Archive for November, 2008

PIL font madness

I have a need to label some images. Seems a good opportunity to learn to use PIL. Using a nice post at

led me to Fondu (

which will apparently allow me to use all my truetype mac fonts with PIL. I may post more details if this works.

update: It works!!! Installation involved typical mac package dragging. Nothing else I did was different from the article linked to above.

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Takes one to know one

viz this OB post, which I dub “Takes one to know one” (yeah, I still read it almost daily. It’s like a compulsion…)

/violin for Robin. Those lazy physicists get all the love…

I’m curious that you think business forecasters are in the business of validating their models and predictions with quantitative scores in the same way weather forecasters do.

I’m open to the possibility that it happens – can anyone point me in the direction of an example? As an outsider I don’t see economists consistently predicting anything of note – happy to be proven wrong, but I think the guts of it is Taleb’s point that the system of interest simply doesn’t have predictibility on the scales we think it should.

And what is the point of scoring physicists predictions about what will be discovered, anyway? My gut feeling is that well calibrated forecast of potential discoveries would need to be so poorly resolved that you wasted your time coming up with a scheme to forecast it in the first place. Not to mention the number of forecasts is so small that measures of reliability and ability to discriminate will be hopelessly inaccurate.

Hey, maybe we can shut down the LHC and use a prediction market to decide whether the Higgs Boson exists.

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I am the very model of a singularitarian

This is a classic:

At first I thought it was a pisstake, but it turns out Charlie Kam is for real when he states he is ‘transhuman immortalist extropian’. Each to their own – I find the singularity scene interesting, but unconvincing.

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Random comment about forecasts

What Eric seems to be saying has an analogue in weather forecasting. In the language of this discipline, verifying forecasts of low probability events is difficult because your sample size is to small to get an accurate picture of skill. And not only do you need to be able to pick the events accurately, your forecast model should predict events with roughly the probability that they actually occur – forecast a hurricane with 100% probability every day and you are a ‘stopped watch’.

Not that this can really apply in economic forecasting, where not only do we not predict the future by applying well known dynamical rules to the current state, but it’s far from clear that we know what those dynamical rules are. Instead we have a range of experts each emphasising their own special interest bit of sub-dynamics.

Eric mentions Marx, and no doubt there are those who are again suggesting that the current crisis is a vindication of Marx. These are the people who read ‘The Communist Manfiesto’ pamphlet, and put down Capital before finishing the first chapter (Mick Hume at Spiked has a nice article about this). Or who skipped straight to Trotsky. Marx is interesting for his attempt to describe the dynamical principles behind the capitalist economies of his day. Whether he’s useful today is another question.

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Use mencoder to join two mpeg files

mencoder -forceidx -ovc copy -oac copy -o file.avi p1.avi p2.avi ...

Thanks to neilp85 on the Ubuntu forums for this one.

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