26 January 2006

Usual-stories on the Tree of Life

"Many people think that history is a dull subject. Dull? Is it 'dull' that Jesse James once got bitten on the forehead by an ant, and at first it didn't seem like anything, but then the bite got worse and worse, so he went to a doctor in town, and the secretary told him to wait, so he sat down and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and then finally he got to see the doctor, and the doctor put some salve on it? You call that dull?" --Jack Handey

every true story
is infinitely complex

but every complex story
can be simplified
to any arbitrary degree

(as the ensembles of code fragments
that embody them
may be larger or smaller)

we previously ranked
the stories of one human's life
in order of their significance

and the stories of all lives
in order of frequency of occurrence

and we should note that
in the latter case
but not the former
complex stories will rank
their own simplifications

but that some simple stories
will be less common
than other, more-complex ones

(to be hit on the head
by a falling star
is rare but simple)

now suppose we take this latter
and represent it as a number line
with evenly-spaced points
for each story/concept/code-ensemble

and suppose we thumbtack the zero-end
and rotate the rest
so each numbered point
traces an evenly-spaced concentric circle

and then we break the 'links'
between circles
so the points of the line-that-was
now rotate independently
each within its own concentric circle

and we connect the points for complex stories
(their circles farther out)
to their various simplifications
(circles closer in)
with elastic lines
so that similar stories
are drawn into closer clusters

we should now have
a concentric ontology
from simpler at the center
to more complex, farther out

and a person's memories and imagination
can be pictured as being stored here

(where previously we 'flattened'
the nervous system
to represent the mental state
this representation is unsatisfactory
because we face the problem
of not knowing which neurons
hold which sorts of memories

so we may substitute this
radial ontology

after shrinking it to fit
within the hat-sized
of any branch)

a simpler story
will have many possible

but one of these must be
the commonest

so we might align these
commonest complexifications
into a straight line
radiating from simpler
straight outward

which we'll call the 'usual story'
implied by any simple one

23 January 2006

Gaze on the Tree of Life

nonliving objects
on the Tree of Life
(Berkeley's "furniture of the world")
trace strict vertical paths
unless moved by a living agent

human branches
twine among stationary ensembles
of objects
(settings, or locales)
growing more familiar
with each visit

at every point in time
a human branch
may have its eyes
open or closed

if open
they project a vector
in a given direction
normally halting
on a target object

as we trace
the branch's path
this gaze
flicks from target to target

with familiar settings
requiring less gazing
than unfamiliar ones

(flickr supports geotagging
for latitude and longitude
but has it anticipated tagging also
the direction the camera was pointing?)

i've noticed
when i think about a locale
my image of that locale
implies a point of view
not just in space, oddly
but sometimes also
a moment in time
when that locale
for no obvious reason

21 January 2006

Open-vs-closed code ensembles

is the prototypic
software tool
with menus of tasks
and palettes of tool-icons
for manipulating images

so suppose we design
or PlotShop
with tools for constructing narratives

choose a cast of characters
and plot complications
and keep tweaking the details
until it makes a convincing whole

now this toolkit
should map onto
the ensembles of code fragments
we associated with biographical concepts

and the question arises whether
we can crystallize each ensemble
into a universal superconcept
anticipating every plot variant
in its proper place

but of course we can't

reality is too fluid

and instead we have to
between code and fact
(or code and fiction)
trying different tools
until something fits

but programming languages
generally assume the programmer's goal
is a 'closed' universal superprogram

and leave the programmer
to wrestle with the
indeterminate tool-combinatorics

game a.i. faces the same problem
negotiating between
a set of possible moves
and a more-or-less-known world

containing enemies
who strive to strike
from the least anticipated direction

Firefox killfiles

i often wax nostalgic
for the grand old days of trn
(threaded readnews, b.1990)

which let you step thru
the equivalent of an rss feed
simply by hitting the space bar

with a custom killfile
that quietly
posts with any arbitrary patterns
you chose to define
(names, sites, topics,
number of crossposts, etc)

so what would it take
to restore this to Firefox?

re-writing webpages to hide
articles and comments
by or about
people or topics
you choose not to see?

topics associated with
clusters of related words
and synonyms

people with multiple email addresses
ip numbers

enabling various levels of 'kill'
(and also 'promote')?

20 January 2006

Iraq for grownups

coming this spring
from miramax

a middle eastern holyman
with millions of followers
has cast an astrological chart
and determined that their
prophesied worldteacher

is you

they send a delegation
who assure you you can remain
wholly yourself
but beg you to come and advise them
how to live

a safe and comfortable residence awaits

but priority #1 is your stand on iraq

if you can propose a realistic compromise
your new followers will try to make it so

so first
cool down the powderkeg

recognise that the neocons
gain power
from turning others' homelands
into chaotic hells

enflaming long-smothered embers

and recognise the prize

Islam's oil

might the Sunnis be appeased with
a just proportion of the oilfields?

could 51% go to Iraqis-as-one-people
and 49% be split among Kurds-Sunnis-Shias?

are there factions within each group
who advocate mutual tolerance

and could such factions be empowered?

could insurgent leaders offer specific terms
to the USA

eg, no IEDs if offensive raids stop?

are GIs unhappy enough
to go on strike
if encouraged?

as they see no progress

18 January 2006

Reading on a small screen

here's a human
with a magnifying glass, reading

the magnifying glass is average-sized
so the human scans it along
each line of text

now picture
that the lines of text
are virtual
and the glass
is a small lcd

and the scanning motion
is detected by motion-sensors
to simulate the identical effect...

16 January 2006

Biography on the Tree of Life

let's compile an exhaustive list
of everyone who's been mentioned on the Internet
sorted according to the number of mentions [eg 1997]

and starting with #1
(most mentioned, eg 'Elvis')
let's go to their Wikipedia biography
and re-edit it for view-scaling

so that the most-significant fact is listed first
2nd-most, second
(this is easier said than done)

eg James Joyce
when view-scaled down to two words
is usually "Irish writer"

with acclaim, notoriety, and difficulty
following close behind

now for these discrete facts
since we lack a well-behaved general ontology
we'll substitute ensembles of code fragments
(and their associated units of measure)

so that we can select any subset of biographies
and count the occurrences of each ensemble
and rank these by how commonly they're cited

and in theory
we can extend this process
to all humans
and their entire lives

annotating every event
great or small

14 January 2006

The Tree of Life in poetic logic

we saw how
reusable code fragments
are built from abstract data types
boolean integer real literal string

and how human stories

pride <= pride - 99%

AB + C => AC + B

are assigned to these code fragments
as interpretations

in part
by mapping realworld
units of measure
onto datatypes

units-of-pride maybe an integer
relationship-status maybe a boolean

but when we map, eg
violet lust
onto our Tree of Life

we're assigning either a boolean
(violet on, violet off)
or a magnitude
(light violet, medium violet, dark violet)
to a point in 4D spacetime
(T, X, Y, Z)
flattened for visualisation
to TXY

and flattenable again to TX
or just T
when the spatial position is irrelevant

a timeline with a color
representing whatever
maybe quality-of-life
or its derivative
with green for improving times
red for worsening times
yellow for neutral
[recent Sam]

13 January 2006

I'm a musical idiot about... Panic! at the Disco

(i didn't actually miss last month)

i wanted to post an image here from PostSecret
but they already took it down

the postcard was a picture of an iPod
and handwritten
"i think my taste in music
is better than everyone else's"

because every creative genius
needs to nurture that faith
to create something so good
it fills a gap that's stood empty
since forever

but it may be unhealthy
to think your taste in
music art literature movies politics philosophy
is all the best

so (eg) i have no idea how
my peculiar music tastes
fit into the worldscheme

when i started the jukebox
for blogging mp3s
i made sure to declare
loud and clear
my unhip un-cred

and worse
mr bojangles
(a little poetic masterpiece
in my peculiar opinion)

but as i tapped into the online
of indie music
i started to feel a bit more confident

although i'm still baffled by, eg
the best-of-2005 consensus
which leaves me entirely cold
(most often it's the male vocalist
who drives me away
bleating egos
faking an attitude)

the first time i heard
build god, then we'll talk (mp3)
by panic! at the disco (rw3)

i pictured a worldlywise
bayarea theater troupe
with unanimous critical respect

so it gave me pause to discover
they were catholic prepschool boys
from las vegas
trying to imitate queen
though their album has sold 20k
the critics are very ambivalent

and i got cold feet
why no one else heard what i heard

who cares if they're imitating queen
since they do it so well

and if they're just 19
more power to them!

12 January 2006

Media-formats poll results

for the record here are the results so far
from the poll on media formats:
         not hate like ???
everyone 130 126 121 114
RealVid 75 43 23 11 = 152
RealAudio 69 46 28 11 = 154
Win(wmv) 37 54 59 14 = 164
QTVR 37 12 44 36 = 129
Quicktime 24 31 86 8 = 149
Java 24 34 58 20 = 136
Flash 21 38 78 10 = 147
m3u 18 13 64 27 = 122
mp4 16 12 76 22 = 126
Javascrpt 15 32 68 23 = 138
pdf 13 50 83 4 = 150
png 10 5 80 24 = 119
mpeg 5 5 100 12 = 122
wav 5 18 88 7 = 118
mp3 3 1 117 0 = 121
I had no idea RealPlayer was so reviled-- it works much better than Quicktime for me (QT won't even play an mp3 in a background tab, and freezes things for several seconds while it loads). I view WMV as malware and keep it disabled, almost never link to it.

I expected Flash to be 10x more popular than Java, but they're about equal. (Java takes forever to load, and often crashes my browser.)

(I added Java and Javascript to the poll after about 25 votes had already come in, so those figures need a nudge. Being able to turn these two on or off with a toolbar-click is a big advantage for me.)

PDF is reviled but suffered-- I got tired of having it freeze my system when I unintentionally clicked a pdf link, so I disabled it, but I see there's now a Firefox extension that offers you a choice at that point.

In the not-sure column, QTVR works okay for me (glossy 3D) but is slow. PNG is standard in Firefox. M3U playlists are nice but I had to configure WinAmp for them.

I switched from Quicktime to 'Quicktime Alternate' in hopes it would work better, and lost mpeg and mp4 somehow in the process. For me, I wish everybody used Flash for audio and video, because it just works.

08 January 2006

Progressive outreach

it seems clear to me
that the greatest blow to US democracy
in the last 50 years
was Reagan's FCC writing off
the equal-time rule
opening the door to RushCo's 24/7 demagoguery

and that progressive bloggers have reached
a powerful consensus about what they'd say
if equal time were restored

but there's a chicken-egg problem
taking back the FCC
so progressive bloggers need to find
alternate paths of outreach

i've been using alexa.org to monitor
the comparative success of progressive sites
and the standout is huffingtonpost.com
ranking around #2500
while most everyone else languishes
below #50,000

which surely has to do with visibility
which has to do with celebrities
but which has probably plateaued

the problem with most other progressive sites
i suspect
is their narrowness
or humorlessness
or even unhip-ness

so what i'm wishing for
is a hip progressive newsweekly
closer in vibe to Time
than The Nation

that people would pick up
despite the politics
for the fun features
and fun reviews and showbiz gossip

and the political parts would be framed

but not letting THEM set the priorities

rather ignoring their bait-n-switch

taking for granted that readers
want perspective
and need background

but glossy Time production-values
will be way out of reach
until advertisers can be won over

so we need some techno-leverage
to reduce printing costs
and still get national distribution of
something competitive with the Time vibe

06 January 2006

Poetic logic on the Tree of Life

way back when
we tried drawing colored lines
between Tree-branches
to represent relationships

and changing those colors
when the relationship changed
so generating stories

and more recently we mapped concepts
across the Tree
also using colors

and we can recognise that these concepts
will tend to occur in ensembles

pride followed by fall
pairbond threatened by adultery

so now we can take our
ensembles of code fragments
and map them across the Tree as well

pride <= pride - 99%

AB + C => AC + B

05 January 2006

Poetic logic

most of the biggest intellectual challenges we face
boil down to aspects of the same challenge:

- a physiological model of the brain
- computer-game characters that are psychologically realistic
- a universal topic-indexing system (for webpages and local files)
- smart applications that can guess what you're trying to do
- an intuitive programming language

and in each case we can imagine that the
we need to cross
is the gap between science and art

snow's two cultures
with their orthogonal
orders of merit

for it's the literary novelists
who have the best grasp of psychological characters

and it's an intuitive art to
discern the human priorities
that make an app
or an indexing scheme
or a programming language
or fit

all programming languages are built on
a shared set of basic data types:
boolean integer real literal string
that could hardly be more abstract

and they're combined via the cpu's
very limited, very abstract
instruction set

and any random segment of computer code
will tell you little or nothing
about what sort of program it comes from

but suppose we start a database of code segments
and request of programmers
that each time they use a segment
they annotate the database
with a description of the realworld problem
that segment was meant to solve

which would mean, first of all
specifying what units of measure
the integers and reals were measuring

what realworld propositions
the booleans were asserting or denying

what realworld entities
the strings and literals described

and as our database bogs down
in an infinity of particulars

we try to sort and generalise and categorise
the ways code fragments can map onto the world

and perhaps we find
that identical fragments
form distinct ensembles

(time is like space
a continuous dimension
except when it isn't)

so now our simple data types
and opcodes
are seen to have a new
barely articulated
of semantics

necessarily encompassing
the entirety of human experience

often boiling down
to units of measure

grams dollars pixels seconds

or strength agility courage health