Tuesday, August 27, 2013

special blue light

something i forgot to mention in the Montreal post:

standing on the balcony outside AR's apartment, you can watch the alley four floors down. across the alley is what looks like an old office building - occupied, i mean, just old. it's nighttime, dark with moonlight and streetlights. the lights are mostly out in the building across the alley.

on the ground floor, through a window, seemingly under a desk, you can see a faint blue glow. it seems to come and go, but in fact it's constant. it's a blue LED at the front of a computer tower, or some other device. it's just dim enough that if you foveate it, you see blackness, but if you look away just a degree or more, it pops into view.

it's easy to see this effect with stars at night, or with any dim detail when you're dark adapted. and we all know that the fovea is free of blue cones, though i think this light was not so blue that it wouldn't be stimulating green cones, if they were sensitive enough. the trick is that they were not sensitive enough, but the periphery was. but the answer can't be that it was rods mediating the peripheral seeing, partly because the color sensation was plain, and partly because we were going in and out of the apartment, there were other lights all round, so the rods shouldn't have been especially useful.

so the explanation must be the blue cones and the insensitivity of the green cones. the light was dim enough to be invisible to green cones, which if it were brighter would probably  be stimulated (though maybe it was blue and pure enough that this latter point isn't even true; however, a quick google suggests that standard blue LEDs have peak spectral power at around 540nm, which is within the M-cone tuning width).

anyways, i thought this was interesting. it took me a couple of minutes to convince my companions that the blue light wasn't actually slowly flashing on and off, that it was all in their behavior. that was the best part.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


went up to montreal for the weekend, on account of jp's inter-rotation break. had a mostly good weekend, won't go into the problems here.

relevant part to this journal: i had my first TMS. my friend tk has been working on some TMS experiments alongside her boyfriend, ar. ar is french. so one point of interest for the weekend was spending a night and some time in the apartment of a frenchman in montreal, which i'd never done before. small things matter.

anyways, even though they were resistant owing to my falling on their official list of 'do not tests' (migraine), i managed to push my way into the TMS room and got a few zaps. jp too. they had it set at low power, don't remember the numbers. they started at parietal cortex and got arm and hand muscles to twitch, though i could never really feel it through the much more salient face twitching (which i think was just caused by conduction through facial nerves, not cortex). both me and jp got the arm/hand twitches. i didn't think it was that interesting really. maybe higher power and finer tuning would produce a more interesting result.

then they tried occipital cortex. jp couldn't see the phosophenes, but thought maybe she might see something. what i saw was very clear. exactly synchronous with the click, against the darkness of occluded and closed eyes, below and just right of fixation (which happens to be the locus of most of my migraine auras, though i didn't mention that), i saw a patch, maybe half a degree across and of irregular but defined shape, with a boundary shaped like poland or ohio. it seemed to be a brightening of the background noise, almost had a golden hue against the red-black background; as it flicked off, i thought it left a fine-grained afterimage, redder, maybe with striations.

so that was interesting. less amazing than i expected, but he was keeping the power low so as not to induce a seizure. i've read up on it, and there's no actual evidence that migraineurs are susceptible to seizure from TMS. i told him i figured it was like having everyone turn off their e-book readers on the airplane at takeoff. no evidence of trouble, but it is the brain (or an airplane), so may as well be safe.

got a sunburn biking across montreal. saw the buckysphere. i have a mustache.  what else... well, many things. by the end of this week, i must have applications prepared. must or bust.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

security state

what with all the stuff in the news lately about the State spying on the internet in all sorts of deeper-than-expected ways, i thought this was interesting:

my institute was recently eaten by Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, MEEI, a hospital. rather than fully digest us, MEEI dissolved parts of our organization and replaced with their own, so really it's more like the ant that is infected by a fluke that effectively replaces or overrides parts of her brain, or the caterpillar whose internal processes are slowly displaced by wasp larvae. i think the ant example is better.

anyways, as a part of this absorption, our computer network was transferred to the control of the MEEI network, and they are insane about security. it's as though we're at los alamos. everything is supposedly super secure. patient privacy, etc etc. as a part of this transfer of authority, every computer in the institute was infected intentionally with a suite of spyware that allows the MEEI IT people to control or observe all of our data flow. in theory. our internet is filtered, our emails are filtered (unless we take simple steps to avoid the filtering), all access to local computers is supposedly filtered. it's irritating in the all-encompassing authority they take on, at the same time that it's ridiculous how easy and convenient and necessary it is to get around everything they try to do.

one set of spyware is called "DeviceLock". you can always see it running in the background, under processes named DLservice.exe, DLtray.exe, etc. this is a program for, supposedly, ensuring that external storage devices must be encoded or they can't be used with institute systems. but i've discovered additional functions, which are mentioned in that link. there's a process running in the background, "DLSkypePlugin.exe". what does it do? who knows! let's ask DeviceLock:

""Skype" control supports blocking, allowing, auditing, shadowing and content analysis of outgoing instant messages and files as well as auditing, alerting, shadowing and content analysis (for contingent shadowing) for incoming instant messages and files. Also, supports blocking, allowing, alerting and auditing of incoming and outgoing audio/video calls;"
 where does a hospital IT department get the authority to do something like this? can someone explain to me, please?

on a final note, while most of the IT spyware can't easily be disabled - i, the virtual owner of this computer, don't have the "authority" - the DL programs can be terminated without any special privileges. an oversight, i'm sure.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


no thoughts to essayize lately, at least none which aren't going into manuscripts. productive summer of writing so far, will have produced at least 4 papers of my own this summer and lots of stubs for future work. current paper is unfolding in an interesting way; collecting a little more data, should have it all done in another week or so.

going to montreal this weekend.

decision on postdoc i applied for won't come til octoberish. preparing faculty applications in the meantime.

migraine news: last friday night developed a fine, sharp, right-side headache, on the trainride home from seeing Pacific Rim - best movie i've seen in a movie theater *maybe ever* - came home, went to bed, couldn't sleep til 2am because of the pain.

interesting thing was, when i closed my eyes, i could see, faintly, these very, very fine striations, like looking at my thumbprints from 50cm distant; 20+ cpd. they would follow one direction and fade into the black/redness of the eyelight; then i would see the other orientation, and they would fade, and so on. they kind of had the appearance of the extreme eye movement striations, but finer. maybe they were from irritation of the optic nerve? i couldn't tell if they were in one eye or the other, only noticeable when both eyes were closed.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


lately: struggling to prioritize. a recurrent state, been a few months. not too bad this time.

1. have interview thursday; should be studying guy's papers. have been, but not for a few days. meant to get back to it tonight. gonna be too late soon.
2. started drafting new adaptation paper today. should be easy, taking forever.
3. spent much of last week designing a metric for a new study/paper (the paper is the study), then quit working on it as soon as i got it working.
4. trying to corral a bunch of coauthors into working on a paper i collaborated on but am only interested in to the point that i don't want to look too bad when it is someday published.
5. returned to my mind is an offer i made a guy earlier in the summer to give him a demo of an idea, which i need to follow up on.
6. for some stupid reason, writing a paper and doing computations on simulating/demonstrating cat vision, using it as a vehicle to talk about the idea of simulating/demonstrating vision pictorially.

may i return here soon and look upon this list and despair.