"indecision may or may not be my problem."
do not read 'the elementary particles' by michel houellebecq. it's the most depressing and disempowering literary work i've read in years. yeah, it's smart. yeah, it's emotional and well written. but i really want to distance myself from this sort of thinking.
irgendwie fingt irgendwann, irgendwo die zukunft an
(somehow, at some point, the future begins somewhere)
i'm back in the u.s.s.a, by the way.
another weird austrian moment: today, at rush hour in the central viennese subway station, with hundreds of people coming up and down the escalators, there was not a single person talking. all you could hear was the sound of the escalators' motors and a thousand footsteps echoing in the huge hall.
for a while i've been wanting to put together a list of things that astonish me and make me feel like we're already living inside a science fiction movie. naturally, mit is a place that often makes you feel like that.
today at the conference i saw this guy talking on full screen video conferencing with his wife and child using his powerbook with a wirelesss connection. it was just like he was holding a slim mirror connecting him to another continent. and that reminded me of that old 80s at&t ad with a dad calling from a conference and chatting over video phone with his wife and kids. we're already there.
from 'the elementary particles' by michel houellebecq:
The psychiatrist discreetly shifted in his chair and said, about nothing in particular, "good." Depending on how much of the hour had elapsed, he would prompt Bruno again, or simply say, "we'll leave it here for today?" stressing the last word a little to make this a question. As he said this, his smile was polished and effortless.
on the verge of despair here at chi 2004 by the total lack of innovation and interesting stuff, i walked into a talk by microsoft research asia, who got an assignment to redesign the ui for 2d morphing. anyone who has ever used morphing in 2d animation tools knows how much it sucks and how obviously it is that these ui models were devised by programmers and not by animators.
so msr asia went completely blank slate and gave many designers and animators strips of papers with one drawing on one side of it and another one on the other side, and asked them to draw or write whatever they wish in the middle to describe how they would morph shape 1 into shape 2. based on the metaphors the artists used they designed what the new interface should look like, and it makes so much more sense. go cleverness!
i finally saw my page on IE on windows. i had no idea that these were the colors y'all have had to look at. all other browsers showed it nicely. apologies.
no idea why (well a hundred ideas why), but conferences depress the hell out of me.
will be on the road from tonight and until the 29.4 - posts may slow down to a trickle.
an admittedly stupid radio show analyzing bush speeches from an orwellian p.o.v has some very long and really cool strings of bush audio clips, that sound like an sound art installation.
jim cantalupo, near-anonymous head of one of the most influential organizations in the world, has passed away "suddenly and unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack" yesterday morning.
this is a good opportunity to remind everyone of the award-winning documentary super size me, opening in theaters may 7. honestly, the trailer is not very promising (as in 'could have told the story in 15 minutes'), but i'm willing to be surprised.
bbc sport's photo gallery of diego armando maradona's rise (1982) and fall (2004 and counting) made me really sad this morning. maybe it's because this reflects a sliver of my own youth vanishing.
But no matter what the final ranking of the site is, Google is correct in defending their policy of 'no manual intervention' in search results. Taking offense is almost a national sport in the U.S. and before anyone suggests that Google change their technological methods, they should keep in mind that most other search engines are manually biased to support their owner's business, and are therefore quite useless to their users. Google is so popular precisely because it really matches web sites to search queries. And if the results is sometimes inconvenient, I would recommend all the armchair activists to switch to another search engine. Not that boycotting Google is even humanly possibly today.
click on the 'searches' link on the right to see what people searched for when they ended up on this page.
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.
some of you might have gotten word of the petition to remove jew watch from the google search engine. wanting to check it out (like millions of others), i googled 'jew', and what really struck me as cool was the self-referential first google news item regarging the word 'jew':
(click on the image to enlarge)
here's google's take on the issue, which i quite frankly support.
btw, i finally checked whether the etymology of the word 'jewelry' is related to 'jew', and apparently it's not.
"Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high
above the ground without the net afforded to a person
by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends,
and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language
he has known from childhood."
- Milan Kundera
a new book called Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity is out.
appropriately, the book is downloadable free. unappropriately, it's downloadble free from amazon, a company some people might also accuse of using technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity.
sidenote: 'free' and 'culture' are among the most overused words in the language and i'm quite sick of them. they really make me want to believe in that old wives' tale my grandfather used to tell me to make me use better language:
he said that every word has a fixed number of times it can be said, and if you say a word too often you'll run out of its usages before long, and you won't be able to use it ever again until the day you die.
each entry now has a little 'direct link' that you can copy/paste to save, to link to or to send your friends. i'm still undecided on whether this should link to the entry's anchor on the main page or to a separate page with only the entry on it. i guess it doesn't matter much.
google too busy? try the mirror.
btw, playing with that site i found out that my blog made it nr.1 on google for guy+hoffman. and some people said i could never top baseball stats.
"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 stranger asked me for a story, and this is the only story i can tell today. sorry if it's a tad melancholic:
there once was a boy and a girl and they loved each other very much. but one day the boy heard the call of wilderness and felt he had to follow. so he took his bag and wandering shoes and went out to explore the world. when he came back many years later as an old man he met the girl again. she was still living in the same village, but by now was an old woman with a small loving family. the old man who was once a boy was still alone. and although he has seen the many wonders of the world, wherever he was he missed the girl very much and has thought of her ever since. but he was also old enough to understand that there was no other way.
and strangely, in the eyes of the old woman's son, who was now the age the boy was when he left the village, he saw a non-existent memory of himself.
look at those cute qrios dance (link to wmv file). sony's qrio is definitely the rage in robot animation these days.
you know, japanese robotics always makes me doubt humanity's sense of purpose and adore it at the same time.
the reason the clans of past generations got married at younger ages, im learning, is because you'll do anything when you're young dumb and full of idealism. you'll sign up for the army, you'll vote republican, you'll get tattoos, you'll knock up your girlfriend, and you'll even swear to stick together until you die. all fucked up things that should probably be illegal. two kinds of not giving a fuck: when you dont know any better and when youve seen it all.
I thought, my love, that I should overtake you;
Sweet heart, sit down under this shadow'd tree,
And I, I will promise never, never, to forsake you,
So you will grant to me a lover's fee.
Whereat she smiled, and kindly to me said -
I never meant, I never meant, I never meant,
I never meant to live and die a maid,
I never meant to live and die a maid.
you know, what i really like about that whole walla syndication thing is that they have talkback on their site. this way i can connect to what my readers think about my writing. in this case, my column was about a robot receptionist at cmu, and the only comment i got so far was "so does she swallow or spit it out?". ah, mediterranean class at its best.
jeff sent me a link to a page displaying a funky 22dof animated humanoid with some soccer and doggie-play-dead capabilities. as far as i understand this is currently only a platform to display complex behavior animations, but the versatility of its mechanical design is pretty impressive.
but then again, maybe this whole thing is a prank. it's getting harder and harder to tell. remember the insane transformer robot that could stop a car in mid-drive? impossible, but looking very plausible.
3d and digital video is getting so insanely good that video has ceased to be valid proof for stuff anymore. you really need to know the stuff you're looking at to be able to distinguish fact from facked.
on that note: if you haven't - you must see orson wells's f for fake ('vérités et mensonges' for ye snobs). i mean must.
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?
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content here by guy hoffman .. as seen times since march 2004