Saturday, July 31, 2010

Walker Library of the Human Imagination

Here's the actual video.

Links for Later

1. PZ Meyers comments on the Spiegel interview with Craig Venter, and ends with a snap.

2. High Frequency Trading ordering patterns.

3. Setting the price for a seed round.

4. Inception soundtrack based on time distorted Edith Piaf.

5. Glen O'Brien & Family at the Selby.

6. Medical crew chief on a very bad medivac flight.

7. Tour of the Webb Gallery in Texas. Outsider art, Masonic paraphenalia and curios. (via boingb oing.

8. Audwin P McGee, American Badass. More interesting than that Dos Equis guy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Images of the Week

from the Good Blog, via boingboing

(via rcs)

Inception infographic by dehahs, via William Gibson

This is the Way It Is

And the Way It Is Going To Be in venture capital and entrepreneurship for a while, as explained by Dave McClure. Fast, flexible, and almost disposable companies with neat ideas. Not too much capital, or what I would call "vegetarian" companies. Startups from the Gospel of Paul Graham.


Matt Smith and Orbital play the Doctor Who theme at Glastonbury.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sao Paolo

Perfect Layout

How to layout golden pages, using the techniques of early printers.

(via gk)

The Prehistory of Digital Media

Bob Stein "talks about work­ing for Alan Kay, start­ing the Cri­te­rion Col­lec­tion and Voy­ager on laserdisc, Hyper­card e-books, and inter­ac­tive CD-ROMs — essen­tially, the whole pre­his­tory of where we are now with just about all dig­i­tal media."

Cool bits about the Criterion Collection and the idea of doing the commentary tracks on DVDs.

Links for Later

1. Norman Spinrad can't get published? It's unbelievable. Here's why.

2. Elizabeth von Thurn und Taxis on the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc & summer on the Cote d'Azur.

3. Video tour of brs favorite location, Jay Walker's Library of the Human Imagination. I get book envy from this. Also here.

4. Generalization Error Bounds for State Space Models, a thesis.

5. RIP John Calllahan. I feel like we should all make jokes about quadroplegics in his honor

6. Out of the mouth of Paul Graham.

What makes human minds unique?

A Replicated Typo does a nice summary of recent reasearch in this area. Kudos on the bibliography, too. As mentioned in the article, not all of these faculties are actually going to prove to be unique to humans, but it's still an interesting list:
  1. "We-perspective"
  2. Symbolic, representational reasoning
  3. Theory of mind
  4. Shared perceptual and mental worlds
  5. Mental time travel
  6. Mental building blocks and the ability to interface these together

More: Part 1 of the article.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Green Lantern

Why Ryan Reynolds is seven kinds of awesome, a short vignette from ComicCon:
"In brightest day...
In blackest night...
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light."

With those simple lines, Ryan Reynolds charmed 6500 people in Hall H and made a lifelong fan of one little boy. Contrary to many reports, the boy didn't actually ask Reynolds to recite the famous Green Lantern Oath when he got his turn at the mic during the audience Q&A at the Warner Bros. panel. He actually asked the question, "What does it feel like when you do the Green Lantern Oath?" Which is infinitely more interesting and charming than "Will you do the Green Lantern Oath?"

And what made Reynolds so likable in the moment was the genuine way he responded to the question. If you see the footage, you see him react first, an emotional beat, and then a decision. And just watching him make a decision, watching him slip into the Hal Jordan he's playing right now, and then say the Oath... not for us as an audience, because that's not the moment. He said it to that little boy. And just to him. And the look on that kid's face when the Comic-Con cameras cut to him after Reynolds finished...

Life. Changed.

More: at time 1:34

Links for Later

Interview with Founders Capital team on SpaceX, Tesla, photographic DNA sequencing, and others.

Staff Sgt. George Zubaty's personal narrative.

Tashi Mannox's Tibetan calligraphy.

Green Lantern posters at ComicCon.

Signal transduction through the PPAR pathway.

Rehab for sex addiction may involve someone telling you you're brain damaged and forcing you to break up with your girlfriend via speakerphone.

Seven people hold keys to restart the Internet.

Tom Hardy sorta-kinda comes out sorta-kinda bi.

Best Magazine Articles Ever

A list by Kevin Kelly and friends.

(via kottke)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Links for Later

Science is like building a pier in the ocean. (via mr)

Lost Ansel Adams glass negatives, bought for $45 at a garage sale, worth $200M.

Why Elizabeth Warren will be confirmed.

Why is the administration waffling about Elizabeth Warren's confirmation? Don't they want Democrats to win in November?

Eric's big battlefield ramble.

James Franco, as "Franco" on General Hospital, displaying an installation of films of himself playing Franco in earlier episodes, while being filmed by his own film crew, filming for an installation about his role on General Hospital. Very meta.

Etched brain slices on Etsy. (via Street Anatomy)

Convenient Optimism

Mark Thoma on the Obama Administration's inappropriately positive attitude and lassitude.

More here.

Anatomy of a Thug

Street Anatomy: "Every time I see a guy dressed like this (which is A LOT living in Chicago), I can’t help but smile as I stare at their little legs! With each bow-legged step I cheer in my head, LITTLE LEGS! LITTLE LEGS! GO LITTLE LEGS! Until they turn around…"

Weird. I've said the same thing for years. Now I know why.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Links for Later

WikiLeaks document dump of Afghanistan material

Critique of Julian Assange. Does anything in this critique degrade the intel in the WikiLeaks dump? No.

Charlatan, Martyr, Hustler--the geometry

Visiting the Ghibli museum

To read: The Devil is a Gentleman

General McChrystal's farewell

Squee! Avengers cast, director Joss Wheedon.

James Franco

A deeply weird and highly laudatory profile of James Franco, who seems to be doing the polymorphous, hyperenergetic artist thing. Working on four (or possibly six) graduate programs, while simultaneously starring in films, modeling for Gucci, making a lot of performance art (and whatever other art is now called--opposite art?), and generally running around the clock.
The next time I see Franco is at the Tribeca Film Festival, at an after-party for Saturday Night. The party is sponsored by Polaroid, which is using the occasion to promote its new Polaroid 300 camera so aggressively it feels almost like a satire of publicity: Everyone is taking photos, or photos of photos, or video of photographers taking photos of photos. It’s like Andy Warhol has thrown a surprise party for a Don DeLillo novel.

"My Work is a Collage"

Interview & encounters with David Hockney by Karen Wright.

Holy Rollers

Ian Winstanley's photoessay of the stylish sadhus of Kathmandu.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stella Gibbons

In the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, Lynne Truss describes Gibbons' father, Telford..."the household was dominated by the violent temper of her father, who drank and womanized, and occasionally threw knives" and apparently liked to threaten to commit suicide. "His own father had been a similarly tyrannical and adulterous paterfamilias: Grandfather Gibbons had even had firearms, and would shoot blank cartridges at the ceiling to quell the noise of his children in the nursery upstairs."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Jesus, this is your line"

The politics behind the Oberammergau Passion Play in the 21st century.
"The former pastor asked me to pay him a visit when I became director for the first time," says Stückl. "I had cast a friend as Judas."

The friend was a Protestant.

The priest played various records, with music by Mendelssohn, Bach and Mozart. Which music did Christian like the most, he asked?

Bach, Stückl replied without hesitation. And that's exactly where the problem begins, the pastor replied. Bach, a Protestant, refused salvation. The music of Mendelssohn, a Jew, could offer no salvation. A true Catholic, the pastor said, could only love Mozart. Now that, he said, was the music of salvation.

Read the whole article. Not to be missed bits include the tale of Mad King Ludwig and the gift spoons.

Wine Barrel Floors

Well, now I know what my next remodeling projet will be.

Gormenghast Redux

Rokeby House is a huge 195-year old estate on the Hudson River populated by 10th, 11th and 12th generation descendants of the Astors and Livingstons who built the place. From the Times article:

Not many venture into the vast, shadowy front rooms, which are kept as a shrine to previous generations — a practice that irritates some members of the younger generation — and the French wallpaper is pocked with moisture stains and peeling off in sheets. In the shuttered, paneled Gothic library, Teddy Roosevelt’s photograph sits on a shelf thick with dust (Roosevelt was a pal of great-uncle Wintie Chanler); in a parlor, a bust of Julia Ward Howe, the abolitionist, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and a great-aunt, is propped on a chipped radiator. A marble plaque in the front hall is “in memoriam” to Stanford White, a family friend, who orchestrated a series of additions to the house in 1894.

Real life occurs in the rabbit warren of kitchens, pantries and servants’ bedrooms, and the small village of outbuildings — barns, cottages and carriage houses — through which family members, friends and tenants career like characters in a French farce.

What a fascinating way to live, in a crumbling house on a vast estate with a rotating cast of relatives from a really, really extened family. It makes me want to write a novel about it, but didn't John Irving already do that?

Photos here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Links for Later

Skidelsky on consolidation vs. stimulus.

Peter Daou: Obama is the most successful failure in a generation

Dennis Hopper interview at Interview


And now, Mike Jay on the birth of the Illuminati. As in the Bavarian ones who are behind all the other conspiracies and whatnot. Makes you wonder, why aren't there any electric cars?

(via boingboing)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What was Darwin Thinking?

Kamil Ahsan looks at the documentation to figure out Darwin's method as he developed the theory of natural selection. Ahsan's conclusion:
At some point it must be recognized that evolution by natural selection was not the result of years of observation in which Darwin had no working hypothesis, but instead years of observations geared towards designing proofs for a hypothesis based on little more than a hunch; a frantic search on ‘the species question’ that ensued as little more than a rat race with Alfred Russell Wallace."

I'm never convinced by these arguments that a particular person only used one mode of thought to get where they needed to go, but the conclusion ultimately reached here is precisely in agreement with that concept--that the search is one guided by both theory and observation.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Links for Later

Nassim Taleb on model error

Krugman: the Pundit Delusion

Richard Branson: 5 most important things in entrepreneurship (people, people, people, fun, love)


It turns out that the Perforated Mexicans were a subset of a larger group of Parisian urban explorers, called UX.

In time, the officers’ lights found the PA system. They found the stereo, with guard-dog yowls burned onto a CD. They found three thousand square feet of subterranean galleries, strung with lights, wired for phones, live with pirated electricity. The officers uncovered a bar, lounge, workshop, dining corner, and small screening area. The cinema’s seats had been carved into the stone itself, with room for twenty people to sit in the cool and chomp on popcorn.
On the floor of one cavern, officers discovered an ominous metal container. The object was fat, festooned with wires. The police called in the bomb squad, they evacuated the surface, they asked themselves, What have we found?
They had found a couscous maker.
It is, their spokesman says, about freedom...
“We don’t seek out the forbidden,” Kunstmann murmurs over radio-pop. “We just repudiate any notion of authorization.”

More @ boingboing

Liberal Discontent

It appears that liberals haven't been missing the 11-dimensional chess moves of the Obama Administration. They're actually doing what we think they've been doing: screwing up in order to avoid fights with the right. Here's a scalding interview with David Obey, who's had a ringside seat for all of this:
The problem for Obama, he wasn’t as lucky as Roosevelt, because when Obama took over we were still in the middle of a free fall. So his Treasury people came in and his other economic people came in and said "Hey, we need a package of $1.4 trillion." We started sending suggestions down to OMB waiting for a call back. After two and a half weeks, we started getting feedback. We put together a package that by then the target had been trimmed to $1.2 trillion. And then [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel said to me, "Geez, do you really think we can afford to come in with a package that big, isn’t it going to scare people?" I said, "Rahm, you will need that shock value so that people understand just how serious this problem is." They wanted to hold it to less than $1 trillion. Then [Pennsylvania Senator Arlen] Specter and the two crown princesses from Maine [Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins] took it down to less than $800 billion. Spread over two and a half years, that’s a hell of a lot of money, but spread over two and a half years in an economy this large, it doesn’t have a lot of fiscal power.

Gosh, what a mess we're in.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be."

(as seen at boingboing today)

On my Tombstone

Underwear Model.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Links for Later

Felix Salmon on tail risk strategies, difficulties thereof.

Garry Tan's geographical guide for SF startups. (via @venturehacks)

Brad DeLong on the current and long term deficit outlooks. Remember, PAYGO is your friend.

Clay Shirky

Russell Davies did his "blog the dog-ears" thing on a set of Clay Shirky interviews, and pulled out a number of gems.

On optimism:
"The final thing I'd say about optimism is this. If we took the loopiest, most moonbeam-addled Californian utopian internet bullshit, and held it up against the most cynical, realpolitik-inflected scepticism, the Californian bullshit would still be a better predictor of the future. Which is to say that, if in 1994 you'd wanted to understand what our lives would be like right now, you'd still be better off reading a single copy of Wired magazine published in that year than all of the sceptical literature published ever since."

On publishing:
"I think someone will make the imprint that bypasses the traditional distribution networks. Right now the big bottleneck is the head buyer at Barnes & Noble. That’s the seawall holding back the flood in publishing. Someone’s going to say, “I can do a business book or a vampire book or a romance novel, whatever, that might sell 60% of the units it would sell if I had full distribution and a multimillion dollar marketing campaign—but I can do it for 1% percent of the cost.” It has already happened a couple of times with specialty books. The moment of tip happens when enough things get joined up to create their own feedback loop, and the feedback loop in publishing changes when someone at Barnes & Noble says: “We can’t afford not to stock this particular book or series from an independent publisher.” It could be on Lulu, or iUniverse, whatever. And, I feel pretty confident saying it’s going to happen in the next five years."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fragrance Review: Comme des Garcons Wonderwood

Comme des Garcons built their latest perfume entirely around woody notes. The result is a perfume that feels like the inside of a box at the opera or a Brabus Maybach: tightly crafted, luxurious and polished obsessively smooth.

Luckyscent identifies the following notes: Madagascan pepper, bergamot, Somalian incense, nutmeg, Cristalon, Cashmeran, guaiac wood, cedarwood, caraway seeds, Javanol, sandalwood, vetiver, oud

It's one of the few perfumes I've tried that actually gets louder over time. It begins very light, with a very subtle cedar and then moves into the heart notes dominated by the sandalwood and Cashmeran, coupled with a note like a wooden version of a lemon that is neither citrusy, nor herbal (as lemongrass), nor synthetic (as found in polishes). Late progression turns a little bit nasty (in a cool way) as the oud and patchouli come to the fore.

I tend to like perfumes that have a little more flourish, but this one is undeniably well made. Really strong structure and a smooth progression throughout the entire experience. High marks all around.

Vienna Teng


Friday, July 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That's the only lasting thing you can create."
-Chuck Palahniuk
(via JC)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Links for Later

David Galbraith on what comes after lofts and suburbs. Possibly posted here before, but search isn't picking it up.

Antibodies that kill 91% of AIDS virus.

Harlan Ellison's reluctant book sale.

"Ultra Batteries" comprised of XeF2, that

In its ultra-dense state, the mechanical energy transmitted to the metallized XeF2 is now stored in the substance itself as a kind of chemical energy. All it takes to release it is a perturbation of a single atom in the crystal, which will cause the entire metallized substance to spontaneously "unzip," says Yoo.

The reaction would be, quite literally, explosive. In an instant the XeF2 would turn its stored energy into thermal energy with almost 100% efficiency. The XeF2 stores about 1 kilajoule of energy per gram, or "about 10% of the energy stored in a rocket fuel of liquid H2 and O2 mixtures, or about 20% of [the energy stored in] one of the most powerful explosives, HMX," says Yoo. When viewed as a potential energy storage medium, this discovery qualifies as "a new class of energetic molecules or solid fuels," he adds.

Benoit Mandelbrot at TED

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Grigua's prayer

"Poor Keynes often sits with me at night after a good dinner and we rail against the world and the coming flood. And I tell him that this is the time for Grigua’s prayer (the Lord to come himself and not to send his Son, as this is not a time for children). And then we laugh, and behind the laughter is [Herbert] Hoover’s horrible picture of thirty million people who must die unless there is some great intervention. But then again we think that things are never really as bad as that; and something will turn up, and the worst will never be. And somehow all these phases of feeling are true and right in some sense..."

-South African politician Jan Christian Smuts on the atmosphere at Versailles
as quoted in Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes
(via DeLong)
It seems that we are at this point again, or nearly so. When we need more economic stimulus, the austerity crowd seems to be carrying the day. Look for a collapse in the economy this fall if this problem is not rectified. It's time to do a minimum of three things:
  1. Extend unemployment insurance until unemployment drops to ~5%. Put the unemployment level trigger in the legislation so we don't have to go through this every few months.
  2. Shove through a jobs bill for teachers, police, firemen and other state workers.
  3. Keep dumping R&D money into renewable energy

These are the three highest return programs in ARRA, and the economic arguments for doing so are very basic and very clear. In concert with the further fiscal programs, the Fed needs to further expand its monetary policy by any means possible. The pain and austerity crowd must not carry the argument and the day, or we are all in for a world of trouble.

More: Ezra Klein lays out the permutations of stimulus now/balanced budgets later, and finds the Alesina case for austerity to be unconvincing.

Augmented Reality 2010

The Augmented Reality Event: Bruce Sterling's keynote from Ori Inbar on Vimeo.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Exhausting Art

Snatched from Shalizi's excellent statistical takedown of Martindale's Clockwork Muse, in which it is shown that smoothed white noise can be fitted with a parabolic curve better than Martindale's data.

I quote this because he points to the very same mechanism — demand for novelty plus restrictions of a style leading to certain kinds of elaboration and content — decades before Martindale (Hodgson died, with this part of his book complete, in 1968), and with no pretense that he was making an original argument, as opposed to rehearsing a familiar one.

But there are obvious problems with turning this mechanism into the Universal Scientific Law of Artistic Change, as Martindale wants to do. Or rather problems which should be obvious, many of which were well put by Joseph (Abu Thomas) Levenson in Confucian China and Its Modern Fate:

Historians of the arts have sometimes led their subjects out of the world of men into a world of their own, where the principles of change seem interior to the art rather than governed by decisions of the artist. Thus, we have been assured that seventeenth-century Dutch landscape bears no resemblance to Breughel because by the seventeenth century Breughel's tradition of mannerist landscape had been exhausted. Or we are treated to tautologies, according to wich art is "doomed to become moribund" when it "reaches the limit of its idiom", and in "yielding its final flowers" shows that "nothing more can be done with it" — hece the passing of the grand manner of the eighteenth entury in Europe and the romantic movement of the nineteenth.

How do aesthetic valuies really come to be superseded? This sort of thing, purporting to be a revelation of cause, an answer to a question, leaves the question still to be asked. For Chinese painting, well before the middle of the Ch'ing period, with its enshrinement of eclectic virtuosi and connoisseurs, had, by any "internal" criteria, reached the limit of its idiom and yielded its final flowers. And yet the values of the past persisted for generations, and the fear of imitation, the feeling that creativity demanded freshness in the artist's purposes, remained unfamiliar to Chinese minds. Wang Hui was happy to write on a landscape he painted in 1692 that it was a copy of a copy of a Sung original; while his colleague, Yün Shou-p'ing, the flower-painter, was described approvingly by a Chi'ing compiler as having gone back to the "boneless" painting of Hsü Ch'ung-ssu, of the eleventh century, and made his work one with it. (Yün had often, in fact, inscribed "Hsü Ch'ung-ssu boneless flower picture" on his own productions.) And Tsou I-kuei, another flower-painter, committed to finding a traditional sanction for his art, began a treatise with the following apologia:

When the ancients discussed painting they treated landscape in detail but slighted flowering plants. This does not imply a comparison of their merits. Flower painting flourished in the northern Sung, but Hsü [Hsi] and Huang [Ch'üan] could not express themselves theoretically, and therefore their methods were not transmitted.

The lesson taught by this Chinese experience is that an art-form is "exhausted"when its practitioners think it is. And a circular explanation will not hold — they think so not when some hypothetically objective exhaustion occurs in the art itself, but when outer circumstances, beyond the realm of purely aesthetic content, has changed their subjective criteria; otherwise, how account for the varying lengths of time it takes for different publics to leave behind their worked-out forms? [pp. 40–41]

Martindale seems to be completely innocent of such considerations. What he brings to this long-running discussion is, supposedly, quantitative evidence, and skill in its analysis. But this is precisely what he lacks. I have only gone over one of his analyses here, but I claim that the level of incompetence displayed here is actually entirely typical of the rest of the book.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth

That's Americana.
Got a big dog? You're in the parade.
Got an old car? You're in the parade.
Dressed up funny? Part of a group?
Have a talent? Just outgoing? You're in.

The only bad parades are the ones right after a war starts, when the drumbeat's still going, and the price is still in the future.

This one was one of the nice ones, on the best day of the year to be in Upper Arlington.

Hot Koalas

Sent to me by a reader: "At 120 degrees in Australia, it was so hot... that koalas were asking people for water. It's never been seen before." From last summer (January 2009)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Why Austerity Will Strangle Growth

Here's a breakdown by the Dallas Fed of the drivers of the current recovery. Inventory adjustments represent an unusually large proportion of the total improvement, and now end sales are catching up with the reduced inventory backlog. As Mark Thoma notes:
Given this worrisome short-run outlook for GDP growth, and hence for employment, why do some people think cutting stimulus, which is what cuts to the deficit do, is the way to enhance the recovery?

Output can be written as Y = C + I + G + NX (output = consumption + investment + government spending + net exports). If we cut the deficit through reductions in spending and increases in taxes, we know G will go down (as spending falls) and that C and I will also fall (from tax increases on consumers and businesses). But somehow, the story goes, as GDP and employment are falling, confidence will go up so much that C, I, and perhaps NX will go up more than enough to compensate for the fall, and then some. However, if the confidence effect doesn't appear and generate very strong effects, and it's unlikely that it will despite the wishful thinking from some, deficit reduction makes things worse in the short-run, not better.

Laurie Anderson on NPR

iPhone vs. HTC Evo

(via Joe)