Tuesday, October 31, 2006

BarCamp / BarcampLA-2

This looks really interesting. Thanks for Paul Grasshoff bringing this to my attention.

It's a conference where everyone gives a demo. All participants, no spectators. I am heavily in favor of events that require or stimulate total involvement, as it filters the drag that many bystanders can cause. I hate feeling like the only person in the room who wants to do something.

Monday, October 30, 2006

After Life:

Some very interesting worldbuilding in this short sci fi story. Very seamless, if a little mystic. A+.

For non-transhumanists in my audience, this story assumes some scifi concepts, the central conceit is uploading.

Uploading is a sometimes murky concept, but the central thesis is that neuronal activity is computational in nature, we're built of neuronal activity (ie, we are our brains, mostly), so it ought to be possible to do all that computational work on something other than neurons(since all computers are equivalent. see The Church-Turing Thesis).

Once you have the instruction set for a human, and a computer capable of running it (we don't yet, brains are very very expensive), then you can have the virtual equivalent of a person. They will react and behave exactly like a real person (assuming you also simulate them a place to live, or hook them up to a robot body).

So in this story, we explore a future history of the effect of a successful human upload. I enjoyed it a great deal, and I'll probably post some spoiler discussion in a few days.

This is a high bar, I'm glad I'm writing fantasy for my NaNoWriMo and not Egan-esque scifi, because I don't know how I'd avoid pilfering from this, reading it one day before November.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

MAKE: Blog: Periodic table gets a makeover

There is another use of the Spiral Periodic Table presentation, which I mentioned earlier.

I am very supportive of this new format, which makes clearer many of the interrelationships in the periodic table which previously had to be kind of 'written on the side', such as chemical families, and the ugly 'bottom bar' insertion(which was just confusing).

I did like the previous 'spiral periodic table on a galaxy' graphic, but this one is probably more useful and stable. Interesting websites linked at the bottom of the article.

A step forward in science education. Now if we could just stop them from teaching bogus aerodynamic theory and the Bohr model of the atom.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

National Novel Writing Month

I did this last year, and was amused and interested by it. I think I will be participating again this time, with the aim of actually publishing or showing my completed story.

Writing 50000 words in a month is not hard in theory (I have averaged as high as five or six thousand words a night) but the persistence and camraderie involved are very foreign, if helpful to me.

Is anyone else considering this? Have you begun to plot?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jeff Cooper, 86, Developed Gun Techniques - October 2, 2006 - The New York Sun

Just caught this. Jeff Cooper was one of my personal heroes. He changed a lot about the role and practice of firearms (especially pistolcraft). He wrote a lot about the Second Amendment, and responsibility.

He stressed competence, and encouraged police officers and other armed personell to train and be as effective as possible to save lives.

He's probably also indirectly responsible for a lot in popular culture, the way action movies portray and use guns, the modern resurgence of training and skills being put above natural talent, and other strange and admirable things.

Like John Browning, Col. Cooper will probably have a long and distinguished influence on firearms and military culture after his death.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Only another 5,500 calories to go ...

Interesting article attempting to duplicate the 'turning your diet for the worse' anecdotal tale from "Super Size Me" which confirms my suspicion that Spurlock's reported experience was overinflated, special, or plain fabricated.

A Swedish study group find that converting from fair fitness and normal diets to extreme overeating and poor diet has a smaller effect, and is harder to keep up than you might suspect.

More evidence of differential response to diet and exercise.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rifters.com: Vampire Domestication

I have to hand it to Eliezer, he really can find the oddest things on the internet. Above links to perhaps the most grounded and interesting attempt to rekindle a fantasy monster of the highest order. Click it when you have fifteen minutes and some headphones/speakers.

In other news, I'm back on the scene here in LA. I had a nice time in Salt Lake City, saw my family and girlfriend, and other good things.

My reading backlog is getting extreme and I'll be powering through some of it to get back to a more stable situation.

And the random thought for today is: Gyroscopes. Seriously, how weird are they? Everybody has seen how they do crazy things, but they rarely introspect on how deeply odd the behavior of dynamic objects are compared to the intuitive stable at-rest things we are used to. Simple gyroscopes are easy once you play and see them a bit, but the larger issue (called spinning tops in some papers I have read) of rotating volumes is fiendish in the vectorization of forces.
solid objects with concealed rotating masses inside (called gyrostats) are worse yet, imagine pushing on a box and not knowing whether it would stay stationary, rotate, or simply slide.

I've tried to find good introductory material on the subject, but the best I've found is a very old book called Gyrodynamics by Arnold. In theory, rotating objects obey all the intuitive inertial behavior you would expect, but in practice predicting the behavior of one can be very counter-intuitive. Anybody work with them, or know a book?

Friday, October 06, 2006

In Salt Lake City.

Somehow, every time I leave, I don't have enough time, or things fall apart, or I miss stuff.

I didn't get everything wrapped up before left. I spent most of my useful time at work this morning making sure Josh had enough info for the weekend, and didn't wrap up my stuff. Bad.

And I had such a good day yesterday, solving other people's problems lickety split. Ah well.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

And the ball rolls down.

Originally uploaded by outlawpoet.
So, yesterday I finished this great new test, called "Helper" which simulates this branching cyclic conversation structure. I've been adding and changing and otherwise working on this thing for weeks now, and I've finally got it reliably scoring in automated testing.

So then I turn my attention to this new section of behavior handed in from one of my coworkers, John, which I work on, and realize that it completely breaks the old helper behavior. like completely, can't even have the two in the same room together.

I guess my next task is to get the two to play nice, at which point something else will occur.....
MetaViewSoft - PalmPDF

Finally! a program that lets me view giant PDFs on my palm TX. I had been languishing, because I have all these gorgeous high color scans of books(obtain through entirely legitimate means) and the most interesting ones (ie, >100MG) would crash it. I'd been making do with just reading text only files, or downconverting the pdf's with MobiPocket, but this is much better.

I think I'll load up my 1gig SD card and do some real reading this weekend.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bank of America | Home | Personal

Last night I left my bank card at the ATM. I probably failed to indicate that I was done, so the card did not eject, and I had time to walk away before it started beeping.

I went to the bank branch today, and it was waiting for me inside. Either their ATM machines eat cards that stay in them for a while and they are held inside, or someone else grabbed it and turned it in. They wouldn't say which.

I was pretty helpless there without a bank card. Interesting that I've adapted so well to using no cash. Crystal is always telling me I should carry money rather than using the card all the time. But it's too convenient. I took out a little money, but I'll probably forget again and lapse back into pure card use. I can't wait until I can get RFID fetish and just wave at things and lose money.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

justin corwin

coming after several years without, I again have a cellphone number. for those who need to contact me, it's 213.550.9925 anyone who doesn't need to, or I don't know can prepare for verbal abuse.

I try to live a life of transparency, and in general, have incurred few expenses for doing so. A little harrasssment, a few stalkers at jobs, and a few people banned from email/IMing or otherwise contacting me.

I find that the benefits exceed the negatives thus far.

If I ever become really famous, no doubt that overhead will rise to unbearable levels and I'll be forced into an unlisted(or at least abstracted) existence.
For any interested, my polyphasic switchover failed last night. I missed my 9pm nap by an hour and a half, so I crashed, and I got a veto from crystal, who apparently wants me to stay in bed throughout a night with her. With a visit to Salt Lake this weekend, that puts the kibosh on any disruption in normal sleep habits for a while.

While a day and a half isn't a good indicator, I wasn't unduly tired while on the schedule, and am optimistic, if I get a chance to start up again.

For anyone who follows such things, back in 2002-2003 and now I used a five hour period with a 40 minute nap, it compromises slightly more downtime with rarer disruption.
Test Test. Now posting to Livejournal automatically whenever I update my 'serious' blog at outlawpoet.blogspot.com "Outlawpoet Daily"

Which is anything but.
AGI - What are the Risks? (panel debate) - Google Video

moderately interesting video.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Netvibes is an adaptive homepage site, which I use to organize my news and email and other notifications.

I've just gone through and removed the 'frivolous' feeds from my home page, leaving the AI feeds and business notifications.

I've found that people, even smart people like myself are very lazy. We tend to do what we're already doing. We investigate what we're already interested in. We allow ourselves to slump, within the limits we've set for ourselves, or have been set for us.

This is not to say that higher standards are all that's needed to get more from yourself. There is an apocryphal tale about a farmer teaching his horse to do without food, he slowly reduces the intake of the horse, and it adapts as best it can, until he decides it's ready to go all the way and it promply dies.

There are limits, but part of growing up, and becoming the person you want to be is finding those limits. Even if they're just limits to comfort, that's important to know. You can't be unhappy all the time for very long before other parts of your life starts to suffer.

So, today I'm just going to start doing some things that I have considered doing before, but for various reasons have never gotten over the inertia of what I was currently doing.

For a while there in SLC I had a polyphasic sleep pattern. Lately my sleep habits have been sloppy and creeping over the 9 hours a day I like them to be. I'm going back to polyphasic sleep, and less time in bed. I started Sunday(technically yesterday).

I haven't been consistent with this blog. At the best of times I found it helpful to be honest and regular with it. It helped me to organize my thoughts and grounded me in the invisible audience.

I've tried to keep my time at work to 8 hours a day, every day. This works out to 240 hours a month, since I work a little more than that most weekdays, I use that average excess to calculate my time off. Lately, that hasn't been working out well for me, with weekends being the time when I recover from disrupted/irregular sleep, and weekdays having a little too much frustrated or unproductive time at work. Part of this is because I'm working on some rather difficult subjects largely on my own, but some is also due to bad habits at work I've found myself in that keep me from being as effective as I would like to be. I'm trying some new things there, and I hope I can get more done with less stress.