"indecision may or may not be my problem."
in accidental sync with the cuban revolutionary movement day, and after four years of work, my thesis defense is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:30pm in the bartos theater of the media lab (lower level of m.i.t building e15). here comes a date that for years was located "somewhere" in the muddy future, with often a day on which it didn't even seem possible.
for those out of town but who still want to watch, there will be a live webcast (the link becomes active only at the time of the event). 3:30pm boston time is 21:30h in europe and 22:30h in israel.
i'm still negotiating the possibility to have questions come in over skype at the q&a session. email me for my skype id, if you're interested in that.
other than that - see you on the other side.
i was going to write all about our emotional meeting here. but at the end of the day, despite the thinly veiled plainclothes security people, and the host of government-looking cars and s.u.vs parked on the sidewalks and plazas around the building, the ex never made it up to the 4th floor. he was probably running late and had to be content with the lower-level groups. or maybe he was just intimidated by the fact that i am israeli.
at any rate, the world now is safe from iran knowing everything about social robots.
the latest stroke in the m.i.t-caltech hacking rivalry (if by 'rivalry' you mean exchange of wonderfully crafted hacks and lame ripoffs) was just landed by m.i.t today: moving the caltech cannon from pasadena, california to the yard in front of the green building.
here's the caltech security incident report (march 28, at 5:26am)
i guess this will delay even further the day the california institute of technology won't be too insecure to use the initials c.i.t.
google sightseeing is a very cute website that collects interesting sights and sightings from google's satellite-image based maps service.
it's pretty nice to visit the important buildings and monuments of our little planet without leaving your desk, but i can hardly say that i agree with their motto 'why bother to see the world for real?'.
this link stems from the MIT Advertising Lab, a blog covering the insidious advances in advertisement, which i think i'll follow for a while. (they talked about companies putting their logos on their roofs for some free google-map exposure).
a significant part of my weekend was spent filming and working on video for the mit dance troupe's spring concert.
in the process i learned a lot about (the nightmare that is) shooting theater lighting on DV, and ended up shooting two versions with radically different settings, one on friday and one on saturday night. yesterday i watched both versions side by side and couldn't help but like how nicely synchronized the two videos were, even though they were shot 24 hours apart. in larger dances you can very clearly see which dancers are on the beat, and therefore perfectly aligned with themselves across days, and which are just somewhat precise.
check out this little clip from one of the dances.
they publicized it greatly, so that future time travellers could not miss it themselves (given they speak english i guess). they also posted the longitude and latitude of the east campus courtyard for the even more unlikely possibility that mit will one day cease to exist.
oh, and provided a landing site.
since my blog will definitely go down in the annals of history, i would like to join the organizers in calling for useful gifts from the future, such as a cure for aids, cancer, and - if it's not too heavy - hypocrisy.
walking down the infinite corridor i was passing by a prominently (and perpendicularly) labeled men's room when a bunch of geeky high school students exited en masse underneath the big 'MEN' sign, putting on the best of their manly behavior, the kind that can only be displayed by teenagers in a slightly intimidating college surrounding.
if real life had slow-motion and bad disco music this would have been a wes anderson moment.
at one point gondry said (relating to the fact that he doesn't like to do too many commercials) that whenever he does something he tries to think what his high-school buddies with the punk rock mentality would think about him, back then. he imagines that he goes back to show them and he couldn't stand them "telling" him in his mind that he betrayed them. "i only want to feel that i didn't betray them". call it immature or naive, but i think it's a pretty good measure to keep as you grow up. maybe not your high school buddies, but i do think that there's no happiness in succeeding through a betrayal of the basic things you believe in.
a little plug for a program i'm helping out with:
this summer: teach, lead, travel, make the world a better place
all expenses paid + stipend
join an mit-meet instructor team to:
application deadline: TODAY!
i know it's a little late, but if you know someone at m.i.t with programming/c.s knowledge who might be interested, let them know.
reading a paper about laughter, i couldn't help but smirk at the following *extremely* precise description of what constitutes this 'uniquely human behavior':
A laugh response was defined as any highly stereotyped utterance characterized by multiple forced, acoustically symmetric, similar vowel-like notes separated by a breathy expiration in a decrescendo pattern.
(From Provine RB (1993) Laughter punctuates speech: Linguistic, social and gender contexts of laughter. Ethology. 95:291-298. )
another interesting point was that speakers laugh more often than audiences.
update: god this paper is a goldmine:
Coser (1960) studied the social functions of humor among staff of a psychiatric hospital and found a downward drift of laughter from senior to more junior staff. In other words, senior staff rarely laughed but produced the highest number of laugh-inducing anecdotes per staff member despite doing the least amount of talking.
(Coser RL (1960) Laughter among colleagues: A study of the social functions of humor among staff of a mental hospital. Psychiatry. 23:81-95 )
a friend of a friend, yael berda, will be coming to cambridge tonight and i convinced her to give a short talk at m.i.t about political dissent and non-violence.
it's tomorrow at 4:30 in the media lab building (room 235), and i would love to see you there.
she's got quite a track record and you can read all about the details of the talk here.
craigslist personals educate us that a young mit professor wants to get to know you.
if you're looking for mr. nice guy - you got the wrong dude. this one is pretty cocky, i must say.
It took me more than 30 seconds to bang out this post, so if I get two flip lines from you, I'll delete it. If you flame me, I'll delete it too. If you send me a picture, I'll send you one too. If we click, we can meet up for a drink later this week. If you are a Dean at MIT and believe that my post "is behavior unbecoming of a faculty member" then you should see what the tools at Harvard are getting away with.
if you're one of my students, undergrad or doctoral, and respond to this post, I *will* find a way to fail your sorry-ass.
cute mit moment for the red sox. you gotta love the multitude of puns in the headline of the linked-to article.
overheard a professor chatting to another one in an m.i.t hallway:
so, do you know anyone at *** who might have some extra dough laying around?
er, i mean, you know - who has a vision that fits in with what our lab is doing.
and what's with the girl? is she supposed to make me think about procreation in an effort to keep the race clean? she does look slightly jewish.
update: uploaded the picture, see for yourself!
my design for the mit homepage is up today.
update: severeal mit bright minds asked me what it was and correctly guessed that it's a model t engine. here's the original scan.
update: my 13 hours of fame are over. stupid of me to not have taken a screenshot. this is the best i can do.
update: the nice people of the mit homepage sent me a screenshot.
big news here in my pond: susan hockfield was elected mit's 16th president
on a flyer that had a typo saying
when you're defrosting your freezer, do not use sharp object.
someone added in blue pen:
when you're defrosting your freezer, do not use sharp object. or plurals
no pregnancy classes, no questions answered, she just knew what to do. when to clean the puppies and how, how to carry them around, when to give up on a sick puppy, and when to give a weaker one suckling privileges to make up for its smaller size.
walking back to lab from class i saw a really beautiful exhibit. one of the benches around m.i.t east campus was converted and had about 20 PhD theses embedded in it. they were standard-bound engineering theses, but their covers and part of the pages were cut to expose exactly one sentence from their acknowledgements section. so there were all these bound books with windows cut out into them reading: "to my loving parents, who supported me throughout this fascinating journey" and the sorts.
invite i got today. this is why i love mit:
460 liters of LN2
100 pounds of sugar
40 gallons of dairy
The best liquid nitrogen ice cream you've ever had.
TONIGHT 9PM Z-Center lobby at the CPW Welcome festival
It'll be fun.... you'll get wet.
"in the next two years we will find out if it is possible to be creative in this great and loving country and to own what you create" (whoa on the overdramatization here)
a clever, benign, and "ethical" prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!). Note that this has nothing to do with computer (or phone) hacking (which we call "cracking").
even though there were a few hacks during my time at mit, including a pretty major one, i rarely catch them live. but this morning as i was walking to class, i think i did spot one, so i'm pretty excited:
the big traffic routing sign at the harvard bridge construction site, which is just outside of the mit main entrance was hacked to flash "harvard sucks", instead of the usual "seek alternate routes", or whatever these signs usually read.
looking for something completely different i ran into a clip i saw a while back, so i thought i'd link on to it as long as i know where it is. this very cool 15 second valentines video is called "combo" and was filmed in two single-shots by james jung-hoon seo of the late "aesthetics and computation" group headed by john maeda. there's also a slowed down version and more video experimentations to be found on james's site.
watching it again just now, i realize that this was shot in the supermarket just a block away from where i live now, a place i do much of my shopping these days. it's always weird and fun to recognize a familiar place that you saw a while back when it was still unfamiliar and trying to put youself back in a state of innocence - trying to feel what it felt like to not know the place. it's like listening to a language you know and trying to imagine what it would sound like if you didn't know the language. pretty impossible thought experiment.
p.s.: notice the cool date today?
blogging live from john zorn's talk at the mit media lab. here's some quotes:
"How do I compare the NYC music scene with the Tokyo one? Why is that interesting? I'm not a sociologist. The problem is that everyone who goes to Japan for a few years thinks he needs to write a book about it. Fuck you! What do you know about this country? I don't know anything about this country. I just lived there. Lived there and wept."
"I'm not here to be happy. I'm here to get work done. What does happiness got to do with any of what I'm doing? Fuck that. The problem with this culture is that it puts so much value on happiness. Happiness is for kids. Kids can be happy, not adults. Kids -- and yuppies."
"I hate the saxophone these days. You're asking me what my instrument of choice is today? I don't know - sitting on my ass at home? (laughs) No, A pencil I guess."
so, earlier tonight our robot, leo, broke a link pin between his neck motor and his actual neck shaft. so we called in our very own dan stiehl who knows how to fix that sort of stuff, and he looked at leo's motors and joints while asking us what leo was doing exactly when it happend.
some things remind me that mit is the special place it is.
yesterday, for example, i was walking down the corridor, and there were these three very cute girls standing there. they looked straight out of a tv show, low cut jeans, full make up, stylized hair. their body language spelled out "gossip", clutching their notebooks and waving one hand in expressive gestures. it was only when i came closer that i heard one of them saying: "so i, like, couldn't get that to work, even when i tried the cross-product, so i had to use sine theta, and basically based everything on the exponent."
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content here by guy hoffman .. as seen times since march 2004