26 February 2006

Worldlines on the Tree of Life

flatten the worldmap:

then stack a billion map layers
one for each year

each continent forms a
continent-shaped column

(the continents drift
only slowly)

each continent-column encloses
the leaky bush of its particular
subset of species

the ocean-columns, theirs

an individual's worldline
tracing thru
a tiny sliver
of the whole

23 February 2006

Visualising calorie consumption

that drop of gasoline
that generated a hypothetical
watt-hour of electricity

contains 0.86 Calories of energy

a sugarcube, ten times that
(ten drops of gas)

an egg, 100 times (100 drops)
(you burn this much energy in an hour
just sitting)

a bowl of Oreo-flavored breakfast cereal
or a cup of whole milk, 150
(an hour at the computer)

a 16oz soda 200
a Krispy Kreme, a Dove Bar, or a cup of rice(!?) 300
(an hour walking)

a Big Mac, a large fries, or a large shake, 600
(an hour jogging or biking)

a cup of roasted nuts, 1000
(an hour racing)

a cup of peanut butter, 2000
a pound of waistline fat, 4000

a cup of 2800 drops of gasoline
equals 2400 calories
a cup of sugar about 800 calories
so 3 cups sugar = 1 cup of gas

22 February 2006

The weather giant

i'm six miles tall

jets cruise past my head

i can hold 20 city blocks in the palm of my hand
the sears tower is smaller than my pinkie

most clouds barely reach my knees

when i sit i can wave my hand thru them
disperse them by blowing

i can make a tornado by twirling my finger

(hurricanes, though, are as tall as
me standing full height
and wider than i can throw a rock)

i can walk around the world in two hours
the ocean comes up only to my thighs

only the Himalayas are taller than me

(the ISS space station is 200 miles high)

Joyce's 'Portrait' on the Tree of Life

at any moment
on the radial ontology
within a human's branch cross-section

let all the stories
in which the human is currently involved
be lit in blue

but some of these stories are still unconscious
so if the person would deny it
leave that blue
but if they'd recognise it
promote it to green

and if they occasionally notice that story
on their own
(eg when reminded by another's storytelling)
promote that to yellow

and if they know it so well
they'd mention it, if asked
promote it to red

so at any moment
we have a spectrum of awareness
of the stories we're living out

and as we mature
that spectrum shifts gradually
towards the red

and stories about ourselves
that we thought we understood
are revealed to have deeper layers

now an artist
writing an autobiography
is tasked with winnowing just those events
that most efficiently and effectively
convey the range of their lifestories
and the process of their growth

which may mean selecting
a small set of story themes
and returning to them
at successive ages
to show how their awareness evolved

and how it was quickened
or slowed
by the group-awareness of their society

see especially James Joyce
"A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"

21 February 2006

Back and fill on the Tree of Life

i just looked up
'back and fill'
and it doesn't officially mean
how i'm using it

to back off a bit for perspective
and fill in some places you missed

which is so apt
it deserves to be right

so yesterday the science-news sites
reminded me of the biologists'
Tree of Life website/project

which treats the same
from a much more fragmented perspective
by ignoring

and so ignoring

lifepaths tracing
life's characters

instead using the spatial dimension
to separate species
that are in fact infinitely intermingled

so i want to cultivate a habit
of selectively illuminating
sub-branches on the Tree

whether at the level of
family trees
or species
or whole phyla

you light up an individual's branch
or a cluster of individuals' branches

and propagate the lightbeam
to all their descendants
or the opposite way
to all their direct ancestors

perhaps encompassing the blurred bounds
of the species as a whole

perhaps assigning one color
to a predator species
and another
to each species of its prey

and we might also invert the Tree
to animate the dimensions
of geographical spread

unicellular life
gradually occupying every
oceanic coastline

human life filling africa
then spilling into south asia
and finally discovering
a leaky passage to the americas

no species
colonising both
water and land

so the species-subbranch
leaves vast gaps
in spacetime

the pacific ocean, say
with occasional adventurers
rafting out into nothingness
their branches terminating

19 February 2006

I'm still a musical idiot

this is a sequel to my panic-at-the-disco post

it was fascinating to watch that band for the 1st time

the theatricality of their video [qt]
exactly matched my original image of the band
as a bay area hipster theater troupe

but i'm still just as uncertain of my judgment
after seeing the video
as i was before

the song seems weak to me
the storytelling murky

they probably fall on the wrong side
of the hipster line
not guarded enough
not ironic enough

so that when i give my thumbs-up
i feel i have to
ready my deflector shields
(ditto with eg tATu)

but i hope they brazen it out
and dare to position themselves
in Queen's vacated
over-the-top niche

i was listening to the hipster
OffTheRecord playlist
as i wrote the above
and again i couldn't believe
how often i had to click skip-to-next
because what i heard was sheerly awful

though i know now
there's plenty of bands out there i like
so it's not a talent drought
(from my peculiar point of view)
it's a taste drought

i've never been much of a concertgoer

stadium rock is of course incomprehensible to me
infectious imbecility
the madness of crowds

but these hipster hits-lists
seem to throw out the artbaby
with the commercebathwater

honoring only those
who assert sheer awfulness

letting stuff-i-like thru
only by accident

the recent semi-scientific results
on tastemaking
confirm a strong herd-instinct

and perhaps what made
the late-60s-early-70s special
wasn't that the level of creativity was greater
but that the mass media briefly included
rather than automatically excluding
some unguarded art

which would imply that the
Sixties could return at the drop of a hat
if critics just diversified enough
to give the artists air

there was a point i meant to make
when i undertook this post
about being dragged off the street
into a bar
by a friend saying
you have to check these guys out

and how at that point
it's just you and them
and you don't ask for a slick show
you just let them lay it out for you

and maybe it rings your bells
or maybe it doesn't

but whether they're hipsters
or shiny clean folksters
or gospellers or popsters or whatever

your friend's enthusiasm
should be enough to carry you
past the genre preconceptions

15 February 2006

Bookmark ergonomics

if interface-design
ever gets a theory

its core must be
and minimizing
the effort required
by each interface command

managing Web bookmarks
to minimize longterm effort
requires considerable
advance setup-effort

but will repay handsomely
every time you click

i see three major groupings
for bookmarks:

that largely take care of themselves

non-rss regulars
that i group by update-schedule
as toolbar icons

and irregulars
which i'm addressing now

pick a category like
movies music books games

and think of all your favorite
irregular sites
for that category

eg for movies
i use imdb
when i want reference-background
on a particular movie or movie-person

rotten tomatoes
when i want an overview
of critics' opinions

to look for online scripts

one of the spoilers site
when i want a full plot summary

for its measure of offensiveness

robb's oops gallery
for vidcaps of its nude scenes


and each
irregular time
i need one of these

i have to track down the url
maybe just from memory, retyping it
maybe in my bookmarks file
maybe via google
maybe via another site

but ergonomically
all of these methods are
vastly more expensive
than rss or toolbar icons

so suppose
to optimize
we (each) create a custom page
with a normal toolbar icon

that's our irregulars jump-page

that loads instantly
(by minimizing html-junk
and keeping a copy on our local hard drive)

that sorts these reference-sites
by category:
movies music books games
reference firefox html

with each category getting
one line's worth of links:

movies: imdb tomatoes scripts spoilers cap robb's [etc]
music: webjay yahoo lyrics [etc]
books: OlB pGut used complete dy [etc]
games: reviews jay goodexp [etc]
ref: dict thes rhymes wildcard [etc]
firefox: extensions updates [etc]
html: entities [etc]

so that your top n-hundred
irregular sites
require the same icon-click
followed by a simple second
scan and click?

isn't this ergonomically optimal?

and further
suppose we use Ning
to share and compare
these jump pages

tweaking them from time to time
and re-generating a simple-as-possible page
for download?

poll: would this work for you?

I've done something similar
I've done something better
I use a similar page created by others
My bookmark manager does fine
I'd use this if it were automated (eg at Ning)
I plan to do it, Ning or not
It's too much work
I don't understand it yet

10 February 2006

Innocence and experience on the Tree of Life

in the last
(also regrettably compressed)

we replaced the
cross-section neural map
with a cross-section
radial ontology

where simple common stories
are closer to the center
and complex rare ones
nearer the rim

but we have a choice
in how we measure

if 9 people are never hit
by a falling star
but one is hit ten times

we can call that rare
or not

so this time we choose rare
and say that anyone hit
at least once
is experienced

and anyone who hasn't been hit
is innocent
(for that specific story)

now because we assign
each story's distance from the center
based on how common it is
(today, in the second sense)

we can identify a band
halfway out
where exactly half of all people
have had those experiences

and the disk inside that band
we'll color yellow
(leaving the outside black)
and it will represent
the character of Everyman
(HCE in Finnegans Wake)

sharing just those stories
shared by the average jo

and we can contrast its averageness
with the slightly different averagenesses
of the average male and the average female

coloring green those stories
within the yellow disk
that an average female (or male)
doesn't share
and red
those stories outside the yellow disk
that an average female (or male) does experience
unlike genderless average jo

or we can look at averageness by age
and mark green or red
those experiences
not yet or already shared
by a specific age

so that a child is born mostly green
innocent of all experience
and the yellow spreads outward
from the center
as they age

(beyond a certain age
the average survivor
may have experiences
unknown to average jo
and these can appear
as red regions
outside the yellow circle)

innocent individuals will be
greener than average
experienced ones redder

branches in particular regions of spacetime
may share local 'experience schedules'
perhaps environmentally based
or culturally based

Visualising energy consumption

suppose your kitchen faucet
were dripping gasoline

each 0.1 milliliter drip
containing enough energy
to heat a quart of water
one degree Fahrenheit
or (theoretically)
to power a one-watt device
for one hour

so a 100-watt lightbulb
consumes the equivalent
of 100 drips per hour
(one slow drip
every 36 seconds)

a solar panel
to produce 1 watt continuous
(one drip per hour)
can be as small as a 3*5 card
(3*5 feet for 144 watts, then)

a hand crank generator
can do 10-50 drips per hour
a bikepedal generator 100-200

the same gallon of gas
that propels your car some dozen miles
(with 20% mechanical efficiency)
or a 747 just 1000 ft
is 45,000 drips
(200 drips for a penny)
or 45 kilowatt-hour equivalents
19 days of 100W light

19 days of every-36-seconds drips
to fill a gallon can
5 cents per 1000 drips of gasoline
5 cents per kilowatt-hour of gasoline

in the USA a kilowatt-hour of electricity
costs about ten cents
or $4.50 for the energy equivalent
of that $2.25 gallon of gas

or $3 for 1.5 gallons of butane

or $2 for 125 cubic feet of natural gas

or $1 for 30 pounds of firewood

or 50 cents for 15 pounds of dirty black coal

or 25 cents for 5 milligrams of nuclear fuel

that gallon of gasoline
applied to heating water
would raise the temperature
of 250 gallons (ten showers worth)
by 50 degrees Fahrenheit

4 drips per degree per gallon
45 cents per electrically-heated shower

fuel cells aim to achieve
40% efficiency
converting methanol to electricity
but methanol has half the energy of gasoline
so a 500-drop fuelcell reservoir
may deliver 100-drops of gasoline-equivalent
powering a 10-watt device
for 10 hours

(butane lighters' reservoirs
by comparison
holding less than 50 drops)

an AA battery delivers
just 4 'drops' total
an AAA just 2
a 9v 5
9v lithium 10
a C 12
a D 24

a button-sized nickel-cadmium cell, 1 drip
a nickel-metal-hydride cell 2
laptop batteries 50-100
car-batteries 1000

in many 120V appliances
'drips' about once per hour

battery chargers
drip faster than this
wasting more drips than they recharge

a computer system drawing 300W
drips every 12 seconds
as would, on average
an electric hot water heater

a refrigerator maybe every 30 seconds


05 February 2006

Om, or Aum

it was probably 1968
when i got "Autobiography of a Yogi"
from the public library
and matched the photos
against the Sgt Pepper's collage
before reading it cover to cover

and for the next decade it seemed
every guy my age had the ambition
of achieving enlightenment
collecting mystical signs
('grace addicts' per Mark Vonnegut)

so i scored points
reporting hearing
one time
every frequency at once echoing om
like a Moody Blues effect

and decades later
picking up the phone
one time
it was like i could hear
every conversation simultaneously in 3D space

but now it's gone sequential
every damn sound on the planet
posted to delicious
and aggregated into winamp playlists
by webjay

John and Kate

i've always thought john lennon
had bluffed himself into a corner
by 1971
shouting follow me lads
before remembering
he had no idea which way was north
and retreating into sincere cliches
and ineffectual domesticity

which perhaps is also kate bush's story
though kate is brainier
and keeps working the paradox:

On the edge of the labyrinth
Under a veil you must never lift
Pages you must never turn
In the labyrinth


more and more often
these days
i hear a particular
going off in my head

as the Neocon West
and the
send increasingly
of each other's

(stolen elections
enforced religion)

which ought to be a
yin yang instantiation

but that they're both black
and getting blacker

and if i ask
which side willed this?

it seems neither did

W is a puppet
ObL is a puppetphobe
the war on terror a puppet show
to distract us as
our pockets are picked
our values cheapened

04 February 2006

Ning University

if adolescence is a time
of awkward inarticulacy
then computer science
is still in its adolescence

and computer languages
suffer bad skin
breaking voices
and outbursts of mild insanity

the most appalling thing
about web 2.0
is that you need a virtual phd
to practice it

web 1 only demanded html
but web2 takes css
etc etc etc

and before Ning
you were largely on your own
trying to wrestle with these

but Ning has created a
learning playground
where your PHP missteps
won't necessitate a reboot

and where the first step
is as easy as clicking
"Clone This App"

as with Wikipedia
this service is CPU-intensive
so once it catches on
the Peter Principle will guarantee
it always runs slow

but for self-education
it can't be beat

the second step
after Cloning
is currently quite steep

because they assume you already
know PHP and CSS

and any cloned app
confronts you with a dozen or more
file fragments
you'll have to plunge into

so it's important to start
as simple as possible
and it's not obvious
which apps are simplest

(try here
or here)

but it's easy to delete missteps
and no doubt much simpler tutorials
are in the works

(and will someone hurry up
and create an equivalent
for generic Flash?)