29 July 2006
We're Here, We're on Fire, Get Used to It: Brief humor piece on McSweeneys.
Pandora: 12 hours later the free personalized Internet radio station is still great fun. Feel free to check out my stations using favalora (at) gmail.com .
SIGGRAPH 2006: Computer graphics conference, expo, art gallery, and emerging technologies haven. Plus: a teapot exhibit (an explanation for the non-graphics people).
Aside: Grr. On Mac OS X 10.3.9 with Firefox 1.0.7 & Blogger, why do the following two errors happen nearly every time I post? (1) Adding a hyperlink sometimes injects a tiny icon into the composition pane and spew span code gunk into the HTML? and (2) returning to a saved Draft yields nested composition panes with wacko scrollbars?
The Best American Short Stories of the Decade (ed. John Updike): Wonderful presnt from N&R. [Amazon]
The Mind Map Book (T. Buzan, B. Buzan): Purchased @ B&N last night in case there's something to this stuff. At the moment it seems like replacing indented outlines with radial graphs, but the reader is scolded for thinking that. I can see how the added dimensions of color, texture, etc. help the note-maker. Want to try it. Am put off that the word "Map" in the title is followed by a registered trademark symbol.
What a tokhes! Online reference of common Yiddish words so that I may emulate my grandma for Toby.
Want a turkey leg with that? The only thing better than a symposium on holography is a symposium on holography held in various castles in Wales. The 7th Int'l. Symposium on Display Holography. Blog with photos - of famous folk wearing medieval garb.
Note to self: Watt, S. J., Akeley, K., Ernst, M. O., & Banks, M. S. (2005). Focus cues affect perceived depth. Journal of Vision, 5(10), 834-862.
Illegal Wireless Hotspot Hacks. Spoofing TMobile, etc. Reason to be cautious when online @ your local cafe.
This is a really good one: Arthur Schopenhauer's "Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten - The Art of Controversy." A list and discussion of techniques to be mindful of when arguing (Generalize your Opponent's Specific Statements, Conceal your Game, Claim Victory Despite Defeat, State a False Syllogism).
Have a good weekend. 90F here in New England.
28 July 2006
Peter Gabriel? Richard Shindell? Underworld? Sabbath?
Try it out.
27 July 2006
Yes, our favorite gourmande, (the Travel Channel's) Anthony Bourdain, did Quebec.
Note to self: Au Pied de Cochon, bastion of foie (website, review), and la Banquise (for poutine, which Bourdain visits "to experience this conceptually nightmarish, but thoroughly wonderful gastronomic trainwreck.") [poutine reviews, incl. Banquise]
I miss Montreal.
By the way - and this always catches my eye when walking down Ste. Catherine - what are those lips on that billboard? Here is a Flickr photo. And another. Canadians? Anyone know?
23 July 2006
- What should I do with the upcoming free afternoon, weekend, month, professional life...?
- What fun dinner can I cook?
- [Regarding problem X], how can I [blah]?
- What gifts might J-Fav like?
Rather than starting from scratch each time these questions pop into your head, it might be interesting to resume from where you left off last time.
There is a class of visualization / note-taking software called "mind-mapping" or "thought-mapping" software. WikiPedia describes as mind map as follows:
It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.
So, Dear Readers, have any of you used any of - and can you comment on:
- FreeMind (free, Java) [screenshots]
- ...or any of the many, many packages listed on WikiPedia.
20 July 2006
Hey, linguists and ethnomusicologists (or, "What's on the gold record sent with the Voyager spacecraft?")
If you built a spacecraft that might be intercepted somewhere . . . out there, what cultural artifacts would you include with it?
The late Carl Sagan headed an effort to include audio recordings of greetings in a multitude of languages, as well as all sorts of imagery, onboard the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The data were encoded on a gold "record," along with a stylus and visual instructions on how to decode them.
For a short time, a wonderful book and dual-CD set were available in bookstores with all of the imagery, music, and spoken language. I find it fascinating; the first picture is a circle, since it's easy for the (uh) aliens to calibrate their decoders to it. They are taught the symbols of our arithmetic, as well as indications of what a "meter" and a "second" are. From there, they are taught about our biochemistry - DNA - the periodic table, solar system, where babies come from, what our occupations look like, what animals look like, etc. (The scientists used a funny typeface that put weird serifs on the lowercase "h," presumably in case the decoding was noisy.)
It's it neat that this single slide contains enough information to let someone (something?) decode the notation of our basic math? It's like all of second and third grade compressed into one image.
It's still protected by copyright, but you can hear and see samples of it on JPL's website.
- Introduction to the Golden Record.
- Multiple language recordings. Greetings from Earth in 55 languages, such as Korean, Burmese, Japanese, and Marathi. The out-of-print CD also has greetings from whales.
- The globe's representative music. If your library has it, you can hear (and read about the academic struggle of choosing) representitive music of our planet. The songs are listed here - Javanese gamelan, Bach, Chuck Berry... (no, BB, no Aphex Twin).
- The whole earth, in a few pictures. The illustrations I mentioned that are supposed to paint as complete a picture of our arithmetic, chemistry, biology, and scope of daily lives are sampled here.
18 July 2006
Boston Globe article about - as luck would have it - the two cafes I frequent, the Diesel Cafe and 1369 - and how their character is changing because of folks who sit for hours typing away on laptops. Having bought zero or one drinks. Or carrying it in from Starbucks. I found the "forum" (discussion) sort of interesting, too.
"The Coming Technological Singularity"
Those in the Know point to mathematician / sci-fi author Vernor Vinge as a particularly deep thinker about the future of technology. Evidently, his "The Coming Technological Singularity" is a classic (at least as much as something from 1993 can be a classic). It is a 20-minute read, in unformatted plain ol' non-HTML ASCII. Somehow that added to the enjoyment for me.
Here's a snippet:
Well, maybe it won't happen at all: Sometimes I try to imagine the symptoms that we should expect to see if the Singularity is not to develop. There are the widely respected arguments of Penrose  and Searle  against the practicality of machine sapience. In August of 1992, Thinking Machines Corporation held a workshop to investigate the question "How We Will Build a Machine that Thinks" . As you might guess from the workshop's title, the participants were not especially supportive of the arguments against machine intelligence. In fact, there was general agreement that minds can exist on nonbiological substrates and that algorithms are of central importance to the existence of minds. However, there was much debate about the raw hardware power that is present in organic brains. A minority felt that the largest 1992 computers were within three orders of magnitude of the power of the human brain. The majority of the participants agreed with Moravec's estimate  that we are ten to forty years away from hardware parity. And yet there was another minority who pointed to  , and conjectured that the computational competenceGraph Design for Eye and Mind
of single neurons may be far higher than generally believed. If so,
our present computer hardware might be as much as _ten_ orders of
magnitude short of the equipment we carry around in our heads. If this
is true (or for that matter, if the Penrose or Searle critique is
valid), we might never see a Singularity. Instead, in the early '00s
we would find our hardware performance curves beginning to level off
-- this because of our inability to automate the design work needed to
support further hardware improvements. We'd end up with some _very_
powerful hardware, but without the ability to push it further.
Commercial digital signal processing might be awesome, giving an
analog appearance even to digital operations, but nothing would ever
"wake up" and there would never be the intellectual runaway which is
the essence of the Singularity. It would likely be seen as a golden
age ... and it would also be an end of progress. This is very like the
future predicted by Gunther Stent. In fact, on page 137 of ,
Stent explicitly cites the development of transhuman intelligence as a
sufficient condition to break his projections.
An upcoming book by Stephen M. Kosslyn about how our knowledge of psychology can improve our ability to make better graphs. [Amazon]
I Wish All Book Reviews Were Like This
I can see my literary friends cringing, but... Here's a passage from a book about medical imaging technology.
[really, check it out]
[no, really, this review will sound dopey without it]
Here's my favorite Amazon.com review of that book:
Direct visualization and personalized self-testing will replace current indirect poke-and-guess diagnostics. Docs will be thrown out of work. "Geeks are at the gates" of medicine.
Man-On-the-Street, Guy-Just-As-Intimidated-and-Ignorant-As-You-Are holds your hand for a walkthrough of medicine's thrilling futuristic Jetsonesque Road Ahead.
Mainly heart attack, stroke, cancer. Snippets on obesity and others.
Various sorts of new digitally assisted internal 3D scanning and modeling methods, automated scan picture interpretation systems, computerized gene screening, etc. Basically it is CAM - Computer Assisted Medicine.
Silicon Valley bravura.
Covers (in passing) the ridiculous Lipitor scam (much better treated in Abramson's "Overdosed America : The Broken Promise of American Medicine").
"Medicine is not vertically integrated or horizontally integrated - it's not integrated at all!"
Would've worked better as a medium-to-long magazine article in say Vanity Fair or Esquire or Men's Health. And some well-chosen pictures would've been worth 10,000 words.
Digital technology (along with money of course) is certainly the god of Kessler's idolatry, that comes through clear enough. This treatment of health care issues is about a quarter inch deep, but not a bad starting point for further amateur reading. Anyway most disease is probably psycho-spiritual - all this other stuff is just business.
15 July 2006
Knew I'd break my resolution regarding not posting Toby-photos!
Today, Toby and I headed upstairs to play some drums. (He seemed to like it before he was born; with great predictability he'd kick to Brazilian-style drumming.) Unfortunately, our house is about 90 degrees this summer. He had a lot of fun for the first 20 minutes and then sort of lost it. Maybe, though, it's just that John Bonham is channeling through him.
Here's a brief (but unfortunately long-download) link to a movie of him jamming out.
13 July 2006
Man flies through Houston with HALF A BOMB. From the Houston Chronicle (seen on boingboing.net):
The report states that a man with a Middle Eastern name and a ticket for a Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta shook his head when screeners asked if he had a laptop computer in his baggage, but an X-ray machine operator detected a laptop.
A search of the man's baggage revealed a clock with a 9-volt battery taped to it and a copy of the Quran, the report said. A screener examined the man's shoes and determined that the "entire soles of both shoes were gutted out."
No explosive material was detected, the report states. A police officer was summoned and questioned the man, examined his identification, shoes and the clock, then cleared him for travel, according to the report.
Fry / Reas "Processing"
simple computer languge to prototype visual ideas
try the exhibit / samples
See the Internals of Atari 2600 Cartridges
Code and graphics, again Ben Fry
(on Windows? when the hi-res image shrinks, just hover over it until the hamburger-looking icon appears in the lower right. click it to zoom.)
Simon Greenwold is a Cool Guy
Miniature LED animator blocks: "LittleVision"
Cheap webcam / fridge-based 3-D object scanner: "EyeBox"
I like the dynamic design work of Peter Cho, former Media Lab-ite
A Collection of Links to Advances in 3-D Graphics and 3-D Displays
"Trends: 3D" from "rb" (Hmm, what a neat and simple photo viewer -- try it out, and there looks like a download link in the bottom right)
Ah, a blast from the past. The Saybrook dining hall. College is definitely wasted on the young.
g-fav, who needs to remember not to imbibe Starbucks "grande banana coffee-based banana frappachino chip with espresso shot" at 9.30pm
12 July 2006
According to Wikipedia, it's difficult to translate from Romanian, and several Flash animation parodies and fake translations have appeared on the web. Have a few minutes to spare, and want to see Japanese animation of Ronald McDonald and animals throwing Picasso art at each other?
Well, click right here, my friend, to hear a wacked-out version of Dragostea Din Tei, "Maiyahi" by Ikari. I'm curious what N-h-Movement, R-Bone, B-Fly, and J-Gavel, our linguist friends make of it. (Okay, at least that's a stab at your rap names.)
ps Yeah, I removed the pet peeves.
08 July 2006
"Oh, no, not that again. I don't want to hear about computers becoming more "intelligent" than humans by 2030, or whatever."
Here's an abridged text that covers a lot of the same ground as the hefty The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kurzweil. Learn about exponential and super-exponential progress in semiconductors, DNA transcription, and data communication speeds -- and how we should expect computers with superhuman intelligence and future virtual-reality experiences provided by nanobots coursing through our bloodsteam.
However, I'm not comfortable with Mr. Kurzweil's calculations about "the processing power of the brain" from which he extrapolates the date at which a $1,000 PC will be as "intelligent" as a person. (200 computations per second per synapse? Huh? I'm not sure what qualifies as a computation in a neural system, especially when information is transmitted with a variety of chemicals that vary in data-stream character based on your scale of examination -- pulse-coding, spikes, continuous potentials, chemical gradients...).
The online essay will get you the main points of the Singularity idea. An excerpt:
- We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2023.
- We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for one cent around the year 2037.
- We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2049.
- We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for one cent around the year 2059.
Listen to Some Very Smart People this Morning
Whether you believe in the Singularity or not, Stanford hosted a related conference with very thoughtful participants. Speakers included Doug Hofstadter (of GBE fame), K. Eric Drexler (nano-machine technologist) and Max More (the psuedonym, I assume, of a leader of the Extropy Institute which frightens J-Fav to no end).
Listen - for free with and without "network hiccups" - to these insightful and creative folks at The Singularity Summit at Stanford website. I liked that Max More pointed out that super-intelligence is different than super-wisdom; that is, an intelligent being might not be a wise being.
Speaking of... Thoughts
Enjoying Ron Hale-Evans's Mind Performance Hacks, through or about which I found this book: How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think.
By Lion Kimbro. Isn't Lion Kimbro a cool name?
Making Factories and Computers with DNA
Article from LiveScience here.
ps Rest assured, I stopped watching Rachel Ray a few days after my blog-rant several months ago. Regardless, one commenter pointed me to a pro-RR site that referred to my rant with astonishment. Hah! This is just wacky. Ok, you win. I give up. Rather than wasting my time complaining about RR, I waste my time blogging about links to bizarre science.
04 July 2006
MySpace link to entire song, streaming
ps I think it's funny that typing "half an acre" into google returns: half (1 acre) = 2 023.42821 m2
pps Hmm, googling "pi seconds in centuries" confirms that it is indeed a nanocentury
ppps Did I ruin the mood of that song yet?