Monday, June 29, 2009

"The Way We Love Now"

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This guy has potential to become a prominent voice of the conservative intelligentsia. I happen to find this article amusing... in an insightful way. Maybe this in part explains the low rates of sexual intercourse at certain higher institutions that shall remain unnamed...

And someone is rather cynical and bitter here, but she brings up some rather important points to ponder.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Strange qual question

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You have four plastic containers filled with different substances. Without opening them, find out as much as you can about these four substances.

Hmmm... there's mass -> density, magnetic properties, optical properties (insert the slew of imaging modalities like MRI, CT, maybe X-ray, tomographies...)

The prof who posed this question heads a lab that does research on sensors and actuators with biomedical applications, and apparently he's also some kind of geologist and mountaineer and mariner and space explorer, so...

New England Aquarium

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Many many fish species, and turtles and birds and echinoderms and corals and jellies, etc. Hooray for Pixar's "Finding Nemo" :-P

Penguins swimming and diving and grooming and jiggling their tails (what was up with one, I wonder?) and chilling near the air vent. Very familiar =)

Big puffer fish!

I like the jellies that produce the iridescent effect with tiny reflective cilia. There seems to be a bioluminescent source in the middle, and the cilia refract the light in a most mesmerizing pattern... and the ones with spots marking Voronoi regions :-P Both species are Australian, I think.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Am A Strange Loop

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That's where I found out what makes that screeching noise when someone takes over a microphone... audio (positive) feedback that amplifies the resonant frequency (circa 15kHz to 18kHz) to saturation!

This book contains a lot of nifty paradoxes. I must say that Prof. Doug Hofstadter sounds like Prof. Marvin Minsky at times, regarding the study of how brains think, consciousness, AI, semantics, etc.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First sailing

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... in 20 mph wind that changed direction every 2 seconds. Is that the so-called "trial by fire", or rather, trial by wind and gusty rain? This felt exactly like the time when I accidentally ventured onto a double blue square trail during my very first time skiing. I crashed into someone and got an angry red circle on my lift card, which basically meant "stick with the bunny slope, buster!"

Well, this time I (we) didn't bump into anyone's boat (though there were a few close calls) and we didn't capsize (there were also a few close calls...), but I'll be honest... I was scared out of my wits in the middle of the river when the boat was bobbing up and down at the mercy of the waves... well, I did manage to keep the boat from actually capsizing by constant moving my ass (shifting the boat's center of gravity). According to my boatmate, "that was about the only thing I did!" Hey, I was also scooping the water out of the boat in the meantime! Well, he did the steering and wasn't having a quasi-panic attack like I was. I do wonder though, looking out at the frothy 4-foot high waves, if that was how Hemingway's Old Man felt at the Sea... poetic?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Isabella Gardner Museum trip

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The restaurant was cute. Thaitation... curious name. Food was good, with like four kinds of mushrooms and tasty sauce. Music selection was nice too. And that song... no... it's "chasing pavements", not "chasing penguins". The coconut ice cream and mangos were awesome. And the two sticks of strawberry pockies over the ice cream.

The museum's in the neighborhood, so I thought we'd pay a visit. Mmm, private collections are often idiosyncratic, and this collector is definitely quite a character. The way artworks are arranged, the strategically placed / posed self-portraits, the courtyard with fractal fern trees and Medusa tiles, the garden with a strange though beautiful variant of hydrangeas...

The intricate details on the artifacts (furniture, tapestry, metal works) are remarkable. But I must say I prefer simple geometries with aero/hydrodynamic tendencies. I really liked the courtyard, on the other hand. It'd be nice to have a garden like that at some point, but... less symmetrical :-P

Dreams as representations

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When I'm an observer in my dream, I'm a ghost -- invisible, impalpable, exerting no influence on my surrounding at all.

So in my dream last night, I watched pieces from a cartoon, starring a little girl in the style of "Doug" from Nickelodeon. She's about six or seven and precocious like Lisa Simpson. Her life, in retrospect, in some ways reflected my own (mostly when I was at that age)... Her parents behaved a lot like mine, her teacher (female) was sadistic and passive-aggressive, her school principal (male) was supportive and nurturing, and she was rather popular but felt alone without peers that could stimulate or challenge her.

The girl apparently had won some kind of competition and there was gonna be a TV show about her, but her teacher planned a subterfuge and reorganized the show to make fun of her. When the girl realized what was going on, she pulled some Jon-Stewart moves with sarcastic wit that indirectly poked at her passive-aggressive teacher. (Unfortunately I don't remember any of the said clever commentary, sigh.)

Okay, for clarification and realignment with reality... cumulatively in my life, I'd say about 30~35% of my teachers/ mentors/ professors had been female. And about 20% of them was warm and intelligent and whom I found nurturing. The rest either leaned toward misogyny or just simply treated all students/ subordinates in egalitarian fashion like a true despotic dictator.

For the males, the intelligent and supportive mentors consisted of about 10%, but there were more of them in absolute number and so their overall influence was more significant. The vast majority (more than 95%) of the remaining 90% was pretty much neutral. The rest was initially negative but became more positive later on. (There was not much difference in the individual influence of good male vs. female mentors though.)

My peers in college and since then have definitely challenged and stimulated me for sure. And the last things I could do on TV are Jon Stewart moves...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Listen to the brainwaves

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Highly fascinating, as this blog commented.


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"Some people drink, others gamble, I analyze data [about unsolved murders]." -- Prof. Charles Eppes in "Numb3rs", on dealing with stress.

Adding to the above, I blog, do various kinds of writing, watch dark movies and "CSI" and "Numb3rs". I take walks too sometimes. When the weather is acceptable.

Oh, and I like this one.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On science fiction, Star Trek, "Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku

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The 1979 Star Trek motion picture is quite prescient, predicting the singularity that is the merging of human mind and machine mind. (too many m's =P) It's looking more possible today than before...

No wonder, Isaac Asimov was on the scientific advisory board. Perhaps Prof. Marvin Minsky does have the right idea about serializing a science fiction writer consortium. Jules Verne's book about Paris in the 20th Century mentions technology that didn't exist in the 19th Century but are here now.

In his book, Michio Kaku talks about stretching the imagination just beyond the edge of possibility and whatever is currently in existence. There's no existing physical law that forbids teleportation, telepathy, force fields in the style of Star Trek, invisibility, etc. Which means that these phenomena could very well arise in the next few decades.

Good times.

Igor's b-day

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One of the composers I revere. "The Rite of Spring" rocks and "The Firebird" is gorgeous.

Apparently there are words to the opening bassoon line of TRoS: "I--'m not an English horn, the notes are too high-- for me... -- I--'m not an English horn!" (just kidding.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bamboozling ourselves

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Fascinating discourse into how and why people are duped...

On a genius art forger, who's not technically brilliant but psychologically brilliant.

Excerpt from Part I.
Last year, two different books on that subject appeared within months of each other. Not only did both tackle the question of fakery, they were both about the same man: Han van Meegeren, arguably the most successful art forger of all time. Edward Dolnick’s “The Forger’s Spell” was released first (Edward Dolnick’s wife is on the board of The New York Times Company), followed by Jonathan Lopez’s “The Man Who Made Vermeers.” The titles provide a clue to the different goals of the authors — Dolnick’s interest in the nature of the trickery, the spell that Van Meegeren cast; Lopez’s interest in the nature of the man who did the tricking, the man who cast the spell.
Excerpt from Part II.
The Uncanny Valley: Why are monster-movie zombies so horrifying and talking animals so fascinating?
Before you buy a house, you have someone go through it for termites and the rest. How could it be that when you’re going to lay out $10 million for a painting, you don’t test it beforehand? And the answer is that you don’t test it because, at the point of being about to buy it, you’re in love! You’ve found something. It’s going to be the high mark of your collection; it’s going to be the making of you as a collector. You finally found this great thing. It’s available, and you want it. You want it to be real. You don’t want to have someone let you down by telling you that the painting isn’t what you think it is. It’s like being newly in love. Everything is candlelight and wine. Nobody hires a private detective at that point. It’s only years down the road when things have gone wrong that you say, “What was I thinking? What’s going on here?” The collector and the forger are in cahoots. The forger wants the collector to snap it up, and the collector wants it to be real.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Media Lab demo

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So I was on the 2nd floor of the Media Lab for an actual purpose for the very first time... the deForest-something-or-other Auditorium.

Saw a demo on a "3D instrument" where the interface is a black universe dotted with stars, and the controller (instrumentalist) operates a joystick that simultaneously navigates through the stars while making sounds... volume and pitch with respect to the giant rods and spheres that are reminiscent of space stations and planets and solar systems that could be created and destroyed at a whim... hence N. asked "Do you feel like a god?" and the demo-er said "Oh yes."

We saw/heard a new composition, which felt like the space ship zapping through wormholes and asteroid belts... pretty awesome!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wordle my poems

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This is the result from feeding in my poem into this site... I think this works particularly well on villanelles with repeating lines as the central theme.

and this is another one, from this poem...

and yet another one (from this poem)...

I wonder if there is AI programming that governs how the color schemes and fonts are selected based on the semantics on the input text... because these wordles really tempt me to hypothesize as such... too bad I can't see the actual source code!

MTL souvenir

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All the graduated Masters and PhD students who were working at MTL got a nice windbreaker with a hoodie (I really like hoodies) and "MTL 25 years" embroidered on it. I wished it were black because that would have been cooler :-P But blue is okay too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My favorite CSI episode...

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... is the only one I've seen with the only case that doesn't involve a murder. It involves a rather ingenious and convoluted insurance scam. While those scammers have shady intentions, I'm much more drawn to the "hacker-type" thief who would "borrow" things for the fun and challenge and then return it (preferably) without being caught.

Google Doc folders

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I put all my Google docs into folders! I feel very productive. I should like go pick up the commencement program and the supposed gift from the Microsystems Technology Lab for its graduates... Too bad I won't get my diploma until the 16th, but at least it's semi-waterproof.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

CSI, Numb3rs, ... (and The Simpsons)

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For me, the appeal resides in certain characters - those with a definite IN** preference and a slight T leaning. Sounds familiar doesn't it... While there's some real science in CSI and Numb3rs, it's really there just for the effect more than anything else. The wow-factor high-tech professional aura.

In CSI, the character I identify the most with is Sara Sidle. Too bad she's not part of the regular cast anymore... And yes, she's a huge science nerd. I also somewhat identify with Gil Grissom because he and Sara are of a similar type. Although I have mixed feeling about the romance between them because I've always thought of their relationship as mentor/protégé or father/daughter... And though they could seem cold and unapproachable, they're really big softies inside :-P

Needless to say my favorite character in Numb3rs is Charlie Eppes. I'm not as quick-minded as he is, and nowhere near being able to scribble mumbo-jumbo equations at a rate of 1.5 lines per second. Although he reminds me of a certain someone when he encounters a Eureka moment, hmm. Charlie's girlfriend/later fiancée is a professor as well... not surprising.

((Aside)) I can empathize with Lisa Simpson sometimes... though she seems to be an ENFJ. I guess it's her musicality and precociousness. From the circumstantial evidence I've gathered, I was a precocious and misunderstood child who "could have turned out less psychologically damaged". ROFL.


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Hahahah, cute. I always like the Google images for special occasions, but this one is somewhat illegible... although everyone knows about Tetris anyway.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Must stop doing random personality tests

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Click to view my Personality Profile page

It appears that I'm IN**, where the * are kind of undefined... does that make me really rare? :-P I mean, the IN** are already rare and I'm like in between. Or maybe not really?

Most people in the world have the S preference over N (about 2 to 1 or 3 to 1, from various sources and my own observations), and somewhat more people have the E preference over I. The other two categories are about equal it seems.

But I think that the percentage along the spectra are very important too, because people don't always categorize nicely into 16 bins as the initial MBTI indicates. And then there's the question about exactly how to measure the percentages...

Though I think my tendency as illustrated above explains in part my adolescent angst. The strong IN leaning and the T/F conflict in a nutshell.

Took apart my laptop

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It was a very very slow process because I was trying to be careful and not break anything... I'm glad I'm not a surgeon, because I'll probably lose patience after about 3 hours.

One part of the vent was completely clogged with a sheet of dust (looked like lint from dryer)... and the other part of the vent was also quite dusty... but it's fixed now! I'll just have to repeat this after a year or so...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Branching morphology

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Intriguing. I wonder about how the efficiency of blood flow relates to the morphology. I expect there's an optimal branching factor/distance...