29 January 2006

Self Portrait

I did my first self portrait tonight. (In all fairness, I did one in high school once, but I don't think that counts...)

Using this photo as a reference:

I drew this in pen:

Here's a detail:


26 January 2006

Retainers / Drumming

Hello -


I usually don't post personal stuff here, but this time I just have to. After one and a half years of braces - no popcorn, no Twizzlers - I finally got them off. Hoo-ray! However, I was quickly saddled with something that I never imagined could be worse than braces: retainers.

The orthodontist was right. I sound like a fool talking with these things on. Good thing I married a linguist who is able to analyze the fine points of my messing up training sentences like: "Seven silvery slippery snakes slid slowly southward."

Speaking of retainers, you might enjoy recalling Ben Affleck's scene in Good Will Hunting about a different kind of retainer. [335k .mp3]

And now for something completely different.


Do any of you play musical instruments? What made you choose the instrument you chose? What musicians inspire you?

I've been drumming since 4th grade & even then wanted a drumset. But it wasn't until I was a high school freshman that I heard the cool upperclassman playing Living Color's "Cult of Personality" on our jazz band's Tama kit that I realized that yes, I must get a drumset, and I must get one now. That, and when my father had me listen to In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida on his new Walkman back around 1980...

With that I give you the following two lists:

Drummers so good they make you want to play drums
Gene Krupa: "Sing, Sing, Sing," baby!
Neal Peart: Rush, Moving Pictures, "YYZ"
Manu Katche: any of his work with Peter Gabriel
John Bonham: Led Zeppelin, .. uh, gosh do I have to pick one?.., Led Zep IV, "When the Levee Breaks"
Max Roach: Clifford Brown & Max Roach, "Jordu"
Joe Morello: Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Take Five" (here's a free video of one of his drum solos)
Carter Beauford: Dave Matthews Band
Lars Ulrich: Metallica (honest!)

Drummers so good they make you want to quit playing the drums
Mike Portnoy: Dream Theater, Metropolis 2, "Overture 1928". free video of another song
Dave Weckl: Chick Corea
Gregg Bissonette: I don't suppose you've heard his solo on Maynard Ferguson's "Coconut Champagne"?
Buddy Rich (don't even get me started - see for example "Stick Trick")


25 January 2006

20 Minutes I'll Never See Again

I can't believe how quickly 20 minutes passed while reading "Overheard in New York." I feel like I should - I don't know - take a shower or something.


22 January 2006

Stereo photos: Blue Ribbon BBQ (Arlington, MA)

RLB had trouble viewing the cross-eyed stereo pair of the blue vases, despite her ability to see those "Magic Dot" stereograms. Since those stereograms usually require you to go "wall-eyed" (look beyond the picture), I made a photo using wall-eye. I can't see it, maybe you can.

Look at the WALL-EYED; imagine you're looking beyond your computer screen.

Here are three more photos. Look at these cross-eyed. If you have trouble with that, try moving farther away from the computer screen, and try looking at your index finger between the screen and your nose. If you feel funny or strained, stop.

Can anyone see these? Let me know. You can use the black squares as a guide.

Click and view cross-eyed.

Click and view cross-eyed.

Click and view cross-eyed.


21 January 2006

My First (Non-Scientific) Stereo Photo

Lots'a blog postings this week, sorry about that.

After visiting all these 3-D conferences I felt lame that I never made my own artsy 3-D photo like everyone else. Sure, I did it in the lab once or twice, but never for the fun of it. Here goes nothing. (I apologize in advance for ignorance of the basics, such as toed-in vs. toed-out; eye separation; etc. Just went with what looked right on my screen.)

I thought you'd enjoy a 3-D picture to look at. Click on this photo and look at it cross-eyed until the objects merge into one scene. Try to relax -- this can take 10 seconds or so -- until your eyes regain focus. If you do it right, you should see this in 3-D. (If you do it wrong, it means you're tense or tired. Don't strain yourself.)

Click on photo and view cross-eyed.

Make your own stereo photos:
  1. Set up a scene
  2. Grab your digital camera and turn the flash OFF.
  3. Place camera on flat stable surface about 2 feet away from the scene and snap a picture.
  4. Slide the camera a little to the right (like the length of your thumb) and snap another picture.
  5. Import photos. Put "L" and "R" in the picture titles.
  6. Export photos as JPEGs and then insert them into a photo editor or even PowerPoint.
  7. Scale them down (Equally) and crop out any wasted area.
  8. Put the L photo on the right, and the R photo on the left.
  9. View crosseyed. If you're straining to see it, try pushing the photos closer together... or pulling them farther apart.

Squirt Likes Samba

Little Drummer Baby?
J-Fav and I are expecting our first child in several months, and we refer to him/her as "Squirt" after the baby turtle in Finding Nemo.

Squirt's been kicking around now and then, sometimes so forcefully I can see it across a room! There hasn't been much predictability to it, though, until now. J-Fav was pretty sure that Squirt goes wild for drumming -- Latin American / Cuban drumming, as evidenced when she was listening to a live Brazilian drum group a few days ago.

If that's true, Squirt'd be the third generation of drummer in the Fav family line. We set out to test this theory. We went upstairs & I played some rock, jazz, and Samba beats. It worked! What'd Squirt prefer? Samba, right on cue. Hah! Perhaps its tastes will evole so we can listen to Gene Krupa or Manu Katche together.

Here we are:

My childhood drum teacher, Glenn Weber, would be proud.

By the way, J-Fav does not actually have six fingers on her right hand. It just sort of looks like that. Sorry to disappoint you polydactylphiles out there.


20 January 2006

Flow (the "Zone")

ChiyoDad posts about the focused psychological state called "flow," which is something I'd been meaning to write about. He discusses it in the context of martial arts and strategy games.

You know "the zone," the state of mind in which you're focusing on a task that is a good match for your abilities and makes time and self-consciousness melt away. We engineers have it, and I'm sure writers, musicians, and chefs do, too.

A key book in the field was written by researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who (I'm pretty sure) came across the phenomenon of flow while researching the concept of "fun." A brief Wikipedia article outlines his theory.

In an article in Psychology Today, the researcher writes:

These exceptional moments are what I have called "flow" experiences. The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to decribe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as "being in the zone," religious mystics as being in "ecstasy," artists and musicians as "aesthetic rapture."

It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life. We can be happy experiencing the passive pleasure of a rested body, warm sunshine, or the contentment of a serene relationship, but this kind of happiness is dependent on favorable external circumstances. The happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness.

By the way, he found that basic leisure activities, such as watching television, often do not result in the "flow" state.

It's been far too long since I've experienced flow. My responsibility list has grown, and correspondingly my "incoming information world" has become uncomfortably high-bandwidth, broad, and shallow.


Mountain View ramen, 3-D, and AAA

Stereo Displays & Applications
We had a fun and informative time at SPIE/IS&T's SD&A 2006, where we're fortunate to learn from researchers from around the globe who travel far and wide to talk about all things three-dimensional. 3-D floating above tabletops, in front of giant projection screens, and a keynote from IMAX 3-D. Also, the annual 3-D screening was a success -- hundreds of people packed into a room, wore good (polarized) 3-D goggles, and watched two hours of 3-D film clips.

It was also great to see old friends from college (hung out with C & M K on Tuesday night for sushi) and new friends (from beyond!).

Also, I bought some art for J-Fav. There is a less-well-known format of stereo 3-D image called the "phantogram." Sparing you the technical details, phantograms are designed to be laid flat on a table rather than hanging on a wall. The outcome is that imagery floats above the table, and with the proper choice of subject (and color) can be very impressive. I got her (ok, well, US) a phantogram of several flowers, as shown in that link. Ever buy art where they include 3-D glasses before? No, me neither.

Mountain View
On Wednesday night I took my annual pilgrimage to the standard-Silicon-Valley-town of Mountain View for dinner and coffee. (Californians look at me funny when I bring this up; it's like making a big deal out of going from Cambridge to Saugus. I mean there's nothing wrong with Saugus, but...)

Ever seen Tampopo, a movie (on the surface) about the art of Japanese noodle soup? In the spirit of Tampopo, I ventured into Maru Ichi, a crowded Japanese noodle house with Japanese game shows playing on televisions and posters saying things like, "LUNCH BEER: $1.75." Like the shabu-shabu scene in Lost in Translation, I had a hard time distinguishing between the ramentypes. I asked the waitress to bring me whatever is good, and I got "kuro ramen," a noodle soup with an intriguing broth that looked simultaneously dark brown and, for lack of a better term, buttery. (It is a browned garlic & chicken soup base.) Good stuff. I sat up at an elevated U-shaped bar in the middle of the restaurant, picked at kimchi, and thought about how odd it is that a journey that began as a reluctant entry into an MIT business plan competition has brought me here.

Maru Ichi is across the street from Sono Sushi, a place where you grab what you want off miniature sushi-bearing boats that travel around a long oval moat.

After the requisite visits to two neighboring bookstores, I ended the night at Dana Street Roasting Company. That link to a review says it all.

Oh, and My Car?
I left San Jose at 9am and returned to Boston around 10pm. Unfortunately my car - parked in the Terminal B lot - wouldn't start. The Massport guys (ever CALL the "Massport" guys?) couldn't jump-start it, so they towed it, with surgical precision, to an AAA tow truck outside the lot, who took me the 15-or-so miles to my mechanic in Burlington.

Believe it or not, the least straightforward part of that 3-hour exercise was watching the Massport guys get clearance to roll my car beyond the parking lot toll booth. I paid $120 for parking, but was in the lot for just over 1 hour. That $16 of "just over" caused the hold up.

At midnight this was all a lot more dramatic and aggravating than it sounds. And hopefully I won't need to replace my car just yet.

That's all for now. And mad props to Norvin for hunting down the Elizabeth Bishop poem in the subway a few posts below.


17 January 2006

San Jose, Day 1

My non-direct flight from Boston took most of Sunday. I finally arrived at the San Jose hotel around 8pm, in time to order some good and surprisingly cheap room service (calamari! organic green salad! about $10!).

I'm near the convention center, which means that you need to walk a few blocks to escape from its isolated price-elevated nucleus. In my hotel, the hallways look a little bit too much like "The Shining:"

(at least I didn't see twins in the hallway)

However, I really need to share this next one with you. The lobby vending machine doesn't just sell Advil, Snickers, and Pepto Bismol. No, dear reader, this thing sells iPods. IPODS! Check it out:

Yes, you're seeing that right.

Meanwhile - the conference kicked off today, is well-attended, interesting, and fun. We went out for our annual dinner and had a great time hearing about people's unusual 3-D displays, home-brew 3-D cameras, and their experiences on the teams creating the 3-D movies we see. As you all know by now, the dinner looked like this, except with the clothing and hairstyles updated one year.

Oh, one last thing, primarily for B.C. (and D.C. though I doubt he's watching).

That's right. And if you haven't listed to The Animators, you're nowhere, baby.


15 January 2006

NYTimes Article on Go

There is an article in the 1/14 New York Times, "Oases Springing Up Here for Ancient Game of Go."

I haven't been playing much go lately; I am becoming frustrated that I am so awful at progressing in a game that I like so much. A friend described his experience as, "I really like it, but I'm bad at games that make me think ahead."

Am going to San Jose in a bit; meanwhile the Mass Go Association's January tournament is today.


12 January 2006

The Optics Guy Your Mother Warned You About

Um, hello again.


Through the wonders of blog referral link tracking and stuff, here is an offbeat, angry, foul-mouthed, humorous blog: "Thilo," or www.ninjapirate.com . If you click "articles" you get, well, articles, about stuff this guy hates.

California's Meeting of the 3-D Display Folk

I will be leaving poor J-Fav and her leg-in-pain so that I may participate on the committee of the 3-D display conference in San Jose next week. Not just any 3-D display conference, but THE 3-D display conference. The one that bullies the other 3-D conferences in the hallway and demands their lunch money.

If that didn't convince you, perhaps these pictures will - from 2004 of us bullies spending that lunch money on the annual 3-D-people-go-out-for-Chinese-food dinner. Or we scientist-types in 2003? Heck, one could spend all night playing "Where's Waldo" as you search for G-Fav amidst the swarm of opticsfolk. I bet you can't tell that I'm sporting a raging fever in that last one, could you?

Techie Pre-Chapter Quotations
Back in college, my friends jotted funny little quips in a blue notebook that I toted around in junior year. Admist the pages of doodles, our buddy Sam did a kind of parody of techie textbooks by opening a fictitious chapter with "Witty Quotation Here."

Many engineering and computer science books begin each chapter with a self-consciously cute quotation. It reminds me of NPR, whose every-other-sentence music intermissions sounds to me like:

"Hello, and good morning. This is NPR."


"I'm Ira Glass, and I'm here interviewing a man who is building a calculating device out of hardened lint bits and soft cheese. I'm here in his basement, and as I look around, I see the trappings of an ordinary workshop. But this is no ordinary workshop."


"(Crackly tape recording of generic old man:) So, I noticed, back in aught-nine, that old lint can be quite malleable at the proper temperature. (Ira:) You mean you would build things out of lint? (Old man:) Yes, lint."


and so on... Don't believe me? This one took 1 minute and 20 seconds before they cranked up the intermission music. They even list the music on their website.

Anyhow, as if to break the tedium of technical writing, we engineers are usually treated to quotations at the beginning of each chapter. If we're unlucky, they're from Through the Looking Glass, which seems to adorn every computer science book ever written. Or that not-particularly-notable quotation about trig that I've seen a few times so far:

Perhaps to the student there is no part of elementary mathematics so repulsive as spherical trigonometry.

P. G. TAIT, Article on Quaternions
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911)

You're not alone if you've never used quaternions. Sometimes the quotations are compelling despite their similarity to the long-lived "consider a spherical cow" physics joke:

We think we understand the regular reflection of light and x-rays -- and we should understand the reflection of electrons as well if electrons were only waves instead of particles . . . It is rather as if one were to see a rabbit climbing a tree, and were to say, "Well, that is rather a strange thing for a rabbit to be doing, but after all there is really nothing to get excited about. Cats climb trees -- so that if the rabbit were only a cat, we would understand its behavior perfectly."

Franklin Institute Journal (1928)

And then there are the pre-chapter quotations that make me feel stupid, as if I missed the one critical day of 11th grade where they taught us what it means. (I feel that way when I encounter Ezra Pound poems that open with something in Greek, in the Greek alphabet, without a translation.)

If we want to describe what happens in an atomic event, we have to realize that the word "happens" can apply only to the observation, not to the state of affairs between two observations.

Physics and Philosophy (1958)

Which is why I find this one from Feynman so refreshingly straightforward:

A philosopher once said, "It is necessary for the very existence of science that the same conditions always produce the same results." Well, they don't!

The Character of Physical Law (1965)

A guide (on surviving computer science grad school) by Ronald Azuma even recommends that grad students pepper their research updates with such quotations. It begins, "To know the road ahead, ask those coming back. -Chinese proverb."

Aw, heck, NPR isn't all bad. If you're interested in entrepreneurship, this is a feature about our chairman, featuring yours truly somewhere after 4m:20sec. (RealPlayer)


Next on Fav's blog...


You should be spared from further exposure to my lack of coherence in this blog post, so, have a good evening. (Hah! An optics pun!) But not until you heed Not Ted's advice and spend an hour on the website for the comedy group The Lonely Island.


ps I hear it's de-lurking week in the blog world. Hey, if you read this thing once in a while, feel free to introduce yourself.

09 January 2006

Elizabeth Bishop

Are you familiar with the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop? If you've taken any English classes in college, you probably have. I majored in electrical engineering, so the one English course I took ("Modern Poetry," credit/D/Fail, nonetheless) really opened my eyes. It's a little embarassing that I took a whole class on modern poetry and found myself responding to only one poet and then acting like I've discovered something no one else knew about -- okay, two if you count T.S. Eliot -- it's painful literary naivete, like if you came back to NYC after visiting a farm in Illinois and told your friends, "I had eggs! Have you ever had 'eggs'? They are so incredibly good! And these charming people, they live in real barns!"

But tonight as I sip my TheraFlu, I thought you might enjoy these two poems anyhow:

Filling Station


A note about "Casabianca." I had the misfortune of being asked to pick a poem to discuss with the class recitation section on the same day our professor listened in - the poor T.A.! He was very polite, and didn't laugh hysterically at my mis-pointed analysis. Instead he suggested I find a basic primer on learning the alphabet that was from England. Never found out what he meant by that. Do any of you? Honest, I want to know. In return I'll answer the electrical engineering question of your choice.

The only thing that would've let me enjoy the class more would have been if someone took me aside and showed me examples of good analytical essays about poems so that I had something to model the term paper after. What did I know? I spent four years in the basement of Becton Engineering Lab with a soldering iron amidst concrete block walls. Glad I took it Cr/D/F, and I'm glad MH lent me his Bishop term paper (yes, on different poems.) Yikes!


ps Hm, an article about what it's like to sit in section of a Yale English class. Maybe I shouldn't feel so bad.

pps Bostonians: some of the bricks in the floor of the Davis Sq. T-station are engraved with her poetry. Never found them.

06 January 2006

Octopi? Tattoos?


Here's a link from GeekPress to a BBC article, "100 things we didn't know this time last year." Two examples?

19. The = sign was invented by 16th Century Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde, who was fed up with writing "is equal to" in his equations. He chose the two lines because "noe 2 thynges can be moare equalle." (Is that true???)

29. When faced with danger, the octopus can wrap six of its legs around its head to disguise itself as a fallen coconut shell and escape by walking backwards on the other two legs, scientists discovered.

And "Ted" pointed me to a neat story about geek tattoos, including some of the worst transistor symbols I've seen: Revenge of the Tattooed Nerds. I really like the pixellated video game character tattoos! (Don't worry, J-Fav.)


04 January 2006

What is your dangerous idea?

"Edge" asks 100+ intellectuals to answer that question here. Some responses, without the accompanying brief essays, are:

  • Paul Bloom (Psychologist, Yale): "mental life has a purely physical basis"
  • Bart Kosko (Prof. EE, USC): "most bell curves have thick tails" (with graphs!)
  • Jamshed Bharucha (Prof. Psych., Tufts): "the more we discover about cognition and the brain, the more we will realize that education as we know it does not accomplish what we believe it does"
  • Daniel Dennett (Philosopher, Tufts): "There aren't enough minds to house the population explosion of memes." "...Thanks to our incessant and often technically brilliant efforts, and our apparently insatiable appetites for novelty, we have created an explosively growing flood of information, in all media, on all topics, in every genre..."

(2005's question was, "What do you believe is true but cannot prove?)


A paperless "anywhere" to-do list & reminder service

Hi -

I have an awful memory & am 800 places at once. My to-do list is spread across my whiteboard, pieces of paper, two notebooks, and e-mails that I send to myself at night.

But there's hope! There's a better way! There's "Backpack"!

I have been using this for... well... just a day, but I really like it. Presuming you have a decent browser it should work fine for you.

Backpack (it's free for small stuff)


02 January 2006

2006: It'll be Good

No, I don't have anything to say relative to the title; just trying to stack our cards in our favor.

I've purposely taken an impersonal tone in this blog. If I hadn't, I'd say a lot about 2005, which brought G-Fav and J-Fav some wonderful "ups" that were punctuated by several difficult "downs." We are thankful for our friends and family that shared all of it with us.

[Thoughtful pause...]

Here's to starting 2006 with something humorous -- a short piece on McSweeny's that was the first thing to make me laugh online this year: "Truly Groundbreaking Advertising Ideas." (Warning: my sense of humor tends to be... obtuse.) And the second thing to make me laugh: "Stories Ending With 'Long Story Short' That Could Actually Use Some Elaboration."

[Another thoughtful pause... gratuitous hyperlinks ahead...]

Santa was good to me & supported my new and unanticipated interest in video games. I have been enjoying a new Nintendo DS, playing Castlevania at the Diesel, and reading the 1Up.com blog of the day and "TV" show at home. I think what interests me is how pixel count isn't necessarily related to how much fun a game system is. I've been offsetting this by trying to read one chapter of Feynman's Lectures each night, which I recommend to anyone interested in that stuff.

Here's to 2006. Here's to hoping you each have why-didn't-I-think-of-that ideas like the kid who made close to $1 million by setting up a webpage and selling the space at $1/pixel. Check it out: www.milliondollarhomepage.com.