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Wednesday, January 31, 2001

The Big Come Down
It seems that Nine Inch Nails is having a good old fashioned garage sale on eBay. You can pick up all sorts of equipment from Nothing studios, even some crap they wanted to keep. So what's the deal? Is Trent running out of cash? If so, the new Meathead Perspective does its part by suggesting alternative sources of income (this is worth visiting just to see the pics...) [special thanks to Meathead and The NIN Hotline]
Posted by Mark on January 31, 2001 at 11:52 PM .: link :.


The Laboratorium
This morning I discovered an uncommonly brilliant website called The Laboratorium. I suppose you could call it a "weblog", but a cursory glance at its contents reveals a depth and breadth that most weblogs (including this one) severely lack (not to mention some excellent non-weblog content). The author, one James Grimmelmann, tackles current and relevant issues, but from a distinctive angle giving a truly unique perspective. Do yourself a favour and go through his archives so you can really appreciate his work. [found at Monstro]
Posted by Mark on January 31, 2001 at 09:36 AM .: link :.



Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Ginger for Sale?
It seems that amazon is now taking orders for IT, otherwise known as Ginger. Of course, they still don't know what it is, what it does, or how much it will cost, but apparently doesn't stop people from buying it. The mystery thickens.
Posted by Mark on January 30, 2001 at 01:25 PM .: link :.



Monday, January 29, 2001

Read My Mind
Mind reading. It seems fantastical, but it may be true. A team of Italian neurophysiologists have discovered so called "mirror" neurons in the brain which seem to be firing in sympathy, reflecting or perhaps simulating the actions of other people. For instance, if I were to slap myself in the face, a certain set of neurons in my brain would be firing in order to make this act of stupidity happen. And if you happen to witness my moronic act, the very same set of neurons will fire in your brain (though you won't be slapping yourself silly). This discovery could go a long way in explaining things like why people are so damn imitative, how we developed language, and also why people can instantly understand how you are feeling just by observing your actions. Some people are referring to this as "mind reading", but it seems to be acting more like an advanced simulation to me. Basically, when I observe someone doing something, my brain instinctively simulates the action (by firing the appropriate neurons) and makes conclusions based on what happens. Though it may not be mind reading, it is certainly a big step forward for psychologists.

An interesting side note regarding mind reading. Some people believe we have an innate but repressed form of mind reading that sometimes surfaces in the form of "intuition" or even physical illness when faced with danger. The human brain only operates at somewhere around 10-20% efficiency, with occasional jumps to 25-30% (which is usually referred to as intuition or revelation and is associated with a possible decline in physical health). For instance, take this entry found in Wierd but True:
"train wrecks: in train wrecks the number of passengers in damaged cars is less than average by so much and so often that it cannot be a chance occurrence. somehow we know not to get on them. (work done by william cox and reported by lyall watson)"
I've heard of similar statistics referring to airplanes as well. Many planes that crash are only half full; people who didn't get on the plane just had a "bad feeling" about it or actually got sick and were unable to fly. What are our brains really capable of?
Posted by Mark on January 29, 2001 at 02:58 PM .: link :.



Friday, January 26, 2001

Mime Assaulted With Corndog Musket
MonkeyBagel.com is a funny site, especially for geeks and computer ilk like sysadmins. Take, for instance, this story, which is worth reading simply for his description of a Mime Assaulted With Corndog Musket ("...a short movie for you depicting a whimpering mime curled into a fetal ball, corndogs smacking wetly into his head."). Or the wierd Mokeybagel Document ("Hey, I bought us a monkey! Let's stick him in a bagel and then he'll do our taxes!"). I laughed. You will too.
Posted by Mark on January 26, 2001 at 04:36 PM .: link :.



Thursday, January 25, 2001

When Minotaurs Attack!
Theseus and the Minotaur, an addictive java applet game that is also quite difficult. Theres also a history of Theseus and the Minotaur Mazes and other (easier) mazes. [thanks to eatonweb]
Posted by Mark on January 25, 2001 at 01:11 PM .: link :.


Faith in Mathematics
Why I Like Math By Matt Stone. Nice story of a man's search for meaning and finding it through mathematics ("I became aware of an underlying superstructure that tied all my math knowledge together. "). Why is it that people think religion is only comforting? Comfort is one aspect of religion, yes, but it is not everything. In many cases, I would even go so far as to say that religion is no more comforting than any other system of beliefs (be it scientific, atheistic, agnostic, or, in this case, mathematics). My naive optimism has more to do with my happiness than my religion (then again, I suppose religion has infulenced my optimism). In the end, I don't think religion is as important as most people think. It plays a small part in many aspects of life, but it does not (at least, it should not) dominate everthing. [via metascene]
Posted by Mark on January 25, 2001 at 09:25 AM .: link :.



Wednesday, January 24, 2001

A Conversation on Information
Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics, philosophy and literature at the University of Bologna in Italy, and he is well known for his academic publications as well as popular fiction such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum (which I am currently reading). In this interview, Eco discusses the Internet, information overload and filtering, hypertext , hypermedia and virtual reality. He was very open minded and articulate in his descriptions and criticism of the internet and information filtering, especially given that the internet was not very developed at the time.
"I am not saying that Internet is, or will be a negative experience. I am saying on the contrary that it is a great chance. Once we have asserted this, I am trying to isolate the possible traps; the possible negative aspects."
Much time is spent discussing information filtering, and why it is necessary to go about such things and how it becomes difficult on a system like the internet because the amount of options is often overwhelming (like going to google and typing Umberto Eco and getting back 61,200 results). Another topic is communities on the internet. He is enthusiastic at the possibilities but he adds that the information still must be filtered. You must choose which posts and authors you wish to read, and we often choose them randomly, but if we had a filter we could know which posts are important and which are crap. Regardless, he likes the idea of finding new ideas and perspectives through the internet community. "Is that a substitute for face-to-face contact and community? No, it isn't!" Fascinating stuff.
Posted by Mark on January 24, 2001 at 12:28 PM .: link :.


Standard Deviancy
A fictional conversation that contains a healthy dose of reality with sprinklings of irony. After reading that you may be a bit confused. Don't worry, everything will work out. Just Don't Panic. This has been your Standard Deviancy, brought to you by the wonderful Captain Busternaut.
Posted by Mark on January 24, 2001 at 12:05 AM .: link :.



Thursday, January 18, 2001

Defender of the Free Word
Doc Ezra goes off on the increasingly common butchery and misuse of his beloved mother tongue. If you cringe when you hear words like proactive or envisioneer, this article is for you.

I'll be away from Friday until Monday, so Kaedrin could be frightfully inactive this weekend. I say "could be" because you could change that. Yes, YOU. You could go add a chapter to one of the active Tandem Stories, or check out the ever fascinating Kaedrin Forum, where you can sympathize with my horrid Boston Public experience or just chat with the regulars (they don't bite... hard).
Posted by Mark on January 18, 2001 at 12:08 PM .: link :.


I Care Because You Do
Richard D. James, the genius/lunatic behind Aphex twin, acts almost as wierd as his music sounds. The man lives in an Bank and he owns a working Tank that he drives around town. A real tank, it even fires (but he uses this function sparingly as he only has 4 rounds of ammo left). When asked what other purchases he plans to make, he says he'd like a submarine. "I don't know anything about submarines. I just know I'd like to have one. It would be wicked for parties, and stuff like that." As if his music wasn't unique enough, he goes on to explain that the acoustic possibilites for recording on a submarine are incredible. Wierd guy, cool ambient/technoish music. [via Metascene (i think)]
Posted by Mark on January 18, 2001 at 09:36 AM .: link :.



Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Theater or Film?
Why Act in Theater? The famous film and theater actor Willem Dafoe addresses this issue quite frankly in this article. Basically, theirs ups and downs in both mediums, and sometimes when he's on stage he longs for the camera, and sometimes when he's sporting the Green Goblin costume in the upcoming Spider Man movie, he longs for the stage...
Posted by Mark on January 16, 2001 at 09:04 AM .: link :.



Monday, January 15, 2001

Netscape Crashes
The Day The Browser Died, a tragic shortcoming of Netscape 4.x. CSS is a wonderful technology, in part because it fails gracefully (at least, its supposed to) in browsers that don't support it. Except Netscape. Netscape tends to crash when you use CSS. I recently encountered this problem with these very pages. I seem to have fixed the problem (it had to do with the padding property being applied to a table cell), but that's no excuse for Netscape's failure.

I like Netscape. Really, I do. And you know what, as you can see in the follow up article at A List Apart, Netscape has been really cooperative with this bug. Netscape has been a consistant innovative force on the internet. However, their 4.x browser has become an embarassment, and 6.0, though standards compliant and faster, isn't what is could have been (I look forward to future releases).

I apologize to anyone who still can't view this site in Netscape, and I beg of you to consider switching over to IE (or better yet Opera). That is, if you can even get to this page to read it.
Posted by Mark on January 15, 2001 at 12:56 PM .: link :.



Sunday, January 14, 2001

memespreading
I've been trying to take a more novel approach recently, but I find the urge to spread some quickly growing memes is overcoming my good senses. I apologize in advance if this is the millionth time you've seen these links:)

First comes a cool Avatar maker called storTrooper. Its a nifty little java applet that lets you choose a body and clothes for a virtual representation of yourself (an avatar, if you will). I made a rather bland one (on your right), but you can make an outrageous one fairly easily. If you buy it you get lots of other clothes and styles to choose from (including the goth collection), and it would make a great supplement to a virtual community site like 4degreez, letting users goof around with their appearances...

Second is IT. What is IT? It's IT. Actually, no one knows what IT is, but IT will change the world. Some good coverage and commentary on IT can be found at Boing Boing. IT is the invention of 49-year-old scientist Dean Kamen, and IT is also code named Ginger. Of course, everyone's intrigued, including metafilter and slashdot visitors (of course). Some think it is a revolutionary form of transportation, or perhaps an infinite energy source. Steve Jobs thinks cities will be built around IT. Can IT stay a secret for long? I don't think so. We'll know what it is soon enough; no one can keep something that is supposedly this big a secret. Until then, IT is an intriguing mystery...

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...
Posted by Mark on January 14, 2001 at 10:43 PM .: link :.



Thursday, January 11, 2001

Ghost Stories
Not too long ago I recieved a book of Ghost Stories as a gift. The book introduced me to M. R. James, who is known as one of the originators of the modern ghost story, and I must say, he is quite talented. I stumbled across this gem, containing a few of James' short stories in their entirety, including my favourite: Count Magnus. An excerpt:
'So he sat there, and two or three men with him, and they listened. At first they hear nothing at all; then they hear someone--you know how far away it is--they hear someone scream, just as if the most inside part of his soul was twisted out of him. All of them in the room caught hold of each other, and they sat so for three-quarters of an hour. Then they hear someone else, only about three hundred ells off. They hear him laugh out loud: it was not one of those two men that laughed, and, indeed, they have all of them said that it was not any man at all. After that they hear a great door shut.
It is not so much the scream that evokes fear, but rather the laugh at the end. Why is that? I'm not really sure... As for the other stories, I have only read Casting the Runes, which I enjoyed as well.
Posted by Mark on January 11, 2001 at 01:56 PM .: link :.



Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Love between man and corporation
The Delivery of a Lifetime describes an exchange of emails between Daniel Arp, a Pittsburgh high school teacher, and the customer-service department of Amazon.com. Daniel fervently proclaims his love for the corporation with a verbose fanaticism worthy of psychological study. I wonder what he thinks of Amazon's new logo? Personally, I like the new logo, and in my opinion Amazon is the best company in the history of American business. Uh, yeah.
Posted by Mark on January 10, 2001 at 01:21 PM .: link :.



Tuesday, January 09, 2001

Synesthesia
What is the colour of five? What does blue taste like? Believe it or not, some people can answer these questions. These people have an rare variety of perception called synesthesia. Synesthesia literally means joined sensations, a condition that causes certain sensations to "leak" into one another. Its much deeper than a simple association or metaphor; synesthetes don't think about a sound when they see a colour, they actually hear the sound! This raises all sorts of questions regarding our view of the world and reality. Do we all have an innate form of synesthesia, possibly repressed? Who knows, but the more I think about this condition the less I'm suprised (and the more I realize how little we know about ourselves). Yet another bizarre scientific discovery...
Posted by Mark on January 09, 2001 at 04:44 PM .: link :.


Home, Sweet Home
Letter about Philadelphia, by Neal Pollack: The good Neal describes why he actually likes living in Philadelphia, and does a decent job describing the good and bad aspects of mine beloved city. If anything, he captures the curiously fun characteristics of living in a city that is teetering on the brink of collapse. [via metascene]
Posted by Mark on January 09, 2001 at 01:02 PM .: link :.



Monday, January 08, 2001

Contemplating Evil
An interview with Dean Koontz in which he discusses lots of interesting things like Freudian characters and governmental regulations. Koontz is one of my favourite authors; he writes enjoyable fiction that is easy to read and well thought out. My favourite aspect of Koontz is that he seems to have a genuinely optimistic view of the world around him, despite all the bad things that are going on, and that is a feeling I can relate to (I'm a naive optimist). Some excerpts:
"...it makes sense to say that moral behavior is an evolutionary choice. If doing the right thing wasn't a survival tool, then none of us would do the right, decent thing and there would be no civilization. Civilization rests on the fact that most people do the right thing most of the time."

"One day I realized my whole life has taught me Freudianism is nonsense. My father was a sociopath and an alcoholic, and I had a terrible childhood. I didn't grow up to be a criminal or have any of the problems that I'm supposed to have."
People compain that his characters aren't deep enough because they don't know why they are the way they are. Koontz explains that "In Dickens, the idea was that character is what you do, and that's what defines you. I think that makes sense. I believe in free will and individual choice and that we make our own lives as we go along."
Posted by Mark on January 08, 2001 at 05:07 PM .: link :.



Friday, January 05, 2001

Opening Eyes Wide Shut
A lengthy study of Stanley Kubrick's final film that sheds some light on just what the hell is going on during the movie. Extra attention is paid to the symbolism present in the film (don't miss the Final Note on Symbolism, Theme, and the Legacy of Kubrick) and as such, many small details and references are discussed. Personally, though I don't believe it to be the best of Kubrick's work, I loved EWS. What isn't discussed in the articles is the sheer mastery of Kubrick's direction (or maybe I'm thinking of cinematography here), as in the conversation after the party. The article points out the symbolism of red and blue in the scene (which I understoon to be Hot and Cool colors representing turmoil and calmness respectively), but the framing of that scene is just brilliant. At the beginning of the scene Alice and Bill are both on screen (smoking up). Then, as tensions between them mount, the become farther apart until only one at a time is on screen. As the discussion becomes more and more heated, the camera zooms in closer and closer, almost suffocating Bill and Alice and furthering their isolation. Brilliant work dammit.
Posted by Mark on January 05, 2001 at 12:46 PM .: link :.



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