educated reads more than the uneducated, so this graph does not surprise me either. But, like the results by age group, the gap between a high school graduate and a college graduate is huge. What is not clear is why. There are many people who don’t go to the college. Some are educated in a trade skill, which does not count as college by my understanding.

My dad, who I mention earlier, falls into the category. He did not go to any college, but he was a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and in the radio and television electrician by trade. So, if he were alive today, what would he get on this test? I think that he would have scored well, because of his reading habits. Without that habit, I think he may be close to the 29th percentile.

Taking this test, it occurred to me that key skills to knowledge is the ability to read, the ability to pay attention, and the discipline to care. Without those skills, one become a empty shell of a human with little understanding of the real world. I think it ultimately shapes the personality, the perceptions, the biases, and the fears that make up one self.

Guitar Woes

If you looked at one of my goals at 43 Things, I have been trying to learn to play the guitar again after so many years. I have been weighing some issues that I have been having. I normally label myself as “left-handed”, but people may consider me somewhat ambidextrous. I write, eat and play billiards left-handed, but I throw a ball, bat, golf, and use scissors right-handed. So, when I decided to start playing again, I was not sure whether to buy a left-handed or a right-handed guitar. I was constantly told to use a right-handed guitar because they are common. But when I wrestled the question myself, I went with my instincts. When some tells me to pretend to play, I am always stroking left-handed. So, I bought a left-handed Greg Bennett acoustic.

However, when after practicing for a year or so, I still have problems. I really did not think about it at the time, but my right hand was damaged ten years or so ago. Two of my fingers skimmed into a deli slicer and chunks of my muscle and skin were surgically grafted back on. My fingers are functional and it is noticeably scarred, but I know I can’t do certain things anymore.  I have difficulty forming chords and my fretting seems to be flawed.  It could be a strength or flexibility issue related to injury, but I am not sure what I can do about it.

I am considering switching to a right-handed guitar, but I am afraid to change.  The people at the local Guitar Center suggested that I reverse the strings and play upside-down, but I do not want to damage the guitar by doing it.  So, I want to make sure that this is what I want to do before make such a drastic commitment.

Headhunter Hell

It’s been a long while since I posted anything, so I thought I would write about a topic that’s been itch at my side for a while. Before my holiday break, I was contacted by a recruiter about an opportunity that I may be interested in pursuing. I get maybe two or three emails a week from headhunters, but a call to me at work surprisingly rare. So after about fifteen minutes of general chit-chat, some really basic information about the employer, and touting how he can help me in my pursuit of a better opportunity, he asks me about what I do.

Wait a minute! You want to know what I do? That was a very unusual request. So, I asked him to elaborate. He admitted to me that he did not know what my capabilities and skill sets are. I was quite flabbergasted. The recruiter calls me at work to talk about opportunities, but doesn’t know anything about me.

So, I tell him about my software engineering experience. I started with my present work and move backward in time. All of a sudden, the recruiter interrupts me.

“Have you done any Unix administration?”

“No. I am a software developer. I’ve only done very minimal administration.”, I replied.

“Well, I have this opportunity for a Unix system administrator. Pay in near six-figures.”, he said in a cool, smooth tone.

“But I am not an administrator. I work with software engineering. I create software, not maintain machines.”, I said, rolling my eyes.

“Same difference.”, he exclaimed.

At this point, I determined that this guy has no clue. No matter if I asked if he had software engineering opportunities, he was going to steer me toward the high-paying (and thus high-commission) Unix system administrator position. That’s when I had to tell him that I am not interested in the opportunity.

“Well, I am sorry to hear that. Do you know of any one who may be interested in this position?”

What? You want me to give you a lead to one of my peers after that wonderful display of research and knowledge that you displayed to me? No, thank you. I respectfully declined and ended the phone call.

There were many things so wrong with this conversation. When a recruiter knows nothing about the jobs, nothing about the recruits, and pays attention to his commission rather than finding me the perfect opportunity, that shows utter disrespect to me and the potential employer. I hate to see how many hours are wasted in phone calls, interviews, and paperwork, just to have a series of mismatched recruits get rejected.

So, to all you headhunters out there, I expect you to work for me, too!

Trick or Treat: Here’s A Lollipop!

I Got A Rock!Well, next week is Halloween. This is one of my more favorite days of the year, especially when my son can enjoy trick or treating in the neighborhood this year. I’ve been in my current home for a little over two years now, so I seen a couple of trick or treat nights. One of the most annoying things that bug me about the night is teenagers.

There is a certain age when an adolescent would stop and think that he or she is too old to be going door-to-door for trick or treating, but I am surprised to see that this is not the case. Over the last two years or so, teenagers will come in groups of two or three and expect me to hand them some good candy. Mind you that they are older, stronger, and faster than 4-year old Jenny and her mother, so they swoop in and ask for a boat-load of the good stuff (the chocolate, of course) with greater efficiency. Many of them have no Halloween spirit, do not dress up, or even say a good “trick or treat” to me. Heck, some of them have more facial hair than I do, so that should have been a red flag to me, but I shrugged it off. Last year, by the time the toddlers came by, all I could give them were the Dum-Dum lollipops that were left over. I even tried to control the flow, but it did not happen that way. I sure that the toddlers did not mind the lollipops, but I felt bad that they did not get at least some chocolate!

So, I am going to do something different this year. I will be implementing a simple candy distribution policy. The younger the children, the more chocolate you get. That means if a group of teens comes up, they will get the Dum-Dum lollipops. If they have a good costume, then maybe a little chocolate, but only if they have a good Halloween spirit. Otherwise, here’s your lollipop!

Parked Domains Will Make Google Irrelevant

Today, I had a neat idea. I wanted to see if there was a such thing a type of dresser that is made up of modular, stackable sections. The dresser has a top, a bottom and one or more frames in between. Each section holds a one, two or three drawers. It’s a novel concept, but I never seen anything like that.

So, I searched Google for modular dresser drawers. The top result was exactly what I was looking for. Google seemed to have captured a very relevant result:

A snapshot of the Google results for “modular dresser drawers”.

However, when I clicked the link, I was severely disappointed. The top two results were parked domains, full of advertisements. Even their Sponsored Links are not very relevant either. It would be nice if Google was able to detect these leeches accurately. However, Google will probably do nothing about it. They even cater to these keepers of misinformation by offering Google AdSense for [Parked] Domains:

AdSense® for domains allows domain name registrars and large domain name holders to unlock the value in their parked page inventory. AdSense for domains delivers targeted, conceptually related advertisements to parked domain pages by using Google’s semantic technology to analyze and understand the meaning of the domain names. Our program uses ads from the Google AdWords™ network, which is comprised of thousands of advertisers worldwide and is growing larger everyday. Google AdSense for domains targets web sites in over 25 languages, and has fully localized segmentation technology in over 10 languages.

It not like the Google needs another way to acquire more money. However, this type of practice is going to have consequences. If I keep getting parked domains as top relevant results, I certainly have no use for Google. So, start looking at some other search engines, I first start with AltaVista. Before I started using Google exclusively, I used AltaVista. I was surprised that they still existed in some form. The results of the same query to AltaVista yielded something interesting:

A snapshot of AltaVista results for “modular dresser drawers”.

After taking a close look, I realized that even though the first few results are Sponsored Links, it turns out that they were the more relevant than Google’s result. The second (and most importantly to me) is that I did not find any parked domains on the first page of the results. I was very impressed.

So, how did others search engines do in my very unscientific test?

The results on Ask.com seem to have some relevence, but some of the results on the bottom of the first page point to dead links. Not a good thing, in my opinion, because that tells me that Ask does not check back often to see if the result is still relevant. Ask.com also has Sponsored Links on the top and the bottom, with some sponsored links repeated. Very annoying, indeed! On top of that, it was hard to tell the difference between a Sponsored Link from a standard result because the Sponsored Links only had a single text element telling me that it was a Sponsored Link. There was no background contrast, no boundaries, and no distinguishing text colors. The most positive thing about the results from Ask.com, there were no parked domains in the results.

On Microsoft Live, the results were about the same as Ask.com, but it was even harder to tell between a Sponsored Link and a standard result in the main content area. I had to look very hard. The first Sponsored Link in the right sidebar seemed to point to another search site. A little weird, but I can work with that. Again, to my surprise, there were no parked domains on the first page of the results.

On Yahoo, the results very familiar, almost like Google. The standard results are numbered, while Sponsored Links are bulleted. As with the others, the results are mostly relevant. But again, there are no parked domains on Yahoo’s first page of my results.

Of the major search providers, why does Google allow these shenanigans? Are they trying to be different, or are they seriously behind in this area? From my perspective, they are seriously annoying me as one of their customers. I have been using Google since it was located at google.stanford.edu, and I had been quite satisfied. However, they are slowly getting on my bad side. So, listen up Google, before you become irrelevant yourselves.

Congratulations. You are RED.

REDS are motivated by POWER. They seek productivity and need to look good to others. Simply stated, REDS want their own way. They like to be in the driver’s seat and willingly pay the price to be in a leadership role. REDS value whatever gets them ahead in life, whether it be in their careers, school endeavors, or personal life. What REDS value, they get done. They are often workaholics. They will, however, resist doing anything that doesn’t interest them.

REDS like to be right. They value approval from others for their intelligence and practical approach to life, and want to be respected for it. REDS are confident, proactive, and visionary; but can also be arrogant, selfish, and insensitive. When others interact with you, as a RED you respond to them best if they are precise, factual, direct, AND show no fear!

Binary Code

What in the world does this mean?

00001001
11111001
00010001
00000010
10011101
01110100
11100011
01011011
11011000
01000001
01010110
11000101
01100011
01010110
10001000
11000000

Halloween 2006

evil_jedi.jpgIf you did not think I was not geeky enough, this picture should solidify it. This would be the first time I dressed up for Halloween in years, and I was in the mood to be one with the Dark Side of the Force.

How to Multiply Larger Numbers in Your Head

I was in a meeting last week when the presenters had a 32 by 9 matrix of items on the board. He was trying to calculate the number of total cells in this matrix. I blurted out 288. He looked at the board again, and after a few seconds, agreed that there was 288 items in the matrix. Later on, he was calculating the totoal of some small scale costs figures on the board, $9.25/hour for 12 hours. Again, I blurted out $111.00. He looked back at me with an expression that I have never seen before.

After the meeting, he asked me how I was able to multiply so quickly. I told him that I don’t multiply like other people. In back in school, I learned that they teach elementary multiplication inefficiently. As some of you may remember, here’s elementary schools teach you how to multiply:

Problem: 32 X 9

Step 1: Rearrange the numbers into a vertical format.


     32
X     9
--------

Step 2: Multiply 2 X 9. The answer, 18, is more than 9, so the second digit is placed under the line, and carry the other digit. So, the 8 is placed in the answer and the 1 is carried.

     1
     32
X     9
--------
      8

Step 3: Multiply 3 X 9, then add the carry. Again, the answer, 28 is more than 9. Like before, The 8 is placed in the next spot in the answer and the 2 is carried.

    21
     32
X     9
--------
     88

Step 4: Now, there is no more digits in the first number, so the carry (2) drops down in the next place in the answer

    21
    |32
X   | 9
--------
    288

Now, you have your answer, 288. But, I definitely did not do this in my head, because it is a lot of work. What did I do? I took advantage of a multiplication property called distributivity. What I did was break down the problem into pieces and distribute the pieces over simple addition.

So, a multiplication of larger numbers can break down into one or more simpler representations. For example, 32 X 9 can be broken down into simple pieces:

32 X 9 = (30 + 2) X 9
              = (30 X 9) + (2 X 9)
              = 270 + 18
              = 288

Now, for me, multiplying 30 X 9 is trivial, but for some, further (or even a different) breakdown is needed. So, now:

32 X 9 = (30 + 2) X 9
              = (30 X 9) + (2 X 9)
              = (3 X 10 X 9) + (2 X 9)
              = (3 X 90) + (2 X 9)
              = 288

Now, addition is not the only way. If it can work for you, subtraction is a good choice, too. Subtraction is just another form of addition. So, I can round the 9 up to 10, then compensate using subtraction:

32 X 9 = 32 X (10 - 1)
              = (32 X 10) - (32 X 1)
              = 320 - 32
              = 288

In general, I like to break down problems into multples of 10 (10, 20, 30…) because it’s real trivial to multiply by 10. Add a zero at the end of your operand!

For more complex problems, the method is the same, but more addition is needed. For the money problem:

$9.25 X 12 = ($9.00 + $0.25) X (10 + 2)
                  = ($9.00 X 10) + ($0.25 X 10) + ($9.00 X 2) + ($0.25 X 2)
                  = $90.00 + $2.50 + $18.00 + $0.50
                  = $111.00

Or the subtraction method (somthing simpler):

$9.25 X 12 = ($10.00 X 12 ) - ($0.75 X 12)
                  = $120.00 - $9.00
                  = $111.00

So, with this powerful method of multiplication, you can impress your friends and peers, too!

Happy Birthday, Ethan!

ethan-pose-27.jpg

I would like to take this time to wish my son, Ethan Allan Rice, a happy 1st birthday! He is such a happy baby and I am proud of his accomplishments so far. Kept on going, son!