Tuesday, December 18

Quote of the day

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."

-Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

Monday, December 10

Google Reader, again (UPDATED)

It's been a long time since I last tried using Google Reader to keep track of news and blogs. There have been a lot of new features added since then, so I'm going to give it a go once more.

I imported all my feeds in from Bloglines, and the first thing I noticed is that Reader still timestamps items by when it reads them, not by the post time given in the feed. Since Reader only goes out to check your feeds intermittently, you end up with "clumps" of items posted between checks that are all given the same date and time. There's a great post about why this is bad here.

This was one of the reasons it didn't work out for me last time; hopefully it either doesn't bother me this time or the behavior is fixed to work more intelligently. Anyway, here goes...

UPDATE: I've already seen that the behavior has indeed been fixed to work more intelligently. The issue raised in the post I linked to above has been resolved, keeping items in the correct order even when a group is all grabbed at the same time. However, it would still be nice to see items timestamped with the actual <pubDate> from the feed and not Google's "scrape time." The only other issue I had in previous Reader attempts was seeing how it treats feed items that have updated or changed. There doesn't seem to be a per-feed setting for whether to show the item again when there's a new version (there is in Bloglines, which is a feature I really liked), so I'm still not *quite* sure whether Reader will stick with me this time.

Google Reader

P.S. Mihai Parparita, this one's for you.

Thursday, December 6

Here comes another bubble...

Thanks, Ze... this is great!

Friday, November 30

xkcd... still great

This is from Monday, but despite being a few days old it's still pretty awesome. As usual, the punchline is actually in the mouseover text.

Success

xkcd - Success

Friday, November 23

I bought a new iMac!

I have been saving up for a new computer for a while, so with Apple's Black Friday discounts today I went to their store and bought one. It's a 20" iMac with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, which needless to say is a huge improvement from the three-year-old Powerbook that was previously my main machine. The new Mac will be even speedier when I increase the RAM, but I didn't want to pay Apple's outrageous charges so I'll be getting that upgrade someplace else. Still, the 1GB of DDR2-667MHz memory that came with it is nothing to sneeze at.

Apparently the two Apple Stores I usually frequent were very busy today, but luckily I was at Apple's retail Web site before I went shopping and I discovered a new little-known location not far away; I went there (at about 10:30am) and had no wait whatsoever.

It came with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) pre-installed, but a 10.5 (Leopard) DVD came in the package so I could immediately upgrade to the newest operating system. They must still have a backlog of 10.4 machines that were already assembled and packaged. I didn't have any personal data on the computer yet, so I completely wiped the hard drive and installed 10.5 rather than upgrading.

I'm really enjoying it, and I'm trying to stay with the bundled software and hardware as much as possible. I'm still using the Mighty Mouse, iChat, and Spotlight instead of the replacements I had in place on the old machine. However, Safari just wouldn't cut it for browsing and I already installed Firefox.

Anyway, I'm rambling now (if I wasn't in the first place; this is a personal blog after all), and I should probably get back to playing with the computer. And maybe eating. Between going to the Apple Store, cleaning my office to make space for the new computer, and setting everything up, I just realized a little bit ago that I forgot to eat anything. Dinnertime!

Apple retail stores revamp for holidays - Yahoo! News

Thursday, November 22

Finally...

Well, after three and a half years of running this blog I finally bought a real domain name: augmentedfourth.com. I might have bought it two years ago; however, right when I was considering it, somebody called the Augmented Fourth Brass Quintet bought it and put up a static page that never changed through the entire two years of ownership.

My blog isn't actually hosted at my new domain; going there in your browser just redirects you back here. However, I do keep a server there for files and other miscellaneous personal use... for instance, you can download MP3 files of my college composition recital (I know, it's more than four years old and I should probably record something new) at http://augmentedfourth.com/media/why_not.zip. Also, if you download that, make sure to use your MP3 player to look at the "lyrics" I've embedded in the files; while there aren't really lyrics to most of the pieces, you can see my Program Notes from the original performance in there.

My new URL!

Sunday, November 18

Geek Code update

Well, since I've been an IT professional for more than 2 months now, I figured that it's time to update my Geek Code (seen at the bottom of any page of my blog). Here it is for those who don't like scrolling:

-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a-> C++> ULXB++++$ P+ L++ E--- W++ N o++ K? w-- !O M++
!V PS+ PE+ Y PGP- t- !5 X- R- tv+ b++ DI++ D--- G++ e++(*) h--- r+++
y+++(?)
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------


(my geek code decoded)

Friday, November 16

Translating thought to sound

Eric Ramsay, who has been conscious but paralyzed for eight years (and thus unable to communicate), will soon be able to "speak." Neuroscientists have been able to decode the electrical pulse information from the speech area of his brain, and hopefully soon their computer will ba able to decode that information to recreated the sounds Mr. Ramsay is attempting to convey.

BBC NEWS | Health | Paralysed man's mind is 'read'

Friday, November 9

A Coded Musical Message

It looks like I've found the perfect story to take me out of my blogging hiatus. It's about Giovanni Maria Pala, an Italian musician and computer technician who proposes a very plausible theory that there is a musical composition hidden in Da Vinci's much-lauded painting of "Last Supper."

Come on... it's a guy who's both a musician and a computer tech, and he spent four years solving a pictographic/musicological puzzle. If I lived in Italy, I'm sure I would have been helping the guy! The composition is found by overlaying a musical staff on the painting and treating the pieces of bread and the human hands as musical notes based on where they fall within the staff (here's a photo from the Associated press, though I bet that link will be dead in a week).

I find it odd that he didn't also include the wine glasses as musical notes, given that both wine and bread are still used today in churches as they participate in the sacrament of Communion that celebrates the Last Supper. However. I suppose Pala's book ("La Musica Celata" -- "The Hidden Music") probably serves up some explanation regarding what led him to choose only hands and bread.

Unfortunately the AP article draws a lot of parallels to the pseudo-thriller The Da Vinci Code, but in any case the actual story being covered here is very interesting. I don't think Pala's book has been translated into English, though I'd probably read it if it were. I suppose I can get a friend who lived in Italy for a while to read it and give me the "executive summary"...

Leonardo painting has coded 'soundtrack' - Associated Press

Saturday, August 18

New Job!

I know, I know... I haven't written a blog post in over a month. The reason, however, is that I've been spending my time looking, applying, and interviewing for a new job. The end result is that I accepted a position on Thursday! I'll be managing the computers for a UCSD research group doing Cognitive Imaging (i.e. computational analysis of brain MRIs).

I've still got another week at my current job, then I'm taking a week off between positions, and I start work on the 4th of September!

In addition to keeping me from blogging, the job search took me away from my intended summer home-office cleanup project as well. I'll get back on that when time allows, but I have no idea when I'll have free time now. I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time either working or reading for work for the next while.

Tuesday, July 10

That new dictionary is ginormous!

Well, the new edition of the official Meriam-Webster dictionary has been finalized, and there are plenty of words that now enjoy the status of being recognized by MW as parts of the English language.

I first heard the most outlandish new word in the movie Elf, where Will Ferrell's character (a human who was adopted and raised as an elf at the North Pole) exclaims "These toilets are ginormous!" when he first encounters a human-sized public restroom.

Additional newly-minted words include "sudoku," "smackdown," and "DVR."

New dictionary includes 'ginormous' - AP

Friday, June 29

The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen

I have to get a copy of this book (unfortunately it's not in the local library, at least not yet):

“What you may not realize is that what is free is actually costing us a fortune,” Mr. Keen writes. “The new winners — Google, YouTube, MySpace, Craigslist, and the hundreds of start-ups hungry for a piece of the Web 2.0 pie — are unlikely to fill the shoes of the industries they are helping to undermine, in terms of products produced, jobs created, revenue generated or benefits conferred. By stealing away our eyeballs, the blogs and wikis are decimating the publishing, music and news-gathering industries that created the original content those Web sites ‘aggregate.’ Our culture is essentially cannibalizing its young, destroying the very sources of the content they crave.”


The Cult of the Amateur - Andrew Keen - Books - Review - New York Times

Sunday, June 24

Getting Things in Order, Part II

Well, I made a small step toward the cleaning of the home office: a clean desk!



Plus, for added photo goodness, here's a picture of our rabbit, Gimli (he's a dwarf rabbit... get it?), sitting on my stomach all wrapped up in a blanket:



(I know, that pic was probably a bit too cutesy, but what the heck...)

Tuesday, June 19

What Should I Eat?

Great Wondermark... don't forget to check the image mouse-over text, which is the best part of this one.

Wondermark by David Malki ! - 310: In which Paul asks a Question of an Eel

Monday, June 18

Getting Things in Order

Well, I recently ran across a blog post about "just getting started" on personal projects (hat tip to blogging bird-dog Merlin Mann for the link) that got me thinking.

My wife and I are approaching the first anniversary of owning our first house. That means I've been sitting in an utterly disorganized, jam-packed home office every evening for the last fifty-one weeks. Well, our friends are saying, didn't you wait to move in until a couple weeks after you bought it? OK, well, that's not the point. Ignoring the fact that I haven't actually been sitting there for a year doesn't change the fact that the computer room started getting cluttered the moment we began bringing boxes over from the apartment.

You see, when we moved we were kind of rushed. Due to that rush, I told Lauren that we were just going to "throw everything in boxes and move it over," and that we would sort out our possessions as we unpacked them in the new place. Well, it's been almost a whole year, and I still haven't gotten around to going through all the Frito-Lay cartons of our stuff.

So the upshot is that I still sit among piles of boxes as I surf the Web and fiddle with my home Linux server. So I've decided to "just do it" once again and clean up my room. (In the intervening time I've also started on a weight loss plan that seems to be taking hold and working well, just in case you thought I'd gone more than half a year since starting anything new.)

Here are a couple of pictures of what I have to start with:


I'll keep this blog updated with photos as I work on it; my plan is to have things cleared away and neatly organized by September 20—the end of the summer, since Fall starts on the 21st—hold me to it!

The best Steve Jobs article I've read in a while

Though the author, John Heilemann, is a self-described "Mac cultist," he offers a well-balanced summary of the life and times of Steve Jobs in his recent article for New York Magazine (linked below).

It's long, and according to a friend of mine it "was written with an editor's vocabulary" (that is to say, with sesquipedalian tendencies), but I found it interesting and insightful.

The iPhone Inaugurates a Dangerous New Era for Apple Boss Steve Jobs -- New York Magazine

Wednesday, June 6

xkcd did it again

Great stuff... I especially like the bit right after "visible light" and "UV light."

xkcd - Electromagnetic Spectrum - By Randall Munroe

Friday, May 4

A Blog Post About Sex!

Well, sex chromosomes, anyway. The article linked below is extremely well-written, informative, and enjoyable. Check it out!

For Motherly X Chromosome, Gender Is Only the Beginning - New York Times

Wednesday, May 2

A more "population-based" map of the Web

Randall Munroe already did a "topographic" map of Internet locations here, but today's comic (link below) is a map that actually depicts user population for various Web-based communities. I'd say that I live mostly in the IRC isles, with frequent trips to del.icio.us. I view the rest of the Web with a telescope (i.e. RSS feed subscriptions).

xkcd - Online Communities

Tuesday, April 24

Earth, Mach II?

It appears that scientists have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is likely to have liquid water and earth-like temperatures. It's much closer to its star than Earth, but said star is a red dwarf that emits much less heat than our sun.

I really don't have much to say about this, but I think it's really cool!

First habitable Earth like planet outside Solar System discovered - Malaysia Sun

Thursday, April 12

Why Not to Read Dan Brown

I've never read The Da Vinci Code, and the following post at Language Log makes me very glad I skipped Dan Brown's "thriller" altogether. As an editor and something of a language purist, I'm shocked beyond belief at even the minor snippets shared by blogger Geoffrey K. Pullum.

(By the way, the analysis Pullum provides is almost perfect... only once did I have to re-read a sentence, which is my standard measure of unclear phraseology.)

Language Log: The Dan Brown code

Friday, April 6

Today's WonderMark

Very good...

(And, oddly, the only WonderMark comic so far in which I haven't seen any 'tooltip'-style text come up when I hold my mouse over the comic image.)

Wondermark by David Malki ! - 289: In which a Visitor is shunned

Thursday, March 29

Feeling like a Part of Something Bigger

For me, today's New York Times article on Internet music services is oddly apropos. You see, last night I went to a local meet-up for users of Pandora's personalized Internet radio, and there I was able to meet (and meekly thrust a business card at) founder Tim Westergren.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 7pm, but I showed up in the neighborhood earlier so I could park my car in an out-of-the-way spot I knew about a few blocks away. (Another striking coincidence is that the meeting was held just down the street from the best music-supply store in the city, and I needed a box of saxophone reeds anyway.) I showed up just at the same time as another Pandora listener whose name I unfortunately forget, and together we went into a room with a large number of empty chairs.

We were the first to arrive, and Tim was just nonchalantly sitting on the edge of the small stage and pushing buttons on a handheld device of some sort. I didn't look hard enough to see which device he had-- Blackberry, Treo, or Q, I couldn't care less at that point-- because I was about to meet the guy who came up with and implemented one of the best ideas at the crossroads of music and technology... the Music Genome Project.

We shook hands, and I talked with Tim for a bit while waiting for the hall to fill. Like many people have said when meeting someone they admire, "he was just a regular guy." Tim left to talk to the guy working the venue, and I sat and discussed the service with more listeners who were starting to trickle in.

I was in the second row, and I could feel the room filling fast behind me. When 7:00 rolled around, Tim got up and immediately the chatting ceased. He started by asking if everyone could hear, and he decided to turn off a noisy fan in the back rather than resorting to a microphone.

It really felt like a conversation. He told us about Pandora's history as a company, and attendees felt free to chime in with questions and comments pretty much from the get-go. We ended up talking about the future of Pandora and Web radio, requesting new features, and generally just bouncing around some ideas. The relaxed, casual atmosphere Tim obviously had worked hard to cultivate made it a really interesting, informative, and fun evening.

Somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00, he "concluded" things, basically just excusing those who had already heard what they wanted to hear. A number of people stuck around, including a group of researchers from UCSD who are working on the problem of getting a computer to analyze and classify music (Pandora employs a team of 50 musicologists to study individual songs so they can be matched with others for your custom station). I loved this part; where the conversation got really technical and I was able to geek out to my heart's content.

I managed to hang around in the venue long enough to be the last person there and talk to Tim individually once more. This is when I gave him my card, told him about my fascination with the Genome, and told him I'd love to help his company in any way I could: coming up with ideas for application of their research, testing proposed features, or possibly even (if they might have me one day) becoming one of their Analysts or even part of their Engineering staff.

When I flipped open my phone to call my wife and let her know I was heading home, its illuminated clock read nearly 10pm. Time really does fly when you're enjoying yourself.

Tuesday, March 13

Quote of the Day

Howard Nemerov: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely; and if you surrender your personal responsibility to a government which promises to take care of you, they will only take care of themselves."

Global Warming - I'll Take the High Road

"Many [scientists] appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots."

That's exactly how I feel (and, probably more importantly, that's also the opinion of my environmental-scientist wife). Global warming is certainly an issue, and it's likely that human activity has some sort of an impact on its intensity, but both alarmists like Al Gore and skeptics like S. Fred Singer are off the mark.

As Aristotle said in Ethics, true virtue is found at "the mean between extremes." That statement fits this particular debate probably more aptly than any other issue of our time.

From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype - New York Times

Friday, March 9

Apple Retail - Insanely Great Stores

If you've ever been to an Apple Store, you know that it's different than anything else out there. The one in the mall near my office seems like a cross between Brookstone and Gymboree, with an informal schoolroom in the back.

This difference has catapulted the Apple's direct-to-consumer outlets into the most profitable retail venture in the country. In terms of sales per square foot per year (the standard metric for retail success), Apple's chain of stores brings in almost twice as much as Tiffany & Co., its closest domestic competitor.

For more detail, including some quotes by Apple CEO Steve Jobs about the reason for the monumental achievement, click the link below.

Fortune - Why Apple is the best retailer in America

Thursday, March 1

Search for ET nets missing computer

Interesting news from SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence): their mass-computing project, SETI@home, helped to solve a crime.

SET@home is an attempt to get around the mass amounts of processing power it takes to analyze the data received by SETI's sensors. Instead of having an impossibly giant supercomputer to crunch the numbers, they distribute small pieces of raw data to millions of volunteers who allow their computers to participate in the analysis while their computers are on screen-saver.

Every time the computer needs a new chunk of data, it needs to access SETI's servers, and in the process of that transaction it reports its Internet address. When a computer with the SETI@home software installed was stolen, the owners were able to find it by tracking the address reported to SETI when the software asked for a new piece of data.

Details of the story are in the link below.

AP - Missing Laptop Found in ET Hunt

Monday, February 26

Not Talking about the iPod

Oddly, an article about portable media players that doesn't so much as mention the iPod. Granted, the article is about devices with wireless data transfer capabilities, but Apple's market-dominating player isn't even noted for the fact that it lacks such a feature.

Music and Video Players Add Wi-Fi Access - PCWorld.com

Wednesday, February 21

Putting cellular technology in... a doorbell?

Apparently a Dutch company has put a GSM receiver/transmitter in a new line of doorbells (not yet available for sale) that will call your cell phone when the bell is pressed. It will even allow you to have a conversation with your visitor via its built-in intercom, and, if necessary, will allow you to unlock the door for them by entering a code.

The other cool application is that the door will unlock for you if you place a call to your doorbell, since it will recognize your phone's number via Caller ID. The notion in general seems kind of weird (come on... calling your doorbell?), but it's an interesting technological step forward that may become commonplace in the future.

Wireless doorbell rings you in - Network World

Wednesday, January 10

Saturday, January 6

Another Apple prediction

So everybody has been speculating about Apple producing a cellular phone, a widescreen iPod, and various other bits of technology. But, as Valleywag has stated, there's probably something even bigger coming up.

I bet it has something to do with the 32GB NAND Flash chip that SanDisk announced a few days ago...

Geekzone: SanDisk Launches 32 Gigabyte Solid State Drive

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The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------


If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.