Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus

Mycelium running through soil (Credit: Nigel Cattlin / Alamy

I came across an interesting article over at BBC about how plants talk to each other using an “internet of fungus”. While the science itself is interesting, what caught my attention was the headline’s refreshing use of metaphor. It’s much more common to use nature metaphors to communicate technological concepts, e.g. “fertile ground for innovation”, “tech ecosystem”, “computer virus”, than it is to do it the other way around. I particularly love the phrase “Internet of fungus”.

Machine Learning, Week 4

In between writing my ebook about microcopy, speaking engagements, projects for Tempest’s clients, and learning to unicycle, I’ve been plodding through Dr. Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning Course. It’s been slow going because whenever I don’t get to work on the course for more than three days, I tend to forget what I just learned. That adds an extra hour of two just to get my bearings.

Thankfully, with what little diligence I could muster, I’ve been able to finish Week 4 of the course even though it took much longer than an actual calendar week. I find that it helps if I draw the neural nets and matrices on a small whiteboard. Otherwise, my limited cognitive capacity gets overloaded by the linear algebra operations.

Admittedly, I’m struggling with the math parts of the course. But I’m motivated by the idea of creating artificial intelligences and understanding the mind a little better by building one of my own. I feel like I’m a mad scientist.

Tagalog Imperialism

Around 8 or 9 years ago, I bought Rodolfe Cabonce’s English-Cebuano dictionary. At that time, “nagtuon ko og Cebuano” because I was curious about one of our country’s major languages (if you say “dialect,” you’re wrong and should be punched in the face). It was a lot of fun because it was different enough to be interesting but similar enough that I didn’t have to learn a whole new set of grammatical constructs.
It taught me that there wasn’t anything inherently superior about my mother tongue, Tagalog, and helped me appreciate the different accents with which we speak it around the country.

So this brouhaha about our bar exams allegedly lowering their standards just because the top 10 didn’t come from Luzon reflects a disturbing attitude of entitlement, insecurity, and ignorance that should no longer exist in this day and age. It’s been more than 100 years since we left Hispanic rule but their divide and conquer tactics still linger.

Can we stop this idiocy, fellow Manileños and Luzonistas? Maybe just accept that some people did well and it just so happened they lived South of us? Let’s not be complacent and entitled just because we’re in the capital.

UX & Chill

I’m incredibly honored to have been invited to talk at UX & Chill, a series of talks organized by Ateneo de Manila’s User Experience Society. I spoke about the magic of microcopy and tries to inspire students about the importance of copywriting in apps. Microcopy also happens to be the subject of my upcoming book, which I’m excited to announce will be coming out on May 15!

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016) is inspiring, eye-opening, and nerdgasmic. The three protagonists — Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan — are heroes who deserve far more recognition than history has given them. I didn’t understand much of the orbital math, but the scenes with the gigantic IBM computer, Fortran, and punch cards made me giddy. Big props to the people behind this movie. We need more of these stories!

Oxford Comma

As much as I like the Oxford comma, I don’t usually insist on people using it. For me, what’s important is consistency rather than a specific rule. However, there are cases where one choice can lead to disaster.

For example, a company in the US could lose millions of dollars in overtime pay because of a single comma.

Note the lack of Oxford comma — also known as the serial comma — in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
Does the law intend to exempt the distribution of the three categories that follow, or does it mean to exempt packing for the shipping or distribution of them?

This just shows the havoc that can be brought about by syntactic ambiguity.

On a lighter note, there’s this funny graphic that shows you why the Oxford comma is important.