Friday, March 29, 2013

Client's Kitchen: Sneakity Peek

 I wanted to share a little sneakity peek of a kitchen project we're working on.  My client moved into the house with the kitchen as you see it here...  She was SO ready to get rid of the pink formica countertops and green wallpaper...  I wrote about this project and its inspiration a little while back here.

And here's how it's looking now:

The cabinets& counters are in and the blue bead board has been installed.  I snapped this pic on my phone this week as we were bringing in the furnishings for the house.  (Hence, the plastic-wrapped chairs ;) The pendants for above the island came in wrong so we're waiting for them to arrive along with the barstools and a few more details.   I have to be honest, that this week's installation was THE nuttiest we've ever had.  It entailed me running down the street to pick up trash and not realizing I'd run back up to the wrong house...  As I struggled to get the locked front door open, a car drive up in the driveway to see me trying to get into their house.  hahah SO not good.  :/    I tried to explain but probably just scared her instead.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted and be sure to share final pics!! Have a great weekend and a happy Easter!!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Food Reward Friday

This week's "lucky" winner... milkshakes!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I need your help!

Ok., so here's my post on chickens and before I start, I want ask for your help!! Hear me out before you say no and feel free to laugh but we want to get CHICKENS!!! It's illegal to have them in Fairfax County unless you have two acres (and then you're allowed 64!!) (We have 1 acre) Anyway, we have a major tick problem in our yard (they have embedded their nasty selves in even the baby!!) so we've spoken with an expert because we don't want insecticides sprayed on our property and he suggested chickens. After my initial reaction of no WAY no HOW,  (that's not the way I actually speak but it's way more typable thatn what I rpobably said .)  I did some research (they will get rid of all of our ticks and mosquitoes and are actually great friendly pets!!) and spoke to some friends with them and am convinced that we need our new pet chickens!! (these are hens we want, not roosters so no noise issues for neighbors) .. So if you're still reading... PLEASE help!! It's up for review in Fairfax County TONIGHT so the law could be changed with your help!! I had NO IDEA how good for you pet chickens were until I did the research... They're not at all what you might think. We are SO BEHIND other areas!! So please, laugh and then sign this PETITION FO CHICKENS!!!

As I was googling different chicken coops, I came across some really special ones & wanted to share with you...

Loooove this one:

{Gorgeous chicken coop built by Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff - whose blog I just discovered today.  She seems like so much fun & definitely brilliant. I want to be friends!!}

I dream of one day calling my "Girls!!!" to come running to me!! hahaha

This Youtube video is hysterical.  

To be honest, once the County makes a decision and rules one way or the other, we'll make our chicken decision then.  But either way, I believe in the right to be able to own these pets.  (Fresh eggs?!! mm)   Dave is even more into getting the chickens than I am.  (He did the research on the insecticides and wasn't happy with what he found.  Definitely carcinogens.  not good.  And with all of the deer we have, Lyme Disease is a serious concern.)  My biggest worry with the hens would be the "mess" ;) 

The image above & the next couple of images are from Southern Living.  Sooo beautiful... 

I love all of the gravel paths...

I love the modern look of this one...

{Modern chicken coop from Stephmodo-- omgosh she's amazing!!! The coop belongs to her sister}

I'm not sure what type of coop we'd end up with.  We were only thinking of getting around 4 "sisters" for our dog, Ashby, so we would probably have a fairly small coop.  I visited my friend Brooke Giannetti and loved her cute little white hens..

{ Brooke's (of Velvet & LInen)  coop at their previous house...  Dying to see what their new coop will look like!!}

Brooke stressed the importance of getting a friendly breed of chicken.  Safety with my kids is first.  (Doesn't make sense to bring in crazy chickens that could hurt them if the whole point was protecting them from harmful ticks.  We've been doing a little breed research but got stopped when we found out that our lots size was too small for hens.)

I love this gorgeous coop built by Heather Bullard:

She sells the plans to build this coop online.  I love the little fenced in area..  So pretty & we might have to do something like that to protect our garden from the chickies...

And finally, my friend Seleta recently adopted a little chicken named Lucky:

I've loved following her on Instagram and watching Lucky grow.

Anyway, if you're still reading and don't think I'm AWOL, and are in Fairfax Country, will you please consider signing  here??
love ya

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

So I accidentally...

...Posted a half-written post!! Sorry about that to everyone who received it in an email & was totally confused.  It's been one of those mornings.  I must have hit "publish" instead of "save" when I left for my meeting. ;) ;)

{adorable baby chicky photograph by Julie Persons}

Anyway, my post was about chickens & it will go up when I actually write it!  We're thinking about getting some.  Our main impetus for thinking chickens was the tick problem we have at our new house.  They were CRAZY this past Fall and were all over us & our kids.  (The poor baby had one embedded in his ear and it took 20 mins of screaming & crying for me to get the thing's head out of his ear.)  After speaking with an expert, we learned that chickens are amazing with pest control.  (We're not too excited about using insecticides on our property where we are planning a veggie garden and drink well water.)

BUT-- Sadly. right now in Fairfax Country, where I live, the law states that you can only own chickens if you have 2+ acres.  (You can have 64 chickens on 2 acres... crazy) But you can't have any chickens if you have less than 2 acres.  There's a group of us who are working to have the law changed so that home owners can have pet HENS (not roosters) on their property if they have less than 2 acres.  (And not a crazy number like 64!!;)  We have an acre, btw.  So... tonight, there is a meeting at the Fairfax Government Center to meet and plead the chicken case.  We're collecting signatures for a petition and today's the day, so pretty pretty PLEASE sign this if you're in Fairfax County!!


Thank you so much!!

Pretty pics and an actual post to follow!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sideburn Issue 13 Launch Party at Krazy Horse

On Saturday I ventured east making a 200 odd mile pilgrimage to the Krazy Horse Customs shop where Sideburn magazine where holding their launch party for their 13th issue which is absolutely fantastic so go buy yours now. I've heard a lot about the shop since it opened earlier this year and it certainly lived up to the reports. A huge shop space akin to something you'd only really expect to see in the states held a wide ranging selection of custom bikes from Zero Engineering and S&S, even a new Morgan Three Wheeler. Upstairs you can buy spares, clothing and buy giant chips and slurp tea from real mugs. I couldn't go all that way without the sketchbook and so I chose my one subject for the day to be this...

Shinya Kimura Harley

(ink and watercolour)
 Shinya Kimura builds incredible custom bikes and has a beautiful philosophy about building. To see more on his incredible machines go to his blog:

Sideburn provided great music including a live set from The Stags, a great Hammond heavy group.
I didn't actually take any more photos of the shop stupidly but you'll have to go see for yourself as it's certainly worth it.

FORECAST: new book to be published tomorrow!

That's right, my new book, the cover of which you've seen off to the right of this blog for some time now, will FINALLY be in bookstores in the US tomorrow, March 26. Of course, it is also available at Amazon and other likely outlets on the web. Who knows when reviews and such will begin trickling in. The book was featured in Nature on Thursday in their "Books in brief" section (sorry, you'll need a subscription), but the poor writers of those reviews (I've been one) really have almost no space to say anything. The review does make very clear that the book exists and purports to have some new ideas about economics and finance, but it makes no judgement on the usefulness of the book at all.

Anyone in the US, if you happen to be in a physical bookstore in the next few days, please let me know if you 1) do find the book and 2) where it was located. I've had the unfortunate experience in the past that my books, such as Ubiquity or The Social Atom, were placed by bookstore managers near the back of the store in sections with labels like Mathematical Sociology or Perspectives in the Philosophy of History, where perhaps only 1 or 2 people venture each day, and then probably only because they got lost while looking for the rest room. If you do find the book in an obscure location, feel completely free -- there's no law against this -- to take all the copies you find and move them up to occupy prominent positions in the bestsellers' section, or next to the check out with the diet books, etc. I would be very grateful!

And I would very much like to hear what readers of this blog think about the book.

Catherine Baba - FW - Paris

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      Catherine Baba - FW - Paris

      On ne peut pas manquer Catherine Baba à la semaine de la Mode. C'est la seule qui arrive en vélo
      et en talons aiguilles à tous les défilés (à la différence des socialites de la Mode qui arrivent toutes
      en grosses bagnoles). Elle est styliste, australienne et vit à Paris. Elle se fout un peu totalement
      d'être prise en photo ou non et elle porte des tas de bracelets (autour des poignets). Ses tenues sont
      toujours impossibles et c'est aussi cela qui fait son charme.

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Marina - Les Tuileries - Paris

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      Marina - Les Tuileries - Paris

      Avec Marina, nous nous sommes croisés aux Tuileries. Elle travaille comme Fashion designer
      pour la marque espagnole "La Condesa" (La Comtesse). Elle est donc habillée de la tête aux
      pieds par sa marque de vêtements, sauf pour ses sneakers qui sont des Air Jordan Nike. Cette jeune
      femme qui a fort bon goût porte le parfum "Nuit of Cellophane" de Serge Lutens.

      Photos by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Pear Spinach Salad

Like I've mentioned before, eating is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  I feel a lot better about it when I'm eating fairly healthy and I love making easy things at home with my family.  I threw together a salad last week that I'm still thinking about, so I thought I'd share it with you:

I start out with the empty salad bowl & mixed in my family's oil & vinegar recipe for the dressing (Plain Olive Oil -Filippo Berio- and balsamic vinegar... More olive oil than vinegar.  Slice up onions (I used red this time) thinly & let sit in the dressing for a bit with a little salt & pepper.)

Once the onions had time to soak in the dressing (5 mins or so)  I tossed in:
~Baby Spinach Leaves (& a few leftover Boston Bibb leaves)
~Crushed Walnuts
~A Cut up Pear
~ Feta Cheese
~More Salt & Pepper

It was Heaven and so easy.

Now that the baby's a bit older, we're able to be a bit more organized about our meals again, which makes me so happy.  We've been making tentative weekly menus before grocery shopping & have been putting together some yummy meals.  There aren't many things I love more than making food at our big island and feeding my family.  (including feeding myself-- I'm no martyr ;) ;)

If I can get a tad more organized, I'll try to start sharing some of the recipes!  Have a great week!!
To check out some other easy recipes I've mentioned on the blog in the past, click here  (or under categories at the top, Click "Food")

ps- Thank you so much for all of the encouragement about the last project I shared!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Neuronal Control of Appetite, Metabolism and Weight

Last week, I attended a Keystone conference, "Neuronal Control of Appetite, Metabolism and Weight", in Banff.  Keystone conferences are small, focused meetings that tend to attract high quality science.  This particular conference centered around my own professional research interests, and it was incredibly informative.  This post is a summary of some of the most salient points.

Rapid Pace of Scientific Progress

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Friday, March 22, 2013

My Clients' Family Room Before & After

I'm so excited to share some of my professionally photographed work with you today!!  There is such a difference between photos I've taken myself to photos that have been shot by a talented professional.  (I love my photographer, Helen Norman!!!)  The past year has been crazy for me with the birth of my third son, moving and a busy life in general so I've been really behind on having my finished projects photographed.  As you can see from the "before" photo below, I first met with my clients over a year ago around Christmas time:

{unflattering pregnant photo of me with my sweet little friend}

Their family room is just off of their kitchen and is a beautifully sunlit, large, happy-feeling space.  My clients wanted a room that felt both relaxed & elegant.  They needed the kids to be able to flop on the sofa and play, read or watch TV in the room, but they also wanted it to feel like an adult space too, where they could entertain and relax.  My client's style is warm and classic, she loves blues and soft colors, and wanted to get away from the reds and golds she'd had previously.  When I presented my client with the design, I realized how receptive she was.  (I'm not positive, but I don't think we changed even a single element besides a discontinued lamp pair!)  Here's how the finished family room looks:

We replaced the wall-to-wall carpet with hardwood to match the rest of the home and added built-ins around the fireplace.  (Work by CarrMichael Construction)  The TV is mounted in a large cubby.  My clients have a formal living room and since one of the main functions in the family room is TV-watching, we decided to keep it exposed.  We had a seagrass rug custom cut to fit the room and layered it with a striped wool dhurrie.  We had the built-ins lined in a blue grass cloth which really warmed up the room and is probably one of my favorite elements:

Like usual, we used a mix of metals to keep the family room feeling more collected and casual vs. perfectly matched.  

Here's a close-up of the built-ins:

Below is the view of the family room into the kitchen:

We couldn't resist taking one of the photos with my client and one of her (completely adorable!!) daughters in the background.  They'd gone into the kitchen for a cup of milk and it was too perfect.  As you've probably noticed, one of the biggest changes was replacing the ceiling fan with an oversized lantern over the coffee table.  When large pieces like a massive lantern go in, it can often be a bit of a shock to clients but they took it in stride.  

Believe it or not, one of the most "off" elements in the room's plan - which you'd never know now- is one of the pillows on the sofa.  It's a blockprint by Michael Smith with mustard-colored flowers.  When you look at the fabric palette, it stands out as very "dirty" and orangey-yellow compared to everything else, but I felt we needed it to relax things a little and wander a bit off the palette.  My client of course was surprised by it's left-fieldedness but I asked her to "trust me" on this one, and I'm so glad she did because it's one of her favorite fabrics in the room.

Here's a view of the prints we hung, which feature oak leaves and are special to my clients because our area is  filled with oak trees. The massive chair-and-a-half is one of the only good-looking chair-and-a-halves I've ever found because it looks a bit more like a settee and has slim elegant English arms.  My client absolutely loves it.  She's commandeered the chair-and-a-half while the kids wrestle for the pair of ikat chairs in front of the windows.  (above)

I hope you enjoyed getting a peek into my clients' home and I'm so thankful to them for allowing me to help them.  Here's one last pic:

(Little House on the Prairie  is playing on the TV,  I've always wanted to have a picture taken of a project room with the TV on.  ;) ;)

*The professional photos in this post were by Helen Norman and the others/ close-ups were taken by me on my iphone.  (I'm mentioning this because I want you to know Helen took the perfect pictures and I took the bad ones. hahah)

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Quantum Computing, Finally!! (or maybe not)

Today's New York Times has an article hailing the arrival of superfast practical quantum computers (weird thing pictured above), courtesy of Lockheed Martin who purchased one from a company called D-Wave Systems. As the article notes,
... a powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between — all at the same time. ...  Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to upgrade it to commercial scale, becoming the first company to use quantum computing as part of its business.
The article does mention that there are some skeptics. So beware.

Ten to fifteen years ago, I used to write frequently, mostly for New Scientist magazine, about research progress towards quantum computing. For anyone who hasn't read something about this, quantum computing would exploit the peculiar properties of quantum physics to do computation in a totally new way. It could potentially solve some problems very quickly that computers running on classical physics, as today's computers do, would never be able to solve. Without getting into any detail, the essential thing about quantum processes is their ability to explore many paths in parallel, rather than just doing one specific thing, which would give a quantum computer unprecedented processing power. Here's an article giving some basic information about the idea.

I stopped writing about quantum computing because I got bored with it, not the ideas, but the achingly slow progress in bringing the idea into reality. To make a really useful quantum computer you need to harness quantum degrees of freedom, "qubits," in single ions, photons, the spins of atoms, etc., and have the ability to carry out controlled logic operations on them. You would need lots of them, say hundreds and more, to do really valuable calculations, but to date no one has managed to create and control more than about 2 or 3. I wrote several articles a year noting major advances in quantum information storage, in error correction, in ways to transmit quantum information (which is more delicate than classical information) from one place to another and so on. Every article at some point had a weasel phrase like ".... this could be a major step towards practical quantum computing." They weren't. All of this was perfectly good, valuable physics work, but the practical computer receded into the future just as quickly as people made advances towards it. That seems to be true today.... except for one D-Wave Systems.

Around five years ago, this company started claiming that it was producing and achieving quantum computing and had built functioning devices with 128 qubits. It used superconducting technology. Everyone else in the field was aghast by such a claim, given this sudden staggering advance over what anyone else in the world had achieved. Oh, and D-Wave didn't release sufficient information for the claim to be judged. Here is the skeptical judgement of IEEE Spectrum magazine as of 2010. But more up to date, and not quite so negative, is this assessment by quantum information expert Scott Aaronson just over a year ago. The most important point he makes is about the failure of D-Wave to really demonstrate that its computer is really doing something essentially quantum, which is why it would be interesting. This would mean demonstrating so-called quantum entanglement in the machine, or really carrying out some calculation that was so vastly superior to anything achievable by classical computers that one would have to infer quantum performance. Aaronson asks the obvious question:
... rather than constantly adding more qubits and issuing more hard-to-evaluate announcements, while leaving the scientific characterization of its devices in a state of limbo, why doesn’t D-Wave just focus all its efforts on demonstrating entanglement, or otherwise getting stronger evidence for a quantum role in the apparent speedup?  When I put this question to Mohammad Amin, he said that, if D-Wave had followed my suggestion, it would have published some interesting research papers and then gone out of business—since the fundraising pressure is always for more qubits and more dramatic announcements, not for clearer understanding of its systems.  So, let me try to get a message out to the pointy-haired bosses of the world: a single qubit that you understand is better than a thousand qubits that you don’t.  There’s a reason why academic quantum computing groups focus on pushing down decoherence and demonstrating entanglement in 2, 3, or 4 qubits: because that way, at least you know that the qubits are qubits!  Once you’ve shown that the foundation is solid, then you try to scale up.   
So there's a finance and publicity angle here as well as the science. The NYT article doesn't really get into any of the specific claims of D-Wave, but I recommend Aaronson's comments as a good counterpoint to the hype.

Food Reward Friday

This week's luck winner(s)... pastries!!

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Hat - Les Tuileries - Paris

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      Spring Hat - Les Tuileries - Paris

      J'ai pris en photo cette jeune femme dans le parc des Tuileries, durant la Fashion Week. J'ai trouvé
      assez réjouissant qu'elle porte un chapeau à la décoration printanière en plein hiver. Les filles
      devraient porter plus de chapeaux et pas seulement pour les mariages...

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Tania - Place Vendôme - Paris

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      Tania - Place Vendôme - Paris

      J'ai rencontré Tania, Place Vendôme, lors de la Fashion Week parisienne. Elle est
      Fashion Editor pour le site

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

Sognia - Place Vendôme - Paris

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      Sognia - Place Vendôme - Paris

      J'ai rencontré Sognia pendant la semaine de la Mode. Je sais qu'elle est étudiante dans une école
      de Mode à Berlin et qu'elle souhaite devenir Designer. En y regardant bien, je pense que le noir
      est sa couleur préférée. Check her blog here: "Blackthornxxx"

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris

GIS metadata standard deficiencies

My recent post on GIS standards dilemma generated quite an interest so, as a follow up, I am publishing today a post explaining my position in more detail and illustrate deficiencies of one of the standards with concrete examples.

The conception of GIS metadata standard was a long awaited breakthrough and raised hopes of the entire spatial community that finally it will be possible to have a consistent way of describing vast amount of geographic information created over the years but also new data generated on a daily basis. The expected benefits of the standard were far reaching because it would allow consistent cataloguing, discovery and sharing of all the information. In other words, if successfully implemented, it would deliver a great economic benefit for all. The concept of Spatial Data infrastructure (SDI) was borne… That was more than a decade ago.

Fast forward to 2013. Creation of SDI has been a holy grail of GIS community for quite a long time so why, despite all the good intentions and millions of dollars poured into various initiatives, we still don’t have one in Australia? Why we don’t even have in place the first element of that infrastructure – a single catalogue of spatial data? In my opinion the answer is simple – because we are trying to act on a flowed concept.

At the core of the problem is a conceptual flaw in the underlying metadata standard that makes it impossible to implement successfully any nation wide or international SDI. In other words, SDI concept will never work beyond a closely controlled community of interest, with a “dictatorship like” implementation of the rules that go far beyond the loosely defined standards. Until that flaw is widely acknowledged we cannot move forward. Any attempt to build a national SDI, or even a simple catalogue based on flawed ISO 19115 standard is bound to fail and is a total waste of money. The reason why follows...

For years many were led to believe “follow the standard and everything will take care of itself”. But the reality check provides a totally different picture. For a start, it took years to formalise Australian profile of ISO 19115 standard. Then everybody started working on their own extensions because it turned out it is quite hard to implement the standard in a meaningful way for all the data types as well as historical data which lack many details about it. But the true nature of the problem lays somewhere else... 

You see, the standard prescribes the structure of the metadata record, that is, what information should be included, but to a large degree, it does not mandate the content. The result is a “free text” like entry for almost everything that is included in a metadata record. Just to illustrate, access constraint is specified as “legal” and “use” related, and both are limited to the following categories: “copyright, patent, patentPending, trademark, license, intellectualPropertyRights, restricted, otherConstraints”. But the information is optional so that metadata element may also be empty. Now, consider a case of a user who tries to find free data… impossible.

Inclusion of so much free text in metadata information means the key benefit of creating a structured metadata record in the first place is almost entirely lost. Yes, it describes the dataset it refers to but in a totally unique way, which means searching a collection of records can only be limited to very generic criteria – in practice, with any certainty to only time and location (ie. a bounding box for the dataset). The problem is compounded if you start looking across different collections of metadata records, created and maintained by different individuals, with a different logic of what is important and what is not… But don’t blame the creators of metadata records for this – the standard does not prescribe the content in the first place!

The second problem is that the current metadata standard is applied primarily to collections (like, for example, TOPO-250K Series 3 topographic vector data for Australia or its raster representation) but it is generally not applied to individual data layers within a collection (which, in case of TOPO-250K Series 3 data would be any of 92 layers that comprise the collection). Therefore, a simple search for say, “road vector data in Australia” will not yield any results unless you revert to free text search option and “roads” happen to be specifically mentioned somewhere within metadata record (more on this below).

Not to mention that it would be almost impossible, from a practical point of view, to apply the metadata in the existing format to individual features or points making up that feature. This aspect of information about spatial data, especially important for the data originators and maintainers, has been totally overlooked by the creators of the metadata standard. 

Then there is a data user perspective. The key benefit of a comprehensive metadata record is that it provides all the relevant information enabling user to firstly, find the data and secondly, decide whether it is fit for intended purpose. In the most general terms, the users apply “when, where and what” criteria to find the data (not necessary in that specific order). In particular, they specify the reference date (relatively well defined in metadata records so, the least of the problems), location (which is limited only to a bounding box but data footprint concept is also addressed within existing metadata standard) and some characteristics of the dataset … and this is where things are not so great because each data type will have its own set of characteristics and these are mostly optional in an ISO 19115 compliant metadata record (so may not be implemented at all by data providers).

Take for example cases where users are interested in “2m accuracy roads dataset for Bendigo, Vic”… or “imagery over Campbelltown, NSW acquired no later than 3 months ago and with under 1m resolution”. It is virtually impossible to specify search criteria in this way so the users have to fit their criteria to information that is captured in metadata. That is, location becomes the bounding box constraint, time criterion becomes date constraint (either specific or as a range from – to) and the characteristics of datasets can only be specified as keywords…

And this leads me to the final point - the need for ISO 19115 compliant metadata in the first place. Since the only truly comprehensive way to find what you are looking for is to conduct free text search, the structured content of the metadata record is obsolete. The result would be exactly the same if the information is compiled into “a few paragraphs of text”. That is the essence of the argument Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist of Google presented to the Australian spatial community as far back as 2009 but which remains mostly ignored to this day…

There is only one practical use for all the metadata records already created. You can dump the entire content of the catalogues, the ones that contain the information about the data you care, into your own server and reprocess it to your liking into something more meaningful, or just expose it to Google robots so that content can be indexed and becomes discoverable via standard Google search. Unfortunately, this totally defeats another implied benefit of SDI - that metadata records will be maintained and updated at the source and that there will be no need for duplication of information…

I believe it is time to close the chapter on a national SDI and move on. Another failed attempt to create “an infrastructure that will serve all users in Australia” cannot be reasonably justified. The bar has to be lowered to cater only for the needs of your own community of practice. Which also means, you have to do it all by yourself and according to your own rules (ie. most likely creating your own metadata standard). That’s the only way to move forward.

Related Posts:
Ed Parsons on Spatial Data Infrastructure
Data overload makes SDI obsolete

GIS standards dilemma

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Visit Me Over at La Dolce Vita & The Roses

Today I'm over at La Dolce Vita blogging about my favorite room in our old home (none are finished here yet!!) and if you have the chance, I'd love it if you visited!!  Paloma was one of my fist "blog" friends and she's just as kind & gorgeous in person as she is on her blog.  Click here to read about my favorite room: La Dolce Vita 

Also- we've finished with our crazy 2 days of photo shoots and it's time to exhale... until three weeks from now when we have more.  For right now, though, I'm getting back to a "normal" pace of life/ work and am trying to kick it back into gear.  (I.e. I'm fried!!! ;) ;)  I thought you'd enjoy this picture I snapped on my phone of my nightstand right now though...

...These beauties smell like pure Heaven and do remind me to slow down because there's no way to walk by them without smelling them. Enjoy your day!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Third (and final) excerpt...

The third (and, you'll all be pleased to hear, final!) excerpt of my book was published in Bloomberg today. The title is "Toward a National Weather Forecaster for Finance" and explores (briefly) the topic of what might be possible in economics and finance in creating national (and international) centers devoted to data intensive risk analysis and forecasting of socioeconomic "weather."

Before anyone thinks I'm crazy, let me make very clear that I'm using the term "forecasting" in it's general sense, i.e. of making useful predictions of potential risks as they emerge in specific areas, rather than predictions such as "the stock market will collapse at noon on Thursday." I think we can all agree that the latter kind of prediction is probably impossible (although Didier Sornette wouldn't agree), and certainly would be self-defeating were it made widely known. Weather forecasters make much less specific predictions all the time, for example, of places and times where conditions will be ripe for powerful thunderstorms and tornadoes. These forecasts of potential risks are still valuable, and I see no reason similar kinds of predictions shouldn't be possible in finance and economics. Of course, people make such predictions all the time about financial events already. I'm merely suggesting that with effort and the devotion of considerable resources for collecting and sharing data, and building computational models, we could develop centers acting for the public good to make much better predictions on a more scientific basis.

As a couple of early examples, I'll point to the recent work on complex networks in finance which I've touched on here and here. These are computationally intensive studies demanding excellent data which make it possible to identify systemically important financial institutions (and links between them) more accurately than we have in the past. Much work remains to make this practically useful.

Another example is this recent and really impressive agent based model of the US housing market, which has been used as a "post mortem" experimental tool to ask all kinds of "what if?" questions about the housing bubble and its causes, helping to tease out better understanding on controversial questions. As the authors note, macroeconomists really didn't see the housing market as a likely source of large-scale macroeconomic trouble. This model has made it possible to ask and explore questions that cannot be explored with conventional economic models:
 Not only were the Macroeconomists looking at the wrong markets, they might have been looking at the wrong variables. John Geanakoplos (2003, 2010a, 2010b) has argued that leverage and collateral, not interest rates, drove the economy in the crisis of 2007-2009, pushing housing prices and mortgage securities prices up in the bubble of 2000-2006, then precipitating the crash of 2007. Geanakoplos has also argued that the best way out of the crisis is to write down principal on housing loans that are underwater (see Geanakoplos-Koniak (2008, 2009) and Geanakoplos (2010b)), on the grounds that the loans will not be repaid anyway, and that taking into account foreclosure costs, lenders could get as much or almost as much money back by forgiving part of the loans, especially if stopping foreclosures were to lead to a rebound in housing prices.

There is, however, no shortage of alternative hypotheses and views. Was the bubble caused by low interest rates, irrational exuberance, low lending standards, too much refinancing, people not imagining something, or too much leverage? Leverage is the main variable that went up and down along with housing prices. But how can one rule out the other explanations, or quantify which is more important? What effect would principal forgiveness have on housing prices? How much would that increase (or decrease) losses for investors? How does one quantify the answer to that question?

Conventional economic analysis attempts to answer these kinds of questions by building equilibrium models with a representative agent, or a very small number of representative agents. Regressions are run on aggregate data, like average interest rates or average leverage. The results so far seem mixed. Edward Glaeser, Joshua Gottlieb, and Joseph Gyourko (2010) argue that leverage did not play an important role in the run-up of housing prices from 2000-2006. John Duca, John Muellbauer, and Anthony Murphy (2011), on the other hand, argue that it did. Andrew Haughwout et al (2011) argue that leverage played a pivotal role.

In our view a definitive answer can only be given by an agent-based model, that is, a model in which we try to simulate the behavior of literally every household in the economy. The household sector consists of hundreds of millions of individuals, with tremendous heterogeneity, and a small number of transactions per month. Conventional models cannot accurately calibrate heterogeneity and the role played by the tail of the distribution. ... only after we know what the wealth and income is of each household, and how they make their housing decisions, can we be confident in answering questions like: How many people could afford one house who previously could afford none? Just how many people bought extra houses because they could leverage more easily? How many people spent more because interest rates became lower? Given transactions costs, what expectations could fuel such a demand? Once we answer questions like these, we can resolve the true cause of the housing boom and bust, and what would happen to housing prices if principal were forgiven.

... the agent-based approach brings a new kind of discipline because it uses so much more data. Aside from passing a basic plausibility test (which is crucial in any model), the agent-based approach allows for many more variables to be fit, like vacancy rates, time on market, number of renters versus owners, ownership rates by age, race, wealth, and income, as well as the average housing prices used in standard models. Most importantly, perhaps, one must be able to check that basically the same behavioral parameters work across dozens of different cities. And then at the end, one can do counterfactual reasoning: what would have happened had the Fed kept interest rates high, what would happen with this behavioral rule instead of that.

The real proof is in the doing. Agent-based models have succeeded before in simulating traffic and herding in the flight patterns of geese. But the most convincing evidence is that Wall Street has used agent-based models for over two decades to forecast prepayment rates for tens of millions of individual mortgages.
This is precisely the kind of work I think can be geared up and extended far beyond the housing market, augmented with real time data, and used to make valuable forecasting analyses. It seems to me actually to be the obvious approach.

New attempt to build disaster management platform

A few days ago The University of Melbourne, IBM and NICTA announced their joint project to develop the Australia Disaster Management Platform (ADMP). The aim is to build “…an innovative, integrated, open standards-based disaster management platform designed to gather, integrate and analyse vast amounts of geo-spatial and infrastructure information from multiple data sets to create real-time practical information streams on disaster events.” The platform is expected to include 3D visualisation, simulation, forecasting, behavioural modelling and sensors. It is quite an ambitious undertaking but given the profile of institutions involved some good should come of it, eventually – initial pilot will focus on Melbourne and it will only be a proof of concept.

The announcement indicates that the ADMP will be developed and implemented in close collaboration with emergency services, and will be based on existing roadmaps such as the Victorian Emergency Management Reform - Whitepaper, Dec 2012. The Platform will then facilitate informed decision-making by communicating the information, via various channels and at appropriate levels of detail, to the wide spectrum of people involved in making emergency decisions - from the central coordinating agencies that are charged with directing activities, to on-ground emergency services personnel, through to the local community.

The comments published under the article in the Sydney Morning Herald announcing the project highlight initial scepticism of the community to this initiative. It probably reflects general perception of lack of progress on disaster mitigation and disaster response front since 2009 Victorian bushfires. To be fair, a lot has happened since then and emergency response organisations learnt and improved a lot as well but it appears members of the community feel that still not enough has been done to date.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Photo shoot: A special project & the Truth Behind Photoshoots

One of my favorite aspects of decorating houses is photographing them.  Something about taking photos makes the project feel fully realized.  Bringing flowers in and primping a house for photos so that it looks its best = so much fun... and a TON of work.

 {Living Room Pic}

During photo shoots, things often get rearranged and I often bring in flowers, plants, furnishings and props.  It's a bit like an install day except the client is the camera and anyone who will see the photos (like you all and any potential clients! ;)  I have some clients' whose homes I fully accessorize and style on installation day so on photoshoot days, we come in a pretty much just shoot (with flowers) and I have other homes where we're really making some changes.  (When Better Homes & Gardens photographed my house, they hid light fixtures, took out rugs, brought in rugs, lots of accessories and even furniture!!  I remember being shocked but I've adopted a similar method in certain projects of mine so that I can show my work in its best light.  I realized that magazines have a "look" that they can bring to any home they photograph, just as I have  "look" that I can bring to any home I have photographed and that if I want to bring in the type of clients who love my style, I need to show my style.)  

{The foyer chandy!!}

Having photos of your work taken is a big investment and so I make sure when I do it that I am photographing my clients' homes as I envision them.  My job is about about designing homes for my clients to love, not about designing homes that embody my personal style.  So...  often when I photograph projects, I'll put a little bit more "me" in the styling of the rooms so that potential clients can really  a feel for how I design rooms when I am the final decision maker. 

I would say my clients' styles are -for the most part- very different, but their projects all have a similar look that comes from me.   As I've been in business longer, I have more and more clients coming to me for my "look."  

{Taking pics!!}

I think this comes in part from seeing photographs of my finished work and trusting that they'll love what I can do for them. I have clients who have me fully accessorize their homes by playing with all of their existing accessories & artwork and adding in some new ones, and I have clients who - once the furnishings are in place- take their time and accessorize over time.  Both methods can yield beautiful results and I'll often  help clients with "tweaking" to get it all right.

{living room cocktail tables} 

The project we shot yesterday (and that I'm going to in less than an hour!!) is a really special one to me.  I've been working with my client for over three years now and I love her & her family.  She has been with me during my major learning curve years (haha maybe they all have!! ;) ;) and is still here now!! She's influenced the way I run my business and we've learned a lot together.  She has amazing taste, is super-involved in the design process and has a true passion for design and homes.

{the bedroom ottoman}

I can't even really describe how good it felt yesterday to take photos of this project that I've eat, slept and breathed for so long.  I am so incredibly thankful to my client who's taught me so much and who has trusted me over the years to help her create something so pretty.  (And honestly, it would have been beautiful with or without me, so I'm thankful I got to come along.)  Working with my client on her home for so long was really one of the most influential projects I've taken on, and my client's always going to be in my heart.  

wow.. Did you know you could get so emotional about a decorating project??! hahah  My husband will make fun of me later. ;)

I'm off for another day of shooting, so fingers crossed the clouds go away sometime!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Second excerpt...

A second excerpt of my forthcoming book Forecast is now online at Bloomberg. It's a greatly condensed text assembled from various parts of the book. One interesting exchange in the comments from yesterday's excerpt:
Food For Thought commented....Before concluding that economic theory does not include analysis of unstable equilibria check out the vast published findings on unstable equilibria in the field of International Economics.  Once again we have someone touching on one tiny part of economic theory and drawing overreaching conclusions. 

I would expect a scientist would seek out more evidence before jumping to conclusions.
to which one Jack Harllee replied...
Sure, economists have studied unstable equilibria. But that's not where the profession's heart is. Krugman summarized rather nicely in 1996, and the situation hasn't changed much since then:
"Personally, I consider myself a proud neoclassicist. By this I clearly don't mean that I believe in perfect competition all the way. What I mean is that I prefer, when I can, to make sense of the world using models in which individuals maximize and the interaction of these individuals can be summarized by some concept of equilibrium. The reason I like that kind of model is not that I believe it to be literally true, but that I am intensely aware of the power of maximization-and-equilibrium to organize one's thinking - and I have seen the propensity of those who try to do economics without those organizing devices to produce sheer nonsense when they imagine they are freeing themselves from some confining orthodoxy. ...That said, there are indeed economists who regard maximization and equilibrium as more than useful fictions. They regard them either as literal truths - which I find a bit hard to understand given the reality of daily experience - or as principles so central to economics that one dare not bend them even a little, no matter how useful it might seem to do so."
This response fairly well captures my own position. I argue in the book that the economics profession has been fixated far too strongly on equilibrium models, and much of the time simply assumes the stability of such equilibria without any justification. I certainly don't claim that economists have never considered unstable equilibria (or examined models with multiple equilibria). But any examination of the stability of an equilibrium demands some analysis of dynamics of the system away from equilibrium, and this has not (to say the least) been a strong focus of economic theory.   

Monday, March 18, 2013

New territory for game theory...

This new paper in PLoS looks fascinating. I haven't had time yet to study it in detail, but it appears to make an important demonstration of how, when thinking about human behavior in strategic games, fixed point or mixed strategy Nash equilibria can be far too restrictive and misleading, ruling out much more complex dynamics, which in reality can occur even for rational people playing simple games: 


Recent theories from complexity science argue that complex dynamics are ubiquitous in social and economic systems. These claims emerge from the analysis of individually simple agents whose collective behavior is surprisingly complicated. However, economists have argued that iterated reasoning–what you think I think you think–will suppress complex dynamics by stabilizing or accelerating convergence to Nash equilibrium. We report stable and efficient periodic behavior in human groups playing the Mod Game, a multi-player game similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors. The game rewards subjects for thinking exactly one step ahead of others in their group. Groups that play this game exhibit cycles that are inconsistent with any fixed-point solution concept. These cycles are driven by a “hopping” behavior that is consistent with other accounts of iterated reasoning: agents are constrained to about two steps of iterated reasoning and learn an additional one-half step with each session. If higher-order reasoning can be complicit in complex emergent dynamics, then cyclic and chaotic patterns may be endogenous features of real-world social and economic systems.

...and from the conclusions, ...

Cycles in the belief space of learning agents have been predicted for many years, particularly in games with intransitive dominance relations, like Matching Pennies and Rock-Paper-Scissors, but experimentalists have only recently started looking to these dynamics for experimental predictions. This work should function to caution experimentalists of the dangers of treating dynamics as ephemeral deviations from a static solution concept. Periodic behavior in the Mod Game, which is stable and efficient, challenges the preconception that coordination mechanisms must converge on equilibria or other fixed-point solution concepts to be promising for social applications. This behavior also reveals that iterated reasoning and stable high-dimensional dynamics can coexist, challenging recent models whose implementation of sophisticated reasoning implies convergence to a fixed point [13]. Applied to real complex social systems, this work gives credence to recent predictions of chaos in financial market game dynamics [8]. Applied to game learning, our support for cyclic regimes vindicates the general presence of complex attractors, and should help motivate their adoption into the game theorist’s canon of solution concepts

Book excerpt...

Bloomberg is publishing a series of excerpts from my forthcoming book, Forecast, which is now due out in only a few days. The first one was published today.

Giovanna Battaglia - FW - Paris

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      Giovanna Battaglia - les Tuileries - Paris

      La Mode est un combat et en ce sens, la belle italienne Giovanna Battaglia porte bien son nom.

      Photo by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris 

Elisa - place Vendôme - Paris

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      Elisa - place Vendôme - Paris

      Elisa toujours fidèle à sa marque préférée (Manoush), chaussures Mellow Yellow et sac vintage
      (de sa grand-mère) et pour le blouson et le joli bracelet, je ne sais pas ...

      Photos by Fred - Easy Fashion Paris