24 November 2008

Fives: Ideas for Geek Gifts

1. A solar-powered, bug-like robot kit that follows the principles of "BEAM" robotics. Basically, it ain't programmed, and stores up energy to hop from place to place. Try Solarbotics, Ltd.

2. Remote-controlled mini helicopter for $25. Air Hogs Apache Havoc Helicopter (Target / Amazon)

3. Fiction by Douglas Coupland, Neal Stephenson, or if you can get your hands on a copy, "Zeraus"'s Daemon. (That last one should be back in print in a few months at normal paperback prices.)

4. The Tenori-On (US$1,200).

5. Something Arduino.

Bonus. A t-shirt that says "Initech" but not this t-shirt that says "meh."


23 November 2008

Fives: Art for bit-heads

1. Anna Hepler's "Spin" documenting the motion of several hand-made spheres. At the simplest level, it looks like life imitating computer graphics, instead of the other way around. I wish I could see "Homage to Uccello" in person again, in which she captures the fleeting beauty of large collections of moving points... like fireflies or fireworks.

2. I posted this several years ago, but I still get a kick out of it. It's (Niklas Roy's?) "Graphikdemo," a green wireframe teapot suspended inside a Commodore PC that is rotated by black motors in response to keypresses. Seriously, check this out. I didn't know this guy also did "InternationalDanceParty," a weird boombox-robot that gets the party started.

3. C'mon, you don't like glitch art? (Sorry, yes, I've linked to this in the past, too. But all these years later I still love it - not sure if it's because it reminds me of my TRS-80 Color Computer, or something deeper.)

4. Game Mod, about modifying 8-bit games, or something. Give it one minute until giving up.

5. neural.it: "media art, e-music, hacktivism."


22 November 2008

Four market downturns at various scales

Hello -

I produced a few plots tonight of various indices for the crash of 1929, 1987, the 2001 dotcom bubble, and the current crisis. I'm not drawing any conclusions, they're just data. I was particularly curious about the timescale of how long it took to recover from each crash.

By the way, am I the only person who has a frustrating time dragging images to the location where I want them within Blogger? They always load at the top of the post, regardless of where my cursor is.

Here we are, now. (In all cases you can click the photos to zoom in.)

And here is the dotcom bubble bursting. Although WikiPedia puts it at 2000 - and judging from the chart it's right - I recall it being in the first quarter of 2001. Well, I suppose the dotcom crash was 2000, followed by what felt like a rally, only to encounter the telecom bubble bursting in 2001. The NASDAQ never did reach those heights again, right? (The Dow is in red, NASDAQ in blue.) This is the value of a dollar invested Jan. 1, 2000:

I find the brief uptick regions interesting. I imagine for each that we were all hoping, "Hey, this is it, we're coming back to normal again."

1987 - Do you remember "Black Monday"? I was in 8th grade at the time, engaged in a school stock market simulation. It was a perfect educational opportunity for us, but also probably nightmarish for our parents. I also recall that winning teams had picked DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation).

When newspapers show you stock charts, they usually position the y-axis around the region of activity. It looks quite different with a zero-centered y-axis. (Actually, real traders look at this stuff on a log chart, which is better at expressing % changes.)

See? Here's October 1987 but with the y-axis on 0:

Here is what your dollar would be worth if you had invested in the Dow on Oct. 1, 1987. I find those undulations interesting and would like to look at various sectors to see which are leading or lagging indicators...

Let's follow that dollar for a couple of years. Looks like the right strategy was to hold on:

We hear pundits referring to the crash of 1929. What did it look like?

...and here is the Dow's struggle to return to that value:

Quick, G-Fav, say something positive!


21 November 2008

Fives: (Newborn Edition) Ideas for Some Things New Parents Actually Need (Beyond, say, food and diapers)

1. The blue 65 cm yoga bouncey-ball, which has been the never-fail crying-stopping-solution in our house for two kids now. Plus, its spherical matte-blue perfection has an eerie alien aura to it. It looks like someone imported our house into one of those computer 3-D drawing tools and put a Phong-shaded primitive in our living room. I call it "unit sphere." Note: filling it to the specified diameter is tricky.

2. Tiny Love Gymini play mat, which we enjoy with more enthusiasm than just "tiny love."

3. Touchpoints - Birth to Three, by Dr. Brazelton of Children's Hospital Boston. And a good family medical book, like the one the Mayo Clinic puts out, as well as the proper thermometers, etc.

4. Do some research on good pediatricians a few months ahead of time. Actually meet with them, and chat with parents.

5. Before coming home, consider stocking your freezer with reheatable meals. Or, see if a friend will ask friends to contribute. In our case (thanks BC!) the cooking favor was paired with a request to please stay no longer than 15 minutes while the family settles in.

Bonus. Check ahead of time for the new-mom (or dad) playgroups - these are the people you and your newborn will get to know over many years. In the Boston area, Isis Maternity is a good connecting-point for such things.


ps Re: 1 - Or Gouraud, whatever.

19 November 2008

Fives: Goosebumpy commercials

1. Apple, "Think Different"

2. Sony Bravia, "bouncing balls" (w/ Jose Gonzales's cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats")

3. Nike Golf - "Never" - Tiger Woods or Nike "Awake"

4. Again with the Nike - "Fate"

5. Not a commercial, but this is such stupefyingly good snare-drumming - especially the first two minutes - that I don't know why everyone doesn't rush out and become a drummer: Blast's "Battery Battle."


Fives: In-Geek Shibboleths

Simply use any of the following and the others will know you're one of them.

1. Epic fail

2. !!1!!one!

3. Offhand use of: {orthogonal, overclock, -endian, isotropic, "plugh" or "xyzzy", "It's a jump... to conclusions... mat.", /dev/null followed by laughter, pwned}

4. Significance associated with, or sense of "roundness" attributed to any of: {3.5 or 8, 4-40, 101 or 280, 555 or 741 or 3904, 632.8, 2600 (either), 4004, 65536}

5. Anything involving the non-existence of cake, e.g., "The cake is a lie." (*)

Bonus. Painting "Warren Robinett" on an actual Easter egg.

Feel free to add.


ps (Credit to Merlin Mann who does lists of fives.)

16 November 2008

An (overdue) art post

Hello -

Here are a few contemporary artists / photographers I thought you'd like. They were highlighted by Design is Kinky and I (heart) Photograph:

Fred Murman (see "Teasing my Puppy")

The exceedingly disturbing sculpture of Patricia Piccinini

Yes, that picture is done loading. Some awesome pixel-rich "Walm-Art" from Jonathan Lewis - ah, yes, retail giants as faceless-whatevers.


14 November 2008

DJIA since depression - two snapshots

Not drawing any conclusions here, just showing you some data. We keep hearing comparisons to the stock market crash of the Great Depression, but have you seen the charts?

This is a (linear, not log) plot of the DJIA since 1935:

And this is a zoomed-in portion from 1935 to 1950. Yes, 1950:


07 November 2008

Despite, well, the economy tanking and all, New England young high tech cos are alive and well

Hello -

This morning I went to an interesting breakfast discussion for tech entrepreneurs that was organized by tech columnist Scott Kirsner and graciously hosted by ZINK Imaging's CEO, Wendy Caswell, here in Bedford, Mass. The missions? (1) Share what we're doing, particularly in the consumer electronics space, and (2) keep chunking along towards Scott's vision of reaching out to students before they flee MIT for California's warm coasts and increasingly imaginary pots of VC gold.

For your keeping abreast of the latest-and-greatest tech stuff, take a look at:

ZINK's zero-ink full-color photo paper, as used in instant print cameras. I'll keep it at that, under the presumption that what we learned this morning should be off-the-record.

WiTricity's efforts to commercialize "wireless power transfer" methods for, say, keeping your gadgets charged. The key scientist won a Genius Grant for this MIT-based work. Read more, including real science papers, here.

Tenebraex Corp's optical products, such as nanotube-based optical coatings that prevent reflections. Their President, Peter Jones, also deserves special attention for using that Latin-esque character that combines "a" with "e." (I can hear my friend Jim Java asking why there's no octothorpe or interrobang. Go ahead, look those up.)

Tired of paper cluttering up your house? Pixily's Prasad Thammineni to the rescue!

Do you want to know when your favorite artists are touring near you while you still have a chance to see them? Check out tourfilter.

And my company, Actuality Medical, has been quickly and quietly doing a certain something that will soon be able to give doctors a big helping hand at treating prostate cancer.


ps Oh, and no, CNN's "holograms" were NOT HOLOGRAMS. Insight Media's Art Berman explains more in a brief piece in Display Daily.

03 November 2008

Info-graphic motion graphics

Hello -

Somewhere between 11pm and midnight, I sit quietly with the computer. Do I create? No, I consume. Here are a few neat info-graphic motion graphics for you to enjoy.

Royksopp, "Remind Me" (who did the graphics on this one?)

Squarepusher, "My Red Hot Car"

And, for good measure, the opening credits from Mad Men: