The Rothko

No. 14 at SF Moma

For over five centuries the Sistine Chapel ceiling has been among the greatest things man has produced. I would give two limbs for a magnum opus of its caliber.

In contrast, the first time I saw a Rothko in my early teens, I concluded that this was the outcome of giving a child with severe OCD a set of crayons.

Over the last few weeks, amidst a very tough and frustrating period (this is far too complex for this one post) in my life, I had a chance to reflect on one of Rothko’s signature pieces and study the underlying process through a MOMA video [1]. I felt a new sense of respect for Rothko’s works. A Rothko is quite literally a metaphor for life. Our visible exterior is the product of several layers that comprise our experiences.

Rothko had a famous quote:

The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.

It took eight years for me to have this experience. I am better off for it.

[1] The Painting Techniques of Mark Rothko: No. 16 (Red, Brown, and Black)

On Empires

It is the desperate moment when we discover that this empire which had seemed to us the sum of all wonders, is an endless, formless ruin, that corruption’s gangrene has spread too far to be healed by our scepter, that the triumph over enemy sovereigns has made us the heirs of their long undoing.

— Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino)

Disco Rectangles

I was playing with quil recently (got a project planned which I will speak about later) and managed to throw this together in a short while:

Clojure source available here.

Augmenting enlive

In manipulating HTML documents for features, I find myself needing to use some operations all the time - removing script tags, comments and the like. This feature-set is available in HtmlCleaner and I thus merged the two libraries to produce enlive-helper.

Now you can do:

 ( "<html><body><a>hi</a></body></html>") 
 :prune-tags "a")

And as a result the a tag is not picked up:

({:tag :html,
  :attrs nil,
   {:tag :head, :attrs nil, :content nil}
   {:tag :body, :attrs nil, :content nil})})

The options you can pass mirror those of HtmlCleaner. Full docs available in this github repo.

Also, the code is something I threw together from my research so it is released under Matt Might’s CRAPL license.

Diagnosis by Google Doesn’t Work

I have often Googled for symptoms, visited WebMD (and concluded that I have a deadly disease). At SIGIR 2013, Ryen White’s paper, Beliefs and Biases in IR, provided empirical evidence for the poor success-rate of diagnosis-by-google.

The authors mined medical yes/no questions (For example: Can salmonella cause belly-ache), had physicians answer these questions, and then measured user bias post-search (i.e. the users after perusing the results answer their original questions with yes/no) (the paper contains a very detailed description of the experiments conducted).

The accuracy of the final answer was the most interesting part of this paper - only about half of the questions were accurately answered. That is as good as flipping a (fair) coin for each question. The rest of the paper was a fairly interesting read (and it won the SIGIR 2013 best paper award).

Soli Deo Gloria