Monday, April 7, 2008

Make the Trek!

New blog! I've been populating it for a while now, and I'm finally ready to make the switch over to the new blog at my own website, It is quite a trek up the alphabet but the few of you who make the trip will be warmly greeted at .
It is about things I'm making and a lot of systems stuff that I am thinking.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Our Mythology

I've been very sensitive to how ritual enriches life. Rituals are things like getting the same tea everytime you go to a coffee shop, or smelling a book before you read it, or washing your hands before a meal. And as little and arbitrary as they are, my life is richer and happier because of them. For many people still living in this world, mythology reinforces these rituals: History, Great People and Big Pictures conspire to weave the trivial flourishes of one life into a bigger narrative that accounts for everything that has ever existed.

The places chronicled in the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, the beings explored in the Book of Imaginary Beings and all the musics with echoes have been wandering my mind. I look for little worlds everywhere, and I cherish the people who create them .

I want a mythology that I can use in this world, a world with lots of different cultures, too much information, cars, computers and cites that juxtapose all of the approaches to beauty that exist. I'll start with the sky. Who are in the stars and what are their stories? Here are the sky's current labels: Here are the sky's current stories:

Help me rewrite the sky. Here is are some references:

Sky charts

Very Very detailed Sky charts
for example:

Detailed South African Sky charts
try changing jan08 to aug08 or feb07 etc, for the south african sky in other parts of the year.

Chinese sky charts (Chinese constellations):
Leading, at the bottom, to

Fictional Skies:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

No Meat Yes Liquor

Wikipedia has me pretty much convinced to go vegetarian and to not quit alcohol (there is (or was until recently) even a short section on talking to teetotalers about starting drinking).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

RP for PR

After watching the returns from Tuesday night's New Hampshire debacle, in which the Dragon Lady secured her seat for long haul, and Ol' Reliable simply kept his warm, I was reminded of a state in dire need of representation in the modern American electoral process: Puerto Rico.

Yes, that disrespected commonwealth, or unincorporated organized territory as it's known in some parts, has newfound importance. It is time that Borikén had the earliest primary therefore ridding ourselves of the discomfort we feel seeing in seeing White Power at its finest; whether at play in the cornfields or at work in granite quarries, these states don't represent the changing demographics of America in the least.

Puerto Rico is not only heavily Latino, it is Latino. It's not Mexico, sure, but census projections are far more favorable to our hot-blooded hermanos, even if they aren't the much-vilified "wetbacks" smuggled along with a coyote. Indeed, by 2050 Latinos will represent exactly half the population of white America, and the majority in states like California and Arizona.

So here is how it works: politicians will cast aside their pea coats for tropical garb and the process will have a twist. PR is still, as of last month, set to be ruled as a territory under the plenary powers of the US Congress, and yet the two parties here make their hay out the independence issue. So you'll get your typical retail politics, only this time in order to appeal to a large swath of the population they'll have to openly court absolute sovereignty.

Everyone will be forced to speak, or at least ape, español. The opportunities for gaffes are endless, as even the most polished candidate will be sure to put Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech to shame. (The reader should note that I'm very aware that Kennedy's grammar was correct when he gave the speech, but the jelly-filled doughnut tale will always captivate). Can you imagine Hillary Clinton's tearful address, rehearsed after watching a stirring telenovela?

Most importantly, the island will be easy to dispose of with all the candidates buzzing about like pheromone-driven bees. You see, the US Navy had been dropping bombs on nearby Vieques until 2003; a continuation of a strafing operation wouldn't be unthinkable.

But I guess we'll have to wait until another plebiscite goes out, until the statehood advocates finally get their way. The prophecy will be revealed on that day of judgment, though, this much we know for sure. Ron Paul will assume the Oval Office with howitzer in hand and hundreds of gold bricks stored inside his blimp.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Simple Model for Understanding Emergence

The model is for understanding changes in complexity over scale in the context of cooperation, and also, with very few parts, offers valuable clarification of ideas like robustness, modularity and the 'plant-animal' spectrum (Sometimes you cut some living organism into two and both parts die, sometimes both parts survive and sometimes just one part dies. Does this have significance for a general understanding in interrelationship, and if so, how?). So:

There are 5 cells. Each cell has five parts and manufactures one unit of chemical in each part. Each cell needs to have 5 different chemicals at any moment to be legal. If a cell is not receiving a unit of all five different chemicals, it is not legal.

In the simplest case, each of the five cells is using each part of itself to produce each chemical it needs for itself. Five parts, five chemicals, easy. Each cell is simple and legal.

Now for the next step. Let them share chemical. This makes possible (but not practical) an important new configuration: We can make it so each cell is specializing in one chemical. Cell One makes five units of Chemical One. Cell Two makes five units of Chemical Two, etc. All cells are sharing, so each cell is receiving the five chemicals that it needs to be legal.

I noted that this is possible but not practical because if we separate one cell from the other four, than all five are illegal. The removed cell is receiving five units of only one chemical and the other four are receiving all but that chemical.

At this step of the model, this 'collective' arrangement offers no advantages over the 'individualist' arrangement above.

Now let us introduce economies of scale. Within one cell, if Chemical One is being produced by two of the cell's parts, it gets four units of that Chemical One. If it is produced by three parts (3/5 of its manufacturing capacity) it produces 9 units of Chemical One and so on. The benefit can be any kind of greater-than-linear growth, I chose n^2 for this model where n is number of parts devoted to manufacture of a particular chemical. Lets call the exponent of this function the "economy". In this case the economy is 2. In the starting case, it was 1.

Where the economy was 1, there was no important difference between the collectivist and individualist arrangements. With an economy greater than one, the collective arrangement produces more chemical than the individualist arrangement. Where five individualist cells collectively produce 25 units of chemical, the cooperating cells collectively produce 125 units of chemical.

With a small tweak to the model, we can call go a step further and call the 5 cooperating cells More Complex than the five individual cells. To make this possible I introduced efficiency, where, working at 100% efficiency, the cooperating cells produce 125 units of chemical and at 40% efficiency they produce 50 units. These five cells are all legal down to 20% efficiency, and so they have 80 legal states, while five individual cells have only one legal state (at 100% efficiency).

We are now looking at a tradeoff. Where, as individuals, the cells are robust to separation and are individually more complex, the cooperating cells are individually simpler and collectively more complex than individualized competitors. At intermediate levels of cooperation, we will see robustness and efficiency slide past each other.

The economy exponent provides the incentive to scale up. It provides an incentive for higher scale organization. Not only does this exponent control the extent to which cooperation gets rewarded, my preliminary poking around indicates that it has influence over how 'plantlike' or 'animallike' a collective of units is. Really! But I won't go into the work that shows it until you respond to this initial work.

So, in summary, this model provides a way to analyze changes in complexity of a simple system over changes in scale. It also provides a way to analyze plantlikeness and animallikeness. It also emphasizes that there are different kinds of robustness (robust to being separated or to being starved) and forces a rigorous definition of modular (are the specialized cells modules because they are specialized, or are the individual cells modules because they are self sufficient?). Both of these concepts are far too butchered in everyday discussion of ideas like this, and the model shows some of the nuance in them.

Also, this discussion only looked at the extreme ends of the spectrum, full collectiveness and individualness, but the intermediate points on the spectrum are ripe. By digging around I've seen how plantlikeness and animallikeness are meaningless distinctions at economies of one, in an intuitive way. It has also shown me how the more complex an individual cell is (the more parts it has), the more it will be animallike.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Creation: Case Closed

The Earth was created here:

Google Earth has a better shot of it, the exact spot is within 500 meters of these coordinates: 39°39'21.59"N 121°49'49.12"W. That is 5.5 miles south of Chico, CA, home of party town USA and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Also, former home of the indigenous and not extinct Maidu people. I learned years ago that the raft from which the earth was created was grounded at Ta'doiko, and in this post I gave my first stab at finding the place. As you can see, I was way off, my guess was that it would be a prominent mountain top, it turns out to be the opposite, just a spot in the floodplain of the Sacramento River, Lassen Peak turns out to have been just a northern border of their territory. Whatever was once at Ta'Doiko (like the legendary tree Hu'kiimtsa that grew 12 different kinds of acorns) is now long gone, and fertilizer for whatever orchards and fields you can make out in that map. I found the place with google's invaluable help, they scanned Alfred Kroeber's 1925 Indians of California (from which the Maidu of the link above took much of their information) which, amazingly had a slightly different spelling of Ta'doiko labeled on a map, here, page 446.

Since I was on such a roll, I decided to find another place place mentioned in the complete version of the story than the one I blogged.

Marysville Buttes is where the spirits of the dead go to eat spirit food. Again, the internet is amazing for the resources it could provide. I found the entire history of the NGS's markers, and one mentioning that the marker formerly locating Marysville Buttes has its carving scratched out and renamed Sutter Buttes ( I later found that Wikipedia says the same thing, and the first google hit for marysville buttes is sutter buttes). The history of the marker went back to 1876. This holy site later became the staging ground for many of General Fremont's attacks on the Natives and Mexicans who were in charge of California at the time. It even later, and more provokingly, became an ICBM missle storage facility. How's that for spirit food? Marysville Buttes is here, just a few miles south of Ta'doiko.

There is more to that story Ku'ksuu, the first man must be what the Kuksu cult is named after. The Kuksu Cult is best called a religion, and it spanned at least a dozen different langauge communities and tribes spanning from the Sierras to the Bay area and south as far as Bakersfield, I think. I also think Father-of-Secret-Society is a representative of teh Kuksu Cult (its also called a secret society) and got 'written in' at some point by the old story tellers.

The world began off the Durham-Dayton Highway, near Fimple Road. Case closed.

I am Either Above or Below the Golden Rule

I've recently determined that I should not use the Golden Rule, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you', in determining the appropriateness of my social interactions. The problem comes because I interact with people who have different boundaries and standards than me, and things that I wouldn't mind others doing unto me are often things that others would not do or want done to them. It also happens the other way around, I might percieve that someone violated the Golden Rule in interacting with me when really they were working within their bounds. So, because most of my interactions are with people who have very different boundaries than me, the Golden Rule is not so helpful in determining what is right. If most of the people you deal with are similar to you, then the Rule still works.

As far as replacing it, it has always been just one of many heuristics I use in guiding my interactions, but I have toyed with versions like 'Do unto others as they do unto themselves', hopefully I won't get backed into the informationless 'Do unto others as they would have you do unto them'

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A new engineering?

I just took a course exploring current work in engineering decentralized systems and found an interesting clash, mostly within myself, as to the best way to make such engineering tractable. I work for an educational non profit interested in helping people deal with complexity. How do we manage systems that are more complicated than one person can understand? Such systems exist, large corporations, governments, societies and living systems, and in cases where such systems are given a leader, we have to understand that this person has very litle clue what they are doing and can do.

NECSI, my employer, is interested in developing tools that help such people understand and predict the consequences of such interventions. We are also interested in the tools behind designing such unmanageable systems, for all their benefits, in a way that they accomplish tasks planned by their designers. You can see it as a new kind of engineering, and it involves a new kind of thinking, or a new language to think in. Much of my thinking in the course was from the angle, 'How do I think in the language of this system'?

This contrasts with the approach of the majority of my classmates, and that of the instructor. They were all engineers of one sort or another, and I found that the class worked towards understanding 'How do I conceptualize this in terms of the engineering process'? Essentially, 'How do I make the system work in a way that I'm used to thinking?'. This included simplifying the system and finding independent 'basis' behaviors that can act as predictable building blocks to be combined into novel systems.

So: think like the system, or make it think like you? My first stab at an answer was 'Do normal engineering for 'easy' problems and change your thinking for 'hard' ones'. My second stab is a little better, it defines easy problems (and hard) operationally as problems normal engineering can solve. My latest attempt at a heuristic is "Do normal engineering when you can (1. when the system has parts that can be black-boxed and 2. interventions have effects independant of each other that can be cleanly measured and 3. there is a well-defined goal) and in other cases use approaches better suited to complicated systems (What approaches? Well, the official contents of the complex systems toolkit are still up for grabs.).

The second stab will not be the last, I still have some questions about weaknesses built inherent in 'The Engineering Method'. I am trying to determine for myself whether short term thinking is built into traditional engineering approaches. If this were true, it would be because of something like the following: The metrics used to determine success are restricted to those things which are measurable, and short term effects are more measurable and almost inevitably play a larger role in influencing decisions made.

We see a lot of people from business and policy soming to courses at the Institute. At first, I disparagingly assumed that this was because they are more vulnerable to buzzwords, but I eventually changed my angle: The people 'in charge' of social bodies are the ones who see most clearly the need for methods of managing complexity and intervening in the systems that they only have the illusion of controlling. For now my take is that if such people could (can) use existing methods they would (should).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Il Mio Manifesto (hey, at least they're better than New Year's resolutions!)

In the last few days I have had discussions with old pals from the Fourth Estate. It is doing well and the jewels and minks will only be sold to those of fine breeding, namely Roger Ailes. They have informed me that my plight in academia is a grim one: namely research can only get a privileged few very far, because most of the time faculty is desperately trying hammer one of its futile proposals for research down a foundation's throat. At then the thankless teaching load, especially for younger faculty, includes such courses as the following three-credit masterpiece: FYC 4003 Family Financial Management.

I harken back to the old aphorism that the ass is leaner on the other hide, though, because when I was set to plunge myself into the thankless anonymity of writing for the Palatka Daily News or assistant editor of Fleet Owner Magazine I would have died to be an academic, in part because it didn't look like I would be writing copy for the NY Times or broadcasting for the BBC any time soon.

So what I suppose I've always hankered for is the possibility of working in the jungles and godforsaken veldt while at once capturing something uniquely narrative. I'm nowhere near that now, but I've got the seed of an idea.

Many efforts have been made to marry journalism with academia in the past, and most of them haven't been that successful. Journalism departments typify this perhaps the most, attempting to create scholarship and scholars out of something which is by it's very nature not a scholarly process. But the same can be said for the news media, which for whatever reason seems to think that reporters can become experts on all range of subject matters despite their acute focus on only the most pertinent details to a contemporary story. This is most egregious when a cable news channel will put on the TV some cockamamie fool who can pronounce mujahideen but whose credentials nor more recommend them as a Middle East expert to CNN than to CVS.

So I've decided to combine my work in both disciplines, and specifically my work on resilience theory and natural hazards, to my ongoing sensibilities as a storyteller, for toxic effect. The project is protean, the aim ephemeral, the desire simple: try something that has never been done before, either because there's no audience or because it's too damn complicated.

In a sense, this is a call to arms on my part. I want to actually challenge myself and others to see if a utilization of blogs and other multimedia can move the material in question, in this case probably resiliency work in southeastern Mexico, or whether it is doomed to just be conjunctive. I've seen what's out there, and as a result I wish to see what I can modify myself and put intro practice. Hopefully it will be something grand, but if it fails to be anything more than an effort that mirrors this self-promoter, then I want nothing of it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's 1 2 3, what are we payin' for?

One of the most amazing aspects of the United States Department of Defense has been its ability to innovate what eventually becomes broadly accessible civilian applications. The Internet is one, thanks to DARPA, and remote sensing is another, thanks to the needs of the Union Army. While taking a class whose purpose is to analyze remote sensing in all its detail, I've come to feel that the technology should have stayed within the confines of the Pentagon, I am tortured so).

The question becomes: What will the next generation of DoD innovations evolve to become? With this query I mind I searched the Department's archives to locate all the gizmos I had remembered seeing in magazines and Berkeley coffee houses that traffic in paranoia. There were the microwave rays, or Active Denial System; the robotic wasps that
explode C4 cartridges in the craws of unsuspecting enemies; even the gun that shoots out balls of an adhesive material reminiscent of the glue-like thread material Spider-Man stored in his spinnerets.

But I can't imagine that these would have widespread utility, at least not in the constructive way imagined by the teams that put the foundations for remote sensing and the Internet into place (once they had gotten past the hot air balloon stage.) Doubtless there are apparatuses being envisaged at the moment that no one outside the deepest chambers of Arlington can speak of, but my guess would be not. Why? There are any number of explanations. It's inarguable that the military-industrial complex has shifted to a self-serving enterprise, where military technology is now more expensive than at any time before, where the budget for the Defense Department rewards investments in junk projects like the Osprey, which seemingly crashes or blows up every few years, or Predator drones, which to date have managed to blow up an Afghan wedding, mortally wound a US service member, and kill an innocent civilian on the basis that he looked like Ayman al-Zawarhiri. Sure the DoD's budget as a percentage of GDP is less now than it was even during the Vietnam War, but such a statistic does not take into account the supplementary budgets use to fund Iraq and Afghanistan, or the secret budget outlays for, among other things, defense intelligence.

The gluttony of the Pentagon will no longer allow it to innovate outwardly. Technological tautology is now supreme, and old technologies will persist as long as they serve the central aim of taking out a target with as little collateral damage as possible. But then MRE's may show some promise for long distance runners...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Your friends are extensions of you.

So there is simply too much wonderful stuff to do in life, and not enough me to do it. That is why I have started internalizing the accomplishments of my friends. I have found, with two cases in particular, that on seeing the exciting accomplishments of friends, my own longing and sense of unfulfillment to do whatever they did decreases. Two examples:

I've read a bit and been curious about California Central Valley migrant labor life. My friend Ghe was looking into someway to do premed work outside the making-money-off-of-premeds industry. After a good brainstorm, he is planning to go deep into California and see how he can help. And now, strangely, I can internalize his accomplishments and feel like I don't need to do anything like that. Almost like 'it's taken care of'.

Second. I was a late bloomer to computer culture and would love to have learned to cause a little trouble and get into the deep deep underbelly of how nets work. But, even though it's never too late to do anything, I feel like it is probably awfully late. But now that I have hooked my 11 year old brother in the Philippines with a Linux laptop and lots of tutorials, I feel like I can raise hell vicariously through his own significantly less regulated exploits.

You can't do it all, unless you do it all through your friends. It is a great alternative to being jealous about their accomplishments (admit it happens) and you get a lot more done. I have to admit that there both of these examples have a trait which makes it much easier to identify with the accomplishment. In both cases I planted the seed and passed it on. I can see that it gets harder to feel a part of other's accomplishments the more indirect your influence over it. But if you are going to live a life of air ball self delusions, you may as well pick exciting ones. Why stop at friends? Imagine taking everything that happens as your fault/accomplishment. Maybe it isn't true, but it is more true than its opposite.

Stalking your parents

So I was having this dream. In it, I first ran into an old friend from the highschool I went to in the South Bay of CA, and it turned out that he was living in my neighborhood in Cambridge. The way he was avoiding my questions implied some baggage, that he knew I was around and had intentionally not contacted me, and I couldn't figure out why he wasn't being straight with me, I couldn't think of anything that I had done.

Then I ran into two other people from high school, these two twins. I was too distracted trying to remember which one was Maryan, (the one with glasses or the other one) so I didn't notice at first that something more was going on: One was asking friendly catching-up type questions: 'How is your family?', 'How is your mom?', but the other one kept shhhushing her, as if it was bad form to ask things like that. So the first one asks her 'What's the matter' and she answers in a whisper "I heard that he stalks his parents".

What does that even mean? That is the most abstract gossip you could ever fabricate about someone. I'm still pissed about it. But that's the kicker with dreams, you can only be pissed at yourself for coming up with it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oh, Pervy you're simply darling!

I gained something of a new insight In talking to a South Asia friend of mine recently: Musharraf isn't such a bad cookie in the grand scheme in the politics of the region.

Yes, he's served as nothing less than a dictator of one of the most politically volatile countries in the region in wearing both the uniform of head of state and chief military officer.

Ay to the fact that nuclear materials passed through his borders via the likes of AQ Khan and his associates, making the world a far more dangerous place.

Indeed, he's been ineffective in holding together a federal state fraught with all sorts of sectarian divisions. If anybody has doubts about this you're more than welcome to read Pamela Constable's pieces in the Washington Post, or better yet schedule your holidays in North-West Frontier Province or Balochistan.

Then there's the Red Mosque incident, his mishandling of the Supreme Court, and on and on.

And he's only 4 feet tall. That won't do.

Well, this pal of mine was insistent that Musharraf was at least less corrupt than the twin kleptocrats of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. He maintained that the country hasn't fallen prey to the sort of perennial religious revolution that existed in the subcontinent starting in the mid-19th century and leading up to the disastrous rule of Ayub Khan.

His most compelling argument was one of alternatives, though. If Musharraf doesn't survive the country's state of emergency, it is almost certain that another military cadre will assume the helm. Elections may usher in enough Bhutto cronies to make the government appear to have the vestments of civilian rule, but that's about it.

Basically the best forecasts are for a sick and twisted version of the power-sharing arrangement that exists in a place like India, where in place of Sonia you have Benazir, and in the place of Manmohan Singh you'll have some Joe Kahn that rose just sufficiently enough through the ISI or the army that he knows where to attach his epaulets.

Clearly the situation south of the Khyber Pass is not tenable in its present form, but I'm not sold that there aren't better alternatives. True, few in the West want the next Mullah Muhammad Omar to be calling the shots in Islamabad, but a one-eye tribal chieftain who's not hellbent on suicide bombings isn't all bad either.

In fact, I suggest that a presidential exploratory committee be launched for Imran Sharif, a 90 year-old baker, specializing in unleavened bread, from Nok Kundi. He's pleasant, wise, and would at the worst be accused of negligence when gun-running jihadists reigned over the countryside. Hell, when bombs started raining down on Bombay he could honestly say he was sorry. And his state dinners would serve actual comfort food, and not the chez crap that made Bush the First vomit.

Perhaps not. It is a tragedy when somebody like Musharraf represents the last, best hope for your country.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Why to not do bad things

Being nontheistic and awfully relativistic used to cause me to jump through all kinds of hoops to justify moral behavior. I have only casually come across an approach that, for me, skirts these issues nicely:
I've found that when I do things that I think are wrong I cause damage to myself, and that this damage is enough of a reason to stop such behavior (or reevaluate the violated moral).

By paying attention to my thought patterns (What are the things that you are thinking about when you don't realize that you are thinking? Where does you mind wander after this or that happens that you didn't realize it wandered?) has brought a striking idea to mind. I won't call it a hypothesis, because I know it works for me, the question is can it help you?

I'll start with an example: I bike recklessly. If you drive, I am one of those people you can't stand. I noticed that often, after running a light, I would, without thinking about it, start running through my head the imaginary conversation I would have with the cop who will one day, eventually, pull me over. I noticed that this coversation was little more than me weakly justifying the action to myself, and I was, in a sense, lying to myself. I recognized this as a form of damage that I was inflicting and that there were only two things I could do to stop the damage:
I could stop breaking the law.
I could stop accepting that its wrong to break the law.

The second sounds absurd, and in this case I don't feel that it was appropriate, but there are cases where it is more sensible. For example, people who are fat and depressed about it have only two things they can do to stop damaging themselves in this way:
Lose weight.
Stop thinking they should lose weight.

This isn't the full story, and I'm still experimenting and paying attention (and running lights and damaging myself and learning). But even in this state, it is useful perspective in my day-to-day self monitoring.

Here is a sketch of the process. When you do something that you think is bad (so, you see, I'm not talking about morality so much as social training) you enter self-critical thought patterns. These patterns are healthy if they lead to changes in behavior or policy (what you think is wrong). But if they don't lead to either, then constantly rehearsing these patterns strengthens them and ultimately affects mood and physical health. I've observed this. So: by doing things that you've agreed are bad, you are damaging yourself.

I'm not really a fan of the current gametheory/evolution/economics thinking that all cooperation and altruism is selfish, and this only incidentally fits in with that. Much of it comes from experience with Vipassana thought and meditation.

Is it true

I've found that if I'm not happy, and I smile, I become happier. I feel it. If I'm grumbly and I catch myself, I will force a smile that will settle into a genuine one. Of course, experiments on onesself, and on one's moods, are sketchy, but I suspect its true that:
1: You can control your mood and, by extension.
2: You can choose to always be happy (try to convince me that that is a bad thing).

So; turn away from the internet for just a second. Concentrate and determine your current mood. Then smile and see if you feel any difference. Try forcing it, even for a few minutes. If you stifle a giggle at any point, even if that giggle is "Man, I must look ridiculous", than I submit that it worked.

So why not?

Kerik subject to the Peter Principle

Regarding Giuliani's associate's trouble in the NYTimes article "A Defiant Kerik Vows to Battle U.S. Indictment", I thought of the Peter Principle:
"In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

According to the article, the highest he got in his career was being nominated for Dept of Homeland Security. It was then that his undocumented nanny got discovered, which in turn led to all the other dirt getting dug up. I've never seen such a clear illustration of the principle.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ink Blot

Pestilence has hit the shores of our fair land galloping only slightly faster than War. He brings with him not the usual assortment of genital warts, feline leukemia, and African Trypanosomiasis, but rather a wondrous new disease perfect for a daytime television audience: the staph infection.

While high schools are spraying down their locker rooms, gym rats are being told to let up on their mixed martial arts. At its worst the disease could kill off rafts of people, and at its best it will leave cable news outlets grasping for the next superpandemic to stir up a viewing audience.

But I'm convinced that if you can come away with tattoos like this, not only will Staphylococcus aureus become the next big thing, it will be controlled and commodified at your nearest storefront grunge parlor--indentifiable by strong death metal symbolism.

I have envisioned this all throughout the day after viewing the above images and others, including this one and even this one (the latter is part of a wonderful catalog put together by the Centers for Disease Controld) that would make your neighborhood inker weep.

There is clearly room for the symptoms of disease in art, or body modification if you will. Syphilis never took off in part because it made you deaf (OK, Beethoven, we know it was lead poisoning, but I'm not so sure about this bacterium before us. I have high hopes that finally a new pox will knock off henna from the hallow steps of body beautification.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Heil Nation von Alligatoren!

The bellicism of the University of Florida is becoming something of a slight concern for me. Orange and blue regalia are nothing new in the 352, but the ubiquity of this color, and any alligator-related iconography, brings to the fore scenes from Triumph of the Will or perhaps Victory of Faith. Neither Bernie Machen or Urban Meyer can assume the mantle of Die Fuhrer, now matter how many good ol' boys show up to UF football games.

Today I had the misfortune of walking by a stadium while the Christians have been eaten (in this case the Vanderbilt University football team) and seeing how this indoctrination takes place firsthand. Young children seem to be taught the various gesticulations necessary to be a true Gator before they've even acquired basic motor skills. The disabled appear to be wrapped in blue and orange adornments despite their garbled protestations. Even the elderly accompany their progeniture clad in Mardi Gras beads and war paint because they understand full well that their sons and daughters will place them in a nursing home otherwise.

I have researched the matter and discovered that though this phenomena is not exclusive to the South, that they are exacerbated by the isolation of Gainesville, and places like it, from larger urban populations, and decided ability to find nothing meaningful in life than a game of excess.

There is no more serious a time for the dispensation of energies than at this moment, what with war, global warming, and staph infection conspiring to bring us crashing through our Victorian porches to the shifting sands below. Yet the Gator Nation is more concerned with whether Tim Tebow will throw an interception, or whether one's peroxide blonde hair should be tied with a blue bow or an orange bow.

I fear that I will be forced to meld my mind to the color saturation and mascot omnipresence of the community at some point in my life. I mean after all, how did millions of Germans fall in line with Hitler and his timeless message if not because of constant exposure? One can only trust one's will to triumph.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Gettin' Hot in Here (So Go Flee all ya Homes!)

San Diego, my erstwhile hometown, is again in flames. It was only a matter of time before Santa Ana winds, one of the worst droughts in recorded history, and the metastisization of suburbia (and now exurbia) would commingle into its present form. In my own capacity as a California State Parks biogeographer, the signs of devastation were clear in February: shit wad dryin' out 'fore it could come to seed. The rains weren't falling in the winter, and predictions for this year were for some of the fiercest Santa Anas on record.

While the flames in Malibu may pull the heartstrings of the celebrity mags and sites like, it is San Diego County that will likely face property damage of Katrina-like proportions.

The humanistic approach to a catastrophe such as this would include calls to distant friends and relatives in their time of need, donations to evacuee aid organizations, or even a heartfelt missive to the local paper. I do draw upon a well of sympathy for those in plight, including my own parents who may have to be evacuated from their quasi-coastal locale in a few short days, but within me also exists a fount; rage can only express my mood when noting that the urban-wildland interface has been increasingly crowded out by an array of manufactured homes (and people).

Wildfires are as essential to coastal chaparral ecologies as the spotty rain that peppers the earth in San Diego. It's the goddamned people who promote hotter, longer and more deadly fires. To wit: Too much human resource has attenuated the quality of natural resource. This a hypothetical scenario that tests H1A: Overpopulation is the death of us of all, and H1B: The impact of a segment of that overpopulated body, namely the industrialized world, China, and the Seychelles (OK, maybe not them) has compounded preexisting phenomena.

Yes, I am gloomy, and so should you.

Am I espousing a fringe environmental credenda? Should I not indulge in some schadenfreude in seeing horribly unsustainable McMansions built in sensitive canyon ecosystems at a rate Starbucks and WalMart would envy? Perhaps on both accounts.

But this series of fires is just the beginning. One could reductively assert that this is Mother Nature fighting back. However, if anything Mother Nature is colical, and the 100,000+ homes that may face engulfment are the result of a fitful immune system fighting back, not an apocalyptic war.

When considering donations in this time of need, think of where your money is better spent. For obvious reasons Planned Parenthood is as good an investment, if not better, than the Red Cross. We need more public pronouncements from Al Gore, not Dubya and the most current cast at FEMA.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tearing it up

The University of Florida is often engaged with fascinating research, some of it appealing to residents of the "Athens of America" like Frey et al, but most of it is entirely abstruse. In many ways this is why I choose to conduct my research here, knowing full well that unless I derive a precise formula for a hook-and-lateral pass my chances at éclat are doomed.

Take, for instance, news that crocodile and alligator tears are shed during some good ol' noshing. It is incredible that this measure of research even registers on the University's propaganda page, or that news of its journal publication would still be played on the radio two and a half weeks after its intial press release.

But you see, the alligator is a totalizing force like none other I have come to know.

Here are a few other press releases that I have come across and viewed with certain skepticism:
* Epidermal ruddiness of the nape is strongly correlated with authoritarian perceptions of culture and society (American Ethnologist)
* Sparsely inhabited mangrove landscapes are most conducive to disestablismentarian personally identified ideologies (PII) (Political Science and Politics)
* Consumption of baked goods highest in saturated fat found to be distributed evenly along the interstate highway system of the southeastern United States (Journal of the Institute of Nutritional Science)

It is good to be a Gator. I shed no ironic tears in saying this either.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pissed at Gifts

I want to buy soft gifts, so I googled for 'soft gifts' and the two top sponsored links were "Meaningful gifts" and "Thoughtful gifts". It's a little blow to my faith in humanity: That there exist people who think they can google for meaningful gifts, and that there are so many waiting to sucker them in.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Photos from Gods Party

It was great. Cambridge, is home.

Northern Californian reverence for nature

In pursuing my seemingly unrelated interests in the land of Northern California, printing and Native stories, I've stumbled again and again on some names that have become familiar. There is a whole scene of people who have unified these interests into a proper aesthetic, including some very prominent artists and craftspeople. The majority of this work is well before my time, to the point where I wonder if my interest is anachronous. I hear little of it from my peers.

What it comes down to is this: there is a timbre to the style of nature reverence unique to the Bay Area. As hard to find as it is even in Berkeley, I think it is something more than nostalgia, I think it is alive. It is in the architectural history of Berkeley, it underlies the arts and crafts movement that still finds a home there. It is in and of the hands of Hearst, Muir, Maybeck, Julia Morgan, Olmstead, even Emmanuel Swedenbourg. Alfred Kroeber and his student William Shipley (and many many others who I don't know about) did much of the field work that has allowed others to find a place for California Native values in Bay area culture.

If this is stuff you are interested in, it hasn't stopped with them. There are people younger than those above but one to three generations older than me active in making a place for these values. Malcolm Margolin, David Lance Goines, and Peter Koch are three of the most prominent names in Berkeley's very active independant publishing and printing industry, and they have all done important work to keep a place for this aesthetic in the local culture. Poet Gary Snyder is a major player, not least in making people buy small-run art books about California by writing introductions to them. Alfred Kroeber's daughter, author Ursula K Le Guin (who grew up playing with Ishi!) wrote the most beautiful book I've encountered in years, the most whole integration of everything that captures my imagination about these themes; "Always Coming Home". Judging by how much of her writing is small-run, I feel comfortable classifying her as important to the vision. I don't know why it works out that way, but short-run 'art' books and local print are fundamental to the vision.

From the bottom up (people I personally know, who know more than me about all this), there is my ex-girlfriend Katie Sinnott and Rafael Jesus Gonzalez.

I feel like Berkeley's Bancroft library is your one stop shop for small books that develop this aesthetic and for resources on the history of Northern Calfornia and the Bay Area. Good luck getting in. Berkeley's Phoebe Heart Museum of Anthropology keeps coming up too. It is has the source materials that inspire (if not underwrite) the material in the Bancroft collection that has me so excited.

I don't have a name for this aesthetic and it isn't as much a part of me as I would have it be. But with luck it will continue to haunt me no matter how far out of California and into computer science I stray. I hope for the priviledge to find people whose imaginations it ignites, and to have excuses to share, no matter how far I end up from California. And I hope the above very simple and naive characterization of the people behind this aesthetic is useful to whoever is looking to explore it, evolve it, and carry it on in their interactions with life.


When I was working for Heyday Books in Berkeley, California I read a book called The Way We Lived, arranged by Malcolm Margolin, the founder of the publishing company. it is a collection of stories and reminiscences about California Natives (did you know California once had over a hundred native languages?. Now it has 12. In fifty years it will have 6). I am fascinated by creation myths. Here is a link to a bunch.

It is a good list, Here is my one of my favorite stories from there, which I was introduced to in the book.

In the beginning there was no sun, no moon, no stars. All was dark, and everywhere there was only water. A raft came floating on the water. It came from the north, and in it were two persons,--Turtle and Father-of-the-Secret-Society.

The stream flowed very rapidly. Then from the sky a rope of feathers, was let down, and down it came Earth-Initiate. When he reached the end of the rope, he tied it to the bow of the raft, and stepped in. His face was covered and was never seen, but his body shone like the sun. He sat down, and for a long time said nothing.

At last Turtle said, "Where do you come from?" and earth Initiate answered, "I come from above."

Then Turtle said, "Brother, can you not make for me some good dry land so that I may sometimes come up out of the water?"

Then he asked another time, "Are there going to be any people in the world?"

Earth-Initiate thought awhile, then said, "Yes."

Turtle asked, "How long before you are going to make people?"

Earth-Initiate replied, "I don't know. You want to have some dry land: well, how am I going to get any earth to make it of?"

Turtle answered, "If you will tie a rock about my left arm, I'll dive for some."

Earth-Initiate did as Turtle asked, and then, reaching around, took the end of a rope from somewhere, and tied it to Turtle. When Earth-Initiate came to the raft, there was no rope there: he just reached out and found one.

Turtle said, "If the rope is not long enough, I'll jerk it once, and you must haul me up; if it is long enough, I'll give two jerks, and then you must pull me up quickly, as I shall have all the earth that I can carry." Just as Turtle went over the side of the boat, Father-of-the-Secret-Society began to shout loudly.

Turtle was gone a long time. He was gone six years; and when he came up, he was covered with green slime, he had been down so long. When he reached the top of the water, the only earth he had was a very little under his nails: the rest had all washed away. Earth-Initiate took with his right hand a stone knife from under his left armpit, and carefully scraped the earth out from under Turtle's nails.

He put the earth in the palm of his hand, and rolled it about till it was round; it was as large as a small pebble. He laid it on the stern of the raft. By and by he went to look at it: it had not grown at all. The third time that he went to look at it, it had grown so that it could be spanned by the arms. The fourth time he looked, it was as big as the world, the raft was aground, and all around were mountains as far as he could see.

The raft came ashore at Ta'doikö, and the place can be seen today.

That is just a fifth of the story, the rest can be found here. I love that the history of the earth is the history of local places important to the Maidu people. My guess is that Ta'doikö is somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas. If I was to go there, first thing I would do is 'ask' William Shipley, possibly the last person who knows Maidu. I would get myself into the Bancroft collections at Berkeley and dig through the following books:
"The Maidu Indian myths and stories of Hanc'ibyjim / edited and translated by William Shipley ; foreword by Gary Snyder.",
"Maidu texts and dictionary." and "Maidu grammar." all written by him (Shipley, William F.)
Here is an amazing interview with him, mostly about him being gay and one of the early professors at UC Santa Cruz. But here adds this:
I picked the Northeastern Maidu, who live up by Mount Lassen. Actually, the people I learned from didn't live there at the time. They lived much closer to Red Bluff. They lived up a ways into the foothills from Red Bluff, in a little place called Payne's Creek.

You can find all of those places in Google Earth around here:
+40° 29' 17.42", -121° 30' 18.03"

A different publishing company I worked for in Berkeley, Wilderness Press, had a tour book on the Lassen Volcanic Park. I browsed a lot of the park books, and had this funny sense that I would probably never go to that place over any other. How ironic if it ends up that I do, because of this epic hunt on the internet.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm such a Tase

There are any number of things wrong with law enforcement officers in America: they're too fond of trans-fat foods; they tend to believe that Jim Crow laws are still in effect, though diversity training must have taken place at some point in their tenure in the academy; and now they seem particularly fond of Tasers.

By now most everyone who has a high-speed Internet connection has seen footage of the University of Florida Police Department's unnecessary gang tackling, and then prompt electrocution, of what goes for a fringe radical in Gainesville. (It should be noted that in the South a fringe radical is someone who doesn't watch football on both Saturday and Sunday, or who doesn't eat T-bone steaks three meals a day).

Excessive Taser use has been noted in numerous recent altercations apart from Andrew Meyer, however. Take note of a library imbroglio at the UCLA library and a an unfortunate incident in Youngstown, OH where apparently it benefits to be a driver under the influence and not a passenger. A couple of weeks ago it had even seemed that everyone in America had the words "don't Tase me, bro" etched in memory.

Of course police officers in and of themselves are not to be blamed. They are often the least educated of municipal workers, and when their profession is idealized in Hollywood when in fact most of their work is spent behind the wheel of a squad car farting the ABC's, the temptation to Tase is unbearable. Grandmother jaywalking? Shock her in her heinie. Running a stop sign on a pennyfarthing? Say night-night to your virility (sorry, boys). Drinking underage in your parents' home? Long for humane treatment at Guantanamo.

Interestingly enough, the University itself has decided to implement Taser protocol for all campus officers. I am comforted to know that they weren't prepped with one before serving under the employ of this esteemed institution. As such, I have decided to ask you, our reading blogosphere, to write us with the appropriate steps to take before and after sending 50,000 volts coarsing through the human body. Illustrations would be lovely, diagrams lovelier.

Oh, and if you're interested in purchasing a sexy hot pink one, head over to Tiger Tasers. It'll put you back $349.95 (plus $18.50 S&H).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making a Berkeley of Cambridge

OK, small triumph. In Berkeley California it happens often enough that you've seen someone (of either sex) naked before you meet them. It would happen through parties, ceremonies, hot tubs or any other kind of outlet. I like that. Its personal.

I haven't really found the Boston area as likely for that, and you can't blame the weather. That said, it's probably my provincial Cambridge circle, which is expanding. I've heard tell of a few hottub mailing lists, and some friends saw a guy at a laundromat that they 'met' at a sex party.

NOW, I'm happy to say I'm finally pulling my own weight as far as bridging the ethics. In the past week I've made THREE friends who saw me (mostly) naked before meeting me, and who aren't afraid of me for it.

I say that's a pretty good start, even if I was the only one without clothes on at both parties (besides Romie, but he hasn't made any friends from it yet).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Inside Joke Fest 2007

I made it to a top secret gathering in a beautiful little park up around Somerville. Its been in the works for a year apparently, a gathering arranged by the author of web comic XKCD. The park was full all day with the geekiest of geeks, from junior high age through college. Tough to be precise on the distribution, as enough MIT kids look 16 and pump pimply angst. That said people were good: excited, positive, active and curious.

What struck me was that, at its height (2:38), one in three people had a camera. The mindset of someone holding a camera is 'observer' and I suspect that was the mindset of most folks who didn't have one either; and this has consequences. People are in a mindframe of waiting for something to happen, but the event was about you being the thing that happens. It sunk in soon enough, all that happened at 2:38 was cheering and happy milling about. Very well documented milling.

Folks, don't forget that an event like this is as amazing as you decide it will be. It was pretty amazing today; the park signs were genius, the red spiders, the mass of the tower and the fan finished comic. But mostly milling, all the boys waiting for a dream girl to hop on their lap. You can do better. And I'll do my part, promise.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Auto debate: 1957 Chevy vs. 2007 Chevy Impala

This was originally posted here.

Was the '57 Chevy the last car that could honorably wear the royal oil-stained cloth? Is a 2007 Impala an upstart unlike any that has been seen in vehicular manufacturing? Let the evidence be the judge, because that's how real grease monkeys enact the law.

The '57 Chevy is still around--in Cuba. There it is used to ford the intimidating straits between the Bay of Pigs and the Florida Keys. Any Cuban shoe shine can find a way to turn scaffolding for a Castro bust into an alternator, and the sheer girth of the '57 is not taken lightly by any citizen so foolish as to ride a bike near its haunches.

2007 Impala is fast and can distance itself from cheetahs, using a tracking system OnStar will never be able to simulate. It is herbivorous and thus has low fuel costs, though the byproduct of its consumption can be problematic for roadway cleanliness.

The '57 Chevy can be carved out and made into a xeriscape garden or a trans-Atlantic flotation device. It can be painted in red, green, blue or panchromatic.

The 2007 Impala is often hunted by bipeds or quadrupeds, and when eaten its flesh tastes divine (some compare it to "chicken"). Its coast is soft and luxurious, and when poached at a young enough age it retains its sheen.

So in the end I take the '57 for functionality and the 2007 for aesthetics. Any thoughts?

Friday, August 31, 2007


For the life of me I cannot determine why all college students look older than I do, though in fact I'm at least a year older than the average collegiate senior. They're taller, hairier, brawnier, and cursed/blessed with more skin creases (that then develop into wrinkles later in life). I've since determined that since I was a young laddy, I've generally eaten low quantities of meats, dairy products, and, to some degree eggs. These foodstuffs have consequently the highest steroid content, and as such would activate all the glands and growth patterns consistent with hormone replacement in post-menopausal women and frequenters of BALCO. Now it's possible I just don't look my age based on a number of other factors, including my lack of professional dress, but I feel comfortable with the notion that all these fraternity boys are bound to early graves due to their fondness of Micky D's.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Local produce finder

I made an app on Pipes that finds local produce. It's not perfect, but it will help you get started. Enjoy!

NVRmind that though. heres a really good one:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Primitive or working on a grand plan?

I've been reading a lot about Dasypodidae recently mostly because I'm lonely and too fond of mescal. Armadillos, as they're known in lay circles, are far too primitive for their own good. It has been presumed that these placental mammals weren't able to escape the time warp of evolution, and have been forced to live a most pathetic existence as constant fodder for the wheeled demons of American roadways. In the South, if you do not see an armadillo obliterated during your commute, smashed such that even the most skilled forensic mammalogist wouldn't be able to identify the hide nor hair, well then you've been drinking too much moonshine.

But not one of the 20 species in the family is endangered, or even sensitive in the case of North America. They flock to asphalt as if it's 'dillo-nip, are subsequently annhilated, and yet they still keep procreating without hindrance.

There is clearly something in the water, as there always is in the South. I suspect that there's something afoot with these half-blind, short-legged, reptillian-looking monstrosities, and it can only be explained by illegal immigration.

Yes, it is true, the Mexicans are bringing in armadillos because they know that these beasties will destroy the suspension units of AMERICAN-made cars. Has a Toyota, Honda, or any other rice- or cabbage-burning foreign car had its alignment thrown out by a disembowled armadillo? See for yourself. This is exactly what the most esteemed scientists in the field are studying, and so far the results are not pretty. Fords, Chevys, and GMC's are being taken for a ride by the wetbacks, and this time it's not through the use of clever tactics like lacing Taco Bell products with highly addictive marijuana or encouraging our children to take siestas during the school day so that their their ninos learn differential equations, C++, and Tolstoy whilst everyone else is fast asleep on their mat, which, by the way, is probably the perfect vector for Mexican typhus.

I'm on to the beaners, and I hope that all of you erudite readers will assist me in hunting down every single Mexican in the swamps and mangroves of the former Confederate States of America. God bless.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lifetime warranty

I have a pair of nice headphones, worth 70 bucks or so, that I got brand new for 6. How? I found a broken pair in the junk bin of a garage sale, sent them in with the cost of postage and got a brand new pair a few weeks later.

So, browse the Google results for "lifetime warranty" and commit to memory whatever brands strike your fancy. You can let serendipity do the rest.

Mr. Clean: Sex Symbol or Hag Fag?

Thanks Wikipedia

So it could be that Mr. Clean is one of the few and early examples of using sex to sell commercial products to women? I figure that its either that or her is the 'trusted gay advisor'.

The earing is on the left and has been since the beginning, but how are 50's ad execs supposed to know conventions like that?

Either way, he's on territory that not many other folks have ventured. How else are men used to sell to women?

Monday, March 26, 2007


My ears were all clogged up with wax, to the point of itchiness. My pinky is too big, so I tried to steal a q-tip from my roommates without their noticing, but they didn't have any. Ear candles are a little overboard, so I tried a toothpick but that is scary, poking around in your ear with a toothpick.

How can I make it less scary? I took the toothpick, dug around for a cotton ball, and rolled the toothpick against the fluff of the cotton. It turns that that this was nothing less than reinventing the qtip, the exact qtip!

It worked? Of course it worked, that is what a qtip is, they are so inconscpicuous, and so complete; they are so There, that I never thought of them as something that can be *made*. Not so mystical. No patented qtip technology. Why did I never know that? How did that knowledge get lost to humanity? Well, I guess that with both ends cushioned, noone heard this presumably timeless knowledge drop and slip through the cracks of time.

Making them gives you a steady hand and an intuition for fluff, you are basically spinning thread, but only a few inches of particularly fluffy thread. And I broke off the sharpest bit o' tip from the carefully machined splinter that served me, (otherwise its still just a tiny bit scary).

In Your Ear!


If you are having problems with splashback, try dropping a square or two of TP in the bowl. You can see it as increasing the surface tension of the water. Help if you squat instead of sit, but thats a different post.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Two thumbtacks and a piece of string
little words have meaning.
Bead them on a length of line, say them like they're food;
A link, a bean, meaning, steam,
two thumbtacks and a piece of string

my favorite things

Here are eight of my favorite things in life:

-being in any part responsible for someone getting genuinely excited about something
-mutually unbearable sexual tension
-the clever use of language
-building something that works
-people smiling unselfconsciously, only to themselves (especially pretty girls)
-being with soft naked bellies
-the people who feel comfortable touching me without asking
-slowing down enough to let trivial things become magical

Friday, March 9, 2007

Know it all

As of Monday I'll have given four talks in two weeks, and each on a topic totally unrelated to the last. I spoke to friends for 10 minutes on simple properties of numbers that result from the base system used to represent them, than I spoke to a class of first graders on what Dr. Seuss was like as a person. A few days later I gave a talk to artists on why Dirt is Fascinating and on Monday I'll be talking to a few of my peers with physics backgrounds on what they need to know about graphic design and visual communication.

Do I love the sound of my own voice? Do I love acting like I know? Or is it how I usually tell myself, that I love to share things and to facilitate people in being excited about this world? How about all of the above.

I'm Easy, you're Easy (Animateur)

Hello Folks, for the second installment of the Animateur lecture
series, we will give the floor to an expert on "Easy Rider", the 1969
counterculture prerequisite, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and
with a good bit of poor poor Jack Nicholson. After the talk, we will
watch the movie in giant screen.

Our guest is Drew Hannon, American Studies hotshot. Drew sat on the
"Motorcycle Life and Culture" panel at a recent American Studies
Conference and will be starting at Yale this Fall.

Expect Awesomeness. Bring a Friend.

Friday, March 23th, the second to last Friday of the month starting at 7:00.

The Shangri-Loft
129 Franklin St. Apt 213
Cambridge, MA 02139
right behind the Middle East on Central Sq.
857 928 1699

We will start with a few talks, perhaps:
Do It Yourself Tampons
Why GMO Designer Pets is not an Evil Idea.
David Bowie
or even
Leveraging Human Flaws for Fun and Profit.
and then at 8, the main act, talk and movie.

If you want to give a five minute talk on something fascinating,
anything, write me a note and you're in.

WIth love,

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Miss Information

One factor that determines our level of alertness from moment to moment is the number of safe assumptions that we can make about our environment. The more secure and stable your environment, the less you need to attend to it. The more unpredictable your environment, the more alert you have to be. There is no right or wrong level of alertness. In fact, you can change the level of uncertainty in your environment to match the level of alertness you would like to maintain. The Lil' Miss Information Clock provides a time that is incorrect, but within 10 minutes (by default) of being correct. It is sometimes fast and sometimes slow, so you'll just have to rely on yourself.


#Lil' Miss Information Clock
#because whoever missed just a *lil'* information?
#Seth Frey

$Offseth = 10 #time is wrong by up to +/-
$Offseth seconds

while true
time =
mins = (time.min + (rand * 2 * $Offseth).round -
$Offseth).modulo(60) #make minutes plus or minus actual time within Offseth
#modulo 60 accounts for roll over to next minute
hours = time.hour
if time.min - mins > 60 - $Offseth #this if and elsif account for minutes rolling over (or back)
hours = hours + 1
elsif mins - time.min > 60 - $Offseth
hours = hours - 1
hours = hours % 12 #no military time
hours = 12 if hours == 0 #side effect of eliminating
military time with mod
puts hours.to_s + ":" + (mins < 10 ? '0' : '') + mins.to_s
# the if statement is for single digit minutes. 4:02 instead of 4:2
Kernel.sleep(50) #wait just less than a minute before refreshing (one less safe assumption)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Memory Suck (Dream Worlds Project)

Last night I got closer to success than ever before with my efforts to record my dreams. The first computer programmed phone call came at 3:30, and I accidentally hung up on it (damn subconscious), but it primed me for the second at 5:30 this morning.

I was dreaming, my phone started to ring, I remember experiencing all memory of the dream getting washed away by the ring of the phone. My ringer (the NES Zelda ending theme) erased my memories. All I had left to tell my computer's recorder was that mere seconds ago I had been insulting someone, somewhere for some reason.

But (bright side??), my glitches aren't all attributable to human factors, it turns out that my recorder catches the phone ringing, and my answering machine message, but it can't pick up my voice when I speak. I might have accidentally switched sound drivers, or Skype might be playing tricks. The dream world project continues to be bogged down by reality, but it will manifest!

Your Partner

No one has sat down and explained it to me, so I can be forgiven for not really getting why some couples speak of their 'partner' instead of 'boyfriend', 'girlfriend', 'etc.' Maybe it sounds more progressive, or mature, or affected. I don't know.

What is harder to forgive is the hostility that I can never suppress when I hear it. So, New Rule: You can only be partners if you fight crime. That will also make you progressive.

Enfascinated: Cooperative Birth Control

Dear Jodi shared with us this recent Sunday her experiences with a new form a birth control. She and her boy Jay are on their fourth month of the experience. The method involves charting many physical, personal and other traits over the course of the month. There are three main things that ones tracks when practicing condom free, hormone free birth control.

First: monitor vaginal fluids. viscous and slippery means less fertile, tacky and gooey means more fertile

Second: take your temperature (in your mouth). Lower body temperature means less fertile. Temperature rises by about .6 degrees during and after ovulation. Since ovulation lasts for no more than three days, it is safe to have sex after three days of a .6 degree rise in basal temperature.

Third: Classic cycle watching. The days two weeks before the period are the danger danger zone. Using a calender or something more reliable than memory, find out exactly how long your cycle is (any where from 20 to 40 days) and pinpoint (plus or minus a week) when you are ovulating.

This method is outlined in the book A Cooperative Method of Natural Birth Control. ( The argument is that any one method isn't completely reliable, but the three together, along with the awareness that comes with carefully monitoring any natural process, can reliably insure recreational sex. Go Sex!!

Sidenote: During the talk, it came out that we want to know more about human relationships with the moon. Any self proclaimed expert is invited to provide a paragraph on why this is a fascinating subject.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Enfascinated: Bucky Fuller

CJ Fearnley from Upper Darby, PA has offered these resources to help me understand why Buckminster Fuller is fascinating. :
So here is my blurb about Buckminster Fuller:

Synergetics is Fuller's magnum opus. It is on-line at

Here is the description of Synergetics that I maintain for the Synergetics Collaborative:
Synergetics is the system of wholistic thinking which R. Buckminster Fuller introduced and began to formulate. Synergetics is multi-faceted: it involves geometric modeling, exploring inter-relationships in the facts of experience and the process of thinking. Synergetics endeavors to identify and understand the methods that Nature actually employs in coordinating Universe (both physically and metaphysically). Synergetics provides a method and a philosophy for problem-solving and design and therefore has applications in all areas of human endeavor.

Synergetics is hard to read. So I wrote an essay
"Reading Synergetics: Some Tips"

CJ Fearnley
Executive Director
Synergetics Collaborative

Uhhh...human factors...(Dream World Project)

So with the hopes of gaining a more active relationship with my dream self I wrote a few scripts that call me at 3:30 and 5:30 in the morning every day and record everything I say. I did it with Skype's limited command line support, Total Recorder and some really simple scripting. When I say simple, I mean that it took me all day and if you don't know what bash is you won't be able to do this on your own using my method.

SO... it works, except it hasn't worked. I get two calls a night but I sleep through them both. So now I have a bunch of computer recordings of my voicemail message. But I'm a trooper and with luck my dream self will have an internet representation as well.

Here is the simple script (mangled from), called from a .bat which is called from Total Recorder's scheduling system:

c:/Program\ Files/Skype/Phone/Skype.exe &
sleep 10
c:/Program\ Files/Skype/Phone/Skype.exe /callto:001XXXXXXXXXX &
sleep 120
killall -m "Skype"
exit 0<

I also have windows scheduler open Total Recorder a few minutes before 3 and 5 thirty and close it a few minutes after, that helps.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


So this video is not just a magic moment in itself, it was the culmination of three months of hunting and killing on my part, and hiding on Romie's part. An epic game of assassins. In the very beginning we promised not to kill each other if we were the last two alive. And when we were, we kept the promise, despite some close calls, and made a bargain to split the win. I got the glory, he got the prize. We staged a grand final showdown, that is ultimately for your viewing pleasure.
Notes: this was in 2003. Bitkower annotated the hefty bag. Romie saved his moustache just to look more evil for the film. No kittens were harmed, but I almost lost my face.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Jeremiah's Fascinations

Medium to extensive knowledge on:

hacking society
creation myths
patterning of humpback whalesong
indigenous textiles
middle America life
the constellations
animal emotions

drug adventures that change time
the chemistry of baking
good beer

Wants to know:
the rise and fall of String Theory
the science behind the structure of music, and how it affects human emotion
the development of the modern pencil
arguments in favor of cannibalism
how ants communicate chemically
Neanderthal society
self-castration for religious purposes
whether sexual orientation is decided by genetics
the development of SCUBA equipment
a brief history of execution by hanging

Everything is Enfascinated

Here are some things that I want to learn about. If you know any of these things I would love for less than a page and more than a paragraph on what it is that makes that subject so totally awesome.

More importantly, I would like your list too.

indigenous textiles
the joy of joy and power of misery
better living with simple machines
living with serendipity
health benefits of fruit
the hidden rules behind how to be cool
party dances of the fifties and their funny names
the history of any Idea
the forgotten implications of the nation-state
intro to hustling
wealth and fame
how do trees grow and
what is so great about dirt
and the constellations
the chemistry of baking
ways of knowing very complicated systems
DIY anything/everything
similarly: I'm trapped on a desert island. How do I . . .
animal emotions
plant emotions
Internet culture
drug adventures that change time
Can you fix your eyesight with simple exercises?
what goes into a really good sauce?
and whats up with Miso soup?
dream worlds
vanity as a virtue
ADD as a necessary human adaptation to the information age
What can you say when very very smart people believe things about society that you don't want to be true (like Von Neumann's Mutually Assured Destruction)?
hacking society
type design (renaissance faces)
past visions of the future
changing visions of the past (and the history of history)
is there any point to meditating without entirely leaving society.
how to speed read
emergent properties
paper watermarks
creation myths
how to communicate neat ideas/change peoples minds/make people really care.
similarly, how do people work?
LED lighting as a replacement for tungsten
kids stories from the turn of the other century
is there any astrology deeper than generalizations?
California Native history and California before it was called that
Japanese pop culture and rural culture
middle America culture
artificial life
what is natural?
similarly; the history of floral prints
linear systems
everyday chemistry
everyday physics
everyday geology
everyday math
everyday statistics
everyday linguistics
what idea from your field had a big influence on your everyday life?
Buckminster Fuller
the insults and cusses of the world's languages (There are 6000
languages in the world today. 3000 will be extinct in the next 50 years)
untranslatable expressions from Japan
Russian urban youth culture
rap in different langauges
emerging markets
the (rising?) role of comedy in politics
how can I stay awake in class (and why do I always fall asleep)
is nostalgia anything but a marketing tool?
Are there any other methods besides meditation for improving clarity
of thought?
What is the difference between exercise and strain?
is the free market the closest implementation of a decentralized
evolutionary system
in economics?
is there a tradeoff between memory and creativity?
whats wrong with 'technology will solve our woes'

Instructions to my next hairdresser

So I don't have much hair, and the situation will only get worse. My options are few: shaved head baldy(to the bone or 1/4 inch), combover baldy(denial), gradstudent baldy (greasy, fro-like and neglected). Not much to work with, the only real option is the first, and hats, but I've got an idea. On the top and back of my head I get these little cowlicks, and when they are short they have a mischevious six year-old vibe, when they are long they look like Caesar's laurels. In between, we'll call it the little Caesar, its kid-like. So take the tuft up front down to the bone(can't stand the tuft), and take the back, sides and most of the top to a quarter inch. But play up the laurels. Make them stand out enough that someone paying attention will notice, but subtle enough that no one else will, so it looks like it just grows that way.

These instructions aren't all that far out, but I don't think any (stylist? barber?) that doesn't know me would take me seriously. This vision can be made to work and it can be made to not work. I've done what I can do, outlining the goal, the rest is up to the cutter. This is what you've got to work with: If you think you can make it happen, get back to me. With a shared vision for the future male pattern, little Caesar will conquer as surely as strands wash down the drain.