“Please See A Psychiatrist…”

That’s what the computer told my fiancee. “You have been classified as having the symptoms of being bipolar,” it continued. A friend of mine had recently taken an online diagnosis using the school’s health website. I felt it was bogus and told him so, but to drive the point home my fiancee and I decided to take the test ourselves.

We answered all of the questions from her point of view, but we didn’t do this in a, “let’s mess with the system” sort of way; we genuinely filled out the answers. I knew the diagnosis would be less than perfect when it simply consisted of multiply choice questions like

  1. I sometimes do this
  2. I always do this
  3. I do this every full moon

I don’t know about you, but when given surveys like that, none of the answers seem to fit me well. I always have to go with the “best fit”. And usually it’s more of a second order approximation. So, anyway, the computer told her she had better see a psychiatrist because she was displaying symptoms of bipolar. No one knows her better than me, except maybe her parents, and if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that she is NOT bipolar. She is definitely consistent in her moods, desires, and wants – as consistent as any “normal” human being.

The important thing to remember whenever you use a website such as www.mayoclinic.com or www.webmd.com to self-diagnose you have to remember that there is no good substitute for a doctor. Look at it this way, a doctor goes to school for quite a number of years beyond undergraduate before being able to open up a practice. Even then, the doctor is mostly guessing at what is wrong with you based on your symptoms. Many times it takes a few diagnosis before the doctor can know what’s wrong with you because nearly every disease has the same symptoms. Take it from someone who’s been a “victim” of these websites, use them only for researching a disease a doctor has told you that you have. Don’t use it to try to see what’s wrong with you or you will go crazy. Seriouly, you could have flu symptoms and it will look like you’re dying of ovarian cancer, even if you’re a guy. 😉 So how could a web page survey do much better at diagnosis? It cannot look for symptoms you don’t know to tell it about. A doctor and observe you and see what’s going on. A web site relies on your answers and biases. If you are a person who believes your are ill you will answer more negatively than a person who believes everything is alright.

And, of course, there are the weird algorithms because none of the answers we entered should have signalled bipolar. They were all consistent and normal.

Bottom line – don’t get freaked out for no reason until you see a doc.

Excellent

The upgrade went off without a hitch. The new features are pretty neat, although I’m trying to see how to get back my original template. Overall, the new features are a great improvement over the previous version of the software, but, as usual, there is some getting used to with the new features. Still, the folks at Word Press have really outdone themselves. Definitely check them out if you have the luxury of your own server and want to blog.

upgrading your blog?

Well, they have released a new version of my blogging software. For the first time ever I will be upgrading a blog. In a way, it’s a very good thing because I’ve been putting off learning how to backup my databases for a few weeks and part of the upgrade process is to backup the database files. It will be interesting to see how things change. I know they have built in some stronger spam filters, but I haven’t had any trouble with that, yet. Of course, this is a relatively new blog, so most search engines probably don’t know about it yet. I will probably be upgrading today, so if the blog is inaccessible, I may be in the middle of an upgrade process.

Numa Numa Guy gets recognition!

The Numa Numa guy, who I wrote about in my first blog here, was on the news today on MSNBC. He was also on VH1’s best week ever. Whether he intended to have this video shown all over the internet, or whether it was accidentally put into his file sharing folder, he is now a huge celebrity on par with the Star Wars Kid.

It’s pretty interesting how these videos explode online. First of all, they are only being passed along by word of mouth – either emailing your friends about this crazy website or through IMs. Yet, soon everyone knows about it. I’m hard pressed to find any engineering students who don’t know what Numa Numa is. In fact, while waiting in line to see Mo Rocca, someone was singing along to Numa Numa. It was a cool conversation peice. Yet, it’s the Tv news who’s always slow to report on such things. Anyone who goes to see Numa Numa based on the the tv coverage is a late adopter. These are the people who didn’t buy DVD players until almost everyone had one.

I’m curious to find out if Keith Olberman will talk about Numa Numa tonight. He usually covers these weird things – he’s covered all of the Jib Jab political cartoons.

Why Linux Magazines aren’t so unbearable to read

Usually with a magazine, I feel a little sad reading it. In middle and high school I was subscribed to Electronic Gaming Monthly. Each month they would detail all of the new games coming out; their features and how to do certain tricks here and there. Since I was too young to purchase them and my parents believed in being frugal when it came to video games, all the magazine could do was make me lust over games I could never have. The same goes with most PC magazines. They talk about this or that software for Windows and it is often too expensive to get it.

With Linux, however, 98% of the time all of the software they describe is available for free! So if they talk about this great new music program, I can download it and check it out for myself. If they talk about the latest updates to GIMP (Linux’s answer to Photoshop) I can update for free. It makes for a much happier experience for me because I can experience what they are talking about instead of just passively reading about it.

[1.0] Happy Valentine’s Day

I have posted two different posts in my blogs today. So you get twice the fun. Access the other one here.

What is Saint Valentine’s Day about anyway? I wanted to share this with you since I found myself wondering the same thing…

In researching the answer, I compiled facts from these three sources, Saint Valentine, Wikipedia Entry for Saint Valentine, and Wikipedia Entry for Lupercalia.

As the Wikipedia entry suggests, we know very little about Saint Valentine. Just like Saint Nicholous, it seems most of our holidays center around lesser known Saints. However, with Valentine even less is known. However, the British website does present us with some theories. Apparently, the Roman Emperor Claudius II had anulled all marriages and engagements in order to get men to go to war. I don’t see what real effect this would have had on soldier morale. Just because someone declares my marriage invalid doesn’t mean that I would stop loving my wife. It seems like the types of laws our Congress sometimes passes without thinking.

At any rate, such a law was not going to find a lot of popularity among the clerics of the early Christian church. Cancelling people’s marriages probably had the unintended effect of “cheating” on wives since they were no longer wives, as well as some other potential societal and moral problems. Thus, the British site tells us, Saint Valentine performs underground marriages.

The Emporer catches wind of these covert operations and when the Saint doesn’t recant, he is martyred. Conviniently, since he was performing marriages and other love things, he is killed on 14 Feb which is the day, in ancient Roman culture, where boys would draw girl’s names from a pot and get to be with that girl all night at the festival. They would often end up getting married from this interaction.

As I pick up from the Wikipedia article, it is more likely that the date was fabricated by the early Catholic church eager to replace Lupercalia with a Saint’s Feast Day as they had done with Easter and Christmas. Since his deeds had to do with love, they chose him to replace the Roman celebration of fertility and love.

In the 1800s in the United States, the holiday was commercialized and now we send each other cards and chocolate. Just like the Easter Bunny and certain elements of Christmas don’t make sense outside of commercialism and a reversion to the pagan holidays they were meant to replace, Saint Valentine’s Day has very little to do with this mysterious man.

Valentine’s Day

I want to wish all of my readers a very happy Valentine’s Day. If you do not have a significant other this holiday, do not feel sad as you see all the couples about. If Valentine’s Day is about love, it need not be about love between lovers. Share your love with your parents, siblings, and friends. Let them know that you care about them (in whatever way is appropriate for the relationship q;o] ) and enjoy it.

NOW BE WARNED THAT YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) FIND THE FOLLOWING A BIT “MUSHY”

Valentine’s 05
Your eyes ensnare mine and they cannot escape;
Once I look into them I am stuck until you release me.
Your embrace is many times more powerful than the uber-chemist’s exstacy.
A hug from you is so addictive I cannot help but come back for more.
Your body is so soft, Chinese silks are trash by comparison.
Your food is so delectable as to be fit for Kings.
You are so awesome that I must share with the world all of your charms,
lest I explode from keeping them all inside.

Happy Valentine’s Day, My Love!

[1.0] g33k stuff

First of all, I’m pretty happy that Linux Format Magazine (UK) ranked my distro, Fedora Core 3, as the second best of all the distros. Additionally, they expect it to edge into the number 1 spot with the release of Core 4 this may. q:o) More info on those reviews in a future post.

Second, if you’re programming in the C programming language you will definitely want to check out Kwrite. My partner in ECE 476 was using some expensive commercial software that does some special formatting and apparently Kwrite does it too! For example, I can shrink down block statements to get a good overview of the code by clicking on a [-]. Neat!

Great Friends

I want to give a huge thanks to Katie Cheng who dropped what she was doing Friday night to give my car a jump. Even though I hadn’t left the lights on in the car or anything, the car refused to start, leaving me stranded at Best Buy. It was near 10p and Katie didn’t mind coming out in the freezing cold with her car to help me out.

Also, thanks to Benny. Even though I was able to get my car started to go to Sears to get a replacement battery, he was ready and willing to help me out too.

Thanks for being great frieds!

Welcome to your Lucid Dream

Yesterday I was doing looking for the website to Wikipedia and came across Wikibooks, which happens to be run by the same group, The Wiki Media Foundation. Since I knew what Wikipedia was, I decided to see what Wikibooks was. Well, the same way that Wikipedia attempts to be an encyclopedia which anyone can contribute to, Wikibooks is like a library written by everyone online. I’m not so sure if I will ever use Wikibooks in the near future, but Wikipedia is a pretty good resource to use.

It just so happened that this month’s featured book on Wikibooks was a book called Lucid Dream. This caught my eye for one reason only: in Vanilla Sky, Tom Cruise’s character, David, orders the Lucid Dream package from the cryrogenics company. (DO NOT CONTINUE UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE AND/OR DON’T CARE ABOUT SPOILERS!) As you know, the whole point of the movie is that everying occurring in the movie after the club scene is just a movie of sorts playing in David’s head. He thinks it’s real because the mind cannot tell the difference between a dream and reality. But why was it called the Lucid Dream package? When I saw the movie I was so caught up in the revelation that a full quater to (maybe) half of the movie had not even ocurred and was just a computer glitch that I didn’t even think twice about the Lucid Dream. Even the second and third times I saw it, I was busy trying to catch the foreshadowing and really trying to figure out what the movie was about. Like a good piece of art, the movie is up for interpretation. It was purposely made to have a vague ending. When David wakes up, we once again hear “open your eyes” and are unsure of whether he was dreaming the whole thing, had woken up in the lab, or had restarted his dream. It was both frustrating and beautiful at the same time. (END OF SPOILERS)

So what IS a Lucid Dream? I only read the introductory section of the Wikibook, but the practive of Lucid Dreaming is dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. It’s something you can become awesome at instead of it just happening every once in a while. I don’t know about my readers (and you are free to use the comments feature of the blog to enlighten me) but I have unintentionally had lots of lucid dreams. It used to happen a lot more often when I was a young child in elementary school, but I remember controlling parts of my dream down to the last detail, even “rewinding” my dreams and redoing certain scenes if I felt they could be improved.

It still happens to me, but it’s very rare nowadays since I usually don’t get enough sleep either due to school work or because I stay up with other pursuits, such as writing a blog. However, when I do get to sleep until my body wakes itself up, independent of alarm clocks, fiancees, or other external stimuli, I find that the last half hour to hour before I wake up, I’m usually lucid dreaming. I’m usually in a state somewhere between sleep and wake and am able to control certain aspects of the dream. As I progressively wake up, I’m able to control more of the dream, but I am also less asleep and more awake just daydreaming. Finally, just before I wake up, I’m basically just daydreaming and waiting to get ot a part of the dream where it bores me and I feel like getting out of bed.

I don’t know if it’s being back in academia and having my mind stimulated, the excitement of having this new blog, or what, but I feel like I’ve been blogging on a level that I haven’t done in months. As a quick reminder I’ll probably be saying daily for a week or so, don’t forget that this blog will go inactive when my server goes down, but you can continue to read my blog at blog.ericsbinaryworld.com and once I get my server up at the new site, I will migrate my blog over to this server.

reorganizing and Mo Rocca info

I’m not sure how many people have visited this blog site yet or how many are coming here independently through other sites. I know of one person who has confirming coming here and subscriping to the RSS feed. Anyway, you may have noticed I made some cosmetic changes to the site. I’m not 100% sure if it’s going to stay this way. I generally like to leave things the way they are. Since, however, I don’t know how many people are coming here right now and I intend to relaunch the site in a few months anyway, I figure it’s still ok. I put the calender above the links because as the links list grew it would have pushed the calendar way too far down the page. I also moved the categories above the links. I’m not sure if I will emulate the original It’s A Binary World on my tripod page and put the links over on the left side or if I will keep it all as one column here. The center may end up a bit too squished if I go for that, but stay tuned.

Over on my tripod blog, I posted pictures from Mo Rocca’s event this night at Cornell. You should go check those out. I mentioned on that site that I would probably be putting up some video from that night here on this blog. If I do it today, it will end up being much later in the day since I need to get some sleep for class today. Also, I have to do some prep work on the videos to make shrink them down to a manageable size, so that will take some time too. Stay tuned, tonight’s real post to come soon.

[1.0] Mo Rocca @ Cornell!

Mo Rocca came to talk today at Cornell, thanks to a Sponsership from Hillel, the Campus Jewish group. Why they invited him, I don’t know because he revealed during his performance that he was Catholic. But he did have a hilarious opening bit where he told this whole story using Yiddish.

morocca2

He was quite hilarious and I caught some of it on my camera’s video mode. I’m not 100% why because I don’t normally use my camera for video but the picture is a bit jerky. Weird for a 12 MP camera. But I will be posting the video on my other blog probably tomorrow.

morocca4

He also suprised the audience by giving us this traditional Jewish treat he had made for us. He actually put it on stage at the beginning and there was a crowd of people rushing to grab it.

morocca5

He began his talk with he coverage of the 2004 presidential elections. His jokes brought forth both tons of laughter and a few jeers depending upon which political candidate he was talking about. But he stayed pretty neutral, lampooning both sides of the isle. The picture immediately above was accompanied by the joke, “yeah, the wedding photographer didn’t do such a good job with those two.” hehe…

morocca1

He told us about his personal life, including the fact that he’s good friends with Flava Flav, who you might know from the Surreal Life on VH1. He recounted a story when he went to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC with Flav where they were in the lobby and it’s all quiet like church when Flav says, in a loud voice, “I want to see something with a f***ing pendulum!”

morocca6

He talked about his contributions on VH1’s I love the 70/80/90s and quizzed this kid on 90s stuff. He won a Celine Dion CD autographed by Mo Rocca.

morocca3

All in all it was an awesome show! I also got to take a picture with Mo as well as get an autograph from him. I didn’t scan the autograph, but here’s the picture I took with him.

mewithmorocca

Safety and health are here…at a price

I’ve recently begun to notice a disturbing trend: anything that’s good for you will cost you more. The most serious infraction comes from the food supply. When I go to buy ground beef, cheapest of the beef products, there are three tiers of product available for me to purchase. The cheapest product is ground beef with the default amount of fat. Since ground beef is already among the scrap left from a cow, this fat content can be pretty high. Since I eat ground beef fairly regularly, about once every two weeks or less, this is unacceptable. So I can choose 95% lean ground beef or 97% lean ground beef. However, these products are more expensive. In other words, economics would tell me to eat the meat that was worse for my body. However, I am a rational human being who is not a slave to any theorems of economics; I choose to buy the expensive 97% lean ground beef. Of course, if I really want to get a leaner beef product, I can go from ground beef (where $5 will feed me many times) to filet mignion (where $16 will feed me twice – max). Not only will it contain more vitamins and less fat, but the tenderness of the meat is also healthier for my digestive system, and, to a trivial degree, my teeth.

Ok, what about other foods? Consistently throughout the market anything that is good for me costs more money. For a week’s worth of tomatoes I usually spend about $15 on a cheap week. By contrast, a week or two’s worth of potatoe chips is $3 when it’s not on sale. Even among fruits, those laden with pesticides and (potentially, though not yet proven) harmfull pesticides are cheaper than the organic, locally grown fuits and veggetables. It IS a proven fact that the closer to the original source of the food you are, the less preservatives in it, meaining the food is more valuable to your system as usable fuel. This is why microwaveable food is crap and really not worth eating because it’s just processed stuff that the body just throws out, while a home cooked meal will result in a healthier body.

Moving to automobiles, what examples of this behavior do we have? It is the higher end vehicles which have more airbags to protect the passengers in the event of an accident. Even beyond that, I recently saw a Lexus commercial touting that the new filters on their cars don’t let pollen or other pollutants into the car. So are we saying that it’s ok for people who can’t afford a Lexus to breathe in pollution while those who have them enjoy healthier lungs?

This is all amounting a a very subtle form of class discrimination. If tomorrow someone was to say that the cure for cancer had been discovered, but only rich people could use it, there would be public outcry. In fact, riots or even revolutions would occur. Why are we allowing the same things to happen in other realms? For example, the current grocery prices force poor people to eat unhealthy foods. If they have to decide between having a place to live or eating healthy, they will certainly select to have a place to live. I am not a communist, I believe that those who have worked hard deserve to have their perks. However, there is a difference between perks and health. I don’t think it’s unfair if a poor person has to watch tv in a smaller tv than a rich person. Tv is an extra. Being healthy is not an extra it is a fundamental right of all humanity. Especially in the United States, the most modernized of all countries in the world, we should not be tolerating this.

Is there an easy solution? Yes there is an easy solution. Currently the government pays farmers subsidies in order for them to purposely plant less crops. Due to supply and demand principles, this artificially inflates the prices of produce. You may be thinking to yourself, “no don’t do that to the poor farmers!” But in reality, ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s, there has been a steady decline in the independent farmer. Currently a VERY large percentage (I think 80% or more, but don’t have solid figures) of farming is done by HUGE companies that own most of the land and pay their workers minimum wage. In fact, there aren’t even too many workers now that most of it is mechanized. With the cars, there are two solutions. 1) mandate that all features relating to health must be included in all cars without significantly raising their price 2) subsidize the cheaper cars (eg ford focus) so that poor people can afford to breathe without Asthma.

Be certain that if I ever make it to Congress, these items will be on my agenda.

Give Me Back My Identity

I am not a data point.
I am a human being.
I am not the customer who buys anime, computer hardware, and books on Linux.
I am not the customer who sends flowers to my mother-in-law in Brooklyn.
I am a human being.
I am a college student, a writer, a poet, a photographer, a journalist, a hacker, a fiancee, a revolutionary;
but I am not simply a set of bits describing what I buy and how often I do it.
Give me back my identity.
Who said you had the right to keep track of where I go and what I buy and who I talk to?
Who said you had the right to piggy back on my software and force me to agree to your terms?
Who said you had the right to put cookies in my browser all day long to track what I do?
Am I a terrorist?
Am I a criminal?
What have I done to warrant this level of surveillance?
I am not something to be analyzed so that you can figure out how to squeeze every last dollar out of me.
I am a human being –
GIVE ME BACK MY IDENTITY!

Eric Mesa