It’s bike to work week here in Madison, which makes linking to this guy who mounted a camera and a bit o’ electronics to take a photo every 10 seconds as he bikes across NYC apropos:

(You get the point after a few seconds of the video, but it’s a neat project.)

 

180px1schumpeter
… that Joseph Schumpeter once challenged a librarian to a duel (over his students’ access to books).  He won (after taking a chunk of the librarian’s shoulder out with his sword).  This book looks interesting.

 

The worm below is participating (unwillingly, perhaps) in the creation of some pretty cool aleatoric music.  This reminds me of the software-based aleatoric project Doug and I did more than a decade ago (entitled, for some reason, "Just be Limp and Let me Abuse You").  I think I actually just encountered a floppy disk containing a backup of the code a couple of weeks ago, actually.  Doug:  do you remember what the input for JBLALMAY was?

[Article. Via STREETtech.]

 

As part of my aforementioned switch from the Mac to a Windows box as my primary envrionment, I abandoned my long-time Mac-only RSS aggegator for google reader.  So far I’ve been pretty pleased — it’s easily usable, and keeps up with the excessive quantity of feeds I aggregate, too.  Of course, having yet another basic app be network-based is also a plus.

A friend at work recently pointed me to the shared items feature of google reader, which creates a meta-feed of sorts consisting of the items I flagged as interesting from the various feeds I aggregate.  You can see them here, or grab a feed.  I just started using this, but could see it filling a potentially useful role for very lightweight interest tracking; for example, for things I think are neat but not worth tagging in del.icio.us, much less blogging.

 

IANAL, but I found the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ recent refusal to admit evidence of a tape recording of a school bus driver verbally and physically abusing a child on his bus interesting, and a bit puzzling.  The issue the court considered pertains to the recording, of course, not the abuse.  In Wisconsin it’s OK to record conversations to which one is party, but apparently it’s not OK to disclose those recordings, and that was the sticking point for the 2-1 majority.

Policy-wise, we have a long way to go toward a workable future of surveillance and recording technologies.  I’m conflicted on this one — it seems reasonable to be able to record things one is directly perceiving.  At the same time, it seems absurd to suggest that there is some ever-present bubble of confidentiality (i.e. that one would be limited in one’s own use of such recordings).  On the other hand, though, the notion of everyone recording and sharing everything always is troubling.

 

Two items have caught my eye this week in the ceaselessly crashing waves of information and distraction also known as "being online".

Item the firsta new island has been identified off the coast of Greenland.  A new island?!?  Due, predictably to … (wait for it) … global warming.  Or "global climate change".  Or "the global struggle against our continued existence", or whatever we’re calling it now.  As it’s not possible to turn around recently without more articulation of the interesting times we live in with regard to climate, I’ll leave it at that:  new island.

Item the second: a bi-directional brain<->computer interface intended to (someday) serve as artificial memory. This is research in progress at USC, but has already achieved the ability to simulate 12,000 neurons and interact with real brain cells.  You need to read through the popular science hype like "reducing memory loss to nothing more than a computer glitch", but there’s some cool potential there.

I found the difference in my reaction to these stories interesting, as well.  With regard to the first, my reaction is along the lines of "oh, #$!^%", and "we’re totally screwed".  While I’m mostly not what I would call an emotional environmentalist, from a pragmatic point of view I’ve long thought our modern growth-driven world fails to understand and appropriately respect the complexity and interdependence of environmental systems.  Our inputs to the world’s systems (internal combustion, population growth, agriculture, etc.) have impacts that are both unpredictable and leveraged, and then before we know it, we’re staring at melting ice caps and waiting for submarine Miami.

Brain-computer interfaces, on the other hand, excite me a great deal.  With all due respect to those who differ in this regard, I’m not personally persuaded by literal interpretations of various mythologies of the origin or purpose of life.  I don’t think there is anything categorically off-limits about us working to modify our brains, or to use technology to enhance and extend our cognitive capabilities.

In fact, I’d argue strongly that we already have and depend on such enhancements and extensions (I just need this very low-bandwidth keyboard/screen interface and a few D/A converters to access my supplemental memories).  I think it’s theoretically difficult to identify a big bright line that separates the current state of our technological enhancement to human thought from a more capable, faster, wetter one we may have in the form of mid-21st century brain implants.

Of particular interest, I thought, was the mechanical focus of the USC researchers.  With regard to the not-yet-understood aspects of human cognition and consciousness and the impact such unknowns might have on his work, the lead researcher remarks: "A repairman doesn’t need to understand music to fix your broken CD player".

I like that approach.  It makes sense, and it’s an interesting avenue of approach to take towards a subject of such massive complexity as the brain, in that it doesn’t depend on an understanding of internal semantics, but rather just the observable mechanics.

On the other hand, part of me does wonder what the melting-ice-cap of brain implants we might be fretting about in the early 22nd century.

 

Miscellaneous trappings of my morning spent reading RSS feeds:

  • As I recently tweeted, twitter is everywhere in this weekend’s news.  I think I literally saw over a dozen references as I scanned my feeds this morning.  In my experience, the site is still having rather frequent and severe performance/availability problems, and I’m only tentatively sold on the notion, but I’m getting kinda into it.  In particular, I think its opportunity to provide super-lightweight transport-flexible connectivity could unlock all kinds of creative uses for ubiquitous connectivity.  If that is indeed the direction this goes, we’ve just scratched the surface of the mash-ups and other sorts of info-feed integrations twitter should enable.  Things like geotwitter are neat novelties, but aren’t going to change my daily habits, which seems to me to be the definition of this being The Next Big Thing that’s been predicted.  The meta-view of twitterverse is interesting (as mappr is to flickr or zeitgeist is to google), but again amounts to little more than another gee-whiz shiny thing on the intarweb.  Crassly commercial as it may be, twitter/woot strikes me as a closer example of how twitter could become the centerpiece of a new information ecosystem.
  • Social networking is trending to eclipse pr0n in as %age of Internet "site visits" (details here if you have an Economist subscription).  As pointed out in this commentary, though, lots of social networking is used for sex…
  • Microsoft apparently continues the "open source infringes patents" form of FUD.  Honestly, I’ve largely stopped paying attention.
  • Google history is offering to track all of your browsing for you.  Erm, I think I’ll pass for now.  I think both their reasons for wanting to do this and my hesitation to let them do it are fairly obvious on the surface.  Ironically, it’s mostly the the ability of google search to pretty reliably conjure up whatever old link I might want that makes this service feel like an unnecessary intrusion.
  • Speaking of google, they’ve apparently acquired their way into the online meeting space.  I’m sure I’m not alone in welcoming the possibility of a google-quality WebEx alternative.  No linux version at the moment, unfortunately…
  • As a token earth day nod, I’ll pass along Make magazine’s link to New Scientist’s coverage of a working prototype of a desktop printer modified to print circuits!  This is potentially really exciting — I’ve started to do the homework to make custom PCBs at home, and the traditional techniques look both relatively cumbersome and very nasty, from a materials-required point of view.

It’s an absolutely beautiful day here, so I think I’ll go AFK for a bit and enjoy the fresh air with my family.

 

Quite a bit has happened in the recently mentioned interlude.  I doubt there are manyNoraapr07 people reading this who don’t already know most of this either from meatspace communications or other sources, but here’s a quick overview (in order from big and old news through to the smaller and more recent):

  • The startup I’ve called my day job (and often my night and weekend job, too) since co-founding it over a decade ago got acquired around the start of the year.  I now work for the acquiring company, in what I am still optimistic will be a good arrangement.
  • Our family has grown by 33% — the new arrival (Nora) is adorable, and rapidly approaching 3 months of age
  • Ben (kid #1) is awesome.  He’s still a toddler, so sometimes that awesomeness is hidden under, well, toddler-ness.   Seeing him turn into a big person and seeing Nora start (in Ben’s words: "she’s like a little person!") gives me this motivation and perspective that makes pretty much anything else OK.
  • After years of using the now-defunct otto, and about a year of having no viable whole-house digital music solution, I’ve switched to ampache, and so far am quite pleased.
  • I’m consolidating home computing resources.  The main file-server here now has over 1TB of useable raid-5, and everything that can be a virtual machine is.
  • It’s springtime, and my bonsai are gradually coming out of dormancy.  We had a strange winter here, weather wise, with some very warm followed by insanely cold.  I’m a bit concerned that there may be some fallout, in terms of tree-death, though it’s still too soon to tell.  Particularly troubling right now is the maple forest I planted just last year — out of 8 trees (2 planting groups), 2 have swelling buds, 6 don’t.  On a bonsai note, I realized a few months ago that a server crash over the summer resulted in the loss of quite a few notes I’d written in the form of an internal (to the home network) bonsai blog.  Bummer.
  • I have, for reasons not interesting enough to go into, switched my primary desktop computing environment to a windows system for the first time since windows for workgroups in 1994.  This is much more a reflection of the realities of the microsoft-opoly in the business world than any sort of negative commentary on the mac.  All other things being neutral, I’d still prefer a mac desktop / linux backend world, though I think I really am OS agnostic at this point (I’m even trying to get an ancient laptop wirelessly net-booting FreeBSD for a dining-room kiosk).
  • I’m hoping to take the day off today, and am planning on un-wiring / re-wiring some trees, taking a bide ride with Ben, going to gym with the whole family, and starting what I hope will be a relaxing long weekend.

ttyl.

 

I occasionally occupy rooms (bedrooms, living rooms, office rooms, etc.) for years and years with blankBlankwall walls staring down at me.  I enjoy visual art and decor as much as the next person, and while I can procrastinate with the best of them, I’m not that lazy.  My hang-up (pun intended) has to do with what the act of actually putting whatever on that blank spot in the wall implies — that this painting is just that good.  That I like that picture well enough to privilege it above all of the other options.  An indecisiveness, in short, born of an inappropriately exaggerated sense of finality, permanence, completeness, whatever.

I am, I fear, making myself sound insane.  (I’d suggest that the self-awareness here gets me some sanity credits).  And what in the world does this have to do with anything that the 3.2 people who could possibly still have this RSS feed in their aggregators care about?  I mention my decorating tendencies by way of analogy and explanation:  I think I have come to see this blog in the same way. While it’s been over six months since I’ve posted here, I have literally started dozens of posts, written notes about things that interest me, tagged hundreds of URLs, etc.  None of these things are here because none of them are that good, none are worthy of being privileged over the others by an appearance here.

Just as this way of thinking about it is silly and suffering under an inappropriate exaggeration in the context of my walls, so is it here. And so, it comes to this:  I’m either going to stop treating this space quite so gingerly, or I’m going to stop bothering with it altogether.  I’m honestly not sure which it will be, but I’m going to give the former a shot.

 

I haven’t yet checked this out, but Rudy Rucker has a new webzine. Certainly some of you are fellow Rucker fans (hey, Eric!) and will want to give it a perusal.

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