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Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Training Spotify

I love Spotify. After a few years dabbling with the nightmare that is iTunes it has me back listening to music again. And as a middle aged man (there I admitted it), I can use it to learn about new music as well. Well mostly.

Spotify’s recommendations should help me find new stuff that is similar to what I like. It seems to be able to filter out the fact that the kids have been using my profile to listen to what ever kid friendly chart music they like. But recently my weekly mix has been a little skewed I suppose you would say.

I can understand how it is sending me loads of 60’s and 70’s rock. A little while back I put together a play list of music from that era and it may have thought I was obsessed with it. But where the feck did the Dutch folk music come from? Its getting better, but at one stage one third of what I was being suggested was gutteral, consonant choked, crooning from the land of polders. This cannot stand.

There isn’t a process for purging your spotify listening history (definite feature need there). So instead I am engaged in the process of trying to retrain their algorithms. That is sort of fun itself. I immediately dislike any Dutch folk music, as well as the artist responsible. I am skipping over 70’s rock when the track is listed (I am told Spotify weights your perception of a song if you listen to more than 30 seconds of it). And I take a little time every day to listen to very different stuff that I like, but might not have listened to as much recently – like trance music. That alone has been good, as I reconnect with other music.

But it is interesting to contrast this with how you would do this with a friend. The ultimate aim of these assistants is to mimic and be as seamless as dealing with humans. Like as if you had a friend who was a DJ who was engaged full time in finding music for you to listen to, er…

But such a friend would only need a quick word to get the hint that if they ever play you Dutch folk music again then you will pour treacle over their (metaphorical) mixing tables. With the machines the process is slower, more incremental. For now, the personal DJ is better. If I had one of course.

 

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Lets try this again.

I was wondering why it is I post stuff to social networks for them to monetize, when I have a perfectly good blog here. So lets try posting here for a bit instead.

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Of statues and aero-nauts

Richard CrosbiePublic statuary in Ireland is a mixed bag. But I would like to nominate this statute of Richard Crosbie (the first man to fly in Ireland when he made a baloon ascent) located in Ranelagh gardens as the most god awful piece of crap commissioned in the country.
 
Now Rory Breslin is a well regarded sculptor, but this piece, put up to commemorate Crosbie’s flight, is junk. I don’t know was the design imposed on him, but…
 
It is supposed to represent Crosbie’s youthful curiosity, and interest in flight. But he flew in 1785. So no one would have known what a paper air plane was. And propellers would not make their first appearance (on ships) for another 40 years. And as for putting one on a peaked cap?
 
The whole thing is twee, affected, and artificial. I cringe whenever I see it.
 
Far better to remember Crosbie’s literal rise and fall by reading about his life here. 
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This counts as work too though.

Making Progress

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Blame the god(s)

Still one of my favourite stories on Ministerial Responsibility:

Over the last five years, there had been at least two instances of goods trains travelling about 30 km in northern India without an engine driver, who had either fallen out or had jumped out en route. Fortunately neither train was involved in an accident as they ran out of steam. 

Mr Yadav [The Railway minister at the time] has blamed Vishwakarma, the Hindu god of machines, for the spiralling rate of rail accidents.

“Indian Railways are the responsibility of Lord Vishwakarma,” said Mr Prasad, “so is the safety of passengers. It is his duty [to ensure safety\], not mine,” he said earlier this year.

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Old maps

I am researching old maps of the world from the 1920s and 1930 for a project I am working on.

Two great resources I have found are:

http://www.hipkiss.org/data/maps.html – some maps here

http://www.oldmapsonline.org/ – map scans. But not as good quality, or as comprehensive (or well indexed) as this one

https://www.davidrumsey.com – excellent very high quality scans of maps through history that you can download.

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Trump the laughing stock

Trump is openly mocked by other world leaders. He is referred to as a child by senior members of his own party. And within his own cabinet he is called a moron.

This is staggering really when you stop to think about it. Has any world leader every been thought so poorly of? And certainly not one in charge of a super power.

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Did I say Plano was boring? I apologise.

Be careful what you put in print. Your words may come back to haunt you.

Seven dead in Dallas home shooting

Seven dead in Dallas home shooting

A gunman kills seven people at a house in Dallas, Texas, before being shot dead by police.

Source: www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41224531

 

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What do you call a person who…

Let me get this straight.

You have someone who refuses to condemn traitors who attempted to break up the country and triggered a war that cost 1.6m dead before they could be suppressed. And he is happy to see monuments to those traitors left up.

This person refuses to condemn supporters of a fascist regime, which 400,000 of his country men died to defeat

He is surrounded by people, including his own family members, who actively solicited the support of a hostile foreign power to enable him to take control of the country. And he publicly said he would like to have that support well.

I am a big fan of the duck test (If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck). It gives a pretty unambiguous outcome here.

The only caveat of course is when  the majority in a country says that something is acceptable. Except, that is not the case here.

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Self driving – is it ready for Europe (and the rest of the world)?

This is an interesting (but long) read on the Atlantic about Google’s facility for self driving cars. To supplement simulations they build physical replicas of real infrastructure to test the cards. This caught my eye:

We pull up to a large, two-lane roundabout. In the center, there is a circle of white fencing. “This roundabout was specifically installed after we experienced a multilane roundabout in Austin, Texas,” Villegas says. “We initially had a single-lane roundabout and were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got it. We’ve got it covered.’ And then we encountered a multi-lane and were like, ‘Horse of a different color! Thanks, Texas.’ So, we installed this bad boy.”

 If Google’s tech is only at the level of handling US infrastructure then we are a very long way from widespread adoption. Anyone who has driven in the US knows how benign their roads are. If they think a 2 lane roundabout is a challenge, wait until they get to Europe! I will know the technology works when it can drive into and out of someplace like Rome at rush hour!

Still, read for your self what goes on here: 

Waymo Built a Secret World for Self-Driving Cars

An exclusive look at how Alphabet understands its most ambitious artificial intelligence project

Source: www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/08/inside-waymos-secret-testing-and-simulation-facilities/537648/

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