why we miss things in front of us

Here’s an interesting NYT article about how we miss objects in front of us.

toothbrush

The challenge: find the toothbrush in this messy bathroom. I saw the black one straightaway, which apparently made me an atypical person. Most people notice the smaller one first, and actually I had trouble finding it even after reading that there is a smaller one. The reason behind most people’s reaction is due to size and expectation. People expect toothbrushes to be a certain size and will look for an object that size, so our brains process the information accordingly. This is also why we may miss something that is right in front of us in a phenomenon known as inattentive blindness. We expect things to be in certain places and ignore if they are not. Remember the invisible gorilla? Christopher Chabris was a co-author:

[w]hat we pay attention to is largely determined by our expectations of what should be present.

So why did it take me less than one second to see the large toothbrush? One of the commenters on the mefi thread mentioned hidden object games. Bingo! Glad that all the time spent playing ravenhearst ddin’t go to waste.

the most important part of learning is forgetting

learningforgetting

Mum has expressed her frustration at me numerous times when my answer to her questions is constantly “I don’t know.” Some questions are IMO unreasonable expectation that I am a cross between Superman and google.com. How did the tradesman get in through the main gate? How much should she pay the part time helper? Does abc shop sell xyz brand of whatever? Sometimes I’m expected to have a 10TB hard disk in my brain. What was that $50 transaction on her bank account 6 months ago; how much did the tv originally cost; when did so-and-so visit us.

What she has difficulty understanding or unwilling to make the effort–because it’s sooooo easy to ask a question and push the responsibility to someone else–is I archive a lot of information I process. Once the receipt is filed away, I no longer need to remember how much the tv cost. I may remember where it was purchased, simply because there are only a limited number of electronics shops. What I do retain, is where the receipt is so I know where to find it if necessary.

Although I’m not an AI entity (or are we all living in a computer simulation?) this approach to storing information is behind a new idea of how deep neural networks learn. Like how alphago learned how to play go and won against the European champion but slightly different.

There is a long article at quanta magazine that I’ve been trying to read for a few days that is sort of related to this. I still only have a tenuous grasp of the theories, it’s quite technical.

Naftali Tishby, a computer scientist and neuroscientist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, proposed that deep neural networks learn via something he called information bottleneck where the AI iteratively discards irrelevant information and retains the important ones. This theory is not only relevant to machine learning, it may also shed light on how human brains learn and retain information. It’s all about filtering and archiving. Or as Professor Tishby said:

the most important part of learning is actually forgetting.

museum wars

Thanks to my friend N (who works at the Smithsonian, how cool!) for linking to this.

The Natural HIstory Museum and the Science Museum had a twitter museum-off the other day. It started when someone asked who would win in a battle between the two. The social media managers at both places had a field day.

museumwars1

First shot fired by NHM, and a quick return by SM. It got worse from there, when random ammo like vampire fish, polaris missile, cockroaches, wellies, dragons, submarines, fleas, balloons were brought out. When NHM fired a tweet with locust, SM fired back with pesticide. All were museum exhibits.

museumwars2

Meanwhile, the V&A were sitting pretty.

Of course, civility returned. We’re British after all. Compliments all around and each took the opportunity to mention more of their interesting exhibits. The entire silliness episode here.

the yellow wallpaper

Met mm for drinks and dinner. We spent more time at our newest discovery, the bar at the Novotel near her appointment, sharing 3 glasses of wine between us. For dinner we just had something quick. An added bonus was she bought new shoes. Discounted, and additional 30% off over the discounted price. She wore her new shoes straightaway and the shop assistants kindly threw away her old pair.

Ever since she started studying psychology, new words have entered our vocabulary. Social support, coping mechanism, pavlovian response. We talk about people or incidents being our stressors. I’m now clearer on the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Even within psychology there are different streams, like within the legal profession there are litigators, conveyancers, mediators.

gutenbergyellowwallpaper

On a separate (and yet strangely sort of related since it’s about Psychology) topic, I was on Project Gutenberg downloading a couple of classic books for the awards program and saw that the #2 most downloaded book there is The Yellow Wallpaper. I’d never heard of the book before. It was also mentioned on r/books recently so I did a little googling to find out that it’s a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892 and widely taught in schools in the US. A guardian review classified it under children’s books.

It didn’t take me long to read it. I’m not a teacher so I sometimes wonder at the choice of books we had to study at school. Some of them are downright depressing and creepy–Lord of the Flies, 1984, even one of my favourite books when I was young, I am David. The Yellow Wallpaper falls into this category. Told in first person, it’s about a woman who seems to be confined to her room because of a

temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency

and is widely interpreted as post-partum depression. It’s also widely accepted that it is autobiographical. In those Victorian times, women were still regarded as frail objects prone to hysteria and in those days depression was caused by excessive mental activity. Her doctor’s prescription was ‘rest-cure’ which meant she was forbidden to do anything, including exercise, feeding herself, seeing any other person other than her carers, and activites like drawing and writing. Basically they took away all stimuli and expected her to be like a vegetative patient. Robbed of all external stimuli, she turned inwards and started examining the awful yellow wallpaper in her prison room. Her anger and frustration were clear. Slowly she slipped further and further into psychosis.

Viewed from the 21st century, the actions of the doctor was so, so wrong that it borders on criminal. It was the same era that had terrifying medical treatments such as drinking radium water, starvation diets for aneurysms, or drilling a hole in the skull to cure headaches. Gilman sent a copy of the book to her doctor and it is said that he changed his treatment as a result.

Nowadays we do suffer from overstimulation. Our attention span has shortened and concepts like sensory deprivation tanks are popular. But no one believes that shutting out all stimulation can possibly be a cure for depression. Even a layperson like me know that take away someone’s freedom of movement and expression, not allowing any activity, and treating them like a comatose patient is going to push them further down the path of mental breakdown.

Going back to the book. I must admit I was a bit bored. The writing was good, and the description of the narrator’s view of the wallpaper and her own actions very vivid. I think it’s because it’s from an era that I have no affinity for, that my reaction was mostly, okay #thathappened. I’d still recommend everyone read this book, it’s short and a good representation of mental illness from a sufferer’s point of view.

yay, science

The spring issue of the Imperial magazine arrived in my postbox. So rare to receive an actual paper magazine nowadays. Lots of interesting reading.

you are your brain — the feature of this issue talks about how it is our brain that makes us who we are, it is

icmag42brain

the storehouse of personhood – of emotion, thought, memory – of all the things that make us the individuals we are

Several departments at IC look at how the brain works. Neuropathology looks at the structure of the brain; the Intelligent Systems and Networks group in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering studies how electric current from neuron to neuron which is how our brains process information; and the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology considers the changes in our brains when under the influence of psychedelic drugs. The research carried out by all these scientists go towards improving our knowledge of how the brain works, and more importantly, how we can better diagnose and treat brain disorders. For instance, a team at St Mary’s has developed an infra-red scanner that checks for blood clots and has a 90% accuracy in a hospital setting.

standard matter 3.0 — this article about theoretical physics and the large hadron collider at CERN is a little above my head. I’m fascinated by it, yet I always find theoretical physics (and chemistry) difficult to fully grasp.

icmag42matter

My takeaway is that there are 12 fundamental particles (including quarks and leptons) that are subject to 4 fundamental forces of the universe (eg electromagnetic). This is the Standard Model which has been accepted since the 1960s and confirmed by what the large hadron collider has found: nothing new. The concept of particle physics is so vast and so much of it is still unknown. Professor Henrique Araujo:

We know a lot about five per cent of our universe, and almost nothing about the other 95 per cent

blockchain — the price of bitcoins reached US$3500, so $100 invested in bitcoins in 2010 will be worth millions. Who was to know? Bitcoin has been lauded as the future, but the image is poor as it is the currency of choice for hackers and blackmailers. The technology behind bitcoin, blockchain, is sound and researchers point out, secure since all transactions are distributed amongst the entire network without a central server. Every computer in the network stores and authenticates the transaction in real time,

but once it is added, a transaction record is permanent and cannot be changed – it’s ‘immutable’ in blockchain-speak – because altering it would require access to millions of separate computers

Outside of the financial services industry, uses include any item or commodity that is distributed globally. There was an article in the NYT about how bananas are shipped to new york and this will be a good use of blockchain technology. At every step of the way, from the farmer who grew the banana to the ship that carried the banana to the supermarket that has the banana on its shelves, every party registers information about the banana and it makes it easy to collect and retrieve records of the banana’s production. Important if something goes wrong along the way, or someone is trying to commit fraud.


The magazine isn’t all about academics. Articles about student activities and alumni news too. Apparently alumni can purchase a lifetime membership for £40 and use all the union activities including the bar and join clubs and societies. If I’m back living in London and near South Ken I may do that. I should check out King’s alumni membership too.

hyde park relays — the biggest student race, a 5k team relay with representation from IC as well as other universities. Costumes optional. Past racers include Dave Moorcroft and Seb Coe, who helped Loughborough to victory.

the gliding club — formed in 1930, it’s the oldest gliding club in UK universities. Club secretary Amy describes the sensation when launching:

you go from 0 to 60 mph in a few seconds. And from the canopy it looks like you are going straight up into the air

I don’t even want to go parachuting but there’s something peaceful about gliding that is appealing.

make fire with water

24shiny

Sis is a bit obsessed with survival gear, and it’s spread to me. I have an emergency go-bag in my wardrobe, small survival stuff in an altoid tin and a couple of knives in my drawer. My amazon order history includes MRE packs and firestarters.

Life Below Zero has been showing at lunchtime and there’s Glenn showing us how he makes fire without matches.


So I was interested in this video showing how to make fire using a ziploc bag and water. Although the video seems a bit too good to be true, the process looks possible with strong sunshine. The same idea as starting a fire with glasses may be. The most useful tip I learned is to wave the bundle around after the ember is formed.

feeding wolves

asi726franciswolf

I saw this post at kottke during the Japan trip and saved it to read again later. This is one of the stories from Ethan Hawke’s Rules for a Knight:

One time, on a sweltering August night, Grandfather and I made camp down by the ocean. He said, “While I teach you about the ways of war, I want you to know that the real struggle is between the two wolves that live inside each of us.”

“Two wolves?” I asked, seated on an old log near the fire. My eyes were transfixed by the flames twisting uncomfortably in the night air.

“One wolf is evil,” he continued. “It is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, deceit, false pride.” He paused, poking at the embers of our fire with a long stick he’d been carving.

“The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, humility, loving-kindness, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith.”

I considered that for a minute, then tentatively asked, “Which wolf will win?”

Sparks danced towards the stars as the old man stared into the glare of the flames and replied, “Whichever one you feed.”

I was at the right age to be profoundly affected when Reality Bites was released and have a copy of Hawke’s The Hottest State. He’s always appeared to be a thoughtful actor and his writing seems to be that of a sensitive person underneath a broody exterior. Quite intrigued by the book, will put it on the list.

Kottke’s self-reflection on the story is so on point:

I’ve been feeding the wrong wolf recently. He’s so hungry and there’s been a lot of available food, but I’ve got to get back on track.

The pic is the statue of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio at Basilica di Santa Maria Degli Angeli in Assisi. That is another thought-provoking story.

numbers are fun

traincups

I found an absolutely fantastic youtube channel numberphile, which posts videos about science and maths in an interesting and fun way.

This one with Professor Tadashi Tokieda, Director of Studies in Mathematics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he explains why train wheels are shaped the way they are so they can go around bends safely. It’s all to do with large circles travelling longer distance per rotation than small circles. He illustrates it using disposable plastic cups taped together. What an engaging professor, he made it so easy to understand.

hidden not hidden

Car was telling me about hidden figures, an inspirational film about african-american women who worked on the space program in the 1960s. It’s so important, especially now, to show the achievements of women and minorities. As jason kottke said

You watch this movie and think, how much higher could the human race have flown if women and people of color had always had the same opportunities as white men?

Not only in the past, it’s a current problem too.

nasawomen

And right on time, lego announced that they will release a set of 5 female NASA scientists including: scientist Katherine Jenkins; computer scientist Margaret Hamilton; astronaut, physicist and educator Sally Ride; astronomer Nancy Grace Roman; and astronaut and physician Mae Jemison. Lego solicits ideas all the time and some of the ideas are put into production. About the women of NASA idea:

As a science editor and writer, with a strong personal interest for space exploration as well as the history of women in science and engineering, Maia Weinstock’s Women of NASA project was a way for her to celebrate accomplished women in the STEM professions.

ten meter tower

This was during my trip and I was watching it in the hotel room. A short film called ten meter tower about people participating in an experiment by jumping off a 10m diving platform for the first time. Even with the camera only on the people on the platform, we can feel the trepidation. The makers, Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson

sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt

Around 70% did jump. No one can be sure of what they will do until they are up there on the platform. I know I’d be petrified even though I know logically there is no harm.

paper centrifuge

papercentrifuge

This is so cool. Scientists at Stanford developed a human-powered centrifuge from bits of paper and string.

The idea of spinning something quickly via a piece of string is an old idea. Very similar to how survivalists teach us how to start a fire. The Stanford centrifuge can achieve

spinning speeds of 125,000 revolutions per minute (RPM), and exert centrifugal forces equivalent to 30,000g

The reason for developing this centrifuge is for separating blood samples in the field for testing, especially in third world countries. Conventional centrifuges are bulky and require electricity. This one can be constructed from paper, wood, plastic, fishing wire.

I love stories like this. Low tech solutions that make the world better.

christmas poinsettia

poinsettia2016

Lunch with sis, niece and her grandparents at the yacht club. It’s curry buffet day, which means something for everyone. Their taxi pulled up just as mum and I were walking into the club car park, great timing. Poor T, one of us always has to help him walk, he uses a scooter at home but obviously can’t bring it with him. The vegetarian curries ended up being better than the meat ones, only chicken was okay. Beef and pork were tough and the salmon in the fish curry was fishy, even smothered in curry sauce.

It’s christmas when there are christmas trees and poinsettia everywhere. It was raining this morning so drops of rainwater was still on the leaves. Looks a bit like snow. Pretty.

After lunch G is off to see rogue one with her friend. For some reason sis’ credit card didn’t work so i had to use mine to book the ticket. This means I had to go with her to the cinema to pick up the ticket. No big deal.

shy fern

shyfern01

When I was young, we could find what we called “shy fern” around the car park. As the slope got concreted, the ferns disappeared. Every time I’d see a small green fern I’d touch them in the hope that the leaves would fold, but usually I was disappointed.

I was waiting outside for mm to drive up and saw a small cluster. Without any expectations, I touched the leaves with my shoe and was pleasantly surprised that they folded immediately. I thought they’d gone from the area.

thought they're gone forever! #shy ferns that used to be everywhere around our car park

A video posted by mal088 (@mal088) on

Googling tells me that the plant is called mimosa pudica, commonly called shy plant, sensitive plant or sleepy plant. The leaves fold inwards when disturbed to protect themselves and re-open a few minutes later. I hope this plant survives and spreads back to the car park. It seems to be doing okay growing in gaps in the concrete.

welcome home Major Peake

After a 6-month stay at the ISS, Tim Peake came back to earth.

The first UK astronaut to spacewalk; the second astronaut to run a marathon (London, which he completed in 3.35). I’ve been following him on the news, on twitter and flickr. He’s safely back on earth now, but not before a final tweet from space:

Beautiful pics on his flickr feed. Aside from the marvel that is seeing the Earth from space, there’s his keen eye too. It’s good to be reminded of how beautiful our planet is.

The Earth:
Planet Earth

Aurora over Canada:
Aurora masterclass

Sunlight reflecting on a Himalayan lake:
Stunning colours

p.s. all pics copyright Tim Peake ESA/NASA, from Tim’s flickr.

cat café

My suggestion for bbmm meetup was to go find a happy hour place but mm came up with cat café so off to the kitty place we went.

This is the first time we visited this particular café. The usual: clean hands before entering, change to slippers, be mindful of the cats. One drink is included, mostly fruit teas.

cattune022ginger

About half the cats were happily sleeping. And we could see that they are well cared for. A couple came and played with us. A lovely ginger with big eyes and a round face.

cattune036gingerplay

Very active too. We were sat at the corner and he often came to the corner so he can launch himself at either one of our toys or the other customers’ toys at the other end of the café.

cattune062bwplay cattune072bwplay

The other was a white and black long-hair. He played with mm’s toy and even my backpack wasn’t immune.

Got a video of the two of them playing.

science & engineering news from IC

I get the Imperial magazine which they send out to alumni and people they manage to get onto their mailing lists. The most recent issue [pdf] is quite interesting reading. Technical focus of course, since it’s IC.

There’s an interview with the new President, Professor Alice P. Gast, the first woman and the first non-Briton to be the head of IC. There’s news about the new White City site (the old BBC Wood Lane buildings). A recap of the 2015 festival and other alumni news.

A few articles were worthy of detailed reading.

Campus Life: Potential Energy is about a PhD student doing research into converting waste products to biofuels, who also doubles as co-founder of a startup that provides regions in India with clean energy–from solar power to equipment that converts agricultural waste to electricity. She was the first winner of the £10,000 Althea-Imperial prize for women students.

A team of IC engineers have developed a small sensor that syncs with an app to enable users and their medical practitioners to monitor their health. The team won a $120,000 Distinguished Award at X-Challenge, an international competition for medical sensing technologies. The AcuPebble is the size of a pound coin and sticks to the user’s chest or back, listening to heart-rate & breathing, and sending the results to an app.

From this acoustic signal, a variety of physiological and disease related parameters can be obtained, such as lung volumes, breathing rate, heart rate that are useful for diagnosing several medical conditions.

timetravelclock

A short article celetrated the 100th anniversary of Einsten’s general relativity, which theoretically makes time travel possible, by asking several alumni and professors what they would do with a time travel machine. The answers were pretty boring and predictable: they’d all go back in time to visit certain specific points in history. One said to visit Nikola Tesla; another said he’d take Leonardo Da Vinci to the 21st century; someone namechecked Maxwell and Newton. Hmm, not a very original bunch, IC people.

p.s. I think I get the King’s magazine too, although it’s now an app which means they prefer we fetch it ourselves.

the hunt bbc

 
Need some escape from real life. Luckily the hunt is on. No, it’s not some walking dead program from the zombies’ pov. It’s a on bbc and a nature program focused on predators hunting their prey. Exec producer Alastair Fothergill:

the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey

It’s not just lions and polar bears, the big predators. There was a sequence of the sparrowhawk hunting small birds and another on army ants, the most successful predator in the forests. Brilliant as only the bbc, and David Attenborough’s narration, can be.

I haven’t been able to catch all of the series so far. Knowing BBC Earth, it’ll repeat. If only iPlayer works outside the UK. Seriously, I’d pay a subscription, like I do to my cable company, to get iplayer.

 

 

on the #timhunt incident

My niece was complaining about her Chemistry teacher so I offered to give her some Chemistry help over the summer holiday. She didn’t really say yes or no; can’t blame her, who in their right minds will voluntarily do schoolwork during the summer holiday? Anyway, I’ll have to read up on the topic if I do need to help her, I’d all but lost my chemistry knowledge. Why did I leave my research job? It was boring and there didn’t seem to be a good career progression.

A dinosaur masquarading as a Nobel Laureate made stupid comments about “girls” falling in love and crying when criticised and was asked to resign from his post at UCL. I agree with the outcome, and even though I should feel sorry about the speed and ferocity of his treatment by social media and his employer, I don’t. He claims it was a self-deprecating joke and he’s been hung out to dry but again, no sympathies.

People are allowed to express their opinions in private; this is the basic tenet of a free world. But he wasn’t in private, and as a Nobel Laureate, he is a role model and speaking from a position of eminence. Did he think before he spoke? Obviously not. Did he think what he said was wrong? From his half-hearted apology afterwards, no. He only apologised more profusely after the backlash. It’s another case of being sorry that his remarks were heard by journalists.

Here was someone who took credit for work done by scores of undergrads, postgrads and postdocs under his supervision, and yet his attitude towards 50% of the population is so backwards that I wonder at atmosphere in his labs. Then again it’s likely that his labs had around the national average 12.8% women (oh sorry, Prof Hunt, “girls”) so it’s not like they count, right.

Lots of commentaries, tweets and opinions about this incident. Women scientists started posting pictures of themselves looking #distractinglysexy. Other prominent male scientists rushed to his defence. Even Boris Johnson chimed in. Astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack summed it up nicely:

scienceresearch01 scienceresearch02

In other news, scientific research is bizarre. In Ways of Knowing, photographer Danier Stier took photos of actual research going on at actual research institutes. He says,

we get the wrong idea of science when we look at something like National Geographic, we think of lab coats, high-tech equipment—the realities couldn’t be more different

Hmm, there aren’t that many women in the photos either. Credit to them that they’re not crying.

wildflower powderpuff tree

powderpuff03

Saw a pretty red wildflower at the side of the beachfront path to Middle Island on Christmas Day. Spherical red tendrils, and there were berries on the bush too.

Since I’m no good at plants and can only identify a handful of common flowers, I set about trying to find out the name of this flower. Surprisingly, google image came up short, presenting similarly shaped red flowers but not the one I took.

There are apps that identify flowers if you upload an image, or check off some descriptive criteria. The results were disappointing—either no result or another flower. Weird. It was a wildflower I saw at the side of the road, it can’t be that rare.

So, I turned to twitter. The result came in within 15mins. I was well impressed. Calliandra haematocephala, commonly known as the Powder Puff Tree, native to South America. There are comprehensive planting instructions too. Must have been carried by the wind from a garden nearby.

powderpuff02

The new filters on instagram gave it a weird pop and texture, cute.

 

coke bio cooler

The Coca-Cola Bio cooler from Leo Burnett Colombia on Vimeo

It’s beginning to get oppressively hot, over 30°C. I’ve escaped to parents’ place because theirs is more open, with an occasional breeze and I don’t want to blast the air-con all day at my flat.

Some places in the world get very, very hot. And at some of these places, there is no electricity. No air-conditioning, no fans, no fridges.

So Coca-Cola just invented a cooling device that doesn’t need electricity. Developed by advertising agency Leo Burnett in collaboration with the International Physics Center, it uses natural technology: plants grow at the top of the container, when watered excessively the water trickles down the soil and because of the high temperature, evaporates and mixes with other materials into an unnamed gas. Mirrors inside the contained space condense the gas back to liquid, triggering a cooling effect (remember the first law of thermodynamics).

The device is placed the village of Aipir in Columbia, where temperatures reach 45°C, there is no electricity and villagers have to trek 12 hours to get ice. They press a button and hey presto! chilled coke cans.

Cynics would of course say the village probably need to have ways to cool their staples like meat, vegetables or milk, moreso than a gimmicky (albeit colourful) box that dispenses a high sugar unhealthy drink. The technology hopefully can be used on more practical purposes but as adweek observed,

this is about bringing people a modest luxury that’s normally out of reach

Very often we forget this, that things we take for granted in the first world have a different meaning to people who are less privileged. Lots of debate about how unhealthy coke and other soft drinks are, but for these Columbian villagers, it’s something that brings a smile to their faces.

periodic table of stocks

periodicstocks

I was googling for images of the 2-line stock market ticker for LL cover when I came across this, a periodic table of the stock market. I get excited when I come across displaying information or ideas as a periodic table (or as tetris). In this one, the atomic symbol corresponds to the ticker symbol of the stock. Based on the NYSE and Nasdaq. So the top of group 6 is occupied by C for Citigroup. There are quite a number of blanks, but it’s pretty great anyway.

TIL people think the sun goes around the earth

orrery

Hard to believe that so many people believe the sun revolves around the earth. While I had to stop for 10 seconds to remember the correct order of the planets (Jupiter comes before Saturn, I always get confused; I’m good with the rest), it’s a little shocking to learn that there is a gap in education or belief system in some pockets of the population. Wow.

I also learned a new word: orrery, which means a mechanical model of the solar system. The epitome of steam punk art, if you asked me. I spotted this post via flipboard, of a beautiful orrery designed and handcrafted by ken condal.

If only we can show this to the people who think the sun goes around the earth, hopefully we can reduce the ignorance.

geoguessr

Spent a chunk of the weekend playing geoguessr, which I’ve bookmarked since it came out wanting to try it. Basically it drops you at a random google street view location, you can move around, make your guess on the map at the side and the game awards points based on how close your guess is. Sometimes it’s easier, with street signs, buildings even buses as clues, sometimes it’s just a dirt path with vegetation all around it. It’s an honours game, and you’re not supposed to google but, well. So here’s a typical game, you get 5 locations.
geoguessr01
location 1: a busy pavement-less road, dry vegetation and what looks like a goat at the side of the road
analysis: right-hand drive, seems to be a hot location so not UK or Ireland. No pavements so probably not Australia. More likely to be South Africa. Further down the road there is a Toyota dealer with partial name. At this point I did google
result: Botswana, not SA

 

geoguessr02
location 2: holy cow, coral in the middle of the ocean
analysis: no idea, so I guessed the great barrier reef

geoguessr03
result: somewhere in the gulf of mexico. At least I got more than zero points

 

geoguessr03
location 3: straight single-lane road surrounded by farm, small road on the left with US-style mailbox leading to several houses and a barn
analysis: somewhere in the middle of the US, it’s flat and farm country. I guessed Wyoming
result: it was Idaho

 

geoguessr04
location 4: chinese-styled white arch with red curved-roof building behind it, tourist buses parked in front
analysis: I can read the writing on the arch, and I’ve been to this place

geoguessr06
result: chiang kai shek memorial, taipei. I was 100m out because I didn’t put the pin exactly where the street view vehicle was

 

geoguessr05
location 5: corn fields, just like what we used to see on the X-files
analysis: mid-west USA, I guessed Indiana
result: southern Illinois

 

geoguessrscore

Total score 17,587. I think the max is around 30,000. My highest score so far is 24,989. It’s not all guessing, and some tips include looking at the weather, vegetation and soil if it’s in the middle of nowhere. Whether it’s right- or left-hand drive (if there are no cars road markings may help) is a good clue, as are road signs. I was dropped in a snow covered road surrounded by trees and thought it was Canada until I saw a beat-up Volvo and road maintenance signs that didn’t feel like Canada. Correctly guessed it was Sweden. It’s also useful to know where street view has visited: most of Africa, the middle of South America, China, Middle-East and the eastern part of Russia are out.

It gets slightly boring after about 20-30 games though, when it’s yet another empty road with nothing around it but scenery — I don’t have sufficient interest in plants or soil to spend time figuring out that reddish soil means either Australia or Mexico, or conifers suggest a colder region.

aquaponics

aquaponics

Sis and I went to a talk about growing your own vegetables sponsored by the slow food movement. There were 4 speakers talking about their experiences, as well as what they are doing in schools to help kids learn and grow their own fruit and vegetables. There was one speaker who introduced us to the concept of aquaponics which combines raising fish (or shrimp or the like) and a soil-less vegetable planting system. The waste water from the fish tank is pumped into the vegetable growing tub, where the plants absorb nutrients and clean water pumped back to the fish tank. When running, it’s a self-sustaining system.

I remember when I used to keep tropical fish how my window plants really thrived when I watered them using the fish water. Makes sense. Aquaponics systems can be set up in a small area in the garden, on a balcony and even on a very small scale indoors. Here’s a video made by the University of Hawaii.

It doesn’t seem impossibly difficult, just need the space, the parts and some tools. I’d much rather set it up outdoors, need lighting and a system to reduce humidity indoors. The sort of fish can be edible, like catfish or tilapia, or just plain goldfish for those who are squeamish about killing fish. Plants are usually leafy lettuce, pak choy or herbs like basil and mint. Sounds awesome.

waiting for marshmallows

It occured to me last night that right now, I’m essentially jobless and homeless. True, all I have on me is what was in the luggage — mba, kindle, 2 iphones, passport, money, certificates, clothes and shoes. But the situation only sounds dire because it’s a snapshot of my current state while I wait for my shipment to arrive, and get some rest before I start making contacts. Therefore the snapshot is only valid as a statement of fact as opposed to an indication of wider circumstances. In other words, context.

I’m an impatient person, but some things I can wait. If I’d sat through the marshmallow test as a kid, I probably would have been able to wait — the reward for waiting is so much greater. Well, I hope anyway, because apparently those kids grow up to be smarter and thinner. It’s called delayed gratification, which upon reading seems to be another name for listening to your head vs your instinct. The other factor is that the reward is so bluntly stated. Wait x minutes and you get two marshmallows. What would have been even more of an incentive is if the child waited another x minutes, the number of marshmallows will double again. That becomes a no-brainer. Some things in life are obvious, I learned from a young age that when given 3 wishes, the third wish is always 3 more wishes. I also operate better with a goal. Witness how my running has gone pearshaped because I don’t have a goal race. Effort, temptation and reward are all intertwined.

Some comments in the article give an interesting perspective that I never thought about. That the delayed gratification outcome will only work if the kid trusts or knows that the adult will bring back a second marshmallow after the prescribed waiting time. Interesting for me, because I’d never doubt it, as a 4 year old and now as an adult. Is it a class thing? An education thing? A glass half-full thing? Going back to the jobless-homeless analogy, there is never any doubt in my mind that if I wanted to, I can find a job. What does that say about me, that I’m a fool or I have too much self-confidence. The homeless angle is irrelevant, my apartment is long paid for and requires very little financial maintenance.

That said, the main reason I’m being so laid back and not doing much is more likely to be laziness anyway. Delayed gratification may be another name for “I can’t be bothered.” Hee.

supermoon

supermoon201103

Everyone’s talking about the supermoon tonight. For some reason I keep reading superMOM instead of moon, sigh. Didn’t feel like setting up the tripod and getting the big camera out, so I just snapped this on the s90 from my balcony. It was taken just after 3pm EST, when the moon is a mere 221,565 miles (356,575 kilometers) from earth. Looks like a big streetlight on this picture.

#98 ecotourism

hok348forest

There’s some part of me, the occasionally whimsical (or whimsy-wannabe) part, that fantasizes about volunteering. I’ve always wanted to research organisations like the vso, earthwatch and when I’m being ultra whimsical, the peace corps, even though I don’t qualify, not being a US citizen and all.

Thing is, I don’t even do domestic volunteering, like help the homeless or join a green program. I don’t feel it’s me. So why would doing volunteering overseas be me? I guess it’s the adventure, or perception of adventure. There’s an old nyt article about ecotourism, and it hits the nail right on the head:

“People selfishly want experiences that are real — they don’t want canned tours, they want to meet the park ranger, they want to help in an orphanage,” said Blue Magruder, director of public affairs for Earthwatch. “And an increasing number of people want their time on the planet to count.”

So i did look into earthwatch and such like programs. They are fairly expensive, in the thousands of USD for 7-14 days. I don’t think I’m quite at the place where I feel a burning need to go on one of these trips, educational and valuable they are. It has to be the right time and for the right reason. It may come. I’m hopeful that it may come.

chicago air and water show 2010

airshow1094angels

Full set here

This is my second year at the air and water show. Last year I went in the afternoon on the second day at the south end of oak street beach. This year, I went at 10.30am on the first day and decided to go right where the action was, at north avenue beach. I figured, it’d be crowded but it should be feasible to find space for one person. I was right. I got a spot at one of the concrete jetties facing south, it was perfect. It was also extremely hot and though I had sunscreen on, I could feel the UV. I brought a beach towel to sit on, I ended up huddling underneath it for most of the day, to block out the sun.

The show started with skydivers, and then there were military planes, helicopters and aerial gymnastics from at least 3 teams. It was fantastic. The buzz and roar of the planes, the skills of the pilots. I wish I knew more about planes to be able to recognise them.

The highlight was of course the finale, the blue angels flying F/A-18 Hornets. There was a lot of anticipation, about where they’d “sneak” up on us, people were watching the skies all over. Then we saw a huge plume of grey smoke from the lake and there they were! Great end and I didn’t feel like I’d been sitting on concrete under the baking sun for 5 hours.

It was only a 10-15min walk to the ginza festival. I was pretty hungry and thought I’d get dinner there. It turned out to be a very expensive dinner. The entrance of $4 (normally $5 but I had a coupon), plus food and drinks used a ticket system of $1 per ticket. Half a teriyaki chicken was 10 tickets, a beer 5. I had 5 left over so I had a red bean dessert and a serving of edamame. I suppose I could have watched the performance, but it wasn’t interesting. The stalls sold stuff that seemed to come from somewhere between a $10 shop and Sogo. I had to remind myself that I’m not in Asia, and some of these crafts and merchandise are pretty unusual here.

how to square large numbers

I know up to 152, above that I need a calculator. Until today. via lifehacker, john graham-cumming gave us a great method using mental arithmetic. So if I want to find out what is 482.

  • round up the number to be squared to the next 10 = 50
  • how many to do the round up? 50-48=2
  • take 2 from 48 = 46
  • multiply 46×50=2300 (it’s easy to do in the head)
  • add 22 2300+4=2304

Seems more trouble than it’s worth.

turn those lights off

balmoral202fire

8.30pm local time today around the world is earth hour when we’re supposed to turn our lights off for 1 hour.

Honestly, I couldn’t see any visible participation. I think one window had their lights off at 8.30, then turned it back on at 9.30. Otherwise windows that were dark before were dark after. I had my fireplace on, a candle in the kitchen and used one of my hand-cranked torches to get around. The mbp was on throughout — they didn’t say turn off laptops! Many cities participated. It’s Las Vegas’ turn now, I’d be interested to see how the Strip looks, if they killed the neon.

experiencing blindness

I’ve always known that out of all my senses, sight is the one that I depend on most. I’m very weak on hearing — is there a hearing equivalent to dyslexia? Many times I hear people speak but can’t get the words or string the words into a sentence. The others are at best average. Sometimes at night when I go to the bathroom I keep my eyes closed and I’m able to move around with no problem. But that’s because I know the layout of the apartment.

What if I’d never seen it? What is it like to experience blindness?

If I’m in Atlanta this year, I’d like to go to the dialogue in the dark exhibition. This is a travelling exhibition originating in Germany that has already been to 22 countries and opened the eyes (pun not intended) of 5 million visitors to a one hour experience where:

visitors are led by blind or visually impaired guides through a specially constructed and totally darkened Exhibition, in which sounds, wind, temperatures, and textures convey the characteristics of common daily environments such as a park or cityscape.

personas profile

personaswatty

click here and enter your name. Just do it. It’s awesome.

This is the Personas project from the MIT Media Lab. Basically, it takes your name and searches the web for some context around it. It then takes the words and sites it finds to build a profile of your presence on the web. Obviously if there are multiple people with the same name the profile will be a combination of all the names.

So I entered watty boss and it tells me that I’m online and social, but mostly it’s fame, which earned a big “huh?” from me. Does it mean I’m a celebrity? Paparazzi? Weird.

Now when I enter my real name it gives me:
personaslm
So pleased!!! It means my effort in keeping my privacy has paid off. Phew.

Obviously the tool is searching for 2 words, not specifically names. So when I put in invisible company it goes through a lot of searches and gives an interesting restult. The process of the search is worth watching, and I screencapped a video.

[via]

my blog is the exact opposite of me

via mefi again, a tool to analyse the MBTI personality of your blog. This is what I got:

typealyzer

I’m INTJ, occasionally ISTJ. 100% introvert. We all know this. And this here tool is saying I’m ESFP, which is the exact opposite??? I don’t get it.

Well, actually I do.

What I write here can be described as light, light-hearted, and even…trivial. I don’t post about anything controversial or deep. There’s tons of pictures of food, music I found, anything mac related, or quirky stuff I come across. Occasionally there’d be a rant. Mostly, I keep to basically harmless stuff, not only because I am aware that this is permanent public record but because this is a place where I want to record some interesting stuff that I like. It is my little escapist heaven. No wonder the tool thinks the writer of this blog is entertaining and friendly. evil laugh

i track myself

OMG, why has it taken me so long to find it. I so have to start doing this!! via bb, over at quantified self, Alexandra Carmichael explains how she keeps a record of 40 different things in her life every day, and what she’s learned about herself from studying the data.

I track these things about my health and personal patterns every day:

– sleep (bed time, wake time, sleep quality, naps)
– morning weight
– daily caloric intake (each meal, total calculated at end of day)
– mealtimes

  • mood (average of 3 positive and 3 negative factors on 0-5 scale)
  • day of menstrual cycle
  • sex (quantity, quality)
  • exercise (duration, type)

  • supplements I take (time, dosage)

  • treatments for vulvodynia (a chronic pain condition)
  • pain of administering the vulvodynia treatment I take (0-5)
  • vulvodynia-related pain (0-5)
  • headache,nausea (0-5)

  • time spent working, time with kids

  • number of nursings and night wakings (I’m a mom)
  • weather
  • unusual events (text)

The mood factors I measure every day are:
1. Happiness
2. Irritability
3. Calmness
4. Sadness
5. Feeling beautiful / self-love
6. Feeling fat / ate too much

She used google spreadsheets initially, and this came out of a project of setting up cure together, a platform for open source health research.

I don’t think it’s difficult to set up a spreadsheet for this, and in a way I’m kinda sorta tracking some stuff in different places. I can see myself tracking things like:

  • time I wake up, leave for work, arrive at work, arrive back home
  • meal times and what i ate
  • calorie intake and expenditure (something that daily plate does well)
  • exercise — daily plate again, plus I now record my runs on both nike plus and twitter
  • weight
  • blog posts made
  • google reader posts read
  • books read
  • words written
  • IM convos
  • emails read and answered (home and work)
  • number of facebook requests received

Alexandra analysed her data by looking at correlation between moods and certain activities like exercise. I can’t quite see myself tracking moods, cos it’ll be “meh” almost all the time. My motivation for tracking will be for the sake of getting data and putting them into pretty graphs.

And no, I won’t be tracking
– sex (quantity, quality)

my personality according to the NYT

bubbles

Even the NYT is into personality test memes. The one that interested me was yet another mbti type of test from the strangely named youjustgetme.com. They encourage users to establish a profile and ask others to guess the peronality type with nothing but a username. Kindly pointless, but the profile setting was informative, if again predictable.

The filler-type bubbles are cuter than graphs anyway even though they don’t know how to spell extroverts. I wonder if I scored more than 0% cos there is a tiny bubble there, or whether that’s the smallest size available.

My personality tendencies in a nutshell:

You are very dependable and almost always follow through with your commitments. You feel comfortable with routine, but you are also quite receptive to new experiences. You are calm and logical for the most part, but some things worry you more than others. You fight for your own best interests and are comfortable expressing your opinions for purposes greater than others’ emotions. You live a quiet life and are reserved in your actions and behaviors. [very accurate so far]

About that Disciplined bubble… To always be responsible and dependable gets too heavy at times and you just have to shirk it all sometimes of and do something that is wild and crazy, like going to sleep WITHOUT brushing your teeth. [ABSOLUTELY NOT! Other impulsive things may be, but no going to bed without brushing teeth and cleaning face] Come and do your worst, dental bacteria! No one is arguing that you are not reliable; it’s just that you differ from your very high conscientious peers in that you also have some streaks of impulsivity and can make some spontaneous decisions, rather than lumbering through all of the alternative scenarios. Maybe you’re disorganized (God forbid), or perhaps you like to leave your dirty socks all over the house (the horror), or you’re a procrastinator (that’s the worst one of all). Whatever is the case, you are not conscientious to the extent that you bore people with your stodgy ways.

About those Traditional and Alternative bubbles… Openness is not one of your defining traits. This means that while you do value creativity and artistic expressions to some degree, you are also equally comfortable with conservatism and things that are more plain and simple. Depending on the context, you may be more interested in concrete ideas versus abstract thinking, and vice versa. It could also be that you are highly open in some areas, and more conservative in other areas of your life. Maybe you’re the type of person who has quite the vivid imagination and are chock-full of enthusiasm for different concepts, but prefer to stick to “safer” foods that you recognize. Raw fish anyone? NOT. [agree with everything except the last word. I know what the analysis is trying to say — it’s the reason why I can be a writer yet have zero artistic or musical talent, it’s just that my creativity is focused on one area]

About those Unemotional and Neurotic bubbles… To quote the Hershey chocolate company, “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.” That pretty much sums up your score on the trait of emotional stability. There are times when you feel such intensity of emotions, mostly negative, that you just want to lie down and spend the day thinking about how you can score Prozac. In other contexts (like when you are on your meds), you feel just fine – calm, happy, ready to face the day. The emotions cancel each other out and you look like you are dealing with life fairly well statistically. Another possibility for your middle scores on emotional stability is that some things push your button more than others and when your buttons get pushed, you stress and freak. What’s that I hear? Is that your mom calling? For the most part though, you are the epitome of grace under pressure. [I think it’s a fight between caring and not caring. When I care, I care and when I couldn’t care less, I’m uncaring to the point of callousness]

About that Competitive bubble… Hello Oscar, the grouch. This would be your alter-ego, if you had one. Other media characters you may identify with include: grumpy smurf, grouchy dwarf, and Jack Nicholson with a golf club in his car. No, you’re not really that bad, you say to yourself. People just misunderstand the fact that you have a strong personality. Yeah, okay. You enjoy being argumentative, and find yourself using phrases like, “I’m going to squash you like a bug” even during a friendly game of Candyland with your five-year old niece. Wasn’t it enough that you already beat her at Old Maid? Had to finish her off, did ya? You might have trouble admitting defeat, even when you suspect that you are in the wrong. Being stubborn may win you a bunch of victories, but why is the person reading this over your shoulder nodding? [this is mildly surprising cos I never thought of myself as competitive or ambitious. Then again I won’t be where I am without lots of arrogance and directness which can translate to competitiveness]

About that Introverted bubble… Do you have difficulty remembering what your voice sounds like sometimes because you rarely ever use it? Do you talk to people at parties, or are you too busy hiding in a corner? Has anyone ever filed a missing persons report on you just to find you days later in the basement playing your one millionth game of solitaire? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be what psychologists call introverted. [not may be] Introverted people can mostly be found among librarians, scientists, and any other professions where an individual would never have to interact with another human being, ever. In fact, the prospect of having to deal with people may give you hives. What do you know, introverts, you may have a medical condition. You tend to be a hesitant person and have to mull things over for days, weeks, and even years before you act on whatever idea you have. If you wait too long though, opportunity might just slip away and you’ll never know what could have been. On the bright side, introverts are typically geniuses, mad geniuses with crazy hair, but geniuses nonetheless. [for genius, read sociopath mastermind]

know me, the introvert

chat20080921

A while ago Car and I were chatting about the possibility of attending a writer’s conference next summer. I edited down the chat but the point is instead of looking at the exciting things I could get to experience at this conference, all I felt was fear. Fear of crowds, fear of having to interact with strangers, fear that I’d offend people by appearing stand-offish and unresponsive. Truth is I react badly with strangers, especially people who are harmless and just trying to get to know me better.

I already know I’m INTJ or occasionally ISTJ on the myers-briggs test. I also know that I almost always come out as 100% introvert, whether it’s some serious long test, or pseudo-humorous test.

INTJ -The Mastermind

You scored 0% I to E, 47% N to S, 52% F to T, and 21% J to P!

You are more introverted than extroverted. You are more intuitive than observant, you are more thinking based than feeling based, and you prefer to have a plan rather than leaving things to chance. Your type is best described by the word “mastermind”, which belongs to the larger group called rationals. Only 1% of the population shares your type. You are very strong willed and self-confident. You can hardly rest until you have things settled. You will only adopt ideas and rules if they make sense. You are a great brainstormer and often come up with creative solutions to difficult problems. You are open to new concepts, and often actively seek them out.

As a romantic partner, you can be both fascinating yet demanding. You are not apt to express your emotions, leaving your partner wondering where they are with you. You strongly dislike repeating yourself or listening to the disorganized process of sorting through emotional conflicts. You see your own commitments as self-evident and don’t see why you need to repeat something already expressed. You have the most difficulty in admitting your vulnerabilities. You feel the most appreciated when your partner admires the quality of your innovations and when they listen respectfully to your ideas and advice. You need plenty of quiet to explore your interests to the depth that gives you satisfaction.

Take The LONG Scientific Personality Test at HelloQuizzy

A more tongue-in-cheek test is the personality defect test. Still comes up with 0% extrovert.

Sociopath

You are 57% Rational, 0% Extroverted, 86% Brutal, and 57% Arrogant.

You are the Sociopath! As a result of your cold, calculating rationality, your introversion (and ability to keep quiet), your brutality, and your arrogance, you would make a very cunning serial killer. You are confident and capable of social interaction, but you prefer the silence of dead bodies to the loud, twittering nitwits you normally encounter in your daily life. You care very little for the feelings of others, possibly because you are not a very emotional person. You are also very calculating and intelligent, making you a perfect criminal mastermind. Also, you are a very arrogant person, tending to see yourself as better than others, providing you with a strong ability to perceive others as weak little animals, so tiny and small. You take great pleasure in the misery of others, and there is nothing sweeter to you than the sweet glory of using someone else’s shattered failure to project yourself to success. Except sugar. That just may be sweeter. In short, your personality defect is the fact that you could easily be a sociopath, because you are calculating, unemotional, brutal, and arrogant. Please don’t kill me for writing mean things about you! I have a 101 mile-long knife! Don’t make me use it!

Take The Personality Defect Test at HelloQuizzy

Heehee, I’m a sociopath mastermind. evil laugh

On this 100% introversion business, I know how to interact with extroverts — they are the ones talking and laughing and carrying on the conversation. It seems to me though, that introverts may know how to deal with extroverts, it’s not so easy the opposite way. There seems, at least to me, a lack of understanding of why we act the way we do. People take things so personally, it’s like if I don’t interact with them it’s an affront to their shiny personality when the truth is not the case.

So if I go to this conference, I may need to hand out this list of 5 things every extrovert should know about introverts.

  1. If a person is introverted, it does NOT mean they are shy or anti-social.
    It takes me a long time to warm up to people; I just can’t meet a stranger one minute and behave like we’re best friends the next. My natural state is looking inwards, and it takes time and more time for me to get in touch with external factors like the people surrounding me.
  2. Introverts tend to dislike small talk.
    That’s true. I can see the necessity, particularly to break the ice, but it seems so pointless and I get bored with it quickly. What I hate? The 20 personal getting-to-know-you questions. Okay, sod it, I dislike talking in general.
  3. Introverts do like to socialize.
    But in a different way and not as frequently as extroverts. I can do the socialising thing, even public speaking and *gasp* being charming — but only for a very short period of time. After that, I need to be quiet again.
  4. Introverts need time alone to recharge.
    There was a question in the personality quiz about how I feel after a big gathering — emotionally drained or emotionally charged. The answer is definitely drained. I can only take so many meals out, conversations, or functions. I told my mum I need to get mentally prepared even for family gatherings. I get antsy if they go on too long and I feel like I’m missing out on alone time.
  5. Introverts are socially well adjusted.
    You know what, I know about politics, etiquette, the arts and stuff. I’m just not very practiced at talking about them like I’m an expert, doesn’t mean I’m socially inept.

I like this commentary from the article:

It’s easy to understand why society tends to value extroverts over introverts. Human beings have lived in a tribal society so having to interact frequently with people came to be a regarded as a very good skill when it came to survival.

Trying to “turn” an introverted person into an extroverted person is detrimental because it gives off a subtle suggestion that there is something wrong with them, hampering their self worth and esteem when there is absolutely nothing wrong in the first place.

There’s nothing wrong with introverts.

There.

[/leave me alone rant]

what ethics

The Times is sponsoring a study on ethics. It’s a simple online quiz, where people pick words that are most like, or unlike, themselves. There is no right or wrong answer, just indication as to which moral philosophy is most like us.

The three moral philosophies – principled conscience, social conscience and rules compliance – make up our integrity, or moral DNA, which guides the way we live. For everyone the balance between the moral philosophies is different, depending on personality and experience.

ethicability

my disc profile

I joined another team for a 3/4 day team building offsite today. It was fun. Before the offsite, our facilitator asked us all to complete a DiSC profile because it helps to identify the type of person our co-workers are. DiSC stands for the 4 dimensions in this profile: dominant, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness.

discprofile

I turn out to be high SC and low I. Generally it’s pretty true, that I’m predictable, systematic, self-reliant and can be inactive and realistic. There are altogether 15 different profiles depending on whether someone is high D or high C or high DI. My pattern is the closest to a Perfectionist. Which I don’t quite agree cos I’m not big on details and get bored easily.

discbb

There are some very funny descriptions for the dimensions.

Shopping for groceries:

  • the D is the impulse shopper. No list.
  • the i tells you where everything is in the store, whether you ask or not.
  • the S is prepared, has a list, and gets it done efficiently.
  • the C wouldn’t think of going shopping without coupons and a calculator.

Ask for something on their desk:

  • the D has a messy desk. They say, “it’s there somewhere — you look for it.”
  • the i says, “I’m busy right now. Give me a few minutes and I’ll get back to you.” They don’t know where it is, but won’t admit it.
  • the S has everything filed in alphabetical order or by color code.
  • the C says, “It’s the third thing down in that pile.” The desk may be messy, but they know where everything is.

i want to be a geek!

According to the Wired Geekster Handbook there are 6 types of geeks.

1. The Fanboy
Disposition: Speaks mostly in lines from The Simpsons, Star Wars, Highlander, and Ghostbusters. Enjoys arguing about whether Batman or Boba Fett would win in a fight. (Batman.)
Beliefs: The Force exists, but midi-chlorians are bullshit. Han shot first.
Turn-Ons: Princess Leia in slave gear. Starbuck (male and female incarnations). Amazing Fantasy No. 15. Velour uniforms.

2. The Music Geek
Disposition: Would be really happy to introduce you to music better than that overexposed crap you like. Always up for a show, but it’ll totally suck.
Beliefs: MP3s are not as good as CDs, which are not as good as vinyl LPs, which are not as cool as wax cylinders. What your speaker cables are made of matters.
Turn-Ons: A complete set of Sub Pop Singles Club 45s. VH1’s Behind the Music (hair metal only). 0.0 scores on Pitchfork. Vacuum tubes.

3.The Gamer
Disposition: High DEX and INT scores, low CHA (thus, the lack of friends). Given to indecipherable insults (“I pwn3d u, n00b!”).
Beliefs: The game Real World has a great physics engine, hi-res graphics, and convincing surround sound, but the learning curve is too steep. Girls should dress like Yuna in Final Fantasy.
Turn-Ons: Spawn points. Haptic feedback. Pac-Man ringtones. Morgan Webb. Split-screen co-op.

4. The Gadget Guy
Disposition: Sociable while waiting in line on launch day; ferocious in comments on Gizmodo. Seemingly unflappable in the face of early adopter’s remorse (aka Apple Newton Syndrome).
Beliefs: I can fix that. There’s no god but MacGyver. The price will drop in a month, but I need it now.
Turn-Ons: Unboxing videos. Backup batteries. Blue LEDs. Laser pointers. People who RTFM. Things that make loud clicking sounds.

5. The Hacker
Disposition: Chronically crabby — then again, having such a superior intellect is a heavy burden. Paranoid tendencies.
Beliefs: One shall stand, one shall fall. Sun allergy is a real condition. Cybersex: not utterly disgusting. Cory Doctorow is too soft on DRM. 2600 magazine has gotten too commercial.
Turn-Ons: Trinity. l33t fluency. Narc-spotting at DefCon.

6. The Otaku
Disposition: Alarmingly happy. Prefers to read right to left.
Beliefs: Manga is a medium, not a genre. Furries aren’t loathsome. I can learn Japanese from Gundam. Lynn Minmay is the most annoying character in the history of anything. The next major anime release will be a box office hit in the West — this time for sure. It’s not all tentacle porn, OK?
Turn-Ons: Tentacle porn. Dirty Larping. Dating sims. All things kawaii.


What makes me mildly unhappy is I can’t identify to any of the six types. And now I’m worried about my geek creds. Sigh.

do i know my elements?

quiz
via the always interesting kottke, a periodic table quiz. Only in this one we have to enter the long name instead of the elemental symbol. Some of the spelling I simply couldn’t get. It’s like in those “name the European countries” quiz when I can never spell Liechtenstein correctly.

88/118 isn’t bad, considering they included 112-118, the Unh series. Okay, this was the second or third time around, I did a little studying in between.

I have to say, I’ve never needed to use the periodic table after my first degree, so there really isn’t much use knowing the elements.

chemical colours

via wired, an experiment that lava lamps will get jealous of.

Non-science readers should stop here and play the video again. Science geeks read on.

*

The experiment is an example of an oscillating reaction and is attributed to Thomas Briggs and Warren Rauscher who first demonstrated it in 1973. No wonder that it’s called the Briggs-Rauscher reaction. It’s a combination of 3 solutions:

  • 410ml 30% hydrogen peroxide diluted to 1l — it’s been far too long since I’ve done chemistry I’m not even going to try to calculate the molar equivalent
  • 43g potassium iodate KIO3 and 4.2ml conc. sulphuric acid diluted to 1l
  • 16g malonic acid and 3.4g of manganese sulphate mixed with 3g soluble starch solution, diluted to 1l

Solutions A and B are mixed in a beaker and then solution C added while stirring. The initially colourless solution will become amber almost immediately. Then it will suddenly turn blue-black. The blue-black will fade to colourless, and the cycle will repeat several times with a period which initially lasts about 15 seconds but gradually lengthens. After a few minutes the solution will remain blue-black.

The rationale is that several reactions happen at the same time. Or more specifically, two competing reactions happen at the same time that uses up material at different rates, so the concentration of iodine and iodide ions (I) produced during the reactions fluctuate. Iodine produces the amber colour, hydrogen peroxide bleaches everything and iodide ions reaction with the starch to form the blue-black solution.

Sigh. I tried to read through the chemistry but lost interest. Damn.

pin on the city

travelquiz

I’ve been playing this flash quiz for a week or so, ever since I saw it on kottke. It’s basically put the flag on cities or landmarks within the time given. Most times I get it in the rough area — the map is so small you need to be very precise. With a specially difficult location, I’ve been known to get it in the completely wrong continent.

the flash drive of my mind

Relating to yesterday’s post and an example of how my thoughts flow in strange directions, here’s some mind babble about information explosion, email addresses and human-robot relationships.

We are surrounded by information. Lots of information. Ever since I switched to google reader I’ve been spending a lot more time than before reading feeds. Comparatively I shouldn’t have enough feeds for rss fatigue to set in — around 60, of which some are to keep track of friends who hardly post. That’s pretty manageable, even though I dread to think what I’d have to go through if I went on vacation for 2 weeks.

It’s not just the sheer amount of information around us, it’s the speed at which it’s coming at us. We’re literally bombarded 24/7 by an unending stream of news, or stuff on digg, or pictures of the newest gadgets. We don’t have enough room in our brains and we’re remembering fewer and fewer basic facts these days:

This summer, neuroscientist Ian Robertson polled 3,000 people and found that the younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal info. When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative’s birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. And when he asked them their own phone number, fully one-third of the youngsters drew a blank. They had to whip out their handsets to look it up.

It’s true. When I left OldJob I printed a copy of my personal Outlook address book but I couldn’t take the entire company email database of course. Sending emails to ex-colleagues became less intuitive; I actually had to think about it. Fortunately, like most corporate emails the external emails were mainly firstname.lastname@company.com; but there were a few exceptions I had to specially remember.

It’s even worse for friends’ and family’s email addresses. I can remember the ones I email regularly, but the rest I rely on gmail’s autofill feature. I can’t remember anyone’s birthdays apart from the most important people; and forget about addresses — 90% of letters I send via snailmail are to pay bills at places I can’t pay online. Every memory seems to be archived, it’s now a matter of remember where the information is stored rather than the information itself. It’s like I have flashdrives hooked up to my brain that I need to download and upload memories to.

I feel like I’m developing hardware. The mbp is almost an extension of my body, it is more important than the tv, or any sentient or insentient entity in my existence.

AI researchers were talking about the possibility of sex between humans and robots in five years and marriage by 2050. With humans becoming more robot-like and robots becoming more lifelike, it’s a matter of time before the two species merge. There’s enough sci-fi stories and movies about this that it’s not as whacky of preposterous as it first may seem. Yes, it’s icky and the exact ethical implications haven’t been thought through, but pesonally I don’t want to rule it out. Some part deep down inside me can see how the idea may be attractive.

Robots can provide a tremendous amount of comfort. For example look at the Ri-Man that was developed at the Bio-Mimetic Control Research Center in Nagoya. It’s a robot that is intended to be a nurse’s aid, to help pick up patients at the hospital. But with artificial intelligence that allows the robots to learn emotions and even develop personalities, who’s to say that there is a limit to the degree and type of comfort / companionship that a robot can offer? Think real doll [nsfw].

robot ri-man

At least, robots can be programmed not to a) engage in or b) feel hurt if they’re told that they are engaged in annoying behaviour. Which leads me back to email addresses, a reminder to think before forwarding those cute / “send to 10 other people or you’ll die” / “send to 10 other people and you will meet the love of your life” emails because:

  • may be it was cute once, a very long time ago when people only read one newspaper; but not after you’ve seen it 457 times
  • nah, a hippo with a baby chimpanzee on its back eating a banana ain’t cute
  • by the time I get one, the fwd:fwd:re:re chain is so long, I wonder why it took me so long to get it … am I not popular enough? [/sarcasm]
  • if I were a spam harvester I’d wet myself — all those hundreds of email addresses of real people
  • baby elephants and polar bears cuddling with an Eskimo child ain’t cute … really
  • most people are too embarrassed to tell their cute-email-sending friends to buzz off (um I don’t have this problem, I tell them to buzz off)
  • they’re not just sending me an email, it’s a AYCE malware party — open an attachment, get viruses, trojan horses, spyware, worms compliments of your (shouldn’t it be ex- by now?) friend

Is it a stretch to see why a customised robot may be a viable alternative?

I’m right brained, huh

I’m a straighter-than-a-straight-arrow person who is usually logical, organised and punctual — not surprising for someone who has a science background and works in a technical field.

And yet I can write a little. It’s been a source of puzzlement for me. I mean, I can’t draw to save my life and the way I react to art is an either/or: it’s pretty, or it’s not.

This all has to do with left and right brain behaviour.

left brain
uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
knowing
acknowledges
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
practical
safe

right brain
uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
believes
appreciates
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
impetuous
risk taking

 

I found a couple of simple tests. The Hemispheric Dominance test tells me that I use my left brain more — though it was 10 left and 8 right, closer than expected. The Art Institute of Vancouver confirms that — I got 56% left and 44% right, which is almost the same split.

Now to turn everything on its head. Instead of consciously doing tests that arguably I can influence the result, here’s one I came across via kottke: a visual test for left- or right-brainedness. It can get dizzy looking at it for a long time, so I’ll put it under the cut.

Look at the dancer. Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

dancer

Apparently most people would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though it is possible to try to focus and see if she changes direction.

For the record, I see her turning strongly clockwise. Meaning, I’m right brained. Does it mean that my perception of myself may have skewed the test? That I’d consciously or subconsciously pick the safer, left brain answers because I thought “that’s me”? But when given a visual test where I can’t control the results I end up being right brained? Looking at the traits, I’d say I’m some of each, which again is not surprising.

Hmm. I don’t have a split personality, but in a way I’m glad that there’s some evidence that I can be creative.