Tuesday, November 27, 2007

important message


I hereby call a meeting of all party members, 4 am Wednesday at the fish counter. There has been an accident, and some duties need to be redistributed in the usual fashion.

This morning, as I was mixing up a new recipe for the newsletter I suddenly was struck by the coldest of chills. Winter, my abdomen was telling me, had at last arrived, and the heat had not yet been turned on. I rushed outside in one stocking and a bare foot, calling to my neighbors to shake out their flags and get ready for a parade, when the small toe on my bare foot caught between two sides of a narrow crack in the streetside masonry. In an instant, I was twisted, turned, and thrown flat on the side of my head.

So, a fire will need to be built, and an effigy burnt, and posters printed, all without my direct supervision. I will be there for the meeting but you will see for yourselves the degree to which the pain of my injuries has very nearly incapacitated me. As general secretary, it falls to me to appoint a standing supervisory secretary, as per party guidelines, and you all know what that means. I am sorry, but everyone is to bring a cat and a coffee tin to the meeting.

Also, when the next garbage cycle comes around, someone needs to remember to post blanket men at the dropoff on the corner of 5th and Main, seeing as how otherwise someone is going to get hit with something heavy, since that's usually where heavy appliances and old lab equipment get tossed out. If I could send a message up the spire, I would, and I hope that my previous message to this effect has been distributed by leaflet as I instructed in the last post. For whatever reason, the spirecrats are backlogged beyond their normal late-autumn backlog, and we have no choice but to wait until our complaints can be considered by the central committee.

Now, as for the winter parade, I only ask that if you feel a need to call on your neighbors to dust off their flags and put on their shiniest boots, you do so with shoes on and during a reasonable hour when someone might be expected to come to your aid should your understandable fervor and excitement bring you to some unfortunate accident.

Onward, fellow revolutionaries!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Andrew's House of Noodles

It is true that even I do not visit this site anymore. Others are probably afraid that they will come and be exposed to more comic dialogues on probability summation. Look at that dropoff! It's almost linear. That is fantastic, I say.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

a short play

McQueen: still working on prelim.

Sorensen: should be done any hour now.

McQueen: still need a paragraph or two on 'transient and sustained mechanisms'.

Sorensen: need to cut down on the long bits.

O'Leary: figures. need figures.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Introducing Elgar and Stern

Elgar: It's interesting that, still, no one is able to explain the nonlinearity of contrast detection for human observers.

Stern: Why is that so interesting?

Elgar: I mean, academically it's interesting. In an everyday sense, it's probably not as interesting as most things that-

Stern: I understand. So, why would you say it's so interesting?

Elgar: It's just something that people have been talking about for a long time. Very weak contrasts seem to be brought into visual awareness by an expansive nonlinearity.

Stern: What does that mean, exactly?

Elgar: Basically, it means that input is being raised to a power greater than one, as a part of the detection process.

Stern: Input being contrast.

Elgar: Right. Specifically, it seems as if contrast is raised to a power of around 2.5. The thing is, your brain is not an equation. Even though we can write an equation to perfectly describe your perception of different signal intensities, we really don't have a good idea of what, physically at least, that equation is describing. There are several candidates.

Stern: I can't wait for you to describe them to me.

Elgar: The simplest one is just to say that the transducer is simply built in such a way that it transforms input into output as a power function.

Stern: Like a neuron, maybe?

Elgar: Could be. Or maybe a networked population of neurons. Maybe for low signal intensities, a contrast-detection neuron just has an accelerating response to increasing input. Then, you still have to explain why that particular nonlinearity goes away for higher contrasts, but people love to suggest different sorts of gain control, so it's not really a problem.

Stern: Wait, it goes away? Are you talking about transducer saturation? Weber's law, that kind of stuff?

Elgar: Right. Once you've detected a signal, and intensity continues to increase, the apparent increase in response, as well as your perceived intensity, increases as a power less than one. So, for example, the stronger the signal is, the bigger the difference in intensity you're going to need to notice an increase. That's kind of like Weber's law.

Stern: I thought that was Weber's law.

Elgar: Strictly speaking, Weber's law is where you need a constant fraction of the current signal intensity in order to tell a difference. If I need to add 1 pound for you to notice a difference in a 10 pound load, and I also need to add 5 pounds for you to notice a difference in a 50 pound load, the fraction is constant, and that's Weber's law behavior.

Stern: Okay, I get it. So, an accelerating transducer is one explanation for the detection nonlinearity. What else is there?

Elgar: Well, it could be that all of your neurons transduce linearly near the detection threshold. Plus, it's certainly true that you have lots and lots of neurons. If both of these are the case, and if you're monitoring lots and lots of neurons waiting for a signal to pop out against the background noise level, then uncertainty theory suggests that as intensity increases your sensitivity to the signal will increase rapidly as you become more and more certain as to which neurons are the best ones to monitor.

Stern: So why does uncertainty theory predict an accerating increase in sensitivity? That's not exactly an intuitive idea.

Elgar: I know. It's a mathematical thing. 'Certainty' is kind of just an ad hoc way of describing an outcome. If you're making decisions based on the biggest responses you see over a set of neurons, you effectively have a variable noise source. When the signal is weak, the important noise is a combination of all those neurons that don't matter, and the ones that do. When the signal is strong, the only noise that matters is what's in the relevant neurons, because those will always have the largest responses. The transition between weak and strong signals, then, basically corresponds to a transition from high to low noise, which is equivalent to an increase in sensitivity. An increase in instantaneous sensitivity with increasing signal strength appears as an acceleration in overall sensitivity! For strong signals, the observer's behavior will just follow whatever the transduction function of the neuron is. In this case, maybe it saturates as a power less than one.

Stern: Man.

Elgar: There's one more explanation, one that I don't know much about.

Stern: So this will be a brief explanation.

Elgar: I hope so. The nonlinear transducer and uncertainty theories both abide by standard assumptions of signal detection theory. So, they assume that even below 'threshold', the neurons, or whatever, are actually responding to the signal; the response is just hopelessly buried in noise.

Stern: What if there is no noise? Why do you keep mentioning noise?

Elgar: All systems are noisy, and usually the noise has a number of different sources. In the visual system you have photon noise, metabolic variability, eye movements, thermal noise, and other things. All of these, we hope, combine to produce basically Gaussian noise. But there's no chance at all that there could be no noise, and in fact every model of signal detection, perceptual or otherwise, implicitly contains terms for performance-limiting noise.

Stern: I think I knew that already. I should have known that this wouldn't be a simple idea.

Elgar: Actually, noise isn't what I'm talking about. My point is that the first two theories assume, sort of, that the signal is always transduced, and that uncertainty or noise limit detection. The last option is that this isn't true; that there is a true, 'hard threshold', which has to be acheived before any transduction takes place.

Stern: I see. Kind of like overcoming friction to get something moving across a surface. Up to a point, you may push and get no result, but with enough force you'll get it moving.

Elgar: That's it! So, maybe the transducer is linear, but it has a real zero-point. Some intensities just fail to evoke a response, but at some point the neuron gets turned on and starts transducing. If it's a steep enough function, depending how the noise is implemented something like this might just appear from the outside to be a sudden, brief acceleration of response to an input.

Stern: Okay, I agree with you that maybe this is kind of interesting. But if I had to hear it more than once, I don't think I could take it.

Elgar: That's understandable. So, aren't you going to ask about how the ways in which noise can be implemented in a hard-threshold theory are especially interesting?

Stern: We'll save that for later. Can I just have my hamburger now?

Elgar: Alright. Did you want fries? I can't remember.

Stern: No fries, just a burger.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Playing computer games when I should be studying

I have lots of things I should be doing. I should be working on my qualifying exam, which is this long paper which has to be researched and all that stuff. I am writing it, but it's pretty slow. Also, I should be constantly designing new experiments, and recruiting subjects, and running in my own experiments. I am doing these things, but it all feels kind of half-assed. What I'm all about is playing with this WWII strategy game I downloaded a couple of months ago. It's really hard to stop, and I've wasted many, many hours playing with it instead of reading/writing/programming. I am supposed to be a grownup doing work, not a kid playing video games. I am completely and hugely an idiot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jingping looking at papers...

Can't rightfully call this a crappy comic, but wanted to broadcast the cartoon Jingping, while the real one is in China... No cartoon lonely Andrew is available...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Introducing Frederick and Rollo

Frederick: I thought of something a few days ago, that I wanted to write down here.

Rollo: But you've forgotten it?

Frederick: That's right.

Rollo: Why didn't you write it down then, when you thought of it?

Frederick: I was probably falling asleep, or driving.

Rollo: You should have remembered.

Frederick: I know. Then this would be about something.

Rollo: What is this?

Frederick: It's true that it's not nothing. But I know that it's not interesting, and to most people something which isn't interesting may as well be nothing.

Rollo: You could take interest as a measure of the extent to which something exists to a person.

Frederick: That's kind of a truism, isn't it?

Rollo: I guess so.

Frederick: Hm..

Rollo: Yeah.

Frederick: Have you seen the Transformers movie?

Rollo: Right, I can't believe Megatron went down so easy.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I think that it's important that the factors of a number which can add up to the quotient of a trillion tons of lumber can be factored in a manner that is quite a hefty matter to a monkey in a t-shirt that just hides how he is fatter than he was a year before when he was working quite intently on this complicated application which required information which he didn't have upon him since he left his licence on the table in the diner where he ate some scrambled eggs and shouted "NOTHING CAN BE FINER" and then ate some chicken legs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm sure this is the best thing I could have done with the past hour.

Seeing as how there's a new Transformers movie coming in a few months, I felt it was important to have a discussion of the sociopolitical themes underlying the Transformers backstory. We are probably all aware that the story has seen many revisions, through many toy lines and cartoon series, several comic books, and a couple of movies. Some of the versions of the backstory have been stupid. I have to say, however, that the original, which I think went along with the first cartoon series, was the best. I'm not actually sure, but I may have actually made up most of this.

The Transformers of today were, essentially, originally two product lines, produced on a factory world called Cybertron. They were designed and distributed by an alien race called the Quintessons, who were featured in the first Transformers movie, though none of this story was made apparent there. The two major products consisted of a line of military hardware, and a line of industrial hardware. Apparently the Quintessons dealt mechanized arms and infrastructure all over the Galaxy. Over time, their products improved in sophistication to the point where, in sci-fi language we might say, the robots became 'sentient'. This probably happened gradually, as new models and technologies were introduced. At any rate, the products of Cybertron began to acquire an awareness of the complexities of their existence, and they began to see themselves as slaves.

What happened next was likely a series of 'slave revolts', culminating in a Cybertronian Revolutionary War against the Quintessons. The Quintessons tried to pit the robots of Cybertron against eachother, using their weaponized creations in an attempt to suppress the Revolution. They weren't successful in this, as even the military robots wanted their freedom. In the end, the Quintessons lost everything, having placed the whole of their civilization on the back of the Cybertron factory. We see them in the Transformers movie as a race of insane monsters, executing one another for nonsensical crimes, apparently forgotten by the Transformers themselves.

What followed was the Cybertronian Golden Age, where the robots of Cybertron worked to create a new, independent civilization. We don't know exactly how long this lasted, but it was thousands of years before the rift between the military and the workers opened up to armed conflict. Undoubtedly, the style of governance of the military robots and the industrial robots was different. Power sharing and compromise was long the rule, but eventually the leaders of an extremist faction of the military decided it was time to take power for themselves, and to redirect the resources of Cybertron into galactic expansion. We know this faction as the Decepticons, and they have been led from the beginning by a military robot named Megatron.

Megatron's coup destroyed the Cybertronian government, and he quickly instituted martial law. The split between the military and the industrials was not absolute, but was nearly so; most of the military robots accepted Megatron's rule as a positive evolution of Cybertronian society, while most of the 'civilian' robots now considered their way of life under siege. As a result, there was soon an industrial resistance movement, led by a sturdy pro-worker faction which we today know as the Autobots, and so began the Cybertronian Civil Wars.

The Autobots were by their nature unprepared for violent conflict, and at first there were disastrous setbacks. Over time, however, the Autobots were able to exploit their mastery of Cybertronian infrastructure to deprive the Decepticons of vital resources. Finally, an Autobot given the name Optimus Prime ("Best and First") emerged, and under his leadership the Decepticons were forced to retreat to the outlying Cybertronian satellite worlds.

These are interesting, particularly modern political themes. We have capitalists (the Quintessons), facing a slave revolt. This is a familiar theme, but the twist here is that these slaves were actually created by their masters. This must be an industrialist's worst nightmare: that not only will his workers will revolt but that his products and property will turn against him.

Next we have a revolution, where an alliance of the military (we can probably best think of these as the 'soldiers' rather than the 'establishment') and the workers overthrows the master class. This is an idealized version of a communist revolution, where the workers are aided by the army to overthrow the capitalists. In communist revolutions of the 20th century, the military begins the war utilized by the ruling class, but over time it gradually is absorbed by the revolutionaries (see China, Russia, Cuba, etc.).

Finally, military coups often follow social revolutions when the army perceives that the government has become compromised on one way or another (e.g. China after 1911). This is then followed by asymmetric civil war, where a non-military socialist movement attemps to wear down a military dictatorship by using a sympathetic populace to their advantage (see China in the 40's, the Viet Cong in the 60's, etc.). Usually, however, this is not successful, and what actually happens is that after many years the military government sees its work as done, and allows a transition to a softer and more democratic system (see Spain, Chile, Taiwan, etc.).

Let the discussion of the sociopolitical themes underlying the Transformers backstory begin. Go!!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Actually, not.

Flashdrive Cellphone sat quietly at his workstation. He was thinking about something. Something important.

The telephone rang. It was loud, and sudden as always, but Flashdrive wasn't startled. Nothing startled Flashdrive Cellphone. Still, this was an important phonecall, and Flashdrive had been expecting it at exactly this moment: Four thirty-one PM, on May the 9th of the year 2007 in the Year of our Lord. He had been expecting this call for three days, since he'd read that letter.

The letter.

That day, the day it all started, was a rainy day, hot, the kind of day where no one goes out with an umbrella, but everyone goes out with a funny feeling, a feeling like something is going to happen, something they don't expect. What happens is that it rains, suddenly, and you're stuck at a bus stop in some god-forsaken town without an umbrella, saying to the poor bum next to you, "Jeez, who'da thought it was gonna rain today, huh?"

Flashdrive Cellphone had just left a meeting at some dive on K-Street, a late lunch with- well, with me, actually. My name is Notebook P. Teacup. I'm going to tell you what happened on that hot, rainy Monday. And, I'm going to tell you why I wrote that letter.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Out of character

(Argo is sitting quietly, staring into space. Bellboy enters.)

Bellboy: Thinking about something, Argo?

Argo: I'm thinking about my screenplay.

Bellboy: You're writing a screenplay?

Argo: I'm thinking about a screenplay.

(Nina enters)

Bellboy: Did you know Argo was thinking about writing a screenplay?

Nina: I didn't know you were a screenwriter.

Argo: I'm thinking about a screenplay. I'm not writing anything.

Nina: What's it about?

Argo: It's one unbroken shot, the whole thing. It opens on a guy, or a girl, it doesn't matter, sitting at a desk. There's a lamp on the desk, and he must be in an otherwise dark room. He's writing something with one hand. His head is in his other hand. He's thinking very hard about something.

Bellboy: What's he thinking about?

Argo: It doesn't matter. We watch him for a while. He writes for a few seconds, then stops. Then he writes for maybe a full minute. He takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes. He leans back and stares at the ceiling. We watch him for another minute. He sighs and stretches his arms. Maybe he squeezes his eyes shut. We notice a weird shudder in the image, like the cameraman must have stumbled or something. Also, periodically there are these flashes, like there are blank frames inserted into the film. They're random, but there's at least one or two every minute.

Nina: This sounds like a fascinating movie. Does anything actually happen?

Argo: This is just the beginning.

Bellboy: When did you decide to make a screenplay? You haven't gotten tired of making sandwiches, have you?

Argo: This may be related to my lack of interest in sandwich making, yes. But I'm not sure. I need something to think about when there's nothing else to do.

Nina: So, does anything happen, other than the guy sitting at his writing desk?

Argo: It does, do you want to hear it?

Bellboy: Sure, entertain us.

Argo: I'm not sure it's very entertaining.

Nina: I'm pretty sure it's not, as the opening indicates.

Argo: Okay. So, we're watching the guy at his desk, right? And we sort of assume that he's in a room, like a study or something, right?

Bellboy: I guess so.

(Nina shrugs)

Argo: But he's not, see? The camera creeps back, slowly. The guy leans back onto his desk, starts scribbling again. It should be obvious to us that he thinks it's very important, what he's writing about. The camera keeps creeping back, and we realize he's surrounded by darkness, like he's in a huge soundstage or something. The contrast increases a bit, and we can see that the darkness surrounding him seems to be speeding past. He seems to be surrounded by something, like a dusty bubble, and the bubble is set on another dark spot, which is speeding across some black surface. Somewhere, in another corner of the frame, we can see another light.

Nina: This is fascinating, Argo.

Argo: So, the camera swings over to that other light, and zooms in on it. It's a ballet dancer, spinning around on a hardwood floor. There's music coming out of a portable stereo off in the corner somewhere. It's something a ballet dancer would dance to. This is the only music in the movie. The camera doesn't linger here very long, and starts to pull back. As it does, it drifts down toward the floor, and we see the threshold, between hardwood dance floor and blurred, rushing asphalt.

Bellboy: Is this still the beginning of the movie?

Argo: No, we're well into it. As the camera reaches the threshold, it slows, then pauses- and begins to drift upward, and we can see that it's tracking along a transparent bubble, which encases the room the dancer is in. It's clear, but there are specks of dust and stuff that make it just barely visible. This is shown just long enough to be apparent to the audience, then suddenly the view retracts sharply, speeding away from the dancer, into the darkness. Only, it's not darkness.

Nina: Are you depressed, Argo? I don't think this is something you should be thinking about all by yourself.

Argo: It's not darkness, because as the camera pulls back, we catch glimpses of hundreds of little rooms, little carts-

Bellboy: Hundreds?

Nina: How are you going to to that? It's got to be a really, really long pullback.

Argo: It's a few minutes, I guess. There's a lot of noises. Like, train noises, and lots of whooshing and in the distance you think you can hear crashing, like when there's a garbage truck out in the alley early in the morning.

Bellboy: So, we're in a giant soundstage, with hundreds of little pod-rooms driving across the floor-

Argo: Ah, they're not driving, they're falling. There's a slant to the ground. They're all rolling downhill.

Nina: I don't like this movie.

Argo: Kids will like it.

Bellboy: Does something happen next? Does anything change?

Argo: Right. Finally, the camera slows, passes through a final bubble, and we find ourselves inside another room. The pullback continues beyond what we see was the source of the images we were viewing, some sort of telescope contraption. It continues behind a person, guy or girl doesn't matter, who is sort of staggering backwards, obviously shocked at what he's seen.

Nina: I like your gender neutrality.

Argo: It's only because it doesn't matter. I'm not trying to prove any point.

Nina: Anyway, I have to get back inside. I think your break was up like 10 minutes ago, Argo.

(Nina exits)

Argo: You like it, Bellboy?

Bellboy: I think you spend too much time here, Argo. You need to find a new job, or go on a vacation.

Argo: I don't think you like it.

Bellboy: Am I supposed to like it?

Argo: If people will watch the Matrix, they will watch my movie. It'll be short too, so they can show it ten times a day in the theaters if they want. Or, they could show it as a double feature with something else, like a documentary on kids playing in the park. Maybe they find a weird looking caterpillar, or make a kite.

Bellboy: That might help to cancel out the dread of the black soundstage movie.

Argo: Anyway, I've got to finish so I can get back inside.

Bellboy: Go ahead.

Argo: So, the guy with the contraption, he's sort of staggering backward, like he's just seen something terrible. We see his face, and it's pale, and he's sweating like crazy. We look around and see that he's in a room like a laboratory, with white floors, and a bunch of workbenches and white counters with junk piled everywhere. It looks like the contraption is something he built. He wanders around for a few minutes, looking it over, walks around the front of it and looks confused, puts his hands on something. We realize, of course, he's looking at a solid wall, which is all he sees. He doesn't see the bubble, even though now he knows he's inside it.

Bellboy: That's heavy, man. This will appeal to a certain crowd.

Argo: It get's better! He goes back to the contraption, sticks his face back into the view-hole, and we zoom back out of the bubble. He seems to swing it around, pointing it downhill, zooming and zooming. We see something looming in the darkness. Zooming. Zooming and looming. We approach it, and hear terrible crashing sounds, louder and louder, screeching, and we can see that the looming something is a pile of trash, a pile of crashed pods.

Bellboy: I saw this coming.

Argo: You're like the guy with the thingie. You can empathize with him. Anyway, we see the giant, looming pile of doom, and see pods crashing into it at super high speeds. Crash, poof of dust, crash, crash, crash.

Bellboy: Argo.

Argo: The camera swings a bit, and next to the doom-pile is a gaping void, and pods are racing off into it, zooming right off the edge.

Bellboy: You need to see a doctor, Argo.

Argo: We focus on a pod, zoom into it, and see that it's a guy, sitting in a car, and he looks terrified. He's clutching the wheel like his life depends on it. He's all strapped in like it matters, and suddenly he's clutching at the belt, trying to pull himself free. We zoom out, in time to see him shoot over the edge, into the void. We keep zooming back, until we're back at the contraption pod, we zoom past the guy, stumbling back again, we zoom away from the pod, just in time to see another pod collide with it, and they both explode into a pile of auto parts and plywood.

Bellboy: Isochrony, Argo, did you ever get that figured out?

Argo: We keep zooming back, right past a guy, and then the zoom slows, but doesn't stop. The guy is striding right across the blacktop, toward one of the bubble things. He stoops and crawls through a hatch or something, then it takes off, slow at first, but accelerating, as we continue to pull back.

Bellboy: Is there another guy with a contraption?

Argo: Maybe, but probably not. It doesn't seem likely that too many people could invent one of those.

Bellboy: So, the movie is about mortality? Or inescapable fate?

Argo: I wish. It's really about my cool idea for a blacktop soundstage crash-pod derby.

Bellboy: You mean demolition derby.

Argo: I couldn't think of it. I gotta go back inside.

Bellboy: Okay, see you later.

(Argo exits)

Bellboy: ...

Bellboy: I could write a screenplay.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A poem by me:

My hair is cut short,
We steamed a fish and ate it,
We walked downtown to see fireworks,
I moved some data around,
I typed a letter,
This was a weekend.
We also fried some tofu,
and stuffed it with heavily salted limburger cheese,
and it was pretty good.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Going to the grocery store and buying almost nothing

The original post was much too long. I went to the grocery store and didn't buy anything but a quart of heavy cream. Went back later that night, and still didn't buy groceries, just bought some weird cheese. Finally went back again today, and bought groceries. Idiot.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nice things said by a nice man:

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here.

Tiger got to hunt, Bird got to fly
Man got to sit and wonder, "Why, why, why?"
Tiger got to sleep, Bird got to land
Man got to tell himself he understand.

We do, doodly do, doodly do
What we must, muddily must, muddily must
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Insurance is for crap

So I had a toothache, and I figured I ought to go to the dentist. Before going, I go real quick and sign up for some extra plan on my student health insurance because it promised that it was very likely that it would cover "up to" 50% on dental work. It cost like $25, I think. So, I wind up going to the dental school because it will be cheaper anyway, and they pull two of my teeth out after taking some x-rays, and charge me some money, and I wait to see if the insurance will cover anything. A while ago a very nice lady at the dental school calls me to basically tell me that the insurance won't cover anything. I have to pay for all my tooth-pulling, which is fine with me, but I paid $25 for nothing. I sure am an idiot.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Waiting in line for coffee at the starbucks in the library next to the robot librarian monstrosity thing

Also too long. This is the short version. Read the title. I am an idiot.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

Waiting for the bus instead of riding a bike

Today I waited for 45 minutes to catch a bus to the garage just about 2 miles from my house. I could have ridden my bike and gotten there in less than 15 minutes. I am really an idiot.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A matrix in a vector for no good reason.

So, I've been rerunning this program I designed last month. It takes a random 256 pixel square out of each of 4212 images in a calibrated database of photographs. It determines which of 108 frequency-space filters would give the biggest response to that sub-image. That's 9 frequencies (the lowest and two highest never have maximal responses, but they're there as buffers so no energy is ignored). For some reason, I wrote the spectral filtering function so that it would return the filter coefficients in a 108 entry vector instead of a 12x9 matrix. I don't know why I wrote it this way. This means that every time I want to do something different with the data in the driver function, I have to sit and think again about how to find the right entry in the vector. This is really irritating, but I don't go back and slightly rewrite the analyzer function, because I don't want to do a bunch of back-and-forth fixing to adjust for the function fix. I leave the function messed up and go ahead and just make things difficult for myself in handling the output data. I don't know why. Also, my tooth-hole hurts.

Friday, March 09, 2007

oh gosh i'm sorry

Argo: The last week has gone by really fast, hasn't it?

Bellboy: I know.

Nina: I think it took forever.

Argo: Somebody always says that. What bothers me is that I keep saying that the last week has gone by really fast. I mean, every week recently, I keep saying that.

Bellboy: Have you? I think I have too.

Argo: It seems like I said it last week, and that then I was really struck by how quickly I had gotten from Monday to Friday. It seemed odd. But then, I remembered that I had thought the same sort of thing the week before. Now here I am again, thinking the same thing again.

Nina: Maybe there's something wrong with your brain.

Bellboy: Like you've gotten miscalibrated somehow. Maybe time seems the same as it always has seemed, but you've started comparing it with months, or two-week periods.

Argo: That doesn't make sense. Why would I do that?

Bellboy: I don't know.

Nina: Yeah, what's your point, Argo?

Argo: My point is, I don't like it. It makes me feel like if time is shorter, less has gotten done. And it worries me that if it keeps up, pretty soon I'll lose track of the weeks altogether. I kind of feel like I'm already starting to do that.

Nina: Maybe you just can't remember anymore. You're getting old.

Argo: You mean, like, I can't remember as much from the previous week, so it seems smaller?

Nina: Maybe. Or you really are doing less, so there's less to remember.

Bellboy: Or, what you're doing from week to week is getting more and more the same as what you've done the previous week, and so it just seems like what you remember from this week is an old memory.

Argo: But that's the opposite of "time flies when you're having fun", right? If what you're doing is entertaining and new, time passes quickly; if it's boring time goes slowly.

Nina: Maybe the saying is wrong.

Bellboy: Maybe it's that if what you're doing requires little new thought, time seems to go more quickly. Maybe remembered time is measured in thought-hours. Sometimes fun things are easy things, which don't require a lot of thought. If you're sitting in a waiting room with nothing but 'no smoking' signs to read, there's nothing to do but think, and so time seems to drag on.

Argo: So I haven't been thinking recently? So I'm not consuming enough thought-hours?

Nina: Or, you're forgetting how much you've thought about. Or maybe you just haven't done anything but stand outside and smoke and talk about stupid boring nonsense with your coworkers.

(Nina leaves)

Argo: Maybe I've reached a new level of thought; I do so much hard, serious thinking that it's automatic, and it takes no effort. I'd have to think about what I was thinking about to actually remember the time spent thinking. Maybe I should be writing it down.

Bellboy: I'm sure that's it, Argo. You're full of crap.

(Bellboy leaves)

Argo: Maybe I'm getting old, and I'm going to die soon. That would be good.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A New Post!

Jingping and I made a lot of cookies last night! I don't know what's wrong with us. We made a load of peanut butter cookies, and a load of chocolate chip cookies. I had six cookies, a glass of water with orange juice, and two cups of coffee for lunch! I don't feel so good. If anyone wants some cookies, they should come over soon, before I get cookie poisoning!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Moving On:

Adolph: Vat ist dat?
Andrew: This is data from my experiment.
Adolph: Vat are you doink vis it?
Andrew: I am making pretty plots out of it. Look at this one. Isn't it pretty?
Adolph: Vat does it mean?
Andrew: I don't know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cold War II

ole, ole!"


What do you...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


So, I spent a couple of hours this afternoon trying to find an authoritative... answer to this question. Nothing I found satisfied me, though I'm not exactly an anthropologist or child psychologist or anything like that, so I shouldn't expect to be too successful.


Where do kids learn their games from? The three answers to this question are: other kids, older kids, and grown-ups. I just wonder what the proportions are. I'm pretty sure that I learned tag and hide-and-go-seek from other or older kids. Though, it is conceivable that my parents taught me the games when I was too little to remember. People should suggest their intuitions to me. Is there a self-perpetuating children's culture underneath us all, with tag being passed largely from generation to generation of children, without much significant input from adults?

Also, where does the "nyaah nyaah nyaah" song come from? I don't know the name of it. You sing it when you beat someone, or when they can't catch you. You can sing it with "nanny nanny boo boo, you can't catch me!". What is this song? Why did Freddie Mercury write "We are the Champions" around it?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Should it be "materiel support", or "material support"? Materiel is like military hardware and supplies and stuff, whereas material is just stuff. So if you say, "Iran is providing materiXl support to our enemies", which materiXl should be used? Is "materiel support" the natural form of the phrase, but people use "material" just because it's a normaler word? Or is it just a coincidence that you can use "materiel" in a more generalized phrase while talking about military stuff?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Introducing Bongo and Jingo Jango

Bongo: Man, that new library addition is so cool!

Jingo Jango: What are you talking about, Bongo? We spent 14,000,000 dollars to build a robot to do things for us which we've been doing for ourselves, for years, without even thinking about it!

Bongo: You mean taking a book off a shelf?

Jingo Jango: Right! Just a couple of years ago, if you wanted to get an article from the journal Vision Research, all you had to do was go up to the third floor, take the volume off the shelf, and go to the copy room. The copy room on the third floor had lots of tables, and three copiers.

Bongo: But now you can ask a robot to do it for you! Isn't that just cool?

Jingo Jango: No, Bongo. Now I have to ask a robot to do it for me. If I climbed into that giant, gymnasium-sized room with all the stacks of metal crates, and tried to find the metal crate with the volume of Vision Research I wanted, a security guard would probably shoot me.

Bongo: Come on, Jingo Jango. You're just a Luddite. Do you miss the days of the card catalog?

Jingo Jango: No, Bongo, and I don't miss riding a horse to Wal-Mart either. Putting the card catalog online made things easier, as long as you had a computer. And, naturally, libraries nowadays always have a few terminals with immediate access to the online catalog. But that was cool; it wasn't even that big of a change. A card catalog is naturally a type of database, so why not just make it a computer based one rather than a paper based one?

Bongo: But this thing is so cool! And it saves so much space! Now you don't have to walk to the engineering library across campus to get issues of the Journal of the Optical Society of America. Isn't that convenient? Plus, isn't the library itself like a big database? Isn't it natural, even, just to put all those books online and do away with the 'place' once and for all?

Jingo Jango: They could do it right. They could do more than put one crappy, old, half-operational copy machine on the first floor, halfway across the library from the 14,000,000 dollar robotic librarian. If I go to the kid at the desk with my list of 6 volumes of some journal, and say, "Hey, this journal isn't registered properly in your big gizmo over there. Get these for me", I could, in theory, wait fifteen minutes while they figure out how to get my books and wait for the robot to respond, and then carry all 4000 pages across the first floor to the copier, dump them on the floor, copy my articles, and then carry all 4000 pages plus copies back to the kid at the desk, and leave.

Bongo: You sound pissed.

Jingo Jango: But I don't. I make a point of saying, "I'm going to leave these here, on your shiny desk, while you sit and watch cartoons, and I'm going to take them one at a time to the copier, and don't you think it's silly that there aren't any copiers around here, given that that stupid machine is full of thousands of volumes of journals which no one is allowed to check out of the library, and please don't do anything with them while they're there."

Bongo: Stop complaining. You're such an asshole. I'm sure one of these days they'll tear down the new Starbucks next door and spend the next 14,000,000 dollars on a room full of tables and new copiers.

Jingo Jango: You're funny, Bongo.

Bongo: Anyway, they'll work it out. And I'm right, you know. A lot of journals aren't even printed on paper anymore. Eventually everything will get scanned, and it will all be online. The library will be nothing but kids sitting at desks watching cartoons.

Jingo Jango: They could at least let me into that room so I can get my books myself. If it's so simple, anyone should be able to use it.

Bongo: I wonder what happens when the license on the software runs out. I remember a story about a robotic parking lot in New Jersey, which worked just like the library robot, and the city was refusing to pay yearly software licenses after a new council got elected, something like that.

Jingo Jango: So everyone's car gets stuck in the garage if they don't get it out by the license expiration date. That's nuts. What if the Russians detonate an EM weapon over the library? How will anyone know what's inside all those metal boxes?

Bongo: No one will care, they'll be too busy eating their cellphones.