Not really a snow day but it was finally cold enough and the humidity was low enough in Spicewood, TX to make a little snow. We don’t have the snow makers like the ones on snowathome.com (Although I’m sure we will some day.) So we used a paint sprayer filled with water attached to an air compressor.

The temperature was about 29° and 51% humidity.

Introducing the Unfocused Brain Hallucination Generation device. A Trance Machine based on visual stimulation.

In ancient times people used what is known as the Psychomantium to talk with the spirits. Nostradamus used one to tell the future. In the 1960’s Brian Gysin and Ian Sommerville created the Dreammachine. Recently pioneer Mitch Altman gave us the Brain Machine in Make: Volume 10.

All of these devices try to bring us to a heightened state of consciousness where we can achieve our full potential commune with the universe and see the future.

My device does one thing and one thing only. Makes you see trippy stuff.

I’ve built a Psychomantium. I built the Brain Machine. What I learned was that playing with your visual processing can make you see stuff.

The Brain Machine makes you see really neat stuff. Stuff like I used to see in the old days staring into a Circle K cup held over a strobe light. I tried the Brain Machine without the sound and it seemed to make me have hallucinations as well as with the sound. Plus certain transitions, like from theta to delta, made really neat visuals.

Getting bored quickly and wanting to just have the transition visual effects I made my own. This one has buttons. It allows you to switch from one state to another at will. It allowed me to find out what worked best for me.

This is just the start of my path down the visual stimulator trance machine path. I plan on making one that I can tune to which ever frequencies in each range work best for me. Then I plan on making one where I can easily store programs of different patterns and play them back. Possibly as a USB device. I have even thought about making one that will fill a whole room with light so that the patterns can be given to me while sleeping.

This is going to be fun. 8)

Tonight I am working on a brainstorming tool which needs lists of movie titles.

The tool will eventually be able to generate movie titles based on which genre you are interested in. I made one of these back in the ‘day’ when I was wanting to make a horror movie. The title I came up with then from the brainstorm software was ‘Reanimation Vermin’. Which was a story about a mad man who identified with squirrels.

The tool I am making today will cover more genres and I will add the ability for you to give it a title and it will use Bayseian classifiers to say which genre your movie title would most likely belong to.

The most important thing I’ve learned today is which genres are most popular based on the wikipedia lists of movies entries. (Example: War Films)

11085 total
1960 horror.txt
1731 comedy.txt
1242 western.txt
1095 drama.txt
1011 noir.txt
921 sci-fi.txt
760 war.txt
523 action.txt
499 fantasy.txt
488 sports.txt
452 adventure.txt
303 disaster.txt
100 comedy_scifi.txt
I imagined horror would be #1. I was surprised that western was greater than drama.

Last night I demoed the “Trampoline Sensor MK II” (patent pending) at the EFF Plutopia event @ SXSW.

If you were at the event and have any questions please leave feedback here.

Video by Vern Graner of the Sensor in action at a The Robot Group meeting.

The trampoline sensor was awarded an Editor’s Choice Ribbon at Maker Faire Austin. Local news Video of the Trampoline Sensor MK II @ Maker Faire. (About 1/2 way into the clip.)

What would happen if you took a Capitalist economy and switched it to a form of “State Capitalism” overnight? It happened on Dec 10th 2007 in RuneScape the MMORPG. They made these massive changes to put an end to real world trading. People took to the streets rioting. Flooded the forums with post after post of opinions. Most expressing displeasure with the new changes. I had a different reaction. I watched for days as the new markets started to take effect and read tons of peoples opinions.

To me it was like watching a real economy with all its complexities in faster than real time. If it was only a simplified game version of an economy. I watched people who were disillusioned with the government emigrate. I watched prices on some items fall as people panicked and flooded the market with goods. Now as time has gone on I have seen certain markets stabilize and some dry up completely.

One of the best articles I have read about the shift in the economy was the TruthScape Special Reports – Understanding and Surviving the RuneScape Market Crash of 2007 by Charles M. Kozierok. A 6 page article that does a really good job of comparing and contrasting the RuneScape economy to real world economies.

Have their efforts to stop gold farming and real world trading worked? I don’t know. There do seem to be substantially less people online and I have yet to see anyone resembling a bot or gold farmer.

I personally like the new changes. They have reduced the amount of “noise” in the cities and have cut down on the scarcity of some resources.

Sometime last year I was given a laser pointer that had 3 buttons on it. One to light the laser, an up arrow and a down arrow. It came with a IR to usb receiver that showed up under linux as a keyboard device. Obviously this was meant for doing presentations using the up and down buttons to advance the slide show. I hooked it up and used it to control XMMS.

Even though the commands that the thing was sending didn’t line up XMMS’s previous(Z) and next(B) buttons. I learned that by pulling up the menu and pointing to an option then hitting the key would reassign the function to that key.

About 2 dance parties later and the remote fell out of my pocket and was damaged.

Since then I have tried a couple of different things. None were to my satisfaction. Most of the presenter remotes or IR->USB adapters are in the $60-80 range. Way to high for me.

One thing I tried was using a Playstation 2 to usb adapter and connecting that with a wireless PS2 joystick. It worked ok. But having to have a huge ps2 adapter on you just to change songs kinda sucked…. Plus it was a little clumsy to FF and REW.

Today when I was at Frys I saw a little package in the PS2 isle (sku 3638375 ). It had a wired ps2 vibrating controller, a old school ps2 vertical stand, and a IR wireless remote and adapter for $7.90, I bought it. That is in my price range. (I am sure the price was only that low because the stand in it is for an old model ps2 that Frys no longer carries.)

I hooked it up enabled the Joystick Control 1.2.10 plugin for XMMS then mapped the keys. This thing works perfectly. It is really responsive. As a plus I also have an extra ps2 controller.

I have been working hard and furious on the next generation of POP Rage. Originally I had designed the site to be a one-a-day article about pop culture. The idea was that if you didn't have time to scour all the popular sites on the Internet, you could come to POP Rage and see the 1 story that mattered for the day. The one thing that everyone would be talking about tomorrow. It didn't work out that way. The first few articles were about what was hot that day. Of course if it were hot there were already a billion articles about it and it was super well covered. So the question became, 'what makes this site different?'

To fix this perceived problem we started covering things that nobody else was covering or things that hadn't been covered in a while. We did some great articles but finding subject matter became difficult. The problem was if it were something nobody else was covering; how could it be a pop subject? We did some great articles in this format. Staring with an article about Mashups. Then moving on to subjects like, image generators, celebrities with blogs, and one about why celebrities seem to move frequently.

The articles were great but didn't generate much interest from the cold cruel world. So I decided it was time for a change. Of the topics that we covered the two most popular were 'blogging with the stars' and 'your locks are unsafe and useless.' The one about celebrities who blog caught my eye.

I decided that a really neat thing would be to have a site that cataloged celebrity blogs. Not bloggers who became celebrities but rather celebrities who became bloggers. I thought this would be a good resource because while I was researching the 'blogging with the stars' article I discovered how hard it is to track down quality celebrity bloggers. I ran in to un-official blogs that claimed to be official. Found sites that used to be actively maintained but had been abandoned. And kept running into sites where it seemed like a publicists told someone, 'you need to blog to reach these kids today,' the celeb did but only for the duration of that promotion.

I remembered how much I was impressed by Wil Wheaton's blog and thought 'how about not just listing the blog, but telling people how good it is?' This is what gave me the full idea for the celebrity blog rank. 

So I set out not only to catalog the blogs but to rank them. How do you rank a blog for quality? Turns out it is pretty difficult. One of the easiest things to measure is frequency of posting. (That is if they have an RSS feed.) I decided this was the most important factor in determining rank.  Next I thought about the problems with sites that are not blogged by the celeb themselves but rather by an agent. I didn't want to discriminate against these sites but rather wanted sites that were made by the celeb to rank higher. (Or at least that seem to be by them.) So I added some qualitative measurement to the formula. Things like: "How often does the celeb respond to fans?", "Is the blog just — I will be here on this date and here is what I am working on — or is it here is how I feel about what I'm working on" and "does the celeb allow fans to comment or discuss on their site?" Moby as an example not only has a board where people can chat but he even goes so far as to try to allow it to be self moderating.

Now the tech. The site is basically a RSS aggregator. The feeds are collected and analyzed in a 6 hour cycle that updates something every few minutes. A cron script runs lynx. Lynx pulls up a page that that sets off the update. Why do it this round about way rather than call the php script directly? Logs. The PHP script downloads the feed parses it with Magepie and stores the results in a MySQL database. Then another script is called that runs an analysis of all the data not only from that rss but from previous ones. I wanted to judge frequency not only on the few items in the RSS but over longer periods of about a month. Once these scripts run and determine an new rank for the blog the master table is updated to reflect the new rank. No ground breaking tech. Actually the tech side is fairly boring on this project.

So there it is. The why and how of the celebrity blog ranking. Will it do better than the article-a-day POP Rage? We will see. 

I am not normally the kind of person who digs performance art. Perhaps it is because performance artists are always trying to make me think. I do enough of that on my own.

For some reason this one makde me laugh. Its a real life PacMan being chased through a college library by a ghost.  

Now that is art. I'm sure its some promo prank but it made me smile while I watched it. I think it was the way the pacman was screaming.