Monday, May 29, 2006

Great Scott!

This evening, I stumbled onto copies of the works of one of my favorite authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald online at the University of Adelaide's eBooks@Adelaide.

A New Deep Thought

Part of life is getting burned.
When it happens,
I find inspiration in the Phoenix.
Rising from the ashes,
Flying high up into the sky,
Like Icarus.

Second Spektor

Reuben Steiger writes about Second Life and Regina Spektor getting together: "This project basically takes a record album and turns it into a socially-enabled music video -- it becomes an album you can live in."

link and link

(and, if you've never heard Ms. Spektor, her song Us is still one of my favorite songs of this decade... it's really beautiful and her vocals are outstanding... you can check it out at her site, it's on Soviet Kitsch...)


Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds,
You and your arithmetic
Will probably go far.

Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds,
Seems to me you'd stop and see
How beautiful they are.

(photo by just a name thingie, lyrics by Frank Loesser)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Andrew Lum - Matter of Time

My recent post on Sakamoto invigorated me enough to embark on another quest for the Kenny Wen erhu song previously mentioned (A Flower is Not a Flower).

In the process of searching, I stumbed onto a disc credited to Wen's producer, Andrew Lum's Matter of Time (2004, New Asia Records) at CD Baby. The page for the disc reads: "Think ethnic Asian with flavas of jazz, film, lounge & soul."

Like A Flower is Not a Flower, the music is an Asian fusion that I find interesting and compelling, with erhu, pipa, etc. blended with electronica. Sample songs are available on the site. My favorites are the most somber, songs such as Longing (9) and Thanksgiving (10).

As far as I can tell, the disc isn't available at Amazon, but it is at CD Baby, a great site for obscure and emerging artists. It's going on my wish list.


Note: While reviewing recent posts, I realized I've been devoting a lot of space to music and photography lately. This is a Golden Mean issue. Because I've been working so much, I find myself technically burned out when it comes to this blog, left craving for art, beauty, aesthetics. Must get Dionysian / Apollonian balance! (see next post).


Life comes in chapters,
Punctuated by significant events.
Some are planned.
Others are unexpected.

Today marks a new chapter for me,
A new, different house.
Everything in my life,
Moved from Point A to Point B.

photo by simon shek

In other news, I invented a new word today:
polyenta, meaning multiple yentas.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Quotable Quotes

"Ideals always expire in clotted, bureaucratic prose. It distances the killer from the killing."

Nicholas Carr on The Death of Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hide & Seek

As much as I try to retain my modesty, there are times when I'm bursting at the seams with pride and unable to contain myself--times such as now, when nothing can stop me from showcasing my incredible photography skills and the amazing shot I took of Imogen Heap at last night's concert. See!

Then the batteries ran out.

So, anyhow, it was an excellent concert. Adding in Dolby's, that's two in a row. In a few days, I've seen the Alpha and Omega of electronica. Not only is this one woman band* incredibly talented, she's also extremely likable. Most of the songs were from her new disc, with the only track from Details being an unplugged rendition of Let Go. She said she was returning in November. Highly recommended.

*Cellist Zoe Keating opened and accompanied Imogen on a few songs.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Missing... Missing... Missing...

Last night, as part of a birthday present, we saw Thomas Dolby play at Station 4 in St. Paul's Lowertown. It's a small, divey venue, which makes for the sort of concert experience I enjoy most, and it's been a long time since I enjoyed a concert as much as this one. As noted earlier, it's been quite a while since the multi-talented electronica pioneer has played, so it was quite a treat.

One of Our Submarines

My last visit to the Lowertown Sawatdee was for my brother's wedding reception several years ago. Garrison Keillor stopped in that night for takeout after a performance of PHC. Before the concert we returned to find it has become Supatra's; still Thai and still good, but be forewarned that when they say "4 stars" they mean ****.

(Interesting coincidence: Yesterday, Mr. Dolby wrote that he is collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto whom I blogged about a couple days ago. Also, last month Peter Kirn posted about Dolby's equipment.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Digital Air

Like everyone else, I was fascinated the first time I saw the frozen moment scenes in The Matrix, and they left me pondering the How did they do that? question for a while. The Digital Air site contains examples and explanations of a number of cool camera array related effects.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ryuichi Sakamoto

This evening I noticed Sony Classical's page for Ryuichi Sakamoto has some nice samples from the collection disc Moto.tronic. (Sakamoto's own page with its mysterious camisole-clad Sigmund Freud is here.)

I've been a fan of Sakamoto since his work with David Byrne on the soundtrack for Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (which also happens to be one of my favorite films). Although the main theme is most frequently included in collections, the tracks Where is Armo? and Rain (I Want a Divorce) are excellent and probably my favorites.

Ryuichi Sakamoto's works span quite a range, from the piano compositions in BTTB to the disco remixes of You Do Me to his various soundtrack compositions to New Age to bossa nova and sambo tracks you'll find in the sampler on the Sony site. His talent, range and creativity have long been inspirations to me.

Since I'm on the subject, with Andrew Lum, Sakamoto produced an album for erhu artist Kenny Wen titled A Flower is Not a Flower. I once heard a wonderful erhu instrumental that I believe is the title track from this disc, and at this point, I've given up my quest of trying to hunt the disc down and buy it. If Google leads you to this page, and you know how I can get buy a copy of it, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Like a Real Reptile


Pretty sure I took this in Italy too.
Title is an tribute to Reptile by The Church.

Infinite Improbability Drive?

Nature (via the excellent 3QD):

"A Melbourne university has emptied the top floors of one of its buildings after a spate of brain-tumour cases were reported during the past month. Most affected staff worked on the top floor, raising fears that cell-phone masts on top of the building are responsible. But experts say it is far more likely to be an unfortunate coincidence. Since mid-April, five staff from the business school of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University have reported developing brain tumours. Two other cases have been reported since 1999. Of the seven, two are malignant and five benign."


Experts say it is far more likely to be an unfortunate coincidence?!?!

No matter which way I run the math (working from an incidence rate of roughly 14.8 per 100,000 per year and the assumption of even 100 or 200 people on the top floors), I don't see how anyone might conclude that it's far more likely to be an unfortunate coincidence. I'd like to see how one arrives at such a conclusion.


Friday, May 19, 2006

The Mathematics of the Cochlea

"According to the new model, as sound waves travel around the cochlea's spiral, the distribution of the energy that they carry changes: It becomes weaker along the inside wall while growing stronger and more concentrated along the outside wall. This shift is more pronounced in regions with highest curvature, which correspond to the low frequency regions of the ear and so amplify low frequency sounds."

more at Science Daily

[biomimicry] [acoustics]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teaching & Foraging

David Raffin made me laugh:

"He who knows how to forage can always teach foraging... Thus they need not fall back on foraging."


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Digital Fingerprints

Experts have come up with a means of matching digital photographs with the cameras that created them.

"In laboratory experiments, Fridrich and her team were able to match several thousand different images to the correct camera without a single misclassification, even when images were compressed or resized."


(via Raw Format)


I recall this May 2004 post at 37 Signals noting how many sites stayed in perpetual beta.

Apparently, flickr has left beta and is now in gamma.

It's flickr.

Soylent Ciabatta

In a conditioning experiment obviously designed to create man-eating birds, a Chilean artist has installed a bread sculpture of herself in a Santiago park. (Boing Boing)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I have a proposal for a new word: processbot. I'm surprised I couldn't find any evidence of it in Google. I will try to define it as best I can.

A processbot is a person who blindly follows processes and is thoroughly oblivious the fact that the processes were created to serve a purpose or to help drive results toward some goal. Processbots will unquestioningly follow process beyond the edge of the Earth to the point where the process as a means is clearly severely destructive to its own end. This phenomenon is capable of forcing thinking people into early but comfortable retirements in padded cells. Processbots return a hollow look and a shrug in exchange for the shrill, exasperated scream : "But don't you realize there's a reason why we're doing this?!?!?" Frequent exchanges are a warning sign of a screamer's impending early retirement.

Domo arigato, Mr. Tayloro

Monday, May 15, 2006

Guy Kewney?

Cabbie mistaken as journalist interviewed about Apple Corps suit on BBC in priceless 90 second interview.

"Mr Goma, a graduate from the Congo, described his surprise interview ordeal as 'very stressful'. He found himself being ushered into a studio and fitted with a microphone after raising his hand when a producer called out the name Guy Kewney."

link to Globe & Mail Story

(via Leiter Reports)

Update: I just stumbled onto the story at Boing Boing. Sounds like he's not a cabbie.

The Evolution of Dance

The Evolution of Dance, funny stuff from comedian Judson Laipply (via Big Picture).

Sunday, May 14, 2006




Time for a little wine meandering.

I am willing to plead guilty to enjoying wine, but the day I claim I'm a bonafide wine connoisseur, slap me, okay?

That said, for the past year, I've been on a quest of finding my favorite Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. If you've never tried these wonderful New Zealand offerings and you're interested whites that are zingy and tart, these may be a great discovery for you too. They're quite distinct from all the other SB's I've tasted.

I've tried Giesen, Monkey Bay, Nobilo, Brancott, Kim Crawford, Zed, Silver Birch, Villa Maria and a few others whose names escape me. Honestly, it's probably impossible to go wrong with any of them, but at this point, I have to say Monkey Bay, Nobilo and Kim Crawford are faves; excuse the lack of vintage info, but like I said...

Jerry Hall's WINEWAVES covers many in detail here.


Fuzzy maths, The Economist on Google: "In a few short years, Google has turned from a simple and popular company into a complicated and controversial one."

A Clue to Living Long. Another Ponce de Leon, but interesting. MIT Tech Review: "According to a study with mice, restricting calories may boost longevity -- by altering growth hormone and insulin."

Left Behind, a free mp3 download by Zero 7 featuring Jose Gonzalez (via Arjanwrites).

Murder Mayhem and Mystery on Display. A fascinating Spiegel article on the recovery of Alexandrian artifacts and related history (via 3QD)

A Holy Cause...

"There are many who find the burdens, the anxiety, and the isolation of an individual existence unbearable. This is particularly true when the opportunities for self-advancement are relatively meager, and one's individual interests and prospects do not seem worth living for. Such persons sooner or later turn their backs on an individual existence and strive to acquire a sense of worth and a purpose by an identification with a holy cause, a leader, or a movement. The faith and pride they derive from such an identification serve them as substitutes for the unattainable self-confidence and self-respect."

Eric Hoffer, True Believer

"By the age of five, he could read in both German and English. At age seven, and for unknown reasons, Hoffer went blind. His eyesight inexplicably returned when he was fifteen. Fearing he would again go blind, he seized upon the opportunity to read as much as he could for as long as he could. His eyesight remained, but Hoffer never abandoned his habit of voracious reading." Wikipedia, Eric Hoffer

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Optimal Airplane Boarding Algorithm

Suresh at Geomblog has a post about airplane loading algorithms. I considered making a comment, but given the rant-like nature of my thoughts, I think I'll say it here. My suggestion for optimal airplane boarding.

(begin rant)

First, people who have no carry-on baggage.

Second, people with carry-on that actually fits below the "seat in front" or in the "overhead compartment."

Third, NFL linebackers that effortlessly brush fourth class boarders posing as second class boarders out of the aisles and into their seats.

Fourth, people suffering from the delusion that, with the proper angular adjustment, it's possible to get a shipping crate in an overhead compartment. (Also included in this group, those who score in the bottom decile of spatial reasoning tests.)

(end rant)


A riddle, wrapped inside an enigma...

I like to think it's not easy to sucker me into a television show. Generally, I feel I do a pretty good job of resisting. In the last decade and a half, I've fallen prey to Twin Peaks, Murphy Brown, Northern Exposure, Homefront, Get a Life, Ned & Stacy, Wings, Everybody Loves Raymond, Ally McBeal, Malcolm in the Middle and perhaps a few others. So far, I've managed to avoid Scrubs, West Wing and Six Feet Under, Battlestar Galactica and 24, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time until a DVD sampling turns into a Lost weekend.

As much as I try to avoid TV, there are three shows I currently have trouble resisting*. One of them is ABC's Lost. In the 90s, Twin Peaks was famous for its enigmatic, cryptic nature, but now it seems ABC's Lost is to Twin Peaks what the New York Times crossword puzzle is to Junior Jumble. If you're not confused enough by what J.J. Abrams and Co. are doing with Lost, check out Lostpedia and the Lost Diary and The Lost Experience. Gary Troup's Bad Twin on Amazon? The Hanso Foundation web site?

Anyhow, it really is an addictive show. Very well done.

(*The other two are The Daily Show and The Office)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Google Trends

IMHO, this is one the coolest things Google's ever done. Google Trends gives you charts of search term popularity over time.

Play Ball or Space Invaders

A Flickr photo set of home video game ads from 1982.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dolphin Name Calling

Already widely cited, but still worthy of note:

"We are not the only animals to give ourselves names, says research on bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins' distinctive whistles may function as individual calling cards, allowing them to recognize each other and even refer to others by name."

more at Nature

Poll Smoking

Dave Gorman's Poll Smoking on The Daily Show might be what you'd get if Monty Python rewrote How to Lie with Statistics.

Great stuff, especially the most recent report on obesity statistics.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Easter Parade

A small tribute to the musical impressionism of The Blue Nile, probably my favorite group, if I had to pick...

"In the bureau typewriter's quiet
Confetti falls from every window
Throwing hats up in the air
A city perfect in every detail
Easter parade."

(photo: K'vitsh)

Note: Chris Botti has a beautiful version of this song.

Project Panama

For quite a while, I've been interested in the application of machine learning and evolutionary algorithms to online advertising. Google's clearly been in the game for some time. The latest story's about Yahoo.

NYT: "When Yahoo finally switches on the new search-advertising software code-named Project Panama this summer, users of its search engine will hardly notice a difference. But if Yahoo's project was worth the two years and tens of millions of dollars it cost — far more money and time than it expected — users will find the text ads adjacent to the main search results just a little more interesting, luring them to click on those ads a little more often." link

via Machine Learning (Theory)


"The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity."

Dorothy Parker

Sunday, May 07, 2006



Cosmological Recycling

Given all the cycles we see in the universe, I've often wondered why the Big Bang wouldn't be part of a cycle as well.

Guardian Science covers a new theory that addresses such the idea of multiple Big Bangs:

"The universe is at least 986 billion years older than physicists thought and is probably much older still, according to a radical new theory.

The revolutionary study suggests that time did not begin with the big bang 14 billion years ago. This mammoth explosion which created all the matter we see around us, was just the most recent of many."


It leaves me thinking of Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence:

"For time is infinite, but the things in time, the concrete bodies are finite.... Now, however long a time may pass, according to the eternal laws governing the combinations of this eternal play of repetition, all configurations that have previously existed on this earth must yet meet, attract, repulse, kiss, and corrupt each other again.... And thus it will happen one day that a man will be born again, just like me..." The Gay Science

And that leaves me thinking of Woody Allen:

"Nietzsche says that we will live the same life, over and over again. God - I'll have to sit through the Ice Capades again." -- Woody Allen

Ultimately, perhaps we'll come to a cosmological theory in which the universe perpetually expands and contracts, in cycles lasting billions of years, with a Big Bang always ultimately returning to a concentrated point before exploding in an identical and perfectly deterministic way that results in every event and experience being forever repeated in the finest detail, our lives lived obliviously over and over for all time. Or maybe it just keeps expanding. :)

What If...

BBC News recently published an interactive article "What If..." inviting readers to throw in their two cents on various moral dilemmas.

"One day, you wake up in hospital. In the nearby bed lies a world famous violinist who is connected to you with various tubes and machines.

To your horror, you discover that you have been kidnapped by the Music Appreciation Society. Aware of the maestro's impending death, they hooked you up to the violinist.

If you stay in the hospital bed, connected to the violinist, he will be totally cured in nine months. You are unlikely to suffer harm. No one else can save him. Do you have an obligation to stay connected?"

Some of the results are discussed here and here at Crooked Timber.

The Evolution of Cooperation

The evolution of cooperation is a subject that first piqued my interest when I read Dawkins' Selfish Gene. It's a fascinating question from both evolutionary and game theoretic perspectives. Panda's Thumb discusses it all a bit with a look at a new study on the subject published in April Nature.


BW: Second Life

Business Week takes an interesting trip into Second Life's virtual world:

"As I step onto the polished wood floor of the peaceful Chinese country house, a fountain gurgles softly and a light breeze stirs the scarlet curtain in a doorway. Clad in a stylish blue-and-purple dress, Anshe Chung waves me to a low seat at a table set with bowls of white rice and cups of green tea. I'm here to ask her about her booming land development business, which she has built from nothing two years ago to an operation of 17 people around the world today. As we chat, her story sounds like a classic tale of entrepreneurship...

Except I've left out one small detail: Chung's land, her beautifully appointed home, the steam rising from the teacups -- they don't exist."


(via Reuben Steigers).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Epictetus on Freedom

"He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is neither subject to compulsion nor to hindrance, nor to force; whose movements to action are not impeded, whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not fall into that which he would avoid. Who, then, chooses to live in error? No man. Who chooses to live deceived, liable to mistake, unjust, unrestrained, discontented, mean? No man. Not one then of the bad lives as he wishes; nor is he, then, free. And who chooses to live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity, desiring and failing in his desires, attempting to avoid something and falling into it? Not one. Do we then find any of the bad free from sorrow, free from fear, who does not fall into that which he would avoid, and does not obtain that which he wishes? Not one; nor then do we find any bad man free."

The Discourses, Epictetus

Edward Burtynsky - China

At Lens Culture, fascinating photos from China through the lens of Edward Burtynsky. (via 3QD)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On the Dark Side

Once again, it's time to change the layout.
I have come to like too many sites with black backgrounds.
Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
More changes to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Linked List

It's time for one of those posts where I link to things that I find interesting, that tell me what I want to hear, that I just plain like, etc.

Tom Evslin writes Why a Great Programmer is Worth Fifty Good Ones. This a belief I've held for a long time myself, and in my own professional life, I think it was one of the keys to success in going from zero to an application used by tens of millions of users.

I've repeatedly commented on mirror neurons as a significant discovery. The excellent 3 Quarks Daily (I always call it that, because it is) offers a link to an archive of interdisciplinary paper on mirror neurons. Thanks to 3QD also for an interesting link on the Science of Happiness from BBC News.

Eye-Fi, Wi-Fi built into an SD card. Wow!

Machine Learning guru John Langford is going to Yahoo Research.

Old news for many of us in the industry, but the word is Apple axed the bulk of the Aperture team. (update:5/5) According to Daring Fireball and Photoshop News, not so.

Towards the end of maximizing the the freedom of users to choose, Nicholas Carr has a suggestion for Google.

Monday, May 01, 2006



A little more shuffling through my 2004 photos from Italy. Yeah, it really is this cool.

Confirmation Bias (Don't Call Me Francis)

"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — 'Aye,' asked he again, 'but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?' And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by. But with far more subtlety does this mischief insinuate itself into philosophy and the sciences; in which the first conclusion colors and brings into conformity with itself all that come after, though far sounder and better. Besides, independently of that delight and vanity which I have described, it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives; whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed toward both alike. Indeed, in the establishment of any true axiom, the negative instance is the more forcible of the two."

Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, XLVI (1620)

Monday Non-random N

Many bloggers often post 10 random songs from their playlists. In terms of expressing one's individuality and personality, I guess there's a certain interesting quality about it, but I don't feel terribly compelled.

I'm not sure which genres I listen to most. Folk, adult alternative, whatever, but I do enjoy listening to a lot of music, and I tend to do a lot of exploring. When I find something I like I often do feel compelled to mention it here--I guess on the hope someone else might benefit from the effort, and I also want to do what I can to give it the praise I feel it deserves.

Lately, I've been spending some time investigating Lamb, nothing new and some quite old; I just haven't spent much time with Lamb until now. Example favorites include Gorecki and Gabriel (available here). In spite of their occasional raunchiness, I recommend Giant Drag's This isn't It and (to their chagrin, perhaps) their cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game (listen here).

Ever heard Willy Mason's Oxygen? (Real Audio on this page). If Stan Getz hired Ivy to sing Joy Division, you might get the bossa nova rendition of Love Will Tear Us apart that you'll hear from Nouvelle Vague (sample it here). Or, try Don't Stop by Brazilian Girls (sample here). Or, for some good Irish pop, You Asked Me by The Frank & Walters.

What's the News?

Currently on the Bloglines top list, links related to Stephen Colbert's roasting of President Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner fall into the following spots: #2, #3, #12, #14, #16, #18, #19, #20, #23, #25, #28, #34, #37, #41, #37, #46, #47 and more. The Net is all abuzz about it.

Yet, if you search Google News for Stephen Colbert, you'll find mainstream media coverage of Colbert's monologue hard to find, even though plenty has been said of the celebrity impersonator accompanying Bush at the dinner (arguably less noteworthy in light of Colbert's intensity).

Perhaps the lack of reporting is due to the fact that Colbert skewered the mainstream media as well, but whatever the reason, there seems to be a rather stark constrast here between news as determined by the mainstream media and news as determined by the Net. I'm very interested in seeing how these dynamics will play out in the future.

Note: The nearly nonexistent coverage of Colbert also seems to be a poor test of the theory of "The Liberal Media." While Colbert is the man of the hour on blogs run by self-professed liberals, he's conspicuously ignored by the allegedly liberal media.

Update (5/3) : At Salon, Joan Walsh discusses the MSM's silence in Making Colbert go away.