2008 June❮❮prevnext❯❯

summertiiiime, and the feelings queasy

Man hard to believe it's June already -- where Summer "really starts" by my idiosynctatic, school-calendar-based reckoning.

Yay for the Celtics getting into the finals, and setting up a return of the old Celtics/Lakers rivalry of the 80s.

If the Patriots hadn't choked in such a spectacular and humiliating fashion (and to a New York team, no less) we could be getting ahead of ourselves and looking for Boston-team championships in 3 out of the 4 major sports!

(Oh and happy 500th Manny!)

Quote of the Moment
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Portraits of the Moment
I took a one day, 8-hour portrait class with Melinda Bruno who also taught the Photo Composition class I took last fall.

As usual, I don't think I photograph particularly well. I was paired up with Kate (we both were getting by with midrange Canon point-and-shoots) and I tended not to dig her style, which was usually square-on and evenly lit. (In general, I think I do better with less even lighting, trying to fake my way into looking like my cherub face has something other than curves on it.) We did fool around with some more dramatic lighting on this little stage though:
Hmm, maybe a bit too emo.

This was probably around the best shot I took of her:

pentomino 4. remember to smack anyone who tries tired "what happens in Vegas..." jokes (except meta- ones like this)
let a friend fool with my camera's memory card, did a reset of the counting. From IMG_5662 to IMG_0001. Damn, I wanted it to rollover!
hate hate hating google's new lower case g favicon on every google tab
not that i am much of a "game author" but I get pangs of jealousy when i see a good implementation of an idea i was saving for later
i hate when a well-intenioned sunday leaks away. maybe i can still get the loveblender done.

on monday we begin again

Last night I was hanging at Francesca's in Back Bay with JZ and his neighbor Marianne who is currently fighting breast cancer. She's currently working on wringing the most enjoyment from her days before radiation treatments knock her out for a while.

It was interesting hearing about her life philosophy. She's 50, twice as old as JZ and about 15 years on me. Up until a few years ago she was a self-proclaimed workaholic. In general, she and JZ seem to have some things in common, a certain competitive drive that I lack. They're both athletic go-getters and I'm more careful about picking my battles, redefining what games are worth playing to optimize for low-hanging fruit.

Quite a way to end a weekend. I'm almost at risk for taking for granted that she's going to beat this thing no problem.

Tower of the Moment
--Excerpt from Goon Tower, a collaborative effort from the somethingawful.com users.

Quote of the Moment
Children are wired for sound, but print is an optional accessory that must be painstakingly bolted on.
Steven Pinker, on communication and child development.

"what time is it?"
"half past"
"half past what?"
"I dunno, the little hand on my watch broke"
two guys in the brig, "anything goes"

summertime in boston and that difficult to shake feeling like you can't appreciate it ENOUGH. (not that I'm trying all that hard)

this is the real world

(1 comment)
It's still rough but as you can see I've added a new thing on the sidebar that shows my latest twitter post.

Like I mentioned in May, I've started using Twitter's 140-character messages in the same way I used to use my Palm pilot, with a focus on capturing quirky thoughts as they occur to me (rather than Twitter's theoretical raison d'etre of letting everyone know what I'm doing at any given moment.)

I'm still debating if I should try to get the widget setup so it shows not just my posts but those of people I'm following on Twitter. Also, I'm debating what to do about the old sidebar. Sometimes I think I'd like to get it converted into a tool for people to review stuff they're reading and movies and videos they've watched, since the open-ended sidebar has kind of died down.

Thoughts or suggestions?

I'd encourage people to get into Twitter. It's had some server stumbles lately, but in general is pretty solid, and it's cool to be able to record thoughts via cellphone that would otherewise get lost to the ether. (If you're a twitter use and a kisrael regular, let me know your twitter name!)

Science of the Moment
I remember this from a few years ago, but it looks like bananas are still very much endangered.

Quote of the Moment
This is the real world, muchachos, and you are in it.

solid day of planning meetings. item: find will to live task: read existential play estimated hours: 4

save the drama for obama

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So Obama looks ready to claim it.

I have mixed feelings about Hillary Clinton as VP. For the most part I don't find her politics disagreeable (though I have my doubts about her Lieberman-esque puritanism) and I dig the idea of making the highest offices of the land not male-exclusive territory, but I worry about her as a lightning rod for the right, that her presence (along with "Clinton" being to right wingers what "Reagan" was to previous generations of lefties) might help McCain gather in conservatives who would otherwise look elsewhere.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I really do wonder what life would be like with a Gore victory in 2000, what the nation's response to WTC would have been. Would we have invaded Afghanistan even? Had the same economic ups and downs, and inflation now? How would we have worked to contain Saddam? I don't want to play as if I think it'd be an unmitigated paradise, these are challenging times. But you gotta wonder, because thinking about that alternate history might provide some insight to what an Obama presidency will look like.

Line of the Moment
Q: What's dark energy?
A: The ninety percent of everything that's crap.
Leonard Richardson
Found in Crummy.com, one of the few personal blogs I've been keeping up with lately. ...

The guy intermittently writes "Medi-Yorkers" (a pun on mediocres), like
This one uses the "cocktail party" New Yorker cartoon graphic. One guy says to the other: "So, what do you drink to forget?"
which brings me to my other link, Slate on how to win the New Yorker caption contest.

Man. Those things aren't all that funny, are they? It's as bad as things that have haiku contests.

Now a good limerick contest, I can get behind. Recent one by me:
a techie whose name was jacques, it
seemed like gals wanted his rock-et
try to reach his domain
but they'd always complain
'Fatal error: Could not create socket'"

Birthday of the Moment

--Yesterday was Mr. Ibis birthday and rather than trying to swing a trip to Florida I drew a cartoon. The joke "hippo birdy two ewe" is straight outta Hallmark but it IS personalized with an Ibis.

Thinking about the "36 basic plots"... I have trouble thinking that abstractly, I'd love to see a list showing what real movies used which
I find people in scrubs kind of hot. Now that I live near some big hospitals, this can be, you know, awkward.
The Spanish Consulate is in my building... is the Spain->Mexico "feeling" similar to UK->USA? The folks have that euro-elegance...
I carry my camera all the time as kind of totem to jujitsu murphy's law; it wards off "chinese curse" interesting/photogenic events.
Oh for pete's sake! stupid cheap Papermate Profiles camouflaged as decent Pilot G-2s... grrr.

delusions on a rainy thursday

(1 comment)
Bruce Schneier writes about the You've Been Left Behind service, a supposedly secure way of getting critical information to your heretic loved ones after you're swept up into heaven.

I guess the scheme relies on their good Christian employees checking in on a regular basis, and their failure to do so will indicate a Rapture-ish condition.

I think they just need some honest and helpful Hindus or Buddhists to work there instead! (And boy, won't that be a wakeup call for those employees!)

Like what if one of the "Christian" employees is actually a backslider, or the standards for being raptured are tougher than they expect? You know they'll totally be in denial "no that couldn't have been the rapture -- I'm still here!"

Of course, that whole "pre-Tribulation" line of analysis, that all Christians get a free pass to dodge 7 years of Hell on Earth, seems to me to be a peculiar bit of wishful thinking... and because of it, some of our politicians are a lot more wreckless than they might otherwise be. As a good rule of thumb, in movies and in life, PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BRING ON THE END OF THE WORLD AREN'T THE GOOD GUYS. Even if they think true believers dodge the worst of it, it's still damn rude towards everyone else! Abraham begged God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, I think Christians should have a bit less righteous glee than they seem to.

Video of the Moment

--Cellphone vs Microwave.

Exchange of the Moment
Hipster #1: Awwww! I never noticed it said "love" all over the cement!
Hipster #2: It doesn't.
Hipster #1: Oh, I guess the shrooms kicked in.

Ugh. My ability to find a place for shtuff has undermined, but not removed, my get rid of shtuff mojo. Still it makes me unhappy.
muddling through some decluttering but wish i had a combination coach, personal assistant, and field marshal to get me through this...
iphoning google to get free trivia thursday coffee at souper salad probably is a bit cheaty but this iced coffee tastes mighty good

the pollyannappreciation principle

In a Gamer's Quarter thread, jjsimpso was talking about the use of numeric scores in game reviews. He refered to an older "games studies" dichotomy between "narrativists" (who place video games in a tradition of storytelling) and "ludologists" (who place video games more in the tradition of other forms of gaming... I guess the term is related to a Greek word for "play" and the similarity to "luddites" is just an unfortunate coincidence.)

jjsimpso proposes a two-score system to match this dualistic line of thinking, L-scores (for the mechanic and design) and N-scores (for the story, art, setting, etc) It immediately made me think of that passage Robin Williams' character has his student read aloud in Dead Poets' Society, allegedly from "Understanding Poetry, by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D."
To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme, and figures of speech. Then ask two questions: One, how artfully has the objective of the poem been rendered, and two, how important is that objective. Question one rates the poem's perfection, question two rates its importance. And once these questions have been answered, determining a poem's greatest becomes a relatively simple matter.

If the poem's score for perfection is plotted along the horizontal of a graph, and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness. A sonnet by Byron may score high on the vertical, but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great.
The movie uses this passage has a strawman to be knocked down, that poetry can only legitimately be felt, not analyzed.

I guess I disagree... I think the basic concept is sound (even if exact quantification is a bit odious), but you need many more scales for it to be useful, two dimensions just aren't enough. This would bring this kind of thought into line with my idea of Multiple Intelligence Theory for Art.

Just for kicks: I say 2 dimensions isn't enough, and have previously talked about Multiple Intelligences, but don't go into detail about what they might be... (a bit of a dodge on my part!) So for fun, what do I think some should be? The Pritchardian "importance" could more or less stay, except maybe it should be "subjective importance" and "universal importance"... "artfulness" is way too simple... there's "adherence to formal structure", "comprehensibility", "subtley", "cleverness"... then there are other traits like "humor", "thought provokingness", "emotion provokingness" (I'm sure there are more succinct words for many of these)... something that takes into account the "context of the authorship" (in general a decent work written by someone in pressed circumstances is more interesting than a work of equal decency written by someone in comfortable circumstances)

In short there is a multitude of possible scales, and I think people are free to come up with a subset of all possible scales they value most highly in art appreciation. For me, the most important take-away concept is that very little art or craft is valueless, so we should always hesitate before condemning a work with too heavy a hand. I dub this thinking "the pollyannappreciation principle".

(A nascent form of this thinking led my fellow a capella singers with Tufts sQ to saddle me with the unwieldy nickname "Kirk 'c'mon guys, it wasn't THAT bad, was it?' Israel" after a particularly brutal round of poor auditionees.)

Video of the Moment
With the Celtics lovely win in game one over LA, I'm hearing more about the chant "Beat LA!". To summarize, it comes from Celtics fans the final game 1982 Eastern Conference -- where the Celtics were just about to get beat by the 76ers...

It's considered a nice bit of sportsmanship by the Boston fans (not always known for being that classy, really.) I guess too though, LA can't object to it too much, even as its used in other sports (like the SF Giants against the Dodgers) since it does paint them as the city to beat.

has basketball always been this endless parade of fouls? seems like the flow is so broken.
wikipedia's "A cappella" page, collegiate a cappella section is a seething bed of shameless plugs. A whole paragraph on South Asian? Jeesh.

be careful what you notice

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You know, now that I'm doing twitter updates, kisrael.com doesn't have quite as much as the importance/urgency as it once did.

It's still pretty important to me, but the daily ritual aspect doesn't loom as large.

That said, being a creature of habit (lest I make my old self look misguided... this kind of outlook sometimes makes growth and personal change difficult) I'll be keeping up my daily humanist practice here for the foreseeable future. There's a small chance I'll make it a decade and then knock it off, but only a small one.

Quote of the Moment
For more than ten years now, I've been tangled up with the problem of plastic bags stuck in trees. If I've learned anything from the experience, it's "Be careful what you notice." I was living in Brooklyn; I noticed the many plastic bags flapping by their handles from the high branches of trees, cheerful and confident and out of reach. Noticing led to pondering, pondering led to an invention: the bag snagger, a prong-and-hook device that, when attached to a long pole, removes bags and other debris from trees with satisfying efficiency. My friend Tim McClelland made the first working model in his jewelry studio on Broome Street, downtown. Possessing the tool, we of course had to use it; we immediately set off on a sort of harvest festival of bag snagging.
I saw this passage quoted in Charles Tilly's "Why?", a thing I read for my Science and Spirituality group; it's a longwinded categorical division of "reasons" in society: conventions (casual, prescriptive, general), codes (formal, prescriptive, general), stories (casual, descriptive, specific), and technical accounts (formal, descriptive, specific)... And that there is a new category of "super stories" that is essentially a technical account given in layman's terms and that's what we should all strive for. Or... something.

Link of the Moment
Sensible Units converts things. For example, I am 1.3 Alaskan moose antler spans tall and weight 12 or 13 men's shotputs.
I guess it's a mistake to be constantly assuming that Twitter stability must be "right around the corner"
dow down 400! jimminy frickin' crickets!
kirkjerk seems to be my main online identity at least for gaming sites. Should I even cling to "alien bill productions" for games I make?
1 877 kars 4 kids... long on catchy jingles, short on what they actually do with said kars.
nothing brings this gas thing home like driving an 18 mpg van to rockport with 3.99 gas way up, 4.09 down...
big brown is the 07-08 patriots of horses!

gadget gizmo geekery

So here's is where I prattle on for an entire entry about a gadget. I'm going to try and justify that by pointing out it also reflects my interest in User Interface. (And maybe even my vested interest in UI at 65 mph)

Hello, Sexy
This past few weeks I've been driving my Aunt and Uncle's Honda Odyssey for moving and hauling (and if you don't commute by car, nothing brings home the gas prices like a trip up to Rockport in a 18 mpg minivan... I swear the price at the roadside place was 3.99 9/10 on the way up and 4.09 9/10 on the way down.) A few times I was caught short, sans GPS, so I used that to justify an upgrade from my beloved Garmin 2610... they're so much cheaper than they used to be, and after having bought other models as presents for my mom and EB over the years, I was aware that they had also gone up in features. (And in my case, features even beyond "has a database that knows that the Big Dig is over")

In general GPSes feel like they've benefit from competition in general, and give the sense that they've really been listening to consumer complaints and suggestions... my new Garmin nüvi 260 (three cheers for umlauts!) shows 4 years of improvements in the following ways: There are a few things I'll miss...I get a feeling my old one had more random retail landmarks in its crufty old database. And it had physical buttons, including "speak" which would cause the voice to talk about the upcoming turn. I liked that, and the way this model prints a text summary of the next turn is probably more useful but less fun.

Mostly, though, they seem to be working to keep the screen uncluttered, so there only readouts on the map are "ETA" and "distance 'til turn". The 2610 had "current time", "time 'til turn" and most importantly "current speed"... I got spoiled by having a digital read out of speed handy, I still think digitally and reading from analog (on a speedometer, or even when looking at a clock) takes a mental cycles to convert.

(heh, just to throw some cold water on this, there are some rumors that the next iPhone will have real GPS... assuming that has the same real time highway traffic data that I think their Google maps already has, that might really be something.)

Anyway, I still think anyone who ever drives anyplace they don't know intimately should get one of these. I've found this cheap at thrice the price... it is to driving what cellphones are to making plans, just bringing up a ton of flexibility and security.
young black guy working at dunkin has a ROXBURY hand tattoo--guess the gangsta aspect weirds me out but hey its my neighborhood now.
all right! t worker says I can transfer my pass to my tap and go card at downtown crossing, no problem.
living and working in Boston proper has its advantages. the number of gorgeous gals in little nothings of sundresses... yow

yeah, that is a GREAT use of researcher dollars, much better than, i dunno, curing cancer

I think my inner mammal digs the heat more than it digs the cold.

It still wants the option of air conditioned splendor or warm and cozy heat as conditions dictate, but given the choice, heat is preferable.

I wonder if there's any small chance if it's because I lived on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands for a year when I was three.

Video of the Moment

--First I've heard of it, but Will It Blend? is a long ongoing series of awesome.

Neuroscience of the Moment
To her surprise, though, the magnetic resonance scans revealed that the part of the brain lost among those who failed to perceive sarcasm was not in the left hemisphere of the brain, which specializes in language and social interactions, but in a part of the right hemisphere previously identified as important only to detecting contextual background changes in visual tests.

"The right parahippocampal gyrus must be involved in detecting more than just visual context -- it perceives social context as well," Dr. Rankin said.
It's tough to express just how cool it is that we have a part of the brain that's generically "context", whether visual or social.
"Abraham Lincoln said all men are created equal. I guess old Abe never saw Bo Diddley in the Shower" RIP, man.
This morning at the T stop is the first time in a while I recall looking for a nice shady spot. (behind a local map billboard)
cex.co.uk is a kind of awesome used DVD, games, electronics store at downtown crossing.
i swear my development server has gremlins in it. no other explanation fits.

bad news from akihabara

(1 comment)
Josh, my friend who hosted me when I visited Japan, wrote with some sad news from Japan (I supplemented with a few photo links):
Some guy drove his SUV into a group of 18 people in Akihabara, got out and stabbed 8 to death because he hates society.

Killed them in front of the game arcade that you and I went into. The one where we went up to the top floor and you took a picture of the woman dancing.

By the way, the street in Akihabara that is closed on Sundays and has all the crossdressers and maids, as well as the one in Harajuku, have been closed to those kinds of activities since May. Police allow cars on the roads, hence the the guy this afternoon, and detain any people crossdressing and performing.

Some lawmakers decreed that this kind of behavior was immoral and antisocial.

Too bad they don't feel that way about killing being immoral. Its just an expression of human dissatisfaction with society.
I share Josh's anger with this. Besides the general split about the value of individual human lives between Japan and the West, it reveals the right wing element that still lurks under some parts of Japanese politics (there are out and out fascist parties that people politely ignore, despite their political vans on the street.)

I'm almost equally distressed by a reversal of the social tolerance, this sense of I can do my thing, you can do your thing, that has been a hallmark of much of Japanese society.

luggage with the ex's name on the tag, old love letters from the gf. while moving, mourn for what you will miss, or what you have already?
I'm impressed at how many people argue their case on wikipedia discussion pages rather than just making the edit.
Ah, the discrete charm of the summer cold. A scratchy throat has a different character while one is walking in a oddly strong hot wind.

henry miller's bathroom


Henry Miller monologuing about the photos in his bathroom. (Mildly NSFW, though not as bad as the start of Part 2 or parts of Part 3)

(I'm intrigued by the style of decorating, I'm thinking about trying for something vaguely similar in my apartment, filling it with a mix of the visually interesting, the intellectually stimulating, and the personally meaningful. The art and posters I've hung over the years, some of my own photography of friends and places. I guess it might end up a mess but at least it would be my mess.)

In Part 2 he talks about a Buddhist Monk who strives for enlightenment for 15 years, then finally gives up and finds it the first time he sleeps with a woman, a geisha.
The important thing was that he had allowed himself to go to the very end of doubt and despair--had he not this would have never have happened. But he went to the very end of the tunnel and saw the light. This is, of course, something that does not happen to people in psychoanalysis. They may be adapted to our corrupt world when they're finished, but they never reach satori, and they never see things as they really are, in my opinion.

Of course there's another aspect to it, and a very wonderful one. It is like William Blake's idea of reaching heaven through hell... It doesn't matter what road you take to reach paradise and besides that even, one might say that paradise is not even just around the corner but right under your nose, if you happen to be lucky and aware enough.

And I think that's the great burden of it, that one should-- accept his doubts completely. As the Buddha once advised. Accept despair, and anguish, and frustration. And see it through, don't go to a doctor, don't go to an analyst above all!
The original blog post focused more on focused more on another clip, Miller expressing thoughts on the New York of his youth (I think while in a Hollywood backlot recreation.) The Boingboing post included a comment from the guy who shot the documentary ("Henry Miller Asleep & Awake") 30-odd years ago, Tom Schiller. I don't know what other Henry Miller footage was about, but I think I see elements of this documentary informing Fred Ward's nice performance in "Henry & June", also there's a scene in the movie where Miller is making faces in a mirror that seems to be straight from the first moments of this clip.

Moving into a small apartment feels like an ecological exercise. I can live on what I've already moved, but more remains to bring over.
article says new iphone ditches "brushed aluminum that takes scratches so easily" - but I kind of like scratched, worn things. wabi-sabi!
I can't even say how much I dig the movie "drumline"- could it be black drum corps tend to use more bass, and white, more ratatat snare?

there be dragons

So Miller, my former housemate, is looking for a new housemate. $500+utils gets you a good sized bedroom (the other rooms are furnished already for the most part) and offstreet parking in a great neighborhood, Arlington Center (Starbucks and a bookstore down the street, a ton of fantastic restaurants on the block, within shouting distance of Spy Pond and the Minute Man Bike Trail) which is also pretty damn near Cambridge/Somerville etc.

Camera Gimmickry of the Moment
It's surprising what goofy digital fun you can have even without photoshop, with some of the color modes of a Canon point and shoot...
Color Accent. You know, I was kind of poo-pooing black and white digital photography, since I know b+w film has better dynamic properties than color film, but I figured b+w photos are just the color version minus the color information. But this photo I took in that portrait class makes me reconsider; maybe some of the appeal of black and white is letting the eye see the subject differently, free to examine texture and light and shadow without the "distraction" of color.

Color Swap. JZ getting ready for his Blue Man Group audition. Or maybe he just really likes the smurfs.

Quote of the Moment
Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
G. K. Chesterton

Chewing gum on the sidewalk should be a jailable offense. Singapore went too far with an outright ban, but I say Bring On The Canes-- grrr.
yow, just carried $310 worth of coins to coinstar... no fee amazon gifts certs ahoy!
The corner packie (booze store, for you non-NEers) sells individual ping pong balls -- must be for your beerpong playing convenience!

there's no color the sky can't be at any given time

Straggled through to another Friday! Hooray!

Analysis of the Moment
Permanent Monday is uncanny. Although it now seems to be defunct-ish, it was some very detailed, almost scholarly analysis of the daily Garfield strop. The weird but is the analysis isn't just there to just mock the strip, but rather seems to acknowledge its strengths and weaknesses and the craftsmanship that goes into making it. I think I might have to read the whole archive of this!

Video of the Moment

I liked this song when I heard it on Shatner's "Has Been". Then I found out that it was a cover, not something Shatner had penned, so I liked it less. The I found this juxtaposition and I like it more, though maybe not as much as when I thought Shatner had written it.

Quote of the Moment
Sad, sober friend: I just really miss her, I guess.
Drunk friend: There's no color the sky can't be at any given time. Remember that!

what good are subsidized 25 cent cans of soda without an intern to go downstairs and bring them to me?
Sudden meetings at work are less scary in some ways 'cause my move to Boston is probably the same as a "hunker down" move would be.
(meeting ended up not being scary, just my old hands off manager moving to another group, and a new hire manager who I'll report to)


Went to see the opening of the new Hulk film. Afterwards JZ and I ran to Best Buy and bought the game... we had read previews that said it was modeled on Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which was a great destroy-everything and bound over the city romp that we had liked a lot on the Xbox.

The new game is decent, good graphics, well-balanced, not as polished as its predecessor. But mostly, seeing Ed Norton's sad sack version of Bruce Banner loving rendered in CGI is worth the price of admission by itself.

Poem of the Moment
The green leaf opens and the leaf falls,

each breath is a flame
that gives in to fire;

and grief is the price
we pay for love,

and the death of love
the fee of all desire.
Robin Robertson, "Lesson".
Woo. I like the subtle chemistry lesson, the tie-in of fire and the chemical oxidation process that is both crucial to our survival but leads to our ultimate decay.

Article of the Moment
After the Garfield thing the other day I thought I'd link to some more traditional academics, a Slate piece on poems that can and can't be attributed to Shakespeare. It's funny, though, when it speaks of
"Funeral Elegy": some 600 lines of unbearably pious tedium whose clumsy witlessness, lack of irony, and paucity of poetic felicity raised questions in the mind of anyone who has an ear for Shakespeare.
It make me realize that I probably have absolutely zero ear for Shakespeare, and the "otherness" of anything that was written around the same time, or even a tribute or parody in a similar style, would overwhelm my attempts to discern if it was the real deal or not.

Shameful(ish) confession: In high school senior year I got about two near-A pluses, English class and History class, for my paper "Discard the Bard?" by essentially cribbing a set of articles in the Atlantic on the authorship of Shakespeare and writing my paper in the form of a dramatic dialog. It was especially easy because the articles were written by two Academics, and then each author got the chance to reply to the other article.

I should feel guilty about my intellectual dishonesty, but I think the teachers just appreciated the daring and freshness in the format of the result, relative to all the boring papers they must have had to slog through.

Somehow I managed to avoid ever writing a significant thesis paper or doing a thesis project; that dodge in high school and then keeping my head down with both the English and Computer Science department at Tufts.

Least favorite movie trailer cliche: anything "beyond imagination". so how the hell did they come up with it?
Why does beer seem better from a tap, but soda seem worse from a soda fountain?

street cleaning! all cars on the even side will be tagged and towed. street cleaning!

Once upon a time, Douglas Adams wrote
[Ford Prefect] started to count to ten. He was desperately worried that one day sentient life forms would forget how to do this. Only by counting could humans demonstrate their independence of computers.
In my absolute lack of struggle to prevent this, and to make the whole Google is Making Us Dumber crowd cluck their tongues, and to also remind me what side of the street I need to park on on Mondays to avoid getting towed because of street cleaning, I made a webpage that I can quickly consult on my iPhone that says the following:
The fact is the course of action to be derived from the rule "April through November, avoid parking on the left on the first and third Mondays, and avoid parking on the right on the second and fourth Mondays" is not always immediately obvious... What's today's date? How long 'til the next Monday? Which Monday of the month is that? Which side is which again? Trying to calculate that in your head on a narrow one way street, possibly blocking cars behind you, with the relevant No Parking signs at various levels of visibility... I'd rather be able to press 2 buttons and get a clearly worded answer.

I thought about making a UI for this, to let people enter and store their own parking restrictions, but meh, unless there's a sudden clamor for it, which I doubt. (If someone else would find it useful I'd be delighted to host a customized page for them that they can bookmark for rapid consultation!)

(If I had a mac setup to synch with my iPhone I would try and make a "bookmarklet" out of this code, thus not needing any connectivity at all.)

Actually, going back to the Douglas Adams wikiquote page to find the wording of the thing about counting to ten, I may have found an even more appropriate quote:
I am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand.
Computers: they think so we don't have to!

masters of my domain

Was chatting with MELAS (My Ever-Lovin' Aunt Susan) last night and an idea came up, not a new idea, but kind of a new context: should I go ahead and seek a Master's degree?

Old contexts would have included (A) a general nudge from the family and its respect for education as something worthwhile, almost for its own sake and (B) something that would make for a more solid résumé and generally crank up my earning potential. But (A) wouldn't really be enough by itself, and I've interviewed enough well-degreed folks who seemed to be complete programming imbeciles that I don't put a lot of stock in (B).

So the new context is opening up the possibility of teaching, like maybe at a small college or as an online instructor. MELAS feels this has worked well for her... the money isn't fantastic, but she finds the traditional 9-month Academic year to be very pleasant, and the work can be rewarding, and generally not overly strenuous.

When I went to college I had the idea of training to be an English Teacher -- Tufts had both a top-notch English program and a great Education program, but then as computers and not English seemed to be academic forté I made my "other major" Computer Science instead of teaching.

(I felt guilty about that for a while, though my beloved high school English teacher Mrs. McLaughlin consoled me by pointing out that I might not be a great teacher because I might be impatient with students who are slower to pick something up than I feel I would have. So that sounds a note of caution for my current thoughts.)

To be clear, my current debate is "shall I get a Masters" (and have more career options) and not "should I change careers"... having drifted from one (generally pretty well-paying) job to another, and not being driven to corporate leadership, I don't have a ton of options stretched in front of me.

One issue is with Computer Science: there are kind of two camps in it as an Academic pursuit, and there's a lot of tension. The first camp sees it as a part of Mathematics, and is very much about the theory and the beauty of computation. The second camp tends to be more Engineering in its outlook, and see it as more of an applied art, maybe even a bit of a craft. People in the former see the latter as wanting to make trade schools, people in the latter see the former as having their heads in the clouds.

I'm in the latter camp, no question. I find that computer programming is a lovely way of making new things. So that might influence my decision of school and program.

I have no idea how tough it is to get into programs (actually I heard there's an inverse relationship between the health of the job market and the number of people going into school.) I graduated Summa (thanks to grade inflation and some blatant begging) and with a 4.0 in my major, and I generally have done well on bubble-type tests.

Thoughts of places to go would be Northeastern, a decent school that I think is oriented towards careers and people who are studying while working and is about 3 or 4 blocks from where I live, and my alma mater Tufts which is pretty prestigious and I know some folks.

The idea of being a teacher is a little daunting, of course. Actually I wonder if being as public as I have been on this site and other places would be a drawback? It's easy to forget teachers are people too. But I think I'm good at breaking down problems into explainable parts, and maybe I could learn to fake the gravitas required...

As always I welcome thoughts and feedback!

(Random followup: decided to click around Northeastern's website a little... I realized that there Digital Media sounds a lot more compelling to me (after, you know, 20 seconds of poking around their webpage) than traditional Computer Science, a way out of the whole "CS is math"/"CS is craft" dilemna. Conversely, I don't know if that would mess up the teaching idea.)

Link of the Moment
Cute Flash Animation vs Animator movie, kind of in the spirit of Stick Figure Death Theater. (via Bill the Splut)
Yeah, I'm a homer who doesn't know basketball, but the hell is up with these refs?
pentomino "we pass the time to forget how time passes" - Amelie. A little bit less morbid!
WOW, did I really just find myself saying 'Oh look, another jerk with an iPhone'?
MELAS and I agree: time spent just fiddling around expands to fit the shape of its container.
Note to self: mojitos: tasty (even when just premix :-( ) but not a boon to productivity in the evening.

so much beauty in the world

So I'm still thinking about school.

I'm such crap at life decisions! I'm feeling my usual urge to conduct Q+A with tons of people I respect: the best (and techie) friend who stayed at our University for his Masters, a beloved professor from that same school, my first manager out of college, my Aunt who put this round of the idea in my head, a friend of a friend who is going for her PhD in that same New Media course I noted yesterday, presumably to teach...

Would I enjoy teaching if it were at a low level? (And would I have the credentials to teach anything but that unless I focus on hard core stuff?) Could a New Media program open a door to a more interesting, well-rounded job, or should I stick with the tried and true server stuff and just try to be interesting on the weekends, as it were?

And most importantly, how the hell do I figure this stuff out? I'm sure some of those friends and supporters I mentioned up above might get sick of acting as de facto career counselors, but I don't know what other resources I have. Is there a career counselor type who really knows this kind of field and could study my background and make recommendations accordingly?

Art and Toys of the Moment
Dave Bollinger Works page has some fun stuff that I need to explore at a more leisurely pace. The generative art of pixelrobots and pixelspaceships is not to be missed, and stuff like scrawl is super pretty. (via crummy)

Bollinger references Paul Schmidinger's page which also has some nifty stuff.

Between programmer/artists like these, and some of the folks at Indy Games, it can be frustrating, like when you see an idea of yours already implemented, or just in general more grace and cleverness than you can easily provide.

In some ways, I'd love to figure out how to merge my thoughts about more schooling and my desire to make more stuff like this. But I'm not sure if the latter has much to do with making money. (Though sometimes I think what is really lacking is the artistic pretension... I'm not sure if blogging and geeking is totally compatible with "le artiste" type respect.)

Speechifying of the Moment
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
JK Rowling at the Harvard Commencement.
BoingBoing's summary missed the big section on Amnesty International that the full transcript reveals.
Tight pinstripe slacks on women form a bit much of a topological map.

like a complex and intricate piece of clockwork that happens to be made of sweaty gangly guys in squeaky shoes

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Man, that was AMAZING.

I'm still at risk for being a fair-weather fan, but when the weather is this good, why the hell not?

I know I'm biased, but I think defensive basketball IS more fun to watch, at least for a sophomore-level of fan. A freshman fan just sees the strength and glory of driving to the basket, dunking or getting the layup, or maybe a 3 point shot from downtown, and there might be nuances in setting up an offense to let those glamorous plays happen that I just don't see, but when I see the Celtics defense in action, shifting, rearranging, countering every possible move the Lakers could make before they tried to make it... it's a thing of beauty, like a complex and intricate piece of clockwork that happens to be made of sweaty gangly guys in squeaky shoes.

Of course, that was only the first half of last nights game.. most of the second half was "garbage time", the Lakers running desperate hurry-up plays, trying to recapture some dignity in the final store, and the Celtics mirroring that with fun-to-watch, why-the-hell-not dunks and what not.

Dunno how related it is to being so near the infamous-party/rioters at Northeastern, but the power was out last night and this morning... I loved the commercial, on a few minutes before the end, with Celtics players asking, in effect "come on guys, show some class and don't riot, OK?"

Link of the Moment
The Boston Globe's Scoring Graph and Shot Chart is a nice study in information presentation, the graph is a timeline that lets you see the point differential and the important events throughout the game. The shot chart was a little confusing 'til I read more closely and saw the big dots w/ the player #s were the ones of the crucial second quarter.

Enjoy it Boston! City sports just can't get too many levels better than it has been for most of this decade... they plotted the parade route already.

Heh, first quarter of the Celtics game on the car radio, a convoy of police paddy wagons driving the other way...


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Lately I've been thinking about what makes a professional looking website. Is it some careful balance of style and balance and color, or are there some tricks you can use? I guess the answer I'm coming up with is a little of both.

A related anecdote... at work I was charged with coming up with a rough screen layout for an editing page with collapsible sections. I came up with something as follows:

v Section One
Option One
Option Two
Option Three
Option Four
Option Five
Option Six

> Section Two

> Section Three
(The panels are wired up so you can show/hide the contents.) Anyway, our audience loved the functionality of the page, but didn't like the look and feel. So we asked one of our designers, Adam, if he could suggest some minor changes, here's what he came up with:

  Section One
Option One
Option Two
Option Three
Option Four
Option Five
Option Six

  Section Two

  Section Three
Now technically we haven't gotten feedback for the new look but I suspect they'll love it. The changes are small, rounded corners, a softer color, and making the whole section colored. But it really points out how engineer-y my old thinking was; I had a mental block that said headers are headers, and content (in this case the checkboxes) is content, and never the twain shall meet. But now I can see the elegance of this approach, of treating each chunk as a collapsible block rather than as a series of sections with "appropriate headers". (My design re-used an old trick of mine, of using slashes and the letter "v" in a sans-serif font as arrows, rather than a graphic, but I don't think that's the big deal.)

So, what else makes a professional site? What are the clues, subtle or obvious, that speak "corporate"?

So looking at sites like Ford.com IBM.com, or my friend Tammy's atomicpink (she does design work for hire) and musing they look different than my look, I think it's some of the following: It's weird when you start looking at sites in terms of "why does this site look professional to me?" After a while you start thinking maybe a site IS pretty amateurish, but either they make it work or you're just used to it.

Heh, Celtics parade today. Wasn't there some highschool rule about avoiding wearing green on a Thursday? Oh well!
The meme of calling "synchronize with repository" (prelude to "checking in" code) "stink-ronize with suppository" is spreading at my office

yet another boston sports victory parade

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a parade.

Quote of the Moment
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
Kurt Vonnegut

A popular theme of bathroom decoration is- bathrooms?? Kind of like halloween costumes with the character's head emblazoned on the chest.
hey you know who won the NBA championship? THE CELTICS and why did they? 'CAUSE BOSTON -AND MAYBE ME PERSONALLY- IS AWESOME

peeking a boo

Ah the bittersweet official start of summer, where you know the days aren't going to get any longer than this.

Taking a "Programming in Flash" class today and tomorrow, so look for little toys and gizmos from that if it works out well.

Video of the Moment
An enormous amount of fun with censor bars in this David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) "Toejam" by "BPA Featuring David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal" video...(thanks LAN3) I suppose, technically, it should be "SFW", then, but well, no, not really... but brilliant! Good song as well.

--via collegehumor, sent to me by EB. Looking at other places on web, it's funny to see all the utterly-missing-the-point "gee it would be better without the bars!"

The Red Sox are wearing Celtics green... how cute!
I'd like to find more books about living in the USA, aimed at folks in other countries but in English...
free samples of "honey bunches of oats" at H. square. Later, homeless kid complaining "I don't need this much cereal in my life"

what you get after one six hour intensive introduction to flash class



No time for love Doctor Jones!

Video of the Moment

--from http://view.break.com/521743. Like they said on boing boing gadgets: "This video, which from the wealth of weapons used in its creation I can only presume is a sanctioned viral commissioned by Nerf, manages to break every rule of good internet video: it's over five-minutes long; it is a commercial; it's trying to be funny. Against all odds, it manages to be COMPLETELY AWESOME. "
I <3 helping tourists on the T


To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com
pixiesmash - source - built with processing

These are beautiful, ephemeral pixies, flitting about hither and yon on gossamer wings, creatures of virutal light and logic, the very stuff dreams are made of.

You smash them with a rock.

(Macabre shades of Terry Jones' Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book? Also memories of Cleveland kids smashing fireflies and using their guts for glow in the dark sidewalk writing.)

A (roughly) two hour entry for Klik of the Month Klub #12. Also a more successful attempt to copy the visuals of this one "Pixie Swarm" Windows 3.1 screensaver than paintbars (though that ended up cooler and more hypnotic)
Wow, kick butt thunderstorm! I watched the front approach over Cambridge, engulf the MIT dome... felt apocalyptic!


Ugh, just one of those days where there doesn't seem time to get a good kisrael together... so here is a baby laughing in slow motion.

My own Boston parking pass! Excitement and a half!
The Central Square benches are one hell of a slice of life. Like a bus stop, without the bus.

dialog with my circa-september-2001 self


"Uh -- hey, what? You look like me but with square glasses."

"I am you, but around 7 years in the future. I want to give you advice."


"I know. It's probably not going to help."

"Why-? I mean like why me now? Do I have to prevent some huge terror thing?"

"Heh, not that I know of, but yeah, in part I remembered you're kind of freaked about that and that's why I chose this time, but you're good for at least seven years. Pretty soon they'll be some Anthrax powder in the mail or something but it's really isolated."


"There's going to be some war, though."

"!!! Like, all-out war?"

"No. So here's the thing: we're going to move on Afghanistan, and that's going to seem like a bad idea to you, but given the Taliban and who actually did this 9-11 thing (are you calling it 9-11 yet?) it's probably a kind of worthwhile thing, and do-able. The problem is you're going to invade Iraq."

"Did they do it too?"

"Not really, Bush felt the need to get rid of Saddam, but it's going to be kind of a quagmire. But anyway, enough about me, let's talk about you."

"Who is also me."

"...right. Your three month old marriage is in trouble."

"WHAT? It seems great! Neither of us are 'strongly gendered typed' and we give each other plenty of space for our own projects--"

"Yeah, that's some of the problem. You guys are about to buy a house. Stop treating it as 'Mo's project', engage more, stop being just along for the ride. Mo's looking for collaborator in ways she's not going to put into words until it's too late."

"Then do I--"

"I don't know much more than that."

"What about my career and all that?"

"Well, your current safety job isn't, but if things go the same, you'll find a place that'll be a safe harbor for a while. Things will pick up again, maybe the'll drop off again, your current drifting, job-wise, seems ok for a while."

"So why did you come back to now? Why not to our teenage self? Or before and tell us (him? yourself?) to enjoy dad while he's still around?"

"Well, to be honest, I can't relate that well to myself that far back. But you feel like the same person, kind of, just less informed. I think we fear growth and personal change because that means we were wrong, and we hate being wrong."

"But I admit mistakes! It's-"

"Yeah but your ego is more fragile than you know, and you redefine things that make you look less than stellar as not important. Maybe work on that. But really, I got to thinking about this time as sort of a critical point after playing Nintendo 64's Pokemon Puzzle League with EB*. (Who should end up stressed but with a lovely wife and kid.) I remembered playing the same game with him as a de-stresser on 9-11, but realized that you could probably kick my at this game... he and I still play it but not as religiously as you do now..."

"Heh, you're getting weak old man..."

"Yeah, funny."

"So what's new in technology?"

"Oh, not much. Focus on your Java, that's your bread and butter. There's a new round of game consoles, Nintendo's doing some cool stuff. WiFi is a lot easier and cheaper. Apple makes phone version of the iPod, looks like a Star Trek: Next Generation slab, that finally actually is better than your beloved Palm, which isn't going to get much better than it is now."

"Heh, oh well. Not too exciting then? Guess it's just seven years. But wait a minute... doesn't coming back to tell me this risk negating your existence? Like you're telling me stuff so it leads to a different future of me?"

"...Oops. Damn, wish he had least given me some lottery numbers."

*of course I'd have to use EB's "real" name, my past self thinks of EB as "Electronics Boutique"

Saw Josh, visiting home from Japan the other day. He mentioned I missed a scary fun but harmless earthquake the day after I left.

pahking cahs

Sweet jimminy crickets almost forgot to do kisrael today.

I was going to write about how weirdly awesome it felt to FINALLY have a Boston parking permit... 12 years of trying to scrounge one of the Visitor spots or a local after hours meter behind me... amazing! My car AND a subway stop less than 100 yards away from where I'm sleeping... astounding!

Then my Uncle pointed out last night that there was no parking on the street at all today or Monday, some construction thing, and good thing he mentioned it or else it would just go from the status quo of taking the dew off the rose to being a major source of ranting and raving on my part, as my car was towed away.

Quote of the Moment
a lonely tear running through his artfully kept stubble like a pachinko ball of pure shame and degradation.

Game of the Moment
Pointer... there's something weirdly compelling in this little maze game about how there's no avatar, just the point of the mouse itself, to maneuver through the little maze/obstacle course.

Kind of scary how often the sound of sirens follow big thunderstorms...

[cataclysmic abbasid]

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Power outage at home all yesterday afternoon and night, maybe a result of a lightning strike. Something weirdly third world about not having power. Plus combined with my Aunt not being able to go to New Jersey because of train track work in Connecticut... it truly feels like our infrastructure isn't all that healthy.

Today's title comes from some Spam I received just as I was going to hit "save and publish". Maybe I should use random spam titles more often.

Cartoon of the Moment
--Kate Beaton's history project. Oddly enough I realized the other day she also has a Conversations with a Younger Self series, albeit her ten-year-old self.

Quote of the Moment
An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
Aldous Huxley.
Sigh, I'm getting way too may of my quotes from the "Quote of the Day" service lately.

[my number 27]

Rockport was weird and humid yesterday, like a rain forest, maybe not quite as hot.

Design of the Moment
--I love, love, love this ammonite shell inspired sink. I wonder if it's impractical, though, if things like shaving bristles would tend to get stuck earlier in the path.

Article of the Moment
GOOD magizine's guide to the Shadowy Organizations That Rule the World each one rated by mythical power and actual power. The big winner is the Davos World Economic Forum... I had forgotten about the reporter Laura Garrett's Insider View e-mail from 2003, and how dire the outlook was then. That was right before the start of our miscapades in Iraq.
Promotional items I want to see: "BUBBLE HO-TEP" brand gum.

farm math

So back in high school my calc teacher (Mr. Pawlowski! Yay old yearbooks.) gave me an interesting way of solving this one classic-sounding algebra problem.

Like many math problems, the premise is a bit absurd: Farmer Brown knows he has, I dunno, 30 animals, cows and chickens. He doesn't know how many of each he has, but he does know that among them they have, say, 74 legs. (Why Farmer Brown is able to count legs but not animals, and not distinguish a chicken leg from a cow egg, is not made clear...)

Now there's the fancy-pants school-larnin' way of solving this: (let c be the number of chickens, m (for moo) the number of cows)
we know c+m=30
thus c = 30 - m
plus the legs means (c*2)+(m*4)=74
and c = 23

Cosmic Cow Says:
"Hey, speaking of cows standing, anyone remember the show Too Close for Comfort?"
"Monroe said his secret was being able to draw an inoffensive udder!"

2019 Update: was it Monroe or Henry???
but Farmer Brown doesn't know from Algebra. So what does he do? He has all the cows stand up on their hind legs! (and part of the fun of this is the teacher demonstrating what a cow on two legs looks like.) Since he knows he has 30 animals, he can know without counting that there are 60 legs on the ground. 14 legs unaccounted for, 2 each per cow, so there must be 7 cows, and 30-7=23 chickens.

That math seems a lot easier to do in your head! I'm not sure what the equations for it look like though... let me see...
c + m = 30
he quickly figured 2 * (c + m) = 60
but he knows 2c + 4m = 74
I guess he was able to tell that
(2c + 4m) - (2c + 2m) = 74 - 60
2m = 14
m = 7
c = 23
So that's a lot of steps that seemed easier to manage when you chunked things the right way. Maybe it's more like
Let a be the number of animals
t be the total number legs (2c + 4m), 74
let d be the number of legs down, 2*a, 60
d - t = 14
2m = 14 (I think that's the smart bit)
m = 7
c = a - m = 23
I'm not quite sure what the takeaway math lesson from this is... maybe it's the use of more variables when you're trying to do stuff in your head?

A dream of reconciliation w/ mo, turns out it's an anniversary. I've moved on but sometimes wish I'd more clearly moved on TO something/one
Why are the Onion headlines on the Slate sidebar all about homosexuality? Celebration of the CA ruling or what?

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