Category Archives: Allgemein

Statistics for better cookies

If you’re unhappy with how your cookies turned out, don’t know which ingredient or which process variable caused the trouble, and don’t have the time, ingredients, or test eaters to vary each variable individually: statistics to the rescue!  Done right, design of experiment allows an appreciable reduction in trials without losing the information on which variables have a significant effect on the process.  Doing it with a cookie recipe provides an accessible illustration of how it’s done.  In this case, the trial runs were reduced by at least a third, depending on how an individual variation experiment might be set up.

The first 50 videos of the new camera

We still don’t have a good system set up.  I’m uploading them with the youtube uploader, managing about a dozen overnight in full resolution, so at least in terms of video quality there’s something gained for our loyal readers, even if promptness has taken a brutal hit.

Grouped (roughly) by theme:
Joseph: Picking up and counting, Singing in Japanese, Singing Bappe’s ditty, Reading in German (again), Reading Händel, Picking up with letters, Pi, Counting in French, You Can Count on Monsters (again) (again), Art Inspired by Monsters, Singing by the Drain, Up to 11, 12 and beyond, Ten out of Bed, City Blocks, Green Eggs and Ham (cont’d), A Message from Mommy, Counting in French, Grandma’s Squares Book.

Vivienne: What does the dog say?, Flash cards, Exercising with Mommy, Bend it like Beckham, Too Cute to Perform (again), Brushing Teeth, Jump, Harvest, Chase the Camera, Bunnies, Balcony Chalk, Math Time, Counting in French, Playing together with the Hammer Toy (again), Dancing.

Other family: Four on a couch.

Our surroundings: Janet’s due date surprise, F/A-18 landing (again), Drilling Holes (again), Foundations, After Drilling the Hole (again), Sinking Rebar,

Other: Paradigm Change

Health Care

Just for kicks, I downloaded both the Swiss Krankenversicherungsgesetz (Health Care Insurance Law) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA).

I stand in awe of US American lawyers.  The Swiss law checks in at 64 pages in fairly large print; the ACA at 906 pages.  A word count of one page each returns roughly the same amount of words per page.  USA vs. Switzerland: 15:1!

The future of cities

My alma mater, the EPFL, publishes the magazine Reflex, which is free for alumni.  I usually read it, slowly and in chunks, on lunch breaks when I stay at work.  Recently I finished the March 2013 issue, which focused on the science of cities.  One article observed that cities, like organisms, benefit from an economy of scale: double the size of a city, and you’ll add 115% to the GDP, the wage bill, the number of patents and universities, but also to the number of crimes committed, flu cases, and the amount of garbage produced – but you’ll get it all for only 85% extra infrastructure.  (That’s a semi-quote from the article, paraphrasing Geoffrey West from the Santa Fe Institute.)  That explains to a degree why pretty much any restaurant in Tokyo survives: it’s part of the 85% extra infrastructure getting 115% revenue.

What I found more interesting, however, was an article entitled “Seven ideas for future cities,” by Benjamin Bollmann.  These are the ideas he collected:

  1. Don’t raze slums: use them as urban laboratories.
  2. Attract yuppies to the suburbs – give the suburbs a culture makeover.
  3. Build natural barriers to natural disasters (e.g. wetlands against flooding).
  4. Spruce up industrial wasteland with gardens.
  5. Design for change and adaptability instead of immutable structures.
  6. Draw tourists with funky architecture (Bilbão effect).
  7. Reduce crime with clever urban planning (“shaping the path”).

Most sound good, if expensive; #6 and #3 might pay for themselves quickly, #4 and #7 more slowly.  I’m not sure what to think of #2: do we really want to urbanize the suburbs?  On the one hand, that might slow urban sprawl, if the suburbs get densified, but if it works, what will happen to the centers?  #5 has me worried that it will counteract the prettification #4 achieves, and #1 – well, I just don’t know enough about slums.  Is misery a fair price for innovation?

Stunning Stationery

At the etsy shop SwissPaperBeauty you can find handmade stationery made from old calendars and photos, a lovely touch for a sweet letter to a special someone.  The envelopes are old photos; the cards a matching color with a blank white interior card for writing.  Here are a few pictures:

SwissPaperBeauty photo envelopes

SwissPaperBeauty greeting cards

SwissPaperBeauty: no excuse not to write

Full disclosure: the shop owner and stationery maker is my godmother.