Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

It's all over the Net today. Here's a link to the Vanity Fair article that broke the news yesterday.

View from a Lime

Originally uploaded by metamerist.


If you're into Internet visualizations, check out William Drenttel's latest post, Maps of Cyberspace, at Design Observer. Extremetech on Wireless USB. Raymond Chen on Patronage in Chicago Politics, One step closer to Fantastic Voyage with this Engadget article on yummy RC robotic bugs to explore your innards. And for a photoblog worthy of perusal,


My Y! Unlimited obsession continues. Discs I've heard recently that are at least worth noting... Singles by Travis, Songs to Learn and Sing by Echo and the Bunnymen, Faces Down by Sondre Lerch, the Vonnegutian-titled Welcome to the Monkey House by the Dandy Warhols, Performance and Cocktails by the Stereophonics, Wreck of the Day by Anna Nalick. Still waiting for the new Coldplay to arrive in its entirety.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions

If you've never read Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, I think you should (or at least add it to your Amazon wish list). The copy I own is thumbed and linked above; it also includes Joseph de la Vega's Confusión de Confusiones.

First published in 1841, Mackay's is the classic bubble book, and it covers notable historical "popular delusions" such as John Law & the Mississippi Scheme, the South Sea Bubble, the Tulip Bulb Bubble, etc. It doesn't cover "religious manias" because, writes Mackay, "a mere list of them alone would be sufficient to occupy a volume."

The book's back in my mind due to reflections on the Dot Com bubble and interest in the alleged ongoing housing bubble, which is frequently addressed by Dan Gillmor. The most notable recent development is a May 29th L.A. Times article beginning "The chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Assn. is worried enough about the torrid housing market to get out of it."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Social Network Analysis

Interesting work...

Mark Schmitt writes: "Eszter Hargittai at Crooked Timber has a post about her study on "Cross-Ideological Conversations Among Bloggers." She is trying to test Cass Sunstein's theory, in, that internet politics forms isolated communities of shared ideology, rather than broad conversations among people with different viewpoints."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Howard Anderson, ex-VC

In the new MIT Tech Review, Howard Anderson says goodbye to venture capital.

"Good-bye! We venture capitalists like to think of ourselves as giants striding across the technology landscape, showering money on terrific young entrepreneurs, adding value, creating jobs, nurturing real companies. We are financial samurai. But I am giving it up. Why?"


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hotel Olivedo

Hotel Olivedo
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Millions of Dozens of Markets

This March 9th Bnoopy post contains interesting commentary on search engine query distributions and hyper-segmentation. (HT: Evhead)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Knew That

"Scientists say they have located the parts of the brain that comprehend sarcasm - honestly..."


(HT: Panda's Thumb)


"This is my new project: a New Type Board. I named this software 'typedrawing.'"


via heerforceone,

Carbon nanotube displays

"The next generation of computer and television screens could be built using carbon nanotubes. Next week a prototype high-definition 10-centimetre flat screen made using this technology will be launched in Boston at the Society for Information Display conference..."

more at

Streaming Algorithms

Another link for Geomblog and this post on the Gödel Prize and Streaming Algorithms.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Blogifornia or Bust!

This Geomblog post contains "highly unscientific observations" but nonetheless interesting charts of major blog site statistics. It leaves me guessing the major factors determining the blog traffic indicated by the charts. Pre-election buzz? Rathergate induced public curiosity? There's not much to do when it's cold outside? Is the blogging gold rush waning? Etc. Like everyone else, I wonder how the blogosphere will ultimately shake out.

Note: While spell checking this post with Blogger's spell checker, I find it funny that it doesn't recognize the word 'blog' and suggests 'bloc' instead.

Update: Seems France wants to go with 'bloc' too.

Open Raw

Open letter to all of the major digital camera makers... via rawformat

The Amazing Mirror Tree

The Amazing Mirror Tree
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Chips Ahoy!

Links to a couple of ExtremeTech bits. AMD released the Geode LX, a new x86 chip that draws 0.9 watts. Looks great for a Directron-esque project. Also, details on the Xbox 360 GPU.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Imagining a Better Coffee Maker

I received a new coffee maker for my birthday. Even though it's very nice, top of the line, it still leaves me wondering if there isn't room for improvement. This post will be a brainstorm with that end in mind.

Given the design of our home, the natural place for a coffee maker is beneath our kitchen cabinets. Consequently, making coffee invariably entails filling up the carafe with water, sliding the coffee maker out from underneath the cabinets, pouring the water out of the carafe and into the maker and sliding the coffee maker back under the cabinets.

I wish there were some sort of removable reservior, one I could easily remove and fill with water. A successful design would eliminate all of the previous steps except for the step involving filling some container with water. Given that our cabinetry is standard construction, I'm willing to bet others contend with the same issues. I suppose I might be able to use the sprayer attached to the kitchen sink, but the idea really doesn't appeal to me.

A friend of mine related his wish for more products and appliances able to sync their times according to the atomic clock signal broadcast through the airwaves. Given how cheap today's self-setting travel alarms are, I can't imagine it would too expensive to include this technology in my ideal coffee maker. Why set devices that can set themselves?

Stepping back from the problem a bit, the biggest reason manufacturers seem to be including clocks in coffee makers is so that people can program to them have their coffee brewed and waiting for them at a certain time in the morning. I feel this is where there may be the greatest room for improvement. Why mess with trying to program times at all?

If I load my coffee maker up with water and reload the coffee grounds at night (say before midnight), but I don't brew any coffee, you can infer with virtually perfect accuracy that I want my coffee brewed in the morning. Why else would I load it in the evening? It should be trivial to build a coffee maker that knows the answer to the "Was the coffee maker filled with water the night before?" question.

Next, we're left with the question of what time I want my coffee. I think the easiest answer is simply a button on the coffee maker that's pressed to indicate when you would have liked to have had your coffee ready, as in a "Coffee now!" button.

Equipped with this "Coffee now!" button, the ideal coffee maker would necessarily be wrong the first day (it wouldn't do anything), but it would learn to do the right thing in a short time. Pressing the "Coffee now!" button would influence its next attempt to make coffee at the right time.

If I were to attack the problem in real life, I'd probably just have the machine keep track of a learned time for each day of the week. This would probably be sufficient to handle a variety of work schedules including the most common Monday-Friday work week.

Accommodating those of us who sleep in longer on weekends would be trivial. In such cases, the coffee would have been made too early. Pressing the "Coffee now!" button once would be sufficient to adjust the times. Hardly stuff that requires neural networks or Markov models. Pretty simple logic should do.

Anyhow. In summary, my ideal coffee maker. It's easier to fill with water. It knows when it's been filled with coffee and water. It knows how to set its own internal clock automatically. You press the "Coffee Time!" button and it learns to make coffee that's ready when you want it.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

If you're living on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill with a lot of spare time on your hands, how well can you get to know a flock of wild parrots? The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which I saw this weekend, answers this question. The film goes far into parrot psyche--so much so that many scenes consist of nothing more than shots of individual parrots synchronized with parrot man Mark Bittner's descriptions of their personalities. Given the subject matter, I'm amazed I was as fascinated with the film as I was. How did director Judy Irving make this film so interesting?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.


Brad DeLong mentions My Life as a Quant in response to an Unfogged post by Alamedia regarding "Chets." The book looks interesting, so I'm noting it here.

A three-piece jazz band played brunch the other day, and I found myself wrestling with the seemingly needless awkwardness of the bass and wondering if anyone has built a less bulky electronic version with a built-in speaker (as opposed to an electric bass guitar connected to an amp and speaker system). I envisioned a stem with strings attached to a thin speaker with ample surface area to emit roughly the same low frequency vibrations as an analog bass.

The new microwave at work had so many buttons and options emblazoned into a tapestry of information overload that I could only shrug and wonder if I'd try to sort out something that complicated if I were studying for a bar exam and my life depended on it. There appeared to be a button for every possible thing one might want to cook, except I'm sure my option will be missing the first time I try to use it for anything other than warming up my coffee.

The new microwave's U/I visual cacophony prompted me to wonder how well one could guess the cook time with a few sensors to analyze weight (even thought it might include a light or hefty container), infra-red radiation, maybe some sort of sonic imaging to estimate hardness. Can something be done? Sounds like an interesting problem: a smarter microwave oven. If not, I'd just prefer a couple of dials to specify power level and time. Dials are quicker and easier than keypads, if they hit the right stops.

Scoble posts about the NYT and charging for content. As far as it all goes, I'm really amazed no one's managed to work out a serious micropayment solution yet. In this respect, World 2005 is quite different from my World 2000 expectations. I expected major companies to be wrestling vigorously over the crown of micropayment kingpin. Amazon has everyone's credit card number, and I'm amazed they haven't carpeted the online world with a winning solution. I'd much prefer to pay a quarter for a full day's worth of access to any subscription fees, a system analogous to picking up a copy at the local convenience store.

Still rather engrossed in unlimited music. I've found that even though some songs are unavailable for download, they're still available on Y!'s radio stations. If you really want to hear something, the last resort is the fan station. A feature I haven't found yet that I feel is sorely needed is a CD/album preview option. The ability to listen to 1,000,000 songs puts me in a position in which I'd like to sample discs. And I do sample discs, but the only means I've found is to listen for 30 seconds and press the Next button for each track. I wish there were an automatic means of doing this with a configurable max number of seconds per track.

I'm baby steppin' and catching up on what was heretofore musical periphery. Given that and no personal claims above musical cluelessness, here are some discs that pique my curiosity: Donovan Frankenreiter (similar to Jack Johnson), Gemma Hayes - Night On My Side, Red House Painters - Songs for a Blue Guitar, Kings of Convenience - Riot on an Empty Street (I really like "Misread"), Nick Drake - Bryter Layter, Sondre Lerche - Two Way Monologue.

Backtracking a couple paragraphs, my reflections on micropayments made me think of another prediction I made to myself that hasn't come true to any extent I've noticed. A few years ago, I guessed evolutionary algorithms would be prominent in web development software by now. A huge proportion of web sites are all about making sales. There's an obvious optimization problem there that immediately leaves me wondering if Website A' is more effective than Website A. With a mutation here and a mutation there and a little statistical analysis, one could get a good idea if Website A' is a more effective seller than Website A. Websites that evolve to maximize sales. Anyone?

The Lit-Blog Coop

As a fairly regular reader of The Reading Experience and an occasional reader of some of the associate bloggers involved in the project, I offer my widow's mite of PageRank to The Lit-Blog Coop.

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations

A couple things Richard Feynman.

First, Suresh at Geomblog posted a piece about new stamps honoring four scientists including John von Neumann and Richard Feynman. A trip to the post office is in the works.

Next, my latest book purchase is a collection of Feyman's letters titled Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard Feyman. His daughter Michelle wrote the introduction which includes a some great anecdotes such as the time her high school math teacher told her father he didn't know anything about math; another introductory anecdote involves the courtship of Feynman and her mother Gwyneth.

As far as the letters themselves go the most interesting ones I've read so far include one to his mother describing the Trinity Test and a poignant letter written to his high school sweetheart and first wife Arlene a year after her death.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Yahoo! Music Unlimited

Three cheers for Yahoo! and the release of Music Unlimited. I had to do it, I signed up, and I'm afraid I'm already seriously hooked. One year for $4.99 a month is an excellent deal (the $6.99 month-by-month is a great deal as well).

On the downside, there have been a number of albums I can't find on the service, some of the brand new releases don't seem to be available and searching has been a little pokey at times. That said, I still am quite pleased with the service. I love it!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

"Oddball Rodent" Is Called New to Science

Discoveries of new species or animals are always interesting to me. According to the NYT, a Laotian rock rat has been identified as a new family of wildlife.


Vatican Face

Vatican Face
Originally uploaded by metamerist.
(I snapped this Vatican statue because it reminded me of John Belushi.)

Ikeanic Hallucinations and Book Buying Habits

I don't go to Ikea often, and every time I do, I'm afraid I'm going to return home to pop-up video hallucinations annotating our furnishings à la Fight Club. Recently, we returned with a fairly sizeable bookshelf which assumed its proper form after a successful personal transition through Formbyosis.

Nature abhors a vacuum, but the general rule is an understatement when the vacuum takes the form of a spacious empty bookcase--at least in this house. It translates into call and response: for every chorus of "I'm lonely, I'm lonely" from the new bookcase interesting books I see bellow in responses with operatic overtones: "Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!"

For a spell, the Internet seemed to stifle my book buying desires, but this past year has probably been a personal record in terms of the number of books I've purchased. The Internet still affects my book purchases in various ways, but it doesn't seem to be affecting how many books I buy, but rather which books I buy. As far as quantity goes, I can think of at least a few titles I probably wouldn't have purchased if I hadn't stumbled on to them and perused them on the Internet.

Reflecting on my most recent purchases, I tend to buy more hardcovers than ever before, and they tend to be the sorts of books that are classics, foundational, highly technical and/or solid theoretical references, etc. Books that involve extreme concentration or offer extreme comfort. Seems nowadays, I try to buy books built to last and surf for the other stuff. While there still is the occasional guilty paperback, I can see a noticeable change in my book buying habits.

And, finally a book buying tip. I may have mentioned it before, but I've had great luck with used books from 3rd party sellers via Amazon. Make sure the seller is one that's shipped a lot of books and has a rock solid rating. The second criterion (if the price doesn't vary too much) is finding a seller in geographical proximity. Occasionally, I've found a seller efficient enough and close enough to get my purchase overnight without having to pay Fedex rates.

Flickr adds IPTC support

The title says it all. Here's the thread where Stewart confirms it.

Dual Photography

This upcoming SIGGRAPH 2005 paper, "Dual Photography," has been receiving a lot of cite-love on and even Ernie's 3D Pancakes. Enjoy!

"We present a novel photographic technique called dual photography, which exploits Helmholtz reciprocity to interchange the lights and cameras in a scene. With a video projector providing structured illumination, reciprocity permits us to generate pictures from the viewpoint of the projector, even though no camera was present at that location. The technique is completely image-based, requiring no knowledge of scene geometry or surface properties, and by its nature automatically includes all transport paths, including shadows, interreflections and caustics..."


Adventures in Nagware (Kitchen Edition)

When my microwave has finished nuking something, it's smart enough to know that I haven't opened the door. So, presumably in the interest of being helpful, it beeps periodically to remind me that it has something waiting for me.

I find this insanely annoying.

If the matching oven did this, it would be a different story; in that case, something might get baked to a crisp or even start a fire. But this is the microwave, it's off, and that's not going to happen. The worst thing that can happen is my food or warmed up coffee will get less warmed up. And, frankly, as hard as they try, microwaves don't always distribute heat evenly, so it even makes sense to let the object of nukeage sit for a while as the heat diffuses.

"Beep! Hey you, you've got something in here. Come and get it right now! Beep! Come on!"

I wonder if the designers considered the possibility that nagging microwaves might annoy some people.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Whither thy blog roll?

At this point, I feel I've dabbled with blogging a bit. This is my most recent effort towards that end. It's often said that the first rule of writing is knowing your audience, but in the case of blogs, I don't think the rule applies. For many of us, the tag line from Field of Dreams is more apropos: "If you build it, they will come" (to which one should append "and if they don't, that's fine too").

Many of the blogs I enjoy most seem to be chance collections of interests that happen to have multiple intersections my own interests, and this seems to translate into an interesting and unique reading experience not found in publications targeted at larger, more general audiences.

Last I heard, Technorati was tracking over eight million blogs. Micropublishing, indeed. A number of blogs I follow were discovered by adding 'permalink' to my Google search criteria. Some of them I've been reading for what seems like quite a long time, but so far I haven't generated a blog roll. If I'm going to recommend a blog, I'd rather provide a little more information about it--at least a few words explaining what I like about it.

For example, a while ago, I stumbled upon a site created by Paul Harrison, which I've truly enjoyed. He's a PhD student at Monash University in Melbourne. He's written some GIMP plug-ins, a music visualizer, various Python goodies, etc., and his blog is filled with musings on many subjects I find interesting including neural networks, decision theory, probability theory, philosophy, etc. As far as it goes, odds are any blog with a post titled "Thomas Aquinas the Bayesian" will probably pique my curiosity (philosophy is a personal interests).


The idea of the journey being the reward is a good one that's probably not sufficiently appreciated in this culture. Sometimes we realize that the journey was the reward after the journey is over, after the conscious has had a chance to reconnect with the subconscious and discover what was true all along (i.e., we've had enough time to rationalize it all).

My experiences with digital music over the years have been such a journey. I ripped my hundreds of CDs. Later, after a hard drive crash, I ripped them all again. When disk space became cheaper and I felt I needed better quality, I ripped them all again at 192 kbps. (Now, I mull and procrasinate over the idea of a final pass with lossless encoding.) I set up a dedicated server connected to my stereo controlled via my laptop. I even wrote half a web application with a Google-like interface to manage the database, playlists and control the player; all that before punting going with Windows Remote Desktop (there's an OS X client for those of you with bilingual households).

After having the grand project complete and the system in place for some time, I've come to realize that I listen to Launch most of the time. This leaves me a little chagrined and shrugging introspectively. In retrospect, I never paused to truly understand how much I enjoy listening to new music.

Sigh. Oh well, at least the journey was fun.

I'll finish this musical missive with a free tip, a link to Staralfur by Sigur Rós on mp3 at Epitonic.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mathematics and Computation Blog

A new blog, Mathematics and Computation by Andrej Bauer:

"I devote a lot of my time to thinking about the relationship between mathematics and computation. There are two sides of this, which can be expressed by a the slogan “Computable mathematics and mathematics of computation”. Computable mathematics is about how to do mathematics with computers, while mathematics of computation is about mathematics that describes properties of computation in a mathematical, abstract way. If this is a subject that interests you, I invite you to join me."


via Machine Learning (Theory)

Engadget, Nikon and Encryption

from the rawformat blog:

"In a Bizarro world example of how to not leverage the lessons learned from The Cluetrain Manifesto, Engadget interviewed Steve Heiner (General Manager, Digital SLR Systems, for Nikon) from Nikon’s headquarters in NY. Two media representatives were listening in and this stifled passage resulted. Steve Heiner is a very sharp cookie, I say they should have just let him address these questions himself..."

continued here.

"Setpixel is a collection of articles written by a small group of like-minded individuals. The general focus of the articles contained in the site are on interactive installations, aesthetics through computation, reactive experiments, creative computer vision, et cetera."


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Thinker

the thinker
Originally uploaded by shoegazer.

Born in Arizona, Moved to Babylonia

"Using a skull shape determined by hundreds of recent CT scans, three groups of researchers have independently produced busts showing what Egypt's King Tutankhamen probably looked like on the day of his death about 3,300 years ago..."


via BoingBoing

Robot Reproduction has a little piece on a self-replicating robot at Cornell with a cool video.

"Humans do it, bacteria do it, even viruses do it: they make copies of themselves. Now US researchers have built a flexible robot that can perform the same trick..."


A Brief History of Nonparameteric Texture Synthesis

"There has been a lot of work in the area of texture synthesis. The area that I am more familiar with is the area of nonparametric texture synthesis, particularly 'synthesis from example'. So here I have tried to present a very brief history of nonparametric texture synthesis. For a starting point I have chosen Popat's work..."

A Brief History of Nonparameteric Texture Synthesis, Rupert Paget

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Bicycle "_______"

The Bicycle "_______"
Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Hal Bergman

via, the Hal Bergman Photostream.

HDR and Pixel Quality

Comments by Joe Beda on HDR and digital photography:

"...We are entering a world where digital cameras are not just matching the abilities of film cameras, but they are on the verge of surpassing them..."


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Nitin Sawhney - Philtre

Pixelsurgeon reviews Nitin Sawhney's May 2nd release, Philtre. Track samples are available at in the media section of the site.

Ax-Man Journey

Today, I introduced the kids to the wonders of Ax-Man. They were fascinated.

It's not easy to describe Ax-Man. There are all the other stores in town, and there is Ax-Man. It's where you go when you're in the market for dead grenades, mannequin body parts, marbles, ball bearings and steel balls of all sizes, mine sweepers and everything required in the construction of your own private Battlebot: all sorts of motors, fans, switches, enormous capacitors, resistors, relays, buttons, knobs, transformers, solenoids and what not. Gigantic magnifying glasses, test tubes, flasks, marbles, ball bearings, crutches from WWI, prisms, ancient microscopes and film projectors.

And they even have a great sense of humor.

An Independent Judiciary...

A letter defending an independent judiciary has been issued from the deans of all the major law schools (with only a few exceptions). This is an important issue the needs much more attention than Michael Jackson. via Leiter Reports.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

Do, don't, do...

Microsoft's bill support takes another turn. link.

Incredible Aerial Photos

These are hardly breaking news (they've been going around for a long time), but if you haven't seen the "incredible aerial photos" collection, they really are great.


657 years after the Black Plague of 1348, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded rodents might not be perfect pets...


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

longtail on the beach

longtail on the beach
Originally uploaded by dogsbody.

Dosch Design Ships High Dynamic Range Image Tool: HDRfinish

via "Dosch Design's new Windows utility provides HDRI viewing, manipulation, creation and conversion capabilities." link

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Firefox SVG

Old news, but I'm still posting a link.

The Seven Gummie Sins

A Flickr photo set.


Monday, May 02, 2005


Originally uploaded by metamerist.

NYT on Steve Jobs book ban

Here's a link to the April 30 New York Times article on Apple Computer's banning of iCon and everything else Wiley & Sons.

hat tip: Dan Gilmour

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Vizster: Visualizing Online Social Networks

Paper and demos. Vizster online by Jeffrey Heer & Danah Boyd.


Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Saw the Enron movie on Friday (IMDB link). As far as documentaries go, which I tend to enjoy, it was very good. That said, I recommend it more strongly than I would a similarly "very good" documentary, because it's also an important film that sheds much needed light on the largest case of corporate fraud in U.S. history.