Thursday, December 6, 2012

Anise Brine

1 cup kosher salt 1 cup packed brown sugar 2 pods star anise 4 bay leaves Preparation 1.In a large pot set over high heat, combine 1 gallon of water and the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Heat until the sugar and salt are dissolved, then remove from stove. 2.Let cool completely and refrigerate until needed. YIELD About 1 gallon

Smothered Pork Chops

Ingredients 8 thick, bone-in pork chops (more if using smaller chops) Anise brine 4 tablespoons neutral oil, like peanut or safflower, or lard 1 cup all-purpose flour 8 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced 1 bay leaf Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 quarts pork stock or chicken stock 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, optional Preparation 1. In a large nonreactive container, submerge the pork in the brine and place in refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight, then remove the chops and dry well with paper towels. 2. Preheat oven to 325. Heat the oil or lard in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. Dredge the chops in the flour, shaking off the excess. Reserve the leftover flour. 3. Cook the chops in the fat, about 4 minutes per side, until they are brown and crisp on the exterior, and transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onions and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened, about 15 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. 4. Add 6 tablespoons fl our to the onions, stir well and allow to cook 3 or 4 minutes. Slowly add the stock, stirring and scraping the pan well, until it is incorporated and the mixture is slightly thickened. 5. Return chops to the pot and bring to a simmer, then cover tightly and cook in the oven until very tender, 2 or more hours. Transfer chops to a plate and place pot on stovetop, over medium heat. Reduce sauce until it is thick enough to resemble gravy, skimming excess oil and foam if necessary. Return chops to pot to reheat, then serve with their gravy over rice or mashed potatoes. Garnish with parsley if you like.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


So on French TV some hotshot chefs said the following about eggs: Get free range duh. Never refrigerate eggs. Fresh eggs will not spoil for a week. Also, using eggs that are at ambiant tempurature will allow you to more easily poach them. Cold eggs in hot water messes it up. To poach eggs add a bunch of vinager to boiling water. Add no salt (this decomposes the albumen). Dump the eggs in the water then immediately remove water from the flame. That's all.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I has feets

Yesterday I slammed my bare toes into a piece of plywood in the fruit cellar (I don't know how it got there).  I'm fairly certain I fractured something, forcing me to use my left foot only gingerly - quite a pain when your job is to walk up and down corn fields all day.

This afternoon we had to put 7 foot-tall sprinklers in place.  Francis drove the tractor that pulled a trailer full of aluminum sprinkler poles and the bases that keep them upright, and I walked alongside the trailer, pulling out sprinkler parts and dropping them at regular intervals.  I started having trouble keeping up.  I struggled to get the bases out, which where all in a jumble.  I thought to myself, "after I do a few more, I've got to ask him to slow down or I'm going to kill myself."  That's when the trailer wheel squashed my right foot.  I yelled, and dropped to my knees.  As I pulled off my shoe to do a damage report, I saw Francis continue down the field another 50 meters.  He hadn't heard me.

The good news: my left toes don't hurt anymore.  The bad news: I'm going to have to amputate something to get my right foot to stop hurting.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


An extract from Le Mariage de Figaro, written by Beaumarchais in 1778:

Le Comte : (...) oui, j'avais quelque envie de t'emmener à Londres, courrier de dépêches...mais toutes réflexions faites...
Figaro : Monseigneur a changé d'avis?
Le Comte : Premièrement, tu ne sais pas l'anglais.
Figaro : Je sais God-dam.
Le Comte : Hé bien ?
Figaro : Diable! C'est une belle langue que l'anglais! Il en faut peu pour aller loin. Avec God-dam, en Angleterre, on ne manque de rien nulle part. -Voulez-vous tâter d'un bon poulet gras: entrez dans une taverne, et faites seeulement ce geste au garçon (il tourne la broche), God-dam! on vous apporte un pied de boeuf sans pain. C'est admirable! Aimez-vous à boire un coup d'excellent bourgogne ou de clairet, rien que celui-ci (il débouche une bouteille): God-dam! on vous sert un pot de bière, en bel étain, la mousse aux bords. Quelle satisfaction! Rencontrez-vous une de ces jolies personnes qui vont trottant menu, les yeux baissés, coudes en arrière, et tortillant un peu des hanches: mettez mignardement tous les doigts unis sur la bouche. Ah! God-dam! elle vous sangle un soufflet de crocheteur: preuve qu'elle entend. Les Anglais, à la vérité, ajoutent par-ci par-là quelques autres mots en conversant; mais il est bien aisé de voir que God-dam est le fond de la langue; et si Monseigneur n'a pas d'autre motif de me laisser en Espagne...

Good to see that the French have been making the same jokes about English culture for over 200 years.

Fun Farm Fact #2156

Though typically depicted in the mass media as crowing primarily at sunrise, roosters crow whenever they goddam please in fact.

Published at 3:30 AM GMT.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Aren't mortgages sort of like serfdom?  Much of banks business is land rents.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Over the past few weeks me and the rest of the Michel family has been cartin' around a foul-smelling trailer-dweller for a very honorable reason: her husband is dying.  This couple of means by no means had met Jean-Marc Michel because he worked on some lands adjacent to where they lived.  They were friendly.  They helped.  When he needed them to shut off some valves, they were there.  But then, the landlord booted them off.  The parcel was too valuable to have their kind soiling it.  So later, this month, Dédé, the man, falls ill.  Something's wrong with his stomach.  "The doctors don't feed him!" wails Christiane, his woman.  "I  don't think you can eat with stomach cancer," I offer.  So thus it is our job, to bring Christiane to the hospital once a day to visit Dédé.  She has few teeth.  She smells of cheap beer and cigarette juice.  She complains and wants us to do errands for her.  Dédé can't be convinced that the oxygen tube is a good thing for him, so she plans to tie his hands so he can't pull the tube out.  Today he is dead.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Selles-Sur-Cher and Vinsobres

At noon I ate Selle-Sur-Cher (sounds like "over-expensive feces") and drank Vinsobres (sounds like "sober wine"). 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Butt scratching, finger sniffing

Could it be a way of human auto-evaluation of the olfactory system-detectable free-radicals that eminate from fecal matter?

Friday, May 18, 2012

P values

Warning! This is an extremely boring post about statistics, and is mostly for my own use. Feel free to ignore this post!   

As I continue to study statistics, I'd like to write out and better internalize a few reminders about one of the most ubiquitous features of a statistical test: the p-value (also written as P-value or p or P).  Every time I think I finally have this concept nailed I realize I forgot a detail somewhere.

The p-value is the probability of getting a more extreme result if we assume that the null hypothesis is true. But for the p-value to be of any use, a somewhat arbitrary cut-off level needs to be established before the test, usually at 0.05.

For example, 100 rats are injected with a drug. For the injected rats, mean response time to a stimulus is 1.2 seconds, with a standard deviation of 0.5 seconds (and the distribution is normal). Rats not injected have a mean response time of 1.05 seconds. The null hypotheses in this case would be that the drug has no effect. So what we want to know is how many standard deviations away from 1.05 is 1.2 in this test distribution? Simply put, what is the Z-score? Well, 1.2-1.05 equals .15, and since we want this difference in terms of standard deviations we divide by 0.5 (which was given above). This equals 3. From the 68/95/99.7 rule we know that a result that is 3 standard deviations away from the Ho mean has a probability of (1-0.997) = 0.003 = p-value.

OK, I wrote all that to say what this p-value of 0.003 means (and what it doesn't mean). Since we decided beforehand that an acceptable alpha (risk of rejecting the null hypothesis when in reality it's true) is 0.05, we can reject the null hypothesis. This doesn't mean that the alternative hypothesis is necessarily true! It just means that the effect found in this sample for this particular experiment probably did not happen by chance alone. That's all.

Another important thing to remember is that a low p-value alone doesn't indicate the strength of a correlation. For example say that I did two tests to test the effectiveness of two drugs, and the drug A test had a p-value of 0.001 and that drug B had a p-value of .04. I can't say that drug A is more effective, since maybe the drug B test had a larger sample size. P-values are can change suddenly when the sample size is small - for example, flipping a coin 20 times and getting 14 heads is statistically insignificant, but throwing 15 heads gives a p-value of less than 0.05.

You can't compare p-values across experiments. It's an indicator that is proper to that experiment alone.

Deciding which alpha level to use and how to interpret the p-value is dependant on your a priori knowlege of the subject, and your confidence in the efficacy of your test (is the sample good, are all the important variables accounted for, etc.) P-values are not magic numbers that prove hypotheses!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 

Cool blog with stunning pictures of the sun.

Last day of autopsies

Last week I had one final day of autopsies.  In the morning we saw an obese, diabetic, and quite hirsute black woman and the near-completely decomposed remains of a man.  It was hard to ignore the loads of hair on the woman's butt and her stubbled chin - just another reminder of human variability!  The brain was extracted, and I sidled up next to the intern to see what she would find.  The arteries were extremely hardened and congested.  After her findings were recorded I was allowed to poke around with a scalpel.  I was happy to have the chance to get the feel of everything.  Sure, you can read that the brain weighs 1000-1700 grams, but holding in your hands is much better!

Next we looked at the heart, which presented severe atherosclerosis, the calcified fatty accumulation in the coronary arteries.  There was also a spot that had ruptured. In the area around the heart, large amounts of "agonie" was found (that's to say gelatinous globs of coagulated blood).  The diagnosis was clear - she suffered from intense hypertension and her heart literally burst as a result of extremely high blood pressure.

Next was a body that was exhumed from somewhere.  Unfortunately I didn't quite understand the parsimonious backstory I was told.  All I can say is that it was at least 6 months old and didn't stink! *EDIT: The body was more than 3 years old.*  The head and upper torso were completely desiccated, but interestingly the butt and legs had maintained their shape more or less.  This is because under the right environmental conditions high concentrations of fat can turn into a waxy, soapy substance.  Essentially the outside of the bottom half of the body had turned into soap, preserving everything within.

A clean-cut doctor I had not met before was in charge of the operation.  He paid little heed to the lackeys that surrounded him, giving orders left and right.  He suddenly put me in charge of labelling all of the little plastic containers that we put the organs in, which I was more than happy to do!  Of course I was the least qualified person in the room for that, since I don't always know how to spell the French anatomical vocabulary.  It was sort of embarrassing, but I managed!

 In the afternoon we saw the autopsy of easily the most healthy-looking person we saw.  He was a man in his 40's, quite athletic - almost pure muscle, but not in a gross way.  The story was that he went out for a jog and just never came back.  His wife called the police three days after!  Maybe he just disappeared like that in the past.  He had a history of heart problems, and we found a coronary stent when we cut open the heart.

His liver was huge - 2300 grams. The doc explained that when the heart isn't circulating enough blood, the liver needs to compensate.  I didn't quite understand...  I'll look into it.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Putrified Corpses

I told you about Wednesday and Friday (though I know I left out a lot of details) but I didn't tell you about Thursday.  This is partially because I was searching for the proper adjectives to describe the smell of a putrified corpse.  Most of us have encountered rotting meat, but usually in small quantities, and once the evil is found, it is quickly disposed of. I hope that none of you has to endure what I endured for an hour and a half.

The problem with attending the autopsy of a decaying body is that it only gets worse.  There's no plateau to the smell.  The room stinks when the body is still in the bag.  It's worse when the bag is opened.  Another wave of putrescence hits you when the skull is opened, and the brownish-black smoothie of a brain the plops out.  Just when you think the odor can't be any worse, they open the thoracic cavity.  After they remove the rotten liver and lungs, you think, OK, I can deal with this.  Then they pull out the rotten colon and the weeks old feces within.  That's when I excused myself for a breath of fresh air.

I'm also in the embarrassing situation of not having much to say about the autopsy itself.  I was so distracted by the odor that I didn't really pay attention to what was going on.  There didn't seem to be anything going on.  I think it was just an old guy who died in his house and it took a while for anyone to find him.

One thing I didn't know is that putrification causes the testicles to swell up.  The penis was not visible because the testicles had ballooned from the gasses and fluids that accumulate.  His face was purple because  he had been lying face down, so all the blood pooled there.  This is called lividity.

I left early and took the afternoon off.  There was just another putrefied corpse that afternoon, and I just didn't see the purpose of subjecting myself to that again.  I can handle visual horror, but olfactory horror is too much.  I couldn't even eat lunch because the smell was stuck in my sinuses.  The beautiful sandwich that Audrey had made me tasted like two-week-old man.

I don't know how these doctors do it.  There's no secret to it - their faces all showed signs of extreme discomfort.  It's a living.

Friday, May 4, 2012

In the thin and thick of it.

 This morning I saw the autopsies of two women.  The first seemed to be a case of tuberculous anorexia, and the second a knife-induced intrapericardial hemorrhage.  The extremely skinny woman was initially thought to have died from complications due to her anorexia, but when we opened her lungs we found that they were riddled with infection.  The chain-smoking doc immediately said "TB."  I took a step back.  Another doc was called down to confirm and she wasn't so sure.  Infection, yes, but she said TB has a "chalkier" look - less wet looking.  At any rate, I was assured that it was no longer contagious.  Nonetheless, all of the interns put on masks.  The fact that her lungs were in such horrible shape and that she never went to the doctor because of her assuredly nasty cough means that she was in a pretty 'irregular' situation as they say.  Probably homeless.  The doctor said she was psychotic.

The next woman was much healthier looking.  The room buzzed with the possibility that she was pregnant.  She looked it.  She had several superficial cuts on her chest.  The wounds didn't even reach the muscle.  But when she was flipped over there was a knife sticking out of her back!  The handle had been removed by the police to ease transportation, but the blade was immovable.  It was stuck in a vertebra and a rib, but which ones?

"Ho!  Les anthropologues!  Vous devriez savoir.  C'est quelle côte?" chain-smokey asked us.  (Côte = rib.)  I immediately replied, "Ah, c'est évident, c'est la cinquième" with a facetious grin, thinking that it was near impossible to know before cutting her open.  But nobody laughed!  The doc checked the x-ray.  "Ouaip!  C'est en effet la cinquième côte!"  I explained that I had been joking, but my colleagues just looked at me with suspicion. 

As the autopsy proceeded, large dark red gelatenous globs were found near the heart where the knife had touched the heart.  The doctor held the globs before me and said, "Tu sais qu'est-ce que c'est?  Thees eez euh... agonie.  Comment dit-on 'agonie' en anglais?"  "Agony," I said.  When you die your blood stops coagulating.  Large amounts of coagulated blood means that she died slowly.

Finally we cut open her uterus and found not a baby but a sterilet (intrauterine device).  She was just fat!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pop Pop Pop, Watchin' Motha Fuckas Drop!

At lunch I ordered 'steak frites' but the smell of the burnt man would not leave my sinuses.  The steak tasted like a Marseille BBQ!  I filled up on fries.

On the way to the autopsy room the professor started talking about how the man we were going see was a known drug dealer, and that we shouldn't feel too bad for him.  It's not like he was a innocent caught in the cross-fire.  We should think of it as a "work accident" (accident de travail).

Let me tell you, an AK will fuck your shit up.  The guy was hit maybe 10 times in the chest and head.  There was hardly any of his brain left.  The ever-hilarious chain-smoking doctor opened up the cranium for all to see the paltry remains and said "See the size of an average gangster's brain?  100 grams!"  (An average human brain is 1300 grams.)

We got to take a more active role in this autopsy, helping carry stuff and getting to fiddle with his innards.  The doctor urged me to pick up an arm to see how hard it is to move a stiff.  I did, and the corpse grabbed me!  I didn't shriek like a little girl, but almost.  I moved the wrist in such a way that the tendons naturally caused the hand to grip me.

I also handled and examined his heart, lungs, stomach, liver, pancreas, and spleen.

They very carefully examined each entrance and exit wound to determine how many bullets hit him.  They longly debated whether or not a bullet had shattered midway causing two exit wounds.  They smoked and debated some more.  Voices were raised, sarcastic volleys followed.  There was an uneasy balance between the fact that it was pretty obvious what happened here (he was a drug dealer whose head was shot to hell by other drug dealers and that's how he died, duh) and the fact that for legal purposes they needed to be fairly precise.

On the train ride home I probably passed within a few hundred meters of the site of the shooting, near St. Joseph.  Quite an odd feeling stopping at St. Joseph and seeing all the housing projects and all the poor people who inhabit them.  I don't know if I would have ended up any differently than the guy whose spleen I played with if I lived there.  Precisely 24 hours ago, he was probably driving around like everyone else, alive.  I'm sure he was ignorant, and brutish and whatever else you want, but I cannot feel better or worse about his death than that of the 70 year old woman who died of complications in the hospital.

I've seen some shit

This morning I finally had the famous autopsy experience everyone has been talking about since September. After so much time wondering what it would look like, smell like, feel like, I now have the answers!  After a brief tour of the facilities, us four students and the professor donned our smocks and shoe covers and entered the autopsy room.  It's a modest space with plenty of sunlight, with two stainless steel autopsy tables on either side of the room.  There was an elderly woman on the table to the right, and a black body bag on the left.  A few gendarmes were hanging out in the observation area, because the guy in the body bag is the result of a criminal affair.  Then before I could really get my bearings the room burst into activity, with two teams of five starting to work on both cadavres.

The first shock was when they opened the body bag.  The guy was almost entirely carbonized.  He was a victim of a barbecue marseillais - he was killed execution-style with a handgun, then placed in a car, doused in petrol, and set ablaze in order to obfuscate any evidence.  It smelled like, well, burnt meat! As they started slicing him up his flesh really looked like a well cooked steak.  The chain-smoking head doctor was compelled to cry out, "Regardez!  Il est à point!" (Roughly 'Look!  He's cooked to perfection!').  The ambiance was anything but somber.  They do this day in and day out. 

On the other side of the room the autopsy proceeded more normally, with the systematic removal and inspection of all the major organs.  First the brain was extracted, which was one of the smellier operations, not because the brain smelled, but because the friction from cutting bone with a small circular saw caused a burning odor.  Otherwise the room did not stink.  The old lady had died only an hour or two earlier, and was therefore 'fresh' and the barbecue guy just smelled like left-over steak.  Once they removed the bowels though, everyone caught a good whiff of dead people poop.

At the end, the friendly, overtly gay technician was left alone to whistle and sew up the old woman to make her more or less presentable for her funeral. He took good care to keep her hair in order.

This afternoon we're going to see the autopsy of a guy who was driving along last night (not far from my school) when another car pulled up and blasted him with a Kalachnikov.  I'm 'lucky' since gang related killings have been relatively infrequent lately.  There have been about a dozen since the beginning of the year, and I get to see two in one week!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I hope I am

Recently I've been having this recurring feeling that I might be somehow mentally deficient, and that everyone around me is just humoring me. I say it's a feeling because I really feel it in my bones when it happens - it's almost spine-tingling as I entertain is as a real possibility. I could be an idiot after all. Idiots rarely recognise themselves as such.

A Report on Idiots in Massachusetts (1848)


Sunday, April 22, 2012

My daily trip to class

Phase One : The car

Phase Two : The Train

Phase Three : The Subway

There are only two subway lines in Marseille, and I've only ever had use for Line One. All the cars are 70s-style brown and orange.

Destination : Crash Test Lab

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Well I've been to one world fair, a picnic and a rodeo and that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard come over a set of ear-phones!

- Major T.J. "King" Kong

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two thoughts

I still often feel that when I am read something I'm getting some privileged peek into some better world, a Great Gatsby-like dinner party filled with bon mots and subtle references. It's usually by reading something that the possibility of some higher good overcoming the injustice in the world brings a smile to my face. Reading can be transcendant like that. But then the writer might stumble and snap me into realizing the terrestrial baseness of what they're selling.

As I was driving in dense rush-hour traffic today, I fixed my eyes longly on the middle-aged faces of all the lawyers and doctors and what-haveyous slowly inching past me. A question screamed out: what are you people doing?

Monday, March 12, 2012


I've taken at least 3 different statistics courses, and I feel like I'm only now internalizing the core concepts. The course I took a month ago was key, because the prof started from the very beginning, and was very, very thorough. He explained a few things that I'm sure I learned many times before, but are often glazed over (I guess because they're deemed too simple to dwell on). Yet if these key ideas fly out of your head for even a moment, the whole enterprise starts to seem spooky and incomprehensible. One of these ideas is what I'm going to call randomosity. How random is randomosity? Well, not at all.

Statistics is simply math applied to the real world. But the real world is incredibly complicated, so complicated that it often seems like chaos - completely random. But what seems random isn't always really random! The key is discerning the random from the non-random.

This is possible because pure chance is possible to calculate with absolute accuracy (a funny thought eh?). On the other hand, natural phenomena with non-random causes and effects have so many variables and are so complex that even our most powerful models are only approximations. Chance, on the other hand, is known. The chance of flipping heads is always the same - exactly 50%. With a die you have exactly 1 in 6 chances of rolling a given number. Not sort of. Exactly. (Sorry lotto players.)

We're comparing what would happen under random circumstances to what we have actually observed, and then seeing to what extent they differ. This is the guiding principle of many statistical tests.

This site is pretty easy to understand:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Procrustes analysis

In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a sadistic streak. He would welcome weary travelers into his home, and after filling them with good food and cheer would invite them to sleep in his special bed. Unfortunately, if his guests didn't fit the bed exactly (and they never did!) Procrustes, in an anal retentive fury, would find a way to make them fit, either by cutting off a bit of their legs or flattening them out with a hammer. Procrustes was eventually done in by Theseus, who gave him a taste of his own medicine (see vase above).

As with many other mythological characters, Procrustes' name was adopted by nerds to denote a nerdy but essentially simple concept: if you want to analyze the shape of two similar objects, you need to first scale, rotate and translate the objects so that they are as perfectly superimposed as possible. Except instead of using hammers or axes, a few equations are used.

Now say you want to compare the shapes of a whole set of skulls, and see how they vary (based on landmarks that you define). You can compute the average shape of the lot, called the consensus, and see how the landmarks of all the other skull landmarks compare. The differences between each homologous landmark and the consensus are called Procrustes residuals. These are the starting point of the statistical analysis.

But it is useless to do a classic statistical treatment comparing all of your landmark variables. It's hard enough finding two-dimensional relationships. Imagine trying to compare the 25 (x,y,z) landmark coordinates of 100 skulls. And how will you represent the data? The answer is to use a Principal Component (PC) Analysis. This reduces your Procrustes residuals into more manageable chunks of data by finding which ensemble of landmark changes explain the largest part of the variation. Berge and Penin (2004) explain it better:

1) After superimposition, all landmarks are interdependent (they are all used for fitting). Therefore, an isolated landmark movement is hardly interpretable. Because PCs are a composite variable, shape changes are analyzed in PCs as a movement of a set of landmarks.

2) Procrustes residuals are too numerous to be used directly in statistical tests. In other words, too many variables create an excess of degrees of freedom and a decrease in the power of statistical tests. PCs are a means to reduce the number of variables by selecting those which have the greatest eigenvalues. The selection of PCs also allows us to eliminate nuisance parameters generated by superimposition (citations removed).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Morpho J

Using my landmark data I made a simple wireframe in Morpho J, and applied a Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The idea is to reduce a lot of data into a smaller number of variables and identify which of these "components" explain most of the variation. I read that it's similar to image compression, and indeed similar math is used to create say a .JPG from a raw image file.

Principal Compontent 1 is by definition the component that is most variable, and in my case represents almost 80% of variation. As you can see, all the Homos are on the plus side and the Pongos and Pans are grouped on the negative side of the mean. Homo is closer to 0 because there were many more Homos in the sample. PC1 clearly delimits Homo from Pan and Pongo, and even shows a difference between Pongo and Pan.

PC2 on the other hand, does not distinguish Pan and Pongo from Homo, but shows a difference between Chimps and Ourangs.

Great, but what the hell are these "components" really? They show you there's a difference and quantify it, but they don't tell you what it is! That's where playing with the wireframe comes in handy.

The light blue wireframe represents the "consensus" individual - the mean. As you play with the PC1 weight, you can see how the dark blue shape changes from one extreme to the other. Here I slid it over to between the Pan and Pongo clusters.

You can also play with the PC2 weight. Notice how it makes much less of a difference.

I'm still feel pretty in the dark as to how the Principal Components are actually calculated, and thus what they really mean. I'll keep you posted when I learn more about eigenvalues.


Wrote a log shape ratio script.


Everyone hates me because I lobbied for including the vertex in the analysis. Ugh, now we have to put the skulls in the Frankfort Horizontal they whined! Well, we couldn't rightly go from the glabella to the inion could we?! Bunch of flatheads.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A word about stereotypes

Some ignorant Americans think that French people are arrogant assholes, and that really pisses me off. I have spent considerable time in France for the last five years of my life, struggling to learn French and talking to real French people. I spent years trying to grasp the subtleties of this great and ancient culture, studying its literature, art, and rightfully celebrated art of living. I travelled throughout France, taking in her beautiful and extremely varied countryside, visiting innumerable historic sites and museums, and enjoying distinct regional cultures. I visited vineyards and wine makers, learned about the process of wine making, and my palate grew accustomed to some very good (and reasonably priced) vin! I also performed various jobs, working with students, farmers, professors, delivery people and office workers. The point is that I have intimate knowledge of what French people are really like, both rich and poor, old and young, country folk and city-dwellers alike. After all this experience, I must say that most French people are the most arrogant assholes you can imagine.

Do you see how infuriating this is? It's like if a physicist spent the last 5 years of his life trying to figure out how gravity works, and some fat Texan pulled up next to him in his Range Rover and said, "Duh, it makes shit fall down you fag! Haw haw!" The Texan then would then start guzzling a Big Gulp and leave the physicist in a cloud of dust and exhaust. Fuck you, ignorant Americans! You can't even begin to fathom the complexities of French assholery.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Andrew! What crawled up your bidet? OK, I admit that this outburst is prompted by a series of hilariously assoholic incidents which I will permit myself to relate to you. The first two are train related.

Yesterday the train going back to Aix was particularly packed due to a strike that reduced the number of trains in service. As I boarded I saw that many people had already resigned themselves to just standing, but I went looking for a seat anyhow. I found one, but the girl opposite the seat said that somebody was sitting there. No matter, I found another seat not much farther down the car. Nobody took it because somebody had put their coat on it. When I inquired about whose seat it was, nobody said they knew, so I sat down. Then the man sitting behind me asked me, testily, to move so he could remove his coat. I laughed it off! As I settled in I noticed that I had a clear view of the seat I was originally going to take, and that it was still empty. I didn't think much of it - the train hadn't left yet, no worries. You see where this is going. It was right out of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Imagine my increasingly sour expression cross cut with shots of the empty seat as the train leaves, with the girl and her friends giggling. The seat was empty the entire trip! But to my shame I didn't instigate a LD-like confrontation with the girl.

Then, this morning I got on a similarly crowded train to go to Marseille. This was the express train, meaning there there are only two stops - first Gardanne then Marseille - and takes about 30 minutes. Shortly after leaving Gardanne, a smartly dressed train employee briskly walked past me, opened the door to the next compartment and said "I'd like to remind you that this section is First Class only. If you don't have a First Class ticket, please find another seat." So everybody obediently left (even though nobody else was there), except there are no other seats so they just stood for 20 minutes. Now, there are First Class sections on many trains, but I have never seen anyone give a shit about it, especially on a short commuter train. No wonder these people get stabbed. I don't get it. They go on strike, they don't bother to tell you why, act like douchebags and expect us to show solidarity? Or maybe it's just that the non-striking train workers are fascists.

Finally this afternoon I had some time to kill at the Marseille station (my train had been cancelled) so I went into a press shop. I checked out a few magazines, then, I admit, I spent a bit more time with an issue of Fluide Glaciale - five minutes maximum - when the 20 year old clerk came up to me and said abusez pas... which can mean "don't abuse", but it's better translated as "don't exagerate". I just raised my eyebrows in a 'what are you talking about' kind of way. Then a minute later he said something to the effect of "This is not a lending library!" to which of course I responded "I'm sorry I don't speak French. I only speak English!" (In English of course.) Ah, the glee in my heart when all he could do was open his mouth, then close it, with a mixture of anger and embarrassment flushing his face. After reading for a few more minutes I got in line to pay. When it was my turn I said "I was going to buy this, but I changed my mind because you're an asshole." (In French of course.) There are 3 press shops and 2 bookstores in a 100 meter radius at Marseille St Charles, and I've never been fucked with in a single one before today. Good job, new generation of French assholes!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

French Potato Chips

The 'Marine' chips actually taste like oysters to me. The salted caramel chips disgusted me at first, but I still finished the whole bag.

Neige en Provence

I love how 2 inches of snow will bring everything to a screeching halt in France.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Me an' Audrey took a trip up to the Drôme. Something about changing the scenery a bit. Maybe getting some cleaner air.

The air is cleaner, and colder. We ended up doing everything (eating, sleeping, levitating) in one room since getting other parts of the house warm proved impractical, given our aging fleet of electric heaters.

Local delicacies include extremely salty sausage, ravioles (the French version of raviolis: they're more refined, more delicate, have more butter, are snobbier), and snails. Eight dozen snails will set you back 20 euros.

I'm trying to play the guitar better. Chicks dig that. My abused left fingers feel weird hitting the keyboard.