Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Strange Loops

Hofstadter's strange loops are a very accessible subset of coherentism. I say "subset" because self-reference, at first glance, seems to be a only one type of reference. This is only true if you make claims from a perspective. If you make non-perspectival claims, there is only self-reference (meaning is only established recursively).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Closer Than Any Other

One of the reasons I appreciate Java is the way the documentation is written. Consider their definition of e from java.lang.Math:

static double E The double value that is closer than any other to e, the base of the natural logarithms.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Helter Skelter

Charles Manson had an intricate interpretation of Revelations 9 that predicted he was the returning Jesus Christ, and that the Beatles were somehow involved in the coming apocalypse. From Wikipedia:

Verse 17: "And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone."
breastplates of fire = the Beatles' electric guitars
fire and smoke and brimstone out of their mouths = the Beatles' powerful lyrics, the power of their music to ignite Helter Skelter
A reminder that some more ambiguous prophetic texts are notoriously difficult to discuss in a non-coherentist manner.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Positively Divine Understanding

From the Wikipedia article on the Japanese painter Hokusai, some thoughts on understanding and sharing the natural world:

"From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Projector's Trance

The proliferation of Powerpoint and other projection-based media in both the corporate world and academia has created a subtle but persistent phenomena. Think back to the last time you saw someone prepare a projector before a presentation. There is a moment, anywhere from an instant to dozens of minutes, where the unfamiliar device is connected and turned on. This moment is not sustained solely by the person preparing the projector; it emerges from the audience's collective gaze. In this situation, the audience finds themselves in a trance-like state: eyes darting from the projector, to the the cable, to the laptop, to the presenter. They are completely transfixed by the ritual — momentarily, being-in-itself. And then, without warning, the image provides some sort of affirmation that, indeed, all is in working order. The crowd recollects their freedom. They remember that they're watching a presentation, and that they can stop paying attention whenever they want.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Take a photograph in your bedroom with a pillow on your head. Upload this photo to the internet (like on Flickr). Tag the file with: MOOKDFJLAL. When you search for MOOKDFJLAL you will find photographs of people wearing pillows on their head. David Horvitz, May 18, 2009
If you search for 241543903, you'll find another Horvitz creation ("people putting their head in the freezer."). It's been called a "meme", but I feel like that's a secondary characteristic of this entity. Memes have origins you can point to and say, "There, look at that — isn't it funny? That's why everybody's been copying it." But 241543903 and MOOKDFJLAL exist primarily because of the photos, not because of David's original instructions. This is coherentism in action.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Aaron Koblin Interview

Aaron Koblin discussing Processing, and "Flight Patterns":

I remember the first day that I looked at the data. Within about fifteen minutes I went from cryptic numbers and letters to easily recognizable patterns. It was a thrilling experience.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Snail Mail Machine

I propose a machine for fueling the enduring nostalgia associated with paper envelopes. It will sit next to your computer, and every time you receive an email it will drop a real envelope through a small slot. Every envelope will have your name on it.

It's essential to keep the technology as invisible as possible. It should not be complicated by a printer that prints the name of the sender on the envelope, for example. The idea is that someone has just dropped off a letter by your computer for you to read.

When you remove the envelope from its holder (or, perhaps, place it back inside the machine) a window should pop up on your computer that shows you the email.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Popularity Machine

  1. Collect a bunch of used disposable cameras (at least 20).
  2. Wire simple timers (555s, 4093 RC oscillator) to the flash.
  3. Deploy them in a crowded room during a party.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Autotune the Past

  1. Pick a famous speech (e.g.: "I Have A Dream")
  2. Run it through Anteres' autotune.
  3. Run the result through Microsoft's SongSmith
  4. Share


I've been keeping a much more regularly updated list of links, sans descriptions and analysis, on my delicious bookmarks. Perhaps I'll come back here for some analysis as I develop my master's thesis?