31 July 2007

Bukowski Charlie Brown and... Fourier

Some definitely NSFW humor which I provide a link to with great hesitance
Heck, I've never even read Bukowski and I thought these were funny. If Bukowski wrote Peanuts.

A plea to my mathematically-smarter friends
It's amazing what an expensive education and two courses in signal processing didn't buy me -- would someone please tell me what's up with the two different Fourier transforms, the one with -i in the exponent and the one with +i in the exponent? (Look, I even had the decency to italicize them.)

An open letter to engineering textbook authors everywhere
Alright, enough's enough. I hereby decree:
  • Hear-ye! Hear-ye! Usage of xi and zeta are forbidden! I mean, I've been busily copying down xis and etas, freakishly enjoying the restful ease of eta, until I realized you could just do F-sub-x and F-sub-y. C'mon.
  • Stop with that weird Germanic calligraphic scary font already; I can't even tell an "F" from a "K" without a glossary. (This stuff. Well, heck, I guess that's my answer.)
  • I guess you can keep mixing "v" and nu on the same page, since it's some sort of you-must-be-this-tall-to-enter rite of passage for geeks to see if they can tell the difference, but really. You're leaving an awful lot of trust in your layout guy with that one.
And now the realization that no one writing a book anywhere will have seen this...


29 July 2007


"Pownce" : Yet Another Social Networking Site
Yawn. I mean, isn't this photo enough to prevent you from being another one of the folks salivating over more of this stuff? I wish there was a "Web 2.0 antidote site" that decreased my irritation over these new-bubble sites. Hah, hah -- here's a snarky post, "Facebook Bankruptcy," from a pendulum swinging the other way.

America's Top Ten Seafood Shacks
An article at Epicurious.

A: It's Like Jumping into another Circle in the Venn Diagram
(Q: How has your television-watching experience changed since becoming a parent?) Sesame Street's Alan Muraoka, contemporary proprietor of Mr. Hooper's.

Songs for Ice Cream Trucks
Article from BoingBoing, including links to "why do ice cream trucks play the songs they do?" and pieces from an artist writing specifically for ice cream trucks. Should I be concerned that I find this compelling?

Letters, Brochures, and Email
...insight from Seth Godin on their (marketing) differences.

Old man, take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you, except you have weirder hobbies
Found this funny piece @ Heaneyland! while searching for Neil Young's name, whose song has been lodged in my head all day. Speaking of Ohrwurms, The Animators have unfortunately disbanded. Now I have no one to yell at when "Nice Guy" and "Medicine" thumb their little 16th-note noses at me while lodged in a neural infinite loop, unless Devon's using Noank to subliminally influence us all. Mua-hah-hah-hah!

Hey, Nintendo DS and Wii Owners
I play perhaps 1 hour of video games every two weeks. Do you agree with various reviews that suggest we check out Kororinpa: Marble Mania (Wii) and Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)?

The Penicillin Method. So that's why our dining room table has been spotless.
"The new age of ignorance," [The Observer].
People Playing Chess on Roller Coasters [XKCD]. Anyone going to the September Meetup in Cambridge, MA?

(shakes arms rapidly as if shedding off water) - That's it, enough computer time.


27 July 2007

Gratuitous Toby Photo

(J-Fav's phone broke & she e-mailed me months of foggy but endearing cellphone snapshots of Toby.)


22 July 2007

Geocaching was fun!

After a couple of hours at geocaching.com and flipping through Geocaching for Dummies, J-Fav, Toby, and I decided to give it a try. It was great fun! (Yes, the experience broke right through my usual stick-in-the-mud inclinations about things like this.)

Here's the low-down: someone once realized it would just be cool to take a little box, put neat stuff inside, hide it somewhere, and then publicize its GPS coordinates to entice people to hunt for it & log their names on a little notebook inside. There must be thousands of objects scattered around the world.

We searched for caches near our ZIP code and found a bunch, ranked by difficulty. Each has a bunch of (potentially spoiler) notes from people who've found it, often in the 100s. We started with GCTANY, "Return to Tradition #4 - Snowbirds at Turkey Hill" because it's near our house, is reportedly kid-friendly, and seemed within our grasp.

It suggested where we park along a residential street and between which two houses to sort of walk up an embankment directly into the woods. I never would have known it was a portal into a reservation. We walked along with Toby in tow:

We walked up hills, down hills, told J-Fav and Toby to wait while I scouted some stuff out and... eventually our GPS coordinates matched the cache site. Now what?

We looked around wondering if we had gotten it right, and whether we'd ever be able to bring Toby out of the woods, when we found our first cache! No, I won't tell you where it was, but here's what it looks like on the outside:

That's a little tightly locked Tupperware container covered in camouflage tape. Inside were all manner of trinkets and a log book that we signed (as did Toby):

With that, we were bitten by the geocaching bug, tanked up with some ice coffee, and headed out to a second station located at a public park / beach site.

J-Fav honed right in on the location (wonder what the picnic-ers and volleyball players were thinking). Actually, it's dangerous to arouse the notice of the public ("muggles") in case they also dig up the cache & take it home without realizing it needs to stay put. Turns out that's what happened to us... an hour of looking, and we couldn't find it. We met two very nice other cachers there (walking by with GPSes) with 2000 finds under their belt -- and they agreed that it might've been stolen.

So if any of you are up to it, let me know. Really all that means is picking a few places that look fun, driving over there, and walking around a little to find hidden treasure.


21 July 2007


Have any of you ever gone geocaching?

J-Fav got us a portable Garmin eTrex Legend GPS for our... ah... dating anniversary... so that we could go out with Toby to try to find stuff that's been hidden. She figured it would key off my reliance on GPSes with her desire to actually get out of the house.

If you've ever done this, or have suggestions on a particular geocache around here that's somehow miraculously stroller-compatible, please comment.


ps Just finished Perrotta's Little Children, a suburban dystopia / summer-reading novel. [amazon.com] I liked it! I admit that I'm a slow and infrequent reader (I tend to browse nonfiction technical reference books more than actually, you know, reading something) - but J-Fav handed this one to me & nearly finished it in a single Amtrak business trip the other day. Actually, I noted two paragraphs I thought I'd share. The first because I just liked it. The other because I thought "Ted" would enjoy knowing that I didn't understand a word of it.

(p. 185)
Her first stop was Starbucks, a journey back in time she preferred to avoid whenever possible. For years after she stopped working there, just a glimpse of that tasteful beige-and-maroon interior -- the bags of featured coffee, the shelves full of upscale accessories, the customers lined up like addicts at a yuppie methadone clinic -- could throw off her whole day, stirring up a sediment of bad memories that otherwise lay dormant in her mental attic, covered by several protective layers of dust. (She used to feel the same way about her old high school, devising all sorts of elaborate detours to keep from having to lay eyes on it.) But she'd slept badly and was suffering from a low-level headache that only a serious dose of caffeine could cure.

(I love that "yuppie methadone clinic" thing. Anyway, for "Ted"'s amusement, this clip from p. 283:)
With nothing to lose, the Guardians went for broke on first down. Todd faked a handoff to Bart and lofted a bomb down the left sideline, overthrowing a wide-open DeWayne by a heartbreaking couple of inches. On second down, he completed a quick slant pass for a pickup of five. The Controllers blitzed on third down, forcing him to throw the ball away to avoid a sack.

yeah... Anyway, back to where I was in The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.

15 July 2007

Nerd Dating, Genetic machinery, Italian ice, NIN

Hello from unrelentingly swampy Boston-ish. Poor Toby has been up several times tonight, crying his eyes out instead of sleeping. We don't know if it's the heat or tension from all the stuff we did today... but pardon me if this post comes out haltingly.

In descending order of scientific worthiness,

How Organisms form from DNA (the whole Ontogeny thing)
I don't know a whit about molecular biology beyond what one picks up in the scientific press, but I've been reading the works of Stuart A. Kauffman, a researcher who studies "theoretical biology" -- using computer simulations to think about how genes and the proteins they express might act in generalized chemical networks.

A chapter regarding how-an-animal-gets-its-appearance-based-on-DNA-stuff (ontogeny), his book The Origins of Order makes a point along the lines of "natural selection is only part of the story... complex chemical networks have interesting properties on their own; heck, even simple systems can create some startlingly complex effects."

Here's how he puts it (quoting from p. 408, though that doesn't imply I read the previous 407 pages):

"Focusing attention on structural genes - that is, those coding for proteins - and simplifying to imagine each protein to be either present or absent in a cell, we find that there are at least 2^20,000 possible combinatorial patterns of gene expression. This is 10^6000, a number vastly larger that the number of hydrogen atoms in the known universe. It is the genomic regulatory system which constrains into useful behavior the patterns of gene activity during ontogeny. The problem, simply stated, is to understand how such coordination is achieved and how it could have evolved. The central tenet of the ensuing chapters is that many of the highly ordered properties of genomic regulatory systems are spontaneous, self-organized features of complex control systems which required almost no selection at all. Clearly, if much of the order we see in ontogeny reflects the natural properties of complex control systems, we must rethink evolutionary biology. Some of the sources of order lie outside selection."

Geek Dating
An online dating site for nerds: Sweetongeeks.com.

Facebook and other Web 2.0 Social blah-blah
Do you have pages on LinkedIn, Facebook, Friendster, and other places you've maybe forgotten? I finally realized that I've made no new connections due to these things, the privacy issue outweighs the upside potential (when I google my name, my LinkedIn profile appears -- and people can tell if you've browsed their profile!), and I'm getting friend-requests from people who I may've met once but kind of make me wonder if I'm just fodder for Rolodex-padding.

I've begun my retreat from these social networking sites by deactivating my Facebook account.

However, I'm still curious about sites that would increasing the chances of you, my friends, bumping into me when I'm out of the house. Like dodgeball. However, I doubt anyone would appreciate getting insta-TXTing along the lines of, "Gregg's at The Diesel." "Gregg's at Mass MoCA." "Gregg's handing out $5 bills at the local playground..." Or would you?

Hey! I've been duped by an 8-year old!
We went to a local "water park" today with Toby, which really is a sort of schoolyard playground whose blacktop includes a few tiny geysers for kids to run around and get wet in. It was a little scary to have Mr. 15-month-old darting around a bunch of - what - 7th graders with buckets of water? - but he had fun.

The ice cream man came, and we got some goods including our own "Tweetie Bird" ice cream so we could assess if it was as creepy as this one. (It wasn't.) A little boy sauntered over to me and asked, in a shy voice, "Hi. Um... my mom forgot to bring money with her today. Do you have any money so I can get some ice cream?"

He looked very sad.

I said, "What do you need, a dollar?"


I opened my wallet and found that the smallest thing I had was a $5 bill. "All I have is this five. Why don't you bring me back the change?" J-Fav looked at me incredulously. I had assumed this sort of largesse would be up her alley, but had been overridden by the possibility that his mom didn't want him having ice cream, or he's diabetic, or...?


He trotted off and got a reddish Italian ice, and handed me change: $1.50. (A cup of ice is $3.50??? The ice cream truck hands out $1 coins??? That's like... fake money... right?). Then he sauntered off and hid behind a fence somewhere, and disappeared. I could hear the family next to us wondering, "Where is that kid's mom?"

I've been had. But that's okay.

My Thoughtful, Verbose, and Generally Positive Review of a NIN CD
I got the new Nine Inch Nails album, "Year Zero," and I like it. I must be in the mood for hearing the industrial sounds of digital noise masquerading as drill presses, razor blades, and Trent Reznor screaming his conspiracy theories. Makes good driving-around-at-night music.

I think my future as a music reviewer is limited.

A Question for You, Dear Reader
Returning to a previous topic, have any of you had experiences with a "social networking" site that resulted in any, say, social networking?


13 July 2007

Eerie scenes from Sesame Street?

BoingBoing had a great link today to a series of video clips from Sesame Street that people - you know, grown adults - recall scaring the heck out of them.

The operatic grapefruit? The "yip yip" monsters with typewriter? Check it out!


10 July 2007

Akiyoshi's Illusion Pages
This picture should look like it's rotating.

CNN / AP - "Man Flies 193 Miles in Lawn Chair"
...with helium balloons. I actually kind of liked this article, enough such that the wild "funnynews" banner kind of killed it.

"The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them."
The other day I recalled a June, 1995 interview of Brian Eno in Wired magazine, one with bright yellow crosshatches on the spine. Ever see someone really fit on television and then temporarily vow to exercise from that point on? Brian Eno's interviews usually make me vow to start thinking more deeply so I'll have interesting things to say. (interview)

The Dangerous Book for Boys
Jenn and I bought this book for Toby (or ourselves) - we just couldn't put it down. It's a collection of... well, check it out.

You'll Laugh so Hard Your Glasses will Need Re-Taping
Safiri recently noted "cuteoverload.com". The sites thefairest.info, thefunniest.info, and thecutest.info are maintained by Randall Munroe of xkcd + worth visiting. You can rank photos & see the current results.

Thanks for reading. Now get back to attaching balloons to your lawn chair.

-g- "I don't get steampunk even though it saturates the sites I read" fav

05 July 2007

Summer Internship in (Stereo) Computer Graphics


Seeking a bright, creative, 3-D / OpenGL-savvy computer scientist for an unpaid summer internship at Actuality Systems (Bedford, MA) in the field of stereoscopic and volumetric 3-D graphics as applied to cancer treatment imaging.

Your mission is to create a demonstration of a high-impact cancer-treatment application in a stereoscopic display, working alongside our team of engineers and medical device researchers. The results of your work will be shown to expert clinicians in the field of oncology.

This really is a rare opportunity. Please email me at favalora [at] gmail.com to learn more.


03 July 2007

Reverse Chauvinism, and...

Poorly-worded parental interlude:

"Chauvinism" is too strong of a word
, so perhaps my English-major friends can help out with something that describes what I encounter every now and then as a dad-with-toddler out on the town without mom. I've learned that Barnes & Noble is an enlightened store with a changing table in the men's room. I've also learned that very few other stores follow suit! Whereas most ladies' rooms have a "Koala Station" - or at least a table - there are so few in men's rooms that my solo days with T-Fav are encumbered with planning the day around changes. (For those 50% of you who have never used a men's room before, they usually bear a strong resemblance to the gas station waiting room described in this poem.) I'm just not used to quick changes on a park bench or in the car. Ah, J-Fav is such an expert.

Also, I'm slowly becoming convinced that lone dad-and-toddler pairs appear... I don't know... suspicious? shady? too strange a sight? at predominantly mom-with-toddler playgrounds. Yes, this is an overgeneralization, but in these Boston suburbs I often return home to tell J-Fav that smiling and saying "good morning!" to the playground moms results in my being ignored or avoided half the time.

Sometimes, T-Fav wanders over to where other kids are playing. Usually, everything continues along as before. But I can't but feel stung when their moms call over to them that it's time to go home, or play on the swings, or generally be where I'm not.

Actually, I get this. I could imagine acting the same way. Who's this guy? Why is he alone? But it is a very small taste of what it feels like to be treated differently.

Okay, Time for Some Diversionary Links Whilst Our Brains are Wandering on this Holiday

I like this webpage's design: Allen Institute for Brain Science.

An irate handwritten airplane passenger complaint.

"Your Guide to Never Feeling Tired Again," on WebMD, as pointed to by LifeHacker.

Three brief and astounding! video bits of Derren Brown's power of suggestion (thanks to Tahnan). (1) Paying with paper. (2) Russian Scam. (3) Subliminal Advertising.

Joseph Cornell
I strongly recommend the Joseph Cornell retrospective at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. They had - what - 100? 200? of his works together in one exhibit. I could have spent several days there, staring at pieces that I've only seen in books.

Happy 4th,