Monday, September 26, 2011

On comedic personas

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The guys - Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey, Zach Galifianakis, Robin Williams
The gals - Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Betty White

I think these comedians represent a good part of the humor style spectrum, ranging from goofy to witty spiced with some crass, with their own idiosyncratic inflections. The guys tend to be either suave (witty) or slapstick (goofy), or both (Robin Williams seems to do both pretty well). The gals are mostly clever (witty) and sometimes goofy, but in a different way than the guys. Somehow it's more acceptable for guys to flaunt themselves than for gals... hmm.

Granted, their style has a lot to do with their native personalities. Whereas Baldwin fits nicely in a boardroom or 007-type scene, I cannot picture him in a tutu (i.e. Carrey's Black Swan parody) or entertaining pre-schoolers (i.e. Galifianakis). Williams is more of a chameleon in this sense because he acts out the "fool" archetype much of the time but also being serious simultaneously, i.e. Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, etc.

The gals tend to stay true to how they are in real life, I think. We have a self-deprecating geek, an in-your-face no-nonsense go-getter, and a mild-yet-snarky grandma. Their gigs mostly center on these character types and it's difficult to imagine them playing something else. Fey's style is somewhat similar to Galifianakis' in that they often make fun of themselves. I find this rather endearing (probably many people too). This is in part due to my cultural upbringing, but I must say it's the safest strategy in this contemporary atmosphere that is super-charged with political-correctness.

Tangentially related... the Comedian from Watchmen is not funny "hahaha", but funny "I'm gonna make your life a joke". See how this archetype works better in a guy?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Solmire MIDI to MP3 online converter

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It's rather fun to experiment with all the sound fonts and channels for my numerous MIDI song clips. They take on various textures. Just like typography...

The MIDIs were generated via Hyperscore, though the tunes themselves were written quite a while ago...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Classy sample of spam from a mailing list

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"I am desperately searching for eager victims - postdocs or PhD students - mine or other supervisors' - to make my workhorses and to plunder ideas from. I am a dirty Hun who seethes from jealousy out of every pore. I cannot do research myself because I'm narrow-minded, rigid-brained, and petty. Therefore, I have to recruit desperate scientists from anywhere in the world and then manage (harangue) them into submission. 
The smarter you are relative to me, the more I will hate you. If you complain, you will be threatened by my gang of goons - faculty and administration are all allied with me in order to achieve our clan's goal of world domination which has eluded us for the last century or so. The reward for taking up this Faustian bargain with me is good renumeration - but if you start to complain or expose the secret of my incompetence to others, especially outsiders, then you will be let go as we cannot tolerate traitors within our ranks. ALL credit for your work will go to me and my gang of inbred dullards, not to you. 
We are ruthless gangsters who recruit legitimate scientists from all over the world to do our work because we cannot do any of it ourselves - due to severe brain rigidity brought about by centuries of inbreeding the traits of blind obedience, robotization, and general dullness. The techniques which we employ to keep these victims productive is nagging, threats and psychological abuse, facilitated by the university's administration. Eventually, the victims give up all credit for their research to us. I have no conscience since I am a psychopath. I am entitled to success because supremacy is my birthright."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homogeneous and heterogeneous speaker-audience interactions

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One thing I noticed in the myriad of talks this past week was that the speakers' gender and ethnicity correlate with those of the audience members who asked them questions at the end of their talks. Not surprisingly, guys asked significantly more questions than gals, regardless of who was presenting.

Perhaps this is a good argument of why we need educators from as many different backgrounds as possible... in order to encourage participation from a diverse group...?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interdisciplinary approach to the energy issues

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Met students from all different fields of science, economics, business, and law. [Insert "synergy" here]

Really got a comprehensive view of how to solve the energy problems, although a lot more breadth than depth. Lots of brief talks (engineers/scientists thought were too non-technical and some MBA/law students thought were too technical). I learned more about carbon capture & sequestration, geothermal powers, wind turbines, aviation and automotive research, etc. On the non-science side, there's carbon tax, cap & trade, behavioral economics, and that McKinsey greenhouse gas abatement cost graph...

Fun tours to local habitats and companies and labs...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

[Fudgy Science Episode 003] A Markov chain of my daily activities

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Here's a diagram showing what I do on a high level.  

An arrow pointing from A to B, with a number N at the origin of the arrow, indicates that if I'm found in State A at a given time, there is a probability of N that I would be found in State B about 30 minutes later.

If you find a prettier Markov chain, please show me where it is.

More detailed description of the states, with steady states (expected time spent per day) according to Markov chain matrix calculations...

Biological housekeeping (~9.226 hrs)
  • Sleeping
  • Anything directly related to eating
  • Grooming, e.g. showering (why yes)
  • etc...
Work-related activities (~7.122 hrs)
  • Setting up simulations and running them, i.e. babysitting
  • Looking up papers and reading them
  • Visualizing data
  • Analyzing data
  • Research meetings
  • Making PowerPoint presentations
  • Watching online lectures
  • etc...
Intellectual entertainment (~3.428 hrs)
  • Reading "layman" books about quantum physics, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, sociology, history, culture, religion, etc.
  • Watching documentaries
  • Writing nerdy poetry
  • Writing sci-fi
  • etc...
Instinctual entertainment (~2.519 hrs)
  • Reading manga & watching anime 
  • Reading sci-fi
  • Hulu surfing
  • Biking in quasi-Brownian motion
  • Shooting darts
  • Making (mostly) abstract art
  • Fiddling with music synthesizer
  • Listening to certain songs in loop
  • etc...
Socialization (~ 1.705 hrs)
  • Talking to people online or offline
  • Hanging out, etc...
Yeah... C'est la vie

Adding a dash of imagination to photos

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Befunky is a neat web app that adds artistic effects to photos. I was playing around and it was pretty fun. All hail computer graphics and signal processing algorithms!

Gonna play with FotoSketcher too. This one needs an installation. (Don't we love obvious misspelling in product names...) The sample gallery doesn't have people, so I wonder how that might turn out.

Narrative shot [002]

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She found the blueprints rolled up inside a thin fiberglass rod. It glinted iridescent against her flashlight of white LEDs. A rush of possibilities whirled through her head. She clenched her jaw and bit her tongue to squelch out the bubbling vortex, which turned out to be harder than expected. No time to think about that right now. Need to melt back into the liquid obsidian night so that this new information can emerge into the celestine light of day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A splendid solution to current social ires

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During lunch with some labmates today, I proposed legalizing marijuana to be more eco-friendly and create more jobs, generate more revenues, etc. New businesses would be established, aaaand... also alleviate the overcrowding in many jails. I mean, if tobacco is legal, why can't marijuana be too :-P Everyone liked my idea (ha ha ha ha ha) except for the resident hard-liner who opposes all legalization of drugs. Oh well. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Please Understand Me by Keirsey & Bates

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There was a revisit of the Jungian temperament types, and derivatives thereof, but this time with an emphasized intention of understanding others... and just maybe develop some kind of unifying theory. I know people don't fall neatly into these bins, but instead behave more like weighted sliders along various scales. I may have one "dominant" type but also have significant characteristics of another type.

However, it is helpful to learn more about the personality archetypes as corner data points, so to speak. Makes interpolation somewhat easier, but not really. It's like predicting chemical reactions with complicated materials...

... because these intrinsic types could be affected by environmental factors in all sorts of ways.

The references to Greek mythology are interesting, i.e. Dionysus (Artemis), Apollo (Persephone), Prometheus (Athena) & Epimetheus (Hestia). Perhaps I shall initiate a comprehensive (or selectively highlighted) study of mythologies from different cultures at some point...

As I was reading the book, I tried to pay attention to the various dynamics as different types interact. The description better illuminated certain aspects of my life, as I took the extrospective approach rather than my usual introspection. And perhaps it will help me to relate to other people better. My SO said that I've been improving, so there is hope haha.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

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The first 1/3 of the book reads like an expansive and poly-sourced mega blog entry. Not in a pejorative sense! I live for well-informed blog entries. :-P Just lots of editorializing involved.

Dr. Sagan provides many compelling points to debunk the UFO theories (e.g. NSA secrecy during the Cold War) or alien abductions (e.g. sleep paralysis, suggestive and mildly schizophrenic people). But I was a little taken aback by his accusatory tone. Perhaps it stemmed from the frustration of dealing with this ignoramus-masses issue for many years. And his failing health at that time... the book was published in 1995.

Last page of the alien chapter:
Despite this apparent variety of extraterrestrials, the UFO abduction syndrome portrays, it seems to me, a banal Universe. The form of the supposed aliens is marked by a failure of the imagination and a preoccupation with human concerns.
I had to ROFL at that one. After all, the purported aliens seemed remarkably concerned with terrestrial affairs like environmental damage and global epidemics. And some of them even look similar to the local denizens. Annnnd... these aliens "knew nothing about Fermat's Last Theorem or Goldbach's Conjecture". (That's because they never went to math camp!!)

But Dr. Sagan should have given these people a break because the general public really doesn't have the combined technical and imaginative prowess of astronomers. :-P
Not a single being presented in all these accounts is as astonishing as a cockatoo would be if you had never before beheld a bird. Any protozoology or bacteriology or mycology textbook is filled with wonders that far outshine the most exotic descriptions of the alien abductionists.
The believers take the common elements in their stories as tokens of verisimilitude, rather than as evidence that they have contrived their stories out of a shared culture and biology.
 Indeed, if there's actually extraterrestrial life forms, they're most likely microscopic.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Doink-it darts & Mighty Tyvek wallet

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Was wandering around the shops today... I guess now I feel restless if I'm indoor all day. Must still be in vacation mode :-P

Could not stop myself from getting a dart board anymore. These magnetic darts are cute with stentor-like tails. And they go DOINK when they hit the board. Right now I have the board mounted on my easel. Splendid multi-purpose use...

Also got the graph paper version of the Mighty wallet. Suits my techie and artsy temperament perfectly. I didn't know about this Tyvek material until today. Light and waterproof and tear-proof.. I should have gotten this a long time ago! Like in undergrad... 

I also got some other tidbits too...