Small-world Networks

In the book "Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks" we return to Stanley Milgrams experiment of sending out letters to random people, asking them to return the letter to a specific person somewhere, under the restriction of sending to personal relations only. This led to the notion of six degrees of separation, that everybody in the world is connected to everybody else in on average six friend of friend-steps.

Later research has shed some additional light on the social structure of human societies. The distribution of the number of relationships people participate in would intuitively follow a bell-curved distribution, as it happens for height and IQ measures. The numbers tell a different story. It follows a power law: A few persons have an enormous social base, while many have a few relations. How is this different from, say, height? In practice, many people might be 1.7 m tall, a few might reach 2.1 m. If height followed a power law we wouldn't be surprised if, now and then, we met some people measuring 4 m or in rarer cases 100 m.

Could this be an argument in favor of viral marketing? Instead of spending resources on mass media, some companies could identify the hubs of our social fabric and start a dialogue.

This kind of marketing has already been raised as an ethical-political issue in Denmark, as some companies have given away brand name clothing to primary school pupils perceived to be associated with high social status.

Wonder Why Their Sales Falter

Upon a re-reading of Kotlers marketing classic Marketing Management (9th ed.) I stumbled across a few passages, in which he links a taxonomy of market orientations with some unusual organizations: Churches and political parties.

"The product concept leads to the kind of marketing myopia we discussed ealier in this chapter. Railroad management thought that railroad users wanted trains rather than transportation and overlooked the growing challenge of airlines, buses, trucks, and automobiles. Slide-rule manufacturers thought that engineers wanted slide rules rather than calculating capacity and overlooked the challenge of pocket calculators. Churches, department stores, and the post office all assume that they are offering the public the right product and wonder why their sales falter. These organizations too often are looking into a mirror when they should be looking out of the window." p. 18.

Imagine priests in a board room meeting, listening to analysis of the most recent focus group output, outlining what grand questions are on the minds of the young and old. Should they really continously modify prayers and preaching to match up with the most recent developments on the sin market?

"[...] The selling concept is also practiced in the nonprofit area by fund-raisers, college admissions offices, and political parties. A political party vigorously “sells” its candidate to the voters. The candidate stomps through voting precincts from early morning to late evening, shaking hands, kissing babies, meeting donors, and making speeches. Countless dollars are spent on radio and television advertising, posters, and mailings. The candidate’s flaws are concealed from the public because the aim is to make the sale, not to worry about postpurchase satisfaction. After the election, the new official continues to take a sales-oriented view toward the citizens. There is little research into what the public wants and a lot of selling to get the public to accept policies that the politician or party wants." p. 19

The theoretically superior concept is the marketing concept that integrates marketing activities with all aspects of the organization. As political parties, such as the Blair/Labour party, are learning more sophisticated marketing thinking we might one day give birth to the marketing concept based democracy. So much for idealism. Remember, the customer is always right.

Goodbye Vernon

Goodbye my beloved Vernon neighbours, goodbye you wonderful, crazy americans. I hope Ceona's shoulder will heal and that her aquarium will stay beautiful, I hope Mike finds love, that Gary eventually sees a flying saucer, that Daniel will succeed in school and grow up to be an energetic young man, and that Jeannie will stay strong.

My adventures might one day bring me back to your exciting and dangerous country.

The Old Man and the Sea

To escape my dissertation work, I took a swim in the ocean. There was only one other person in the water, a sturdy madame, and then a few people on the beach.

I was floating in the surface, looking at the blue sky and feeling the bobbing of waves. A silent feeling of terror arose in me, when just next to me, the grey back of a whale-like fish emerged, only to disappear a second or two later. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been eaten at the shores of Denmark, but might I be the first? Had climate changes made our waters livable for new types of human predators? I hoped it was a porpoise and realized that there was nothing I could do about it all. Simultaneously, a feeling of awe ran through me. Nature was passing a message along: You are all part of me.


I am back in my fairytale country. Check the CIA World Factbook.

Now I have to finish an article or two and figure out a way to make a living.

Soccer Mom No More

***Breaking news. My beloved car has been sold.
Mini-van for sale. Ford Windstar GL from 1998, 105k miles. Powerful 3.8L engine in excellent condition. Power windows front and rear, AC front and rear, removable back seats, roof rack, wireless central lock. A great car for everyday comfort and an active lifestyle: Put a kayak on the roof and go to a lake or invite some friends on a weekend getaway.

Price $3.400.

The blue book suggested price for this car in a fair condition is $5.590.

Contact me here.


Sidevew 3

Sideview 2

During Winter



Inside with the middle seat folded 


Drivers Position

US Misunderstood Al-Qaida

NPR did an interesting 8 minute interview with the author of "Imperial Hubris", an anonymous CIA analyst.

Here is a transcript I made of a central part of the dialogue.

[...] The United States fundamentally misunderstood the motivations of Al-Qaida. How so?

What we misunderstood is Bin Ladens genius on focusing on American policies. We continue to describe him as a gentleman and a movement, that is out to deny us our freedoms, our liberties, our voting system, our society.

The standard administration line is: "They hate freedom"

Yes, and it has been since 1992 or 1988. Take your pick. It is a blindness which is bipartisan in nature. They don't like our society, clearly. They don't like women going to school and they don't like unveiled women and all of those things are true - but very few people in the islamic world are going to die for that kind of morpheus goal of making sure the americans won't drink Budweiser or something along that line.

You just summarized this: I mean, you say that Al-Qaida are unhappy with the United States and gets support in the islamic world, not for what the United States stand for, but because of what the United States does.

That's exactly right and I think United States is Al-Qaida only indispensable ally. As long as we pursue the policies that Bin Laden has focused on, we will be an admirable, in fact a perfect foil for his activities. For example, he really has a very limited number of complaints, but they are very important in terms of the muslim world. Our unqualified support for Israel. Our ability to keep oilprices at levels acceptable to the western consumer. Our support for countries that oppress muslims. He is focused on all those things and they all appeal to muslims across the theological spectrum of Islam.

So what do you do differently? You don't just want to give in and do what they want?

Of course not, it's got to be a combination of things. [...]

See also my post on Fahrenheit 911 and Robert Kaplan.

Paul Auster

Finished Paul Austers "City of Glass", where a private investigator-story author, Quinn, turns private investigator himself. He works on a case in which a child was locked into a dark room, to see if the child would speak the language of God. Quinn even meets Paul Auster. Due to excitement, I nearly fell out of my chair at that point.

Inspired by an Alexander Gray I implemented an O(n log n) non-parametric estimator, usable for both continous and categorical data. An O(n^2) is common, O(n) is possible, but not needed right now. Another step in my evolution as a pattern recognizer has been taken.

A Service for Bloggers

Reading more than one blog? Want to get notifications and read them all on one page? Go to Bloglines.


Visited the lounge Underworld in NYC with a friend A., and the friends friend B. who is a headhunter. A. got a tatoo, a black panther. I thought about getting an equation, something with pi and an infinite sum. I didn't. Instead I got a Long Island Ice Tea and a multi-day hangover. B. is in a complicated divorce right now, but we agreed to talk about my career next week anyway.

Fahrenheit 911

I saw Michael Moores movie in a stuffed cinema in Manchester, Connecticut. In the end everybody applauded. This didn't seem to me as a gathering of left-wingers, it rather seemed like a gathering of ordinary people (The New Yorker carries a nuanced review of the movie).

Before this movie does the same thing to public opinion on the Iraqi war as the Kim Phuc Phan Thi picture did to opinion on the Vietnam War, consider a different perspective. Robert Kaplan wrote an article in The Atlantic November 2002, several months before the war.

"Keep in mind that the Middle East is a laboratory of pure power politics. For example, nothing impressed the Iranians so much as our accidental shooting down of an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988, which they believed was not an accident. Iran's subsequent cease-fire with Iraq was partly the result of that belief. Our dismantling the Iraqi regime would concentrate the minds of Iran's leaders as little else could."

"[...] U.S. administrations, whether Republican or Democratic, are simply going to have to adapt to sustained turbulence in the years to come. They will get no sympathy from the media, or from an academic community that subscribes to the fallacy of good outcomes, according to which there should always be a better alternative to dictators such as Hosni Mubarak, in Egypt; the Saudi royal family; and Pervez Musharraf, in Pakistan. Often there isn't. Indeed, the weakening of the brutal regime of Islam Karimov, in Uzbekistan, will not necessarily lead to a more enlightened alternative. It could just as likely ignite a civil war"

Kaplan has his own agenda, but could he nonetheless be right?

Mr. Moore will not convince a die-hard republican to vote any differently this time, but he is stimulating the political conscience among the less so inclined. With or without the movie, voter turnout is poised to be higher this year as the stakes rise.

Class of 1993

Grindsted Gymnasium 3y (1995)
[larger version]

"Grindsted Gymnasium". Picture of the class of 1993 (3.y). Picture was taken in 1995. Click to enlarge.

Class of 1984

Sondermarksskolen 9b (1993)
[larger version]
"Søndermarkskolen". Picture of class (9.b) of 1984. Picture taken in 1993. Click to enlarge.

Hollow Lake

A few miles from University of Connecticut you will find Mansfield Hollow Lake. Mix that with sunshine, put a kayak on top of the soccer mom car and all problems in the world seem far away.

New York Summer


Brooklyn Heights at a Cafe. Love this part of town: Quiet but not too quiet while being near Manhattan. It is possible to rent a non-luxury one-bedroom apartment for around $1200. At a shop poster a female artist were looking to share an apartment "with a woman or an exceptional man".

Central Park.

The Brooklyn Bridge and me. N.Y is wonderful on a sunny day.

N. Y. Stock Exchange, my friend Berit and me in a very red tank. Further down the street a demonstration [NYTimes] was in progress. Workers were chanting for rent control and better pay. The yellow helmet to the left was part of the event, but obviously wanted to take a break.

Jim O'Neil

James O'Neil Posted by Hello
Sometimes you get tired of doing business research. So I decided to do some consulting for psychologist Jim O'Neil, who between therapy and teaching sessions, manages to do some research on a brainchild of his: the Gender Role Conflict Scale. It seems that "men's gender role conflict is associated with a host of salient psychological variables that affect both men's and women's lives", quoting his webpage on that matter.

Data Mining

Data mining is mainstream now. Stanford has offered courses in this area for some years now, but recently offerings have been expanded.

Here's my new stepdaughter. She also thinks the soccer mom car is cool. She wants to study law at Yale, but I think her talents at singing should be put to use instead. This day we checked out a local lake and learned how to play ducks and drakes. Posted by Hello

Meet my new stepson. He likes videogames and has a girlfriend. They didn't kiss yet, though. Posted by Hello

How William Gibson Changed my Destiny

"If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science-fiction writers are its court jesters. We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origin makes us seem harmless" writes Bruce Sterling in a preface to "Burning Chrome" (1985), a collection of cyberpunk short stories authored by William Gibson. 19 years later Gibson stands out as the guy who prophetically coined the term 'cyberspace' before the rise of the internet. Another aspect of his writing had a larger, lasting impact on my life.

Growing up in Denmark, a safe scandinavian everybody-is-middle-class nation with one of the largest public sectors in the world, progressive teachers brainwashed children into political activism. Since 8th grade I had wanted to become political scientist, then a politician or at least a public servant that would improve peoples lives. Reading Gibson was to peek into a capitalistic future of all-powerful multinational corporations setting the agenda against a backdrop of weak nations. A both freightning and fascinating outlook. My application for the political science education had been accepted the summer of 1996, but rereading the Sprawl-trilogy changed my mind. It would not be public servants that possesed power to change the future world. Instead the School of Economics and Management would receive a new student, who prepared for the unavoidable apocalypse of the welfare state.

Sterling goes on to note that Gibson "is a devoteee of [...] 'invisible litterature': that permeating flow of scientific reports, government documents, and specialized advertising that shapes our culture below the level of recognition." Traces of Gibsons 'Pattern Recognition' (2002) are seen here, a book set in current time with the feel of a science fiction novel. The main character is a 'coolhunter', a woman with a superhuman sense for the next big thing.
I went on to do a doctoral degree in marketing research, but lacking the sense for brands myself, I utilize math when looking for the patterns that big companies find interest.

A review of 'Pattern Recognition'

Google and the IPO

Geek humor: If you take a close look at the form Google filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the exact value of its planned offering is $2,718,281,828 dollars, which some would immediately recognize as the mathematical constant e. Citing Wired.

The Emotional Analyst

I have always mused about newspaper commentary of financial markets, particulary jargon such as "asset x has crossed the psychologically important y point barrier". Here is a transscript of an Q&A session with a techinal analyst. - Expert Q&A Session Transcripts. In the introduction he lays out his assumptions on the drivers of price movements in the market.

"Technical analysis is the study of emotion. Every participant in the market is reacting to the current level of price. This is true for governments who are reacting to vote winning/losing policies, investment managers, discretionary traders, bank traders, corporate treasurers, option traders and just about anyone involved. [...] The basic assumption of TA is that in a market that demonstrates mass psychology people will react in similar ways to certain events. What's more these reactions tend to come in sequences. Thus by recognizing the current part of the sequence it is possible to forecast the next likely move."

He goes on to describe the quantitative tools of the technical analyst.

"There are many tools ranging from simplistic indicators such as moving averages through to complex techniques such as Elliott Wave, Gann and even astrology. Which ones are best? Well, in my view that depends on what type of person you are. Some are not comfortable or do not have the patience to practice some of the more complex/esoteric methods. Some people are not interested in forecasting but look to react. As a trader you need to understand which one of these you are and by trial and error you will find methods that suit your personality and style of trading."

Now we know.

Schwarzenegger in Google, Bush Tax Speculating

In the last few weeks I have learned two new things. Did you know that a) Arnold Schwarzenegger owns an equity stake in Google? b) That Bush senior and junior spend a lot of time in Kennebunkport, Maine and sometimes move there formally to lower their tax burden?

The Nigerian Scam

A detailed account of how to succesfully carry out the Nigerian Scam. Learn from the United States Secret Service, Advance Fee Fraud Advisory.

Auctioning Pollution Away

If you really want to do something about SO2 pollution in your area, here is a new way to spend your wealth. Wired News: Using Capitalism to Clean the Sky

The Core Group and the Less-skilled

"Companies increasingly divide their work forces into a core group of permanent, well-paid employees surrounded by less-skilled, lower-wage workers who can be brought in and sent away as demand fluctuates." NY Times. It it easy to imagine how this could polarize society further, effectively starving out the middle class. "The Rise of The Creative Class" argues for a positive interpretation, in that more people will want to work in loosely coupled networks to get variety. That our identity will increasingly be derived from the type of work we do, not the company we work for. As in the middleage. For a vision of the future, read W. Gibsons "Neuromancer". Big companies, weak nations and people living in worlds apart.

Meanwhile, I shall continue my dissertation work of moving aspects of human decision-making into the corporate hieve-techno mind, contributing to the transformation of the economy.

A New Humanism

Here's a quote from a 1992 essay, "The Emerging Third Culture". "In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person today. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost. " In a follow-up from 2002 the author, John Brockman, goes on to note "Ten years later, that fossil culture is in decline" and ignites an interesting discussion on the modern scientists. At the Edge website and in the book "The New Humanists: Science At the Edge".

Television Addiction Is Real

"Excessive cravings do not necessarily involve physical substances. Gambling can become compulsive; sex can become obsessive. One activity, however, stands out for its prominence and ubiquity--the world's most popular leisure pastime, television." On average "someone who lives to 75 would spend nine years in front of the tube" and "roughly 10 percent of adults call themselves TV addicts". Scientific American

Throw out your television now. It is waiting for your weak moment. Media corporations spend every minute of the day figuring out how to lure you to the remote and keep you in front of the screen. Your viewing will get out of control eventually and then you will be hooked forever. If your are in the creative class you "favor active, participatory recreation over passive spectator sports" anyway. Television has never done anything good for you. It has never made you smarter, made you make new friends, inspired you or entertained you in a memorable fashion. It has taken your time without consent and numbed your mind.

Join me in Anonymous TV Addicts.

Walkman Busting

In a radio program they do Walkman Busting. Wired: "In it, D'Arcangelo approaches people in public spaces who are listening to personal stereos. With their permission, he plugs in his minidisc recorder to record whatever music they are listening to, as well as their conversation about it. " Then he airs the results on the show. Talk about real street music.

A New Danish Think Tank

Inspired by the success of other think tanks in the US and UK, a new think tank for liberal economic analysis has been formed in Denmark: "The Market Center".

Citing from Wikipedia on Think tank: A think tank is a group of individuals in military laboratories, corporations, or other institutions dedicated to high-level synergistic research on a variety of subjects. Discoveries and activities which resulted from think tanks include: The atomic bomb, dolphin-human communication, the Internet and the World Wide Web, some early US? space programs, Remote viewing, Global Climatology and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [...]

My Young Friend: Send More Money

Denmark, a country with one of the largest public sectors and highest taxes in the world, spend a lot of money on the elderly. Not just the poor elderly, but everybody who is old. Pension for everybody, special tax rebates on property, subsidies for the rent, lots of rebates on practically everything. In danish media old people as a group are routinely portrayed as the most pitiable, underprivileged, sick and abandoned people of all. Left behind by a cruel public administration. Denmark has a special interest organisation called "Ældre Sagen" (The Elder Cause, say) with 460k members out of a population of some 5.2m. They want the country to spend more money on the elderly and politicians are listening.
Consider this: Only 1,4% of the elderly belong to the poorest group of the population. 20% of the singles and 40% of the couples have a net worth of at least $160.000 (using 1 USD=6 DKK). [Weekendavisen #6]. It is time to start prioritizing the resources of society. Robin Hood would have said it: Stop giving to the old rich and give more to the poor, not just the old and poor.
I taught my neighbors 9 year old the 7 multiplication table. Teaching is a wonderful thing.
Today I walked to a nearby diner during a mild fall of snow. Roads here are not really made for walking, so it didn't last long until a guy in a pickup hailed me and asked if I needed some help. I do these walks to avoid obesity, but from a strangers point of view it must seem dangerous to balance crutches under such treacherous conditions. In an american context there is the added novelty of seeing someone not driving.

Things I saw today that you do not see in Europe: A Hummer is a very large, cartoon-like vehicle. A hummer with a snow blade is a monster.

Book title: "The Rise of the Creative Class". This is about us. Those who use their artistic or logical creativity as an integral part of their work. More people than ever live like artists and scientists. This will have implications for social structures we now take for granted. More will follow.

Not Autumn, Landmines

A danish biotech company has developed a plant capable of detecting explosives in the ground. Seed and wait a few weeks. If the plant turns red, stay out of the area.

Sleep on it

"A study of mathematical problem-solving has now shown that a good night's rest really does give you a fresh perspective." : Nature. I have been frustrated with some (to me) complicated problems several times, only to wake up the next morning with the solution in my mind. This gives new meaning to D.A.D.'s Sleeping My Day Away.

Even in Virtual Worlds

"The parallels between [...] virtual worlds and real life was highlighted last week when a report alleging organised crime and prostitution within a precinct of The Sims Online caused controversy." Article in New Scientist.
I should grow a beard to fend of the cold. New York Times: "Piercing cold winds and freezing temperatures set winter records in some parts of the northeastern United States today and at least six deaths were attributed to the extreme weather. [...] The National Weather Service [...] advised people to limit their time outdoors, or at least to dress in layers and cover all exposed skin, because of the danger of hypothermia and frostbite.".
Ah, it is nice to work with C++ again. It feels like a childhood world full of adventures has choosen to reveal itself for me again. Maybe I should celebrate the reunion with a Lian-Li Aquarium PC Case.

I'm Back in a Brown Hat

It is very cold in Connecticut these days, so I bought a brown hat. Now I too can look like a street kid. Speaking of cool, Sony released a new baby. Say hello to the X505 laptop .
Today will be spent coding in C++, as my WinBUGS code is running exceedingly slow at a large number of observations.