Wednesday, June 30, 2010


All photographs are out of order. The last three are not ours.

When we arrived in Paris we got a lift from the airport in a kind of shared taxi. As two other couples had to be dropped off before us, we got a tour of Paris. The driver recommended that we go up this hideous tower at Montparnasse and indeed the views were much better than those from the Eiffel tower, which is somewhat off to the side of central Paris. Also the view of the Eiffel tower itself was great and, as we watched it at sunset, it suddenly lit up.

Earlier we had ridden on a boat, which went downstream to the islands, turned around, came back on the other side of the islands, passed the Eiffel tower and turned around again to drop us off. A kind woman I barely know, whom I had met at Starbucks had lent me her camera and I was shooting everything in sight. Unfortunately I had not read the instructions and every time I pressed the button I was only focusing. I ended up with only six photographs when I had inadvertently pressed the button all the way down.

We visited our friends in Marseilles and then went to my niece's wedding. We returned to Paris for one night before our flight home. We went to the Orsay Museum and exhausted ourselves on the impressionists. A very worthwhile museum and not expensive. The paintings were just there and you could walk right up to them and look at every brushstroke. As usual, the Cezannes made me cry. Also, surprisingly, a Renoir whom I usually find too chocolate boxy, but those young people dancing and chatting, all, long since, old and dead moved me like photos of the civil war.
In the evening we wandered through the streets near our hotel, very aware that one day later we would be back in Toronto, a very different place. Almost any Paris street is interesting.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From the earliest age he was soft. It is true that he would sometimes lose his temper, but, like Rumpelstiltskin, he would become so furious that his demands would be resisted or ignored. The rest of the time he was soft and pliable, anxious to please and never to offend. He was very polite, annoyingly complimentary and unusually diplomatic for a man. When listening to people, he would stare dolefully at their right eyes. If they were boring, he would translate their words into punctuated text in his mind to keep himself sufficiently entertained, so that he could keep up the pretence that he was vitally interested in what they said. Consequently he was the least influential person I ever knew. He could not persuade a chocolate bar out of a paper bag, as his own mother used to say of him. On the other hand, he seldom got blamed for anything, although, as a boy, he was as naughty as any child. He would stare wide eyed when accused and was almost always judged to be innocent or at least not culpable. His passivity passed for wisdom, his gentleness passed for kindness and his lack of commitment passed for lack of overriding ambition. He floated through life like a fish that let the river sweep him where it would. He never turned around and swam against the current or even across it. He was, however, content and mainly happy in his own company, even if his company with others seldom affected them for the good or the bad. He was a cipher. He was the nowhere man.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sun rise over Lake Ontario
This is interesting. I will try to understand it fully later. So I record it here:
A recent update for a patent application from Google describes how the search engine might add words to a dictionary on a PC or a mobile device from a search query through textually disambiguation using social connections. The theory is that one person might likely use terms their friends often use. From this information, and more, collected across the Web, search engines, in theory, could build a social graph that maps likes and dislikes of a specific person or persons, as well as those whom they friend.
These words collected that create "textual disambiguation using social connections" come from social networks where the person might be a member, describes
SEO by the Sea founder Bill Slawski. Describing the patent application to demonstrate the power of social graphs, he highlights the mounds of information search engines capture about someone's use of words on the Web, as well as their social connections.
The patent filing details how Google might score words used by people in a social network to decide on which ones to add to a dictionary. This score aims at predicting future words someone might use. Slawski tells us the method for deciding on words to present as suggestions could also look at information found from someone's computer, taken from word processing documents, calendar items, contacts, history from a browser, and more.
Although not a new concept, the technology has matured and ready to deploy across the Web as an alternative to behavioral targeting. Ex-Googler and Media6Degrees chief executive officer Tom Phillips calls it social targeting. And he's out to prove it works. The company has developed technology-social CRM-that will dynamically serve up display ads based on your social graphs. The non-personally identifiable (PII) data collected in browsers link to others and make a decision on the content to display within milliseconds. When I asked Phillips when we can expect to see the technology, he told me his company's board has been asking the same thing.
The technology that supports a link between
search and social graph connections has gained enough maturity to work. HuoMah SEO Blog founder David Harry points to a Microsoft patent filed in September 2006.A recent update for a patent application from Google describes how the search engine might add words to a dictionary on a PC or a mobile device from a search query through textually disambiguation using social connections. The theory is that one person might likely use terms their friends often use. From this information, and more, collected across the Web, search engines, in theory, could build a social graph that maps likes and dislikes of a specific person or persons, as well as those whom they friend.
Slawski describes it this way: If someone frequently visits the baseball pages at ESPN and those files are in their browser's cache, when they start spelling b-a-s, the computer they are using might offer "baseball" as a query suggestion.
This Google patent seems to focus more on the auto-completion of words on a mobile phone than it does on providing query suggestions to a searcher. Slawski says the information located on a network that someone uses, such as their email account, might also become a source of data that could help someone fill out a text box on their phone, or in suggesting a query term. But could it also help advertisers target consumers and their friends in a social graph.


This is a little easier to understand:

Case study: Consumer Tracking on
April 30, 2010
in Research

This is the summary of an article by Catherine Dwyer, in which she describes how users are tracked on
You can get the PDF of the behavioral targeting article here:
Behavioral Targeting: A Case Study of Consumer Tracking on
Behavioral Targeting
Behavioral targeting allows advertising networks to collect information about the online activities of a consumer. These networks gather data by observing millions of consumers, and knowing the sites visited, length of stay, pages viewed and which website is entered next by any individual.
Personal Data
Basically, no name, address, phone number or email is stored, so each individual web browser is anonymous, and tagged with identifier aggregates, most common of which are cookies. These technologies have become more sophisticated over the years. With behavioral targeting, online ads are customized in terms of specified characteristics. The advertising networks that do these have the technologies, clickstream data, data warehousing structures, among others, to do so. Examples of these companies are Akami Technologies, DoubleClick and Tacoda.
A browsing consumer is tagged and the behavior of that individual online is tracked. The data is then divided into two kinds: PII and non-PII. PII stands for personally identifiable information. So PII is your name, ss number. Non-PII is everything else about you, and these are collected without your consent. There are 3 kinds of methods to collect these data, namely, browser cookies, web beacons and flash cookies. Most of the time all three are implemented to get a better picture of a consumer’s browsing behaviors.
Control of information
In e-commerce, trust is important, and it can be gained with respect for privacy. Privacy is hard to describe though. Most e-commerce use Westin’s definition about privacy: a control of information. So they justify that control is not needed because of the anonymous nature of tracking customer tags.
However, anonymity is not privacy. Privacy is the preservation of free choice, independence and autonomy. Nevertheless, it’s very hard to reinforce privacy in the online environment now; software that provides information control is hard to achieve.
This paper investigated the privacy policy of Levis is an old American company who values autonomy for consumer trust. But studies show that the website violates this. Although protects PII, it doesn’t protect non-PII, as clearly stated in its privacy policy, “to improve websites and… provide a fulfilling online experience.”
The data collection of has web beacons and cookies. The cookies have a tag value plus the list of software installed on a client machine. Levis has 9 web beacons. These beacons link to 8 digital advertising agencies not mentioned in the privacy policy. The problem is that some of these agencies collect PII and keep it for an indefinite amount of time. One of these agencies linked to collects contact information. This contradicts privacy policy not to share information without consent. If this keeps on, Levis might lose trust and loyalty of customers, all thanks to e-commerce.
Advertising Networks
Advertising networks mutely collect information through behavioral targeting and this greatly influences a customer’s purchase decisions. This means no autonomy. The technique resembles that used by viruses and hackers.
Future research related to this study will tackle profiling an entire industry. This one tackled only one website. Furthermore, it will study the awareness of consumers about the risks involved. Nevertheless, there are quite a few options to protect privacy, the best but most impractical way would be to withdraw from the online world altogether. What’s best for now, is to delete cookies and temporary internet files every time after browsing.
Behavioral targeting should not have such a one sided capacity to influence consumers. They should give consent to consumers and increase clearness of these targeted ads.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I sometimes feel that my working life takes place in one of these awful cubicles. It is actually very varied, but varied in the same way every day and every day I take the same streetcars , buses and trains, often with the same drivers and somehow I fall into the tramlines of regulated existence and disappear from myself. I have just been off for three weeks of sick leave and those weeks were very different. I got up before dawn and went for long walks, with and without the charming dog, saw the dawn, different each day, and looked at raw nature down by the lake. One day I saw about sixty Canada geese in a huge flight above my head, a long line not yet in V formation, heading higher for the rising sun and making enough noise to drown out the garbage trucks. The air at lake side is especially oxygenated, fresh and with a hint of a fishy smell. Very bracing. I drank gallons of tea, smoked cigarettes, a pipe and one cigar, lost weight and gained lean muscle. I shaved my beard differently and took lots of pictures on my cell phone. I had a demo film editing program and assembled short films of the cell phone pictures. I even posted these on face book and one on You Tube. I had a good hypo manic time, but returned to work chastened by the thought that I could not spend five weeks at home and then go off to France for two weeks. I had to get better for the journey. In the last week at home, Cathy slipped and fell very hard on her hip and I had to sober up to be there for her in her pain. Ten days ago I quit smoking again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Much loved and well remembered

I spent five glorious months in Tuscania
when I was twenty one
and loved this woman on Maud and later on The Golden Girls.
I never realised she was supposed to be from the South.
I just loved her characters and the actress within them.
She is dead too young at 76.
Happy memories on a sad day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

From today's daylyGalaxy. Gosh they are good!

Whale Evolution: A Snapshot of Planet Earth From 55 Million B.C. to Present
UCLA evolutionary biologists used molecular and computational techniques to look back 35 million years, when the ancestor of all living whales appeared to analyze the 84 living species of dramatically different sizes and the more than 400 other species that have gone extinct, including some that lived partly on land to answer the question why are there so many whale species, with so much diversity in body size?

"Whales represent the most spectacularly successful invasion of oceans by a mammalian lineage," said Michael Alfaro, UCLA assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "They are often at the top of the food chain and are major players in whatever ecosystem they are in. They are the biggest animals that have ever lived. Cetaceans (which include whales, as well as dolphins and porpoises) are the mammals that can go to the deepest depths in the oceans.
"Biologists have debated whether some key evolutionary feature early in their history allowed whales to rapidly expand in number and form," Alfaro said. "Sonar, large brains, baleen (a structure found in the largest species for filtering small animals from sea water) and complex sociality have all been suggested as triggers for a diversification, or radiation, of this group that has been assumed to be rapid. However, the tempo -- the actual rate of the unfolding of the cetacean radiation -- has never been critically examined before. Our study is the first to test the idea that evolution in early whales was explosively fast."
One explanation for whale diversity is simply that they have been accumulating species and evolving differences in shape as a function of time. The more time that goes by, the more cetacean species one would expect, and the more variation in body size one would expect to see in them.
"Instead, what we found is that very early in their history, whales went their separate ways from the standpoint of size, and probably ecology," Alfaro said. "This pattern provides some support for the explosive radiation hypothesis. It is consistent with the idea that some key traits opened up new ways of being 'whale-like' to the earliest ancestors of modern cetaceans, and that these ancestors evolved to fill them. Once these forms became established, they remained."
Species diversification and variations in body size were established early in the evolution of whales, Alfaro and his colleagues report.
Large whales, small whales and medium-sized whales all appeared early in the history of whales, with the large whales eating mostly plankton, small whales eating fish and medium-sized whales eating squid.
"Those differences were probably in place by 25 million years ago at the latest, and for many millions of years, they have not changed very much," said the study's lead author, Graham Slater, a National Science Foundation-funded UCLA postdoctoral scholar in Alfaro's laboratory. "It's as if whales split things up at the beginning and went their separate ways. The distribution of whale body size and diet still corresponds to these early splits."
"The shape of variation that we see in modern whales today is the result of partitioning of body sizes early on in their history," Alfaro said. "Whatever conditions allowed modern whales to persist allowed them to evolve into unique, disparate modes of life, and those niches largely have been maintained throughout most of their history.
"We could have found that the main whale lineages over time each experimented with being large, small and medium-sized and that all the dietary forms appeared throughout their evolution, or that whales started out medium-sized and the largest and smallest ones appeared more recently -- but the data show none of that. Instead, we find that the differences today were apparent very early on."
Killer whales are an exception, having become larger over the last 10 million years, Alfaro and Slater said. Killer whales are unusual in that they eat mammals, including other whales.
"If we look at rates of body-size evolution throughout the whale family tree, the rate of body-size evolution in the killer whale is the fastest," Slater said. "It came from the size of a dolphin you would see at SeaWorld about 10 million years ago and grew substantially."
Whales range in size from the largest animal known to have ever existed, the blue whale, which is more than 100 feet long, to small species that are about the size of a dog and can get caught in fishermen's nets, Slater said.
Alfaro and Slater do not find evidence for rapid whale diversification, but extinctions may have made it difficult to detect early rapid diversification.
Whales are about 55 million years old, but the first group of whales to take to water is extinct, Alfaro said. Different hypotheses have been proposed to explain the rapid appearance and diversification of modern whales, which coincided with the extinction of the primitive whales.
Before the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, there were large marine reptiles in the oceans that went extinct. When the earliest whales first went into the oceans some 55 million years ago, they had essentially no competitors, Alfaro and Slater noted. These primitive whales ranged in size from several feet to 65 feet long and looked similar to land animals, Slater said. They all fed on fish; the earliest whales did not dive deep down to catch squid.
Alfaro's laboratory uses many techniques, including the analysis of DNA sequences, computational techniques and the fossil record to analytically test ideas about when major groups appear and when they become dominant. He and his research team integrate information from the fossil record with novel computational methods of analysis.
"We are interested in understanding the causes of biodiversity," Alfaro said.
"If we really want to understand species diversity, the number of species in any given group and how the variation in body size came to be, this paper points out that we will need to rely on more of a collaboration between paleontologists and molecular biologists to detect possible changes in the rate at which new species came into existence," Slater said.
The analytical tools for integrating the fossil data with the molecular data are just being developed, said Alfaro, whose research is bridging the divide.
Casey Kazan via University of California - Los Angeles.