Rant


Last night I showed my “Hallucination Generation” device at the The Robot Group meeting and many people asked me how the device could cause visual hallucinations. I have a theory about that.

First in normal people speak. Sensory overload in your eyes makes you see stuff.

Now in geek speak. The phenomenon of pareidolia, which is a type of apophenia, is the brain’s (dis)ability to see patterns where none exist. When the UBHG device flashes lights in the eyes it causes retinal fatigue. As the duration of exposure and frequency changes, the amount of noise coming from the cones and rods increases. The brain does its best to interpret the noise. Depending on the viewer’s natural tendency of pareidolia, what the brain interprets can range from just a flashing light to religious icons. Most see patterns like checkerboards, spirals, and triangles.

The next logical question is: Why use Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Theta waves as the basis for the frequency of flashing? I guess the best answer is: Why not? They seem to work fairly well. I do want to make a future version where each of the four frequencies can be tuned to what works best for my body’s specific nature.

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.

Starting around 5:20am CST on 05.22.07 it looks like a spammer is using my domain name as the From: field in their spam. I had a catch bucket turned on for the domain and in less than 30 minutes I got around 1000 bounce notices. Had I had the bucket turned off I never would have seen them doing this.

I wish there were something I could do about this, but there isnt. The mail isn’t going through my server at all. I’m only being refrenced in the From fields. See Wikipedia Email Spoofing and Joe Job Like Automated Spam

I want to be a nomad for a while. I want to travel.

Tyler Durden said something about the things you own owning you, which is true. The odd thing is that you don't really own them.  Like all things in life it is an illusion. Quit paying taxes on your home and see how long you 'own' it. Quit paying to store your things and soon they are gone.

So this year we decided to purge everything we have. (Well except the things we are actually using.) Attachment to things is hard to give up. I have done pretty well with it in my life. Over the years I have lost everything I have at least 3 times. So I like to think that I don't really have attachment. Rather I like to think that I just have stuff and it's good while its here. If it were gone, I wouldn't be too upset.

 But how do you get rid of those things that have memories attached? Easy. Take a photo that will serve as a token of that memory. Here is an example.  We had a kitty who was getting very sick and we had to give him fluids. Somehow we kept the bag that the fluid came in for years. Now when I look at it, I remember the kitty. Should I get rid of it? Of course. But how will I have that same memory when I look at the bag? Take a picture. They store much easier and have the same token effect on memory. Now I am free to dispose of the bag. It helps that I am a decent photographer and can take pretty good photos of the items before they are gone.

 Wondering just how much stuff we have? Take a look at this. This is one of our caches of stuff. We call this room 'the inventory room.' Then plan is to get rid of everything either by listing it on ebay, craigslist, local paper, garage sale, giving it to goodwill, or throwing it away. Not an easy task at all. 

The only things that we don't plan on purging are the things that we actively use, our artwork, and our books.

While talking with a friend one day he said to me, "my car gets 6 miles per dollar." Wow! I though. That sucks. Then I realized what he had said. "My car gets 6 miles per dollar."

Now I understood. It was a new way of thinking about how much it costs to drive a car. Not really a big revelation. Most people would say what's the big deal. But the thought struck me so hard that I felt compelled to make a page where you can calculate miles per dollar.

I have long believed that there is no such thing as innate talent. 

I instead believe that talent is something that is developed over time by practice. I just read an article on Scientific American called the "The Expert Mind." It covers many theories of how the mind works including "chunking" and "templates" which are ways to explain how an expert can store larger amounts of data temporarily by recognizing patterns.

The article also points out that practice alone will not increase ones ability. It points out that the practice must have constant challenges for the growth to occur. 

The big quote from the article is: "Teachers in sports, music, and other fields tend to believe that talent matters and that they know it when they see it. In fact, they appear to be confusing ability with precocity."

That is something I can agree with. I have always thought that I can acquire any skill even an artistic one by practice. I can also become talented by enough practice.

When I look at a new skill that I would like to acquire I evaluate it like this. I determine what amount of effort is required to reach different levels, then determine how much of my time I would like to spend to get to what level.

An example is painting. I have often thought that I would like to gain skill in painting but in my mind it would take too long. There are so many tiny skills that go into making someone a good painter that I would have to work for many years to achieve the results I desire. One of the greatest skills of painting is being able to determine what in reality is important. That is when you paint a wall do you paint every brick or just enough bricks to represent the wall.

I know many people really believe in talent even though there is not really any scientific evidence to support it. It may be correct. I think a comment I in the Slashdot discussion about this by Colin Smith sums it all up for the way I think: "Of course The idea that they just worked harder, or rather, better than you is uncomfortable. It means that you're just lazy, don't have the necessary drive or don't know how to train. it's much easier to believe that they are just innately better and it's not really your fault that you can't reach their level. "

Many people tell me that I have computer talent. I agree that I do; but it is only because I have been using computers on average 6 hours a day for over 20 years. I knew nothing at first. I read many books and worked on new and challenging things every day. 

There is an interesting piece from the NYT about men without jobs. I have to say after reading it, I admit many of my friends and I resemble those people profiled in the article. 

Its kinda spooky. I just figured since we are in Austin that's just the way it is. I had no idea we were just a statistic in a trend.

So months ago, Around 6 months ago, when I first started thinking about XML flashcards, I couldn’t find much.

Now that I have taken the plunge and wrote some software to do it, everybody is doing it. I do a search for ‘xml flashcards’ and now suddenly there is lots of info. How did I miss all of this 6 mos ago when I was hoping to find that someone else had already done it?

Well now I’m gonna search and see if people have made any cool data sets. If so then I’m just that much further ahead. I have the program written to take the XML file and print it to pre-punched business card blanks. That way I get 10 cards per sheet. (After manual duplex printing.)

I punch a hole in the upper left hand corner of these and bind them by chapter or subject using a 3/4″ binder ring.

I feel compelled to rant about binder rings. A few years ago you could get them anywhere. All the major office supply stores carried them in boxes of 100 for good prices. Now it seems that they think these things are made o’ gold. They sell them in packs of 3 (three. no really three) for the price they used to sell a box for.

One of my most treasured possessions is a box of 9/16″ binder rings. Never before and never again will you these these. I got them in London in the year 1998 or so. Nobody makes them. People think I am an unfrozen caveman when I ask about them. Bah.

All this because I wanted flash cards to study my Italian.