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I'm looking at some sample code for the iPhone, an application that demonstrates a bunch of principles in app coding all at once, including animation and so forth. It's a relatively trivial app, just sample code, and it uses the Periodic Table of Elements as its data set. As information goes, the PT is a pretty useful set of data. But then I recently came across This t-shirt while reading Dinosaur Comics.

The information packed into this t-shirt space is REALLY USEFUL. It's probably the most concise and powerful set of scientific information I've seen, taking all the best discoveries of the last couple centuries and distilling it into a simple to use set of engineering instructions that people at nearly any technical level could understand (and experiment with) given a bit of time and energy.

When I was thinking about the Periodic Table and all the elements represented on it, it occurred to me that the names of the elements aren't really all that useful or descriptive, and the symbols themselves are actually confusing if one doesn't understand their origins (Pb for lead? Well, that's because it's "plumbum" from the Latin, because those clever Romans went and made all their pipes out of lead - lucky for them their water was mineral rich and mostly coated the pipes on the inside). I started wondering if it would be better to come up with a new kind of taxonomy for elements; and I guess when I say "better" I am discounting the whole "retrain generations of scientists in various disciplines to use another system" thing and wondering if there's a way to teach people a new system, or whether more people would learn more effectively if there were a better naming scheme and/or organization to the table.

I didn't give it too much thought because I didn't want to start going down a Dvorak or Esperanto type rathole. It's bad enough that people in this country are too dead set in their ways to use the freaking SI like the rest of the world does. But then I looked at the t-shirt text and started thinking about organic chemistry and how CHON is key for so many different applications - yet the PT doesn't really reflect that at all. Neither does it highlight all the various elements that are so key in electronics applications (and yes, I realize that engineering and pure science rarely mesh well, but I'm talking about practicality in everyday life and spreading useful knowledge to the maximum number of people, not about keeping information "pure").

In its current state, the PT is minimally useful and requires a significant amount of training to understand even the basics of it. So I have to ask: how would Edward Tufte recreate it? What visual cues would improve its information density and readability? What would a three-dimensional periodic table look like? Is there a way to name the various elements to better represent their properties - maybe even to make chemistry easier to understand (just as prefixes and suffixes in chemical names make it easier to envision what kinds of chemical or molecular properties a compound has)?

What if we could take the Periodic Table, or, even better, take that t-shirt that's chock full of scientific principle and turn it into something along the lines of a Voyager record style set of graphemes? Wouldn't it be great to create children's toys that incorporate these hypothetical icons of scientific principle into their designs? Reading about how some of my friends want to recreate the Rutherford experiment for their children inspired me to consider this as well. We could be creating familiarity with fundamental principles very early in education, in the same way as the various "iconographies" in Anathem do, where the avout are trained for saecular world interactions based on archetypes portrayed in stained glass windows...
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I recently watched the NOVA special "Cracking the Maya Code" and was absolutely fascinated by it. I have a special place in my heart for Mesoamerican / pre-Colombian civilizations and Mayanists in general. It's incredible to me that the language of the Maya has finally been deciphered, and that we can rescue that tiny amount of their culture that remains.

I highly recommend watching the special (though mainly I find it's the perfect example of "leave your dogma behind" when it comes to research and analysis - people never seem to be able to let go of their preconceptions and notions, they can't stand not being right!). The most incredible realization hit me when they revealed what was actually going on with the problems in translation; when they determined that multiple symbols could represent the same syllable it hit me: the varied stylized renderings of the alphanumeric symbols were basically just "fonts"! The reason why it was so hard to figure out Mayan language was because they carved a bunch of stuff in their equivalent of MS Comic Sans and Wingdings!! A very important design consideration for Long Now type thought experiments...

Also, the value of working in isolation cannot be understated. None of this would ever have happened if not for the work of Yuri Knorosov, an epigrapher working behind the complete isolation of the Iron Curtain. This kind of result reinforces my belief that the Anathem model of isolating avout is not a bad one at all. Societal collapse happens way too frequently for my taste, it's a terrible waste of time starting over again and again.
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Looks like Apple's most recent update to iLife partly addressed the issue I mentioned here over six weeks ago: http://mikecap.livejournal.com/958798.html

Good deal! Now all they need to do is add the theoretical social networking application I've been designing in my head to the iLife suite...

Also, I don't know how hard it would be to discover rotated faces in iPhoto, but that would be welcome too. I noticed that iPhoto automatically creates little face images in the system every time it searches through photos - it's a standard graphics operation to rotate an image, so why not create an option to let users identify a rotated face in a picture? Then iPhoto can rotate the result in the background, and come up with a suggestion based on the resulting rotated little face image it'll make. Maybe a little "rotate" icon on the right corner of the add unknown face window that lets you orient the square?
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So maybe I'm on the right side of this trend after all... Netflix apparently has no love for Blu-ray rental.


Again, it seems that only HD mavens with lots of money can really do the Blu-ray thing.
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I think it's great that I've built a reputation amongst my friends as a foodie, and I appreciate when folks point me towards links demonstrating some kind of "sensational" food find - I always want to know what the trends in food are and what people are doing. A bunch of folks have recently told me about things being done with bacon: bacon explosion, caramelized bacon, and so on.

But I have to say, it is with most humble sincerity that I must submit: that kind of thing is KID STUFF.

I once made a five pound pizza. Pound of dough, pound of cheese, pound each of bacon, sausage, pepperoni. I made it in a huge deep dish pan, and it was so greasy the oils literally fried the one inch deep crust through all the way to the bottom. Not even The Angry Maw could finish more than one slice!! After doing that, I had the idea of having the "five pound foods" party - making things like a five pound burger, five pounds of nachos, five pounds of chili, and so on. Never quite got that far though, the five pound pizza made it seem... impractical, to say the least.

Then there was the time I made (with the help of two sous chefs towards the end, one was a vegetarian serving wench!) a meal for 10 called The Morning Eye Opener. YES. I literally prepared all of those items on a plate for ten people each. It took about a week of preparation, and five hours of execution to cook it all. I timed everything down to the minute so I could deliver all the food hot on the plate at the same time. I bought ten serving platters at the dollar store so I could serve all the food on them. The only thing I didn't do was attempt to make a giant tortilla to wrap it all into a Breakfast Burrito. After the cooking was complete, every surface in the kitchen was literally coated in a sheen of pork grease, and the floor was almost too slippery to walk on. Take a look.

I singlehandedly hosted and catered a 50 person Super Bowl party at my scary haunted house in Worcester in 2004. I made vegetarian, vegan, and meat-laden versions of every dish I prepared (hors d'oeuvres, pizzas, giant sandwiches, snack mixes, and so on).

I was part of a "meat luck" party where every dish that people brought to the party needed to contain, at a minimum, two kinds of meat in order to be considered a meat dish. A bowl of bacon was considered "salad". One of the dishes at that party was a bacon explosion of sorts, though it contained pork loin, venison, bacon, and sausage.

Another idea I've had with friends and never followed through on, but would be willing to do: The Hot Sauce Roulette Pot Luck Party. Proceed as follows: Invite N people to a pot luck party (include self). Ask invitees to prepare a dish with N-1 servings - one of the servings to contain an overwhelmingly spicy ingredient. It is critical the all servings look and smell exactly the same! Spicy ingredients must be internal or well hidden. At the time of the party, each dish is eaten in turn by all invitees (except the person who brought it) at the same time, at which point the spicy foodstuff is discovered. At the end awards would be given out for "Most Spicy Food Found", "Least Spicy Food Found", "Lucky Bastard", "Tastiest Dish" and so on.

So, yes, it is with all modesty that I must admit that things like the bacon explosion are indeed child's play.
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Hey kids... I know a lot of you are friends with Kyria (Noah's sister), or otherwise generally know her from the Worcester poetry slam scene. Just FYI, if you haven't kept much in touch with her: her memoir of growing up as a Jehovah's Witness is now available on Amazon.com. Check it out!!

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The Union of Concerned Scientists have published this "periodic table" of political / government interference in scientific study.


This is what electing the Bush administration has done for us and the world...!! Can we please get rid of Republicans now? Or change their party name to "Corporate Lackey-ians?"
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I always knew baby gladiators would come into vogue.
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I submitted a piece of flash (some of you may remember it) to a dark fiction and poetry blog called "Halving a Baby" - it's been accepted, and is posted today!
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No P-Town fireworks this year.

I think we should still go to Provincetown on 7/4 and get rowdy on their asses anyway.


Feb. 28th, 2006 11:37 pm
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My first job out of college was working for an Internet startup called CToons Studios. I worked with an animator there by the name of Kevin Lane... on a whim I decided to google him, and look what I found!

Nailed It

Feb. 21st, 2006 08:43 pm
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I went to an audition in Barnstable tonight for a play being produced at the Cape Rep theatre. The play's an original (Winter Wheat written by Art Devine), and it's being rewritten - I got to read a monologue off the original draft, and I think that's what cinched it.

The production dates are May 11 to June 3, and there are four shows a week (Thursday-Sunday), so if I get cast there's no damn excuse for you not to come.
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I want to dress up in goat skins and whip naked women to make them fertile!!

Happy bloody horny werewolf day!

Jo mama

Feb. 12th, 2006 09:30 am
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Fun fact: I believe I got my first job by mentioning Johari's window in my interview.
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I just got the new online services, and immediately signed up for all kinds of stuff. I have a bunch of podcast subscriptions now. Awesome!!

Sign up for new TiVo stuff here


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