"indecision may or may not be my problem."
Oh god, it gets worse. A lamp that tracks your movements, illuminating the tasks you focus on. Seems fine, right? WRONG. Another mode causes a red glow to appear and an iris to focus the beam. They say it's to help you find things, but it looks awfully like a death-ray to us.
they even made an illustration.
that's it. my thesis is printed and signed by my advisor. still hunting for some signatures, but there's no more work to be done, and no changes to be made. i've uploaded the final pdf for your reading pleasure.
please don't point out any typos in the final version. at least not for a while. however, i might re-edit it for a celebratory binding ceremony held later this fall.
compared to the thesis defense, which felt great, this is much more of an anti-climax, not very special. just another night, another printing job. when all is said and done, it's just a pdf, and not a very pretty one to boot. i don't think i changed the face of science. at least i gave it a fair shot.
somehow this pdf doesn't capture the experience quite well.
if you're in southern california, check out time bracketing at siggraph 2007's art gallery. view a print of "stata latin" on display, and get a chance to play with the software that was written to generate the images.
i'll also be giving an art talk entitled "distort/rectify: questioning human perception", on thursday morning.
in accidental sync with the cuban revolutionary movement day, and after four years of work, my thesis defense is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:30pm in the bartos theater of the media lab (lower level of m.i.t building e15). here comes a date that for years was located "somewhere" in the muddy future, with often a day on which it didn't even seem possible.
for those out of town but who still want to watch, there will be a live webcast (the link becomes active only at the time of the event). 3:30pm boston time is 21:30h in europe and 22:30h in israel.
i'm still negotiating the possibility to have questions come in over skype at the q&a session. email me for my skype id, if you're interested in that.
other than that - see you on the other side.
from 'a man without a country', after reflecting on the grand visions of "the world of tomorrow" more commonplace in the early decades of the 20th century:
The biggest truth to face now [...] is that I don't think people give a damn whether the planet goes on or not. It seems to me as if everyone is living as members of Alcoholics Anonymous do, day by day. And a few more days will be enough. I know of very few people who are dreaming of a world for their grandchildren.
two quotes i read this morning in harper's magazine. one inspiring (but hard to live by) and one insightful.
About the scientific approach to environmentalism, from Curtis White's "the idols of environmentalism":
The establishment of those principles by which we might live would begin with three questions. First, what does it mean to be a human being? Second, what is my relation to other human beings? And third, what is my relation to Being as such, the ongoing miracle that there is something rather than nothing? If the answer to these questions is that the purpose of being human is “the pursuit of happiness” (understood as success, which is understood as the accumulation of money); and if our relation to others is a relation to mere things (with nothing to offer but their labor); and if our relation to the world is only to “resources” (that we should exploit for profit); then we should be very comfortable with the world we have. If it goes to perdition at least we can say that we acted in good faith. But if, on the other hand, we answer that there should be a greater sense of self-worth in being a human, more justice in our relation to others, and more reverence for Being, then we must either live in bad faith with capitalism or begin describing a future whose fundamental values and whose daily activities are radically different from what we currently endure.
About the shallowness and fictition of the press, from a 1986 interview with Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard:
INTERVIEWER: But when you describe yourself as a "destroyer of stories," that is a theoretical statement.
BERNHARD: Well, people say a lot of things in fifty years of life. If a reporter is sitting in a restaurant somewhere and he hears you say the beef's no good, then he'll always claim you're someone who doesn't like beef, for the rest of your life. You go for a walk in the woods, and someone takes a photo of you, then for the next eighty years you're always walking in the woods. There's nothing you can do about it.
continuing to report on my study findings, and as another gender issue, i found it striking that the only really significant gender bias was in the ranking (on a scale of 1-7) of the following sentence: "I was the most important member on the team."
last month i ran human subject studies in which people worked with a robot to solve a task. as part of the post-experimental debriefing i asked the subjects whether they felt the robot was male or female.
aur being a lamp with no humanoid features, i expected the answer to be somewhat diverse. instead, all but one thought the robot was male.
this might have to do with a number of things, like the fact that i am male and i 'represent' the robot, or the fact that highly powered motorized tools are considered male, or the fact that i designed its motions and they have a male feeling to them.
however, when asked why they thought the robot was male, i almost only received disparaging explanations: 'it's male because it's lazy', 'because it does what you tell it to do', 'because it's like a dog', 'because it's sort of stupid' etc.
it was particularly curious that subjects would tell me (a male stranger) this without embarassment. maybe there's something in the experimenter-subject relationship that makes people be more honest.
this sort of response was true for both male and female subjects, although more so for female ones.
nice to know that our gender is held in such high esteem in this day and age.
every once in a while you make a good purchase that you're really happy with for many years to come.
one of those for me was a pretty reasonably priced 200mm (8") kitchen knife from arcos, a spanish knife manufacturer. i've had it for about 10 years now, and it's still the best knife in my drawer.
eight (!) new phrases in the american phrase book. thanks to dan, shahar, and mikey.
pretty soon i couldn't see anything. my headlights were reflected off the incoming snowflakes, resulting in a 100x speed version of the old starfield simulation screensaver. turning up the headlights to high beam only made it worse, amplifying the influx, and given the fact that the thick snowfall totally obscured my vision, i actually considered turning off the headlights altogether.
the way information flows... i overheard a conversation on the subway escalator about this youtube clip: stevie wonder sings 'superstition' on sesame street. funky.
and you gotta love the little girl (or is it a boy - hard to know, it's the 70s) rocking out.
people are whispering it in boston, too. 'all this global warming is not too bad, really. at least for us... considering the mild winter we're getting this year.'
der spiegel has an interesting chat with climatologist hans von storch, who thinks that climate change is not all that bad. in the interview he says, among others, stuff like this:
The fear of climatic catastrophes is an ancient one and not unlike our fear of strangers. In the past, people believed that the climate almost always changes for the worse, and only rarely for the better -- God's punishment for sinful behavior. And nowadays it's those hedonistic wastrels who pollute the air so that they can look at some pretty fish in the South Seas. It would be better if we only ever rode bikes. Oh, there's always someone wagging a finger in disapproval.
"Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever."
from an alleged list of analogies and metaphors found
in actual high school essays.
just came back from the 2nd human-robot interaction conference, and an mit student who works in gehry's extravagant stata center, home of m.i.t's computer science and a.i lab, made a curious comment to me.
while i wondered whether it was a nightmare to run robots in the building's twisted architecture, she said that actually it's almost as if the building was made with robots in mind, because no two views of it look the same, which is great for robot navigation. she is obviously right. robots have limited sensing capabilities and there's nothing more confusing for the little critters than repetitive hallways and identical doorways.
no such problem at the stata center. robots could easily do single-camera memory-based navigation in that beast of crooked lines and tilted walls. the glass walls, though, she admitted - were a bummer for the laser range-finders.
honestly, i doubt that gehry thought about any of that, though.
it's not new to my readers that i think america is insane in its attitude towards alcohol.
not only did they check i.d at the entrance to give us bright green wristbands identifying us as 21+ years old (which to me are as much a style and buzz killer as the red plastic cups for drinks), but according to "a new law", the bartenders also carded you every time you wanted to get a drink. no matter how old you looked.
and when i say "no matter", i mean they took that very literally - denying my friend's mom who was there with us, and who "used a senior citizen discount for the first time" that week, a drink. when the barman found out that she had a wristband (!), he actually called security to remove the hazard.
if all of that wasn't enough, there was additional alcohol enforcement in form of a burly guy with a bright orange jacket emblazened with the words "beverage control" strolling the crowds to make sure everything is in order.
seriously, sometimes it feels like going out in america is actually just part of a huge prison team-building activity.
use filters on the right to see additional content by month or category
content here by guy hoffman .. as seen times since march 2004