The Longest Now


La Voz Del Mako
Sunday February 06th 2011, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,international,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

Some things are too good to mako up: The prison-blogging project La Voz Del Mako, “un espacio libre para los reclusos” at Centro Penitenciario de Albolote in Spain, apparently began life as a newspaper of the same name a dozen years ago. The current director of the prison said, in setting up the blog, “I wanted to open more than prison.” It’s not quite Between the Bars, but it looks like an interesting cloistered-community-wide effort.



A patent alternative: aaaaaagmmnrr

Hooke liked to note discoveries he had made before he had found time to exlpain and prove his discoveries.  He used the simple mechanich of anagramming an entire phrase:

The true Mathematical and Mechanichal form of all manner of ARches for Building, with the true butment necessary to each of them. A Problem which no Architectonick Writer hath ever yet attempted, much less performed. abcccddeeeeefggiiiiiiiillmmmmnnnnnooprrsssttttttuuuuuuuux

This code, not decrypted during Hooke’s life, was revealed on his death to anagram to: Ut pendet continuum flexile, sic stabit contiguum rigidum inversum — “As hangs a flexible cable, so inverted, stand the touching pieces of an arch”.  The modest original context follows; (more…)



λ♥[love]
Saturday January 08th 2011, 3:00 am
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,poetic justice,Rogue content editor,Uncategorized

I’m almost back from 2010… here one more from the road, to make you smile or win your fellow linguist’s ♥!. Lyrics and fabulous youtube recording (what, no video?) are (c) Christine Collins:

let me have your heart and i will give you love
the denotation of my soul is the above
if there’s anything i lack, it’s you
as my double brackets, you make me mean things
i can’t say enough
(more…)



Brilliant US political satire… from Taipei
Thursday November 04th 2010, 3:54 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,fly-by-wire,international,metrics,poetic justice

NMAtv gives the secret DailyShow cabal a saucy McRibbing. (Hat tip to the show for calling it out.)



Simon Eisinger on Herman Miller
Saturday October 02nd 2010, 2:26 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Glory, glory, glory,metrics,poetic justice,Uncategorized

My dear cousin Simon (of Lynch / Eisinger / Design) is an inventive architect and the inspiration for some of my own passion for design work.  His firm put together a showroom for Herman Miller recently, and over the summer it won two serious awards — the highest architecture award in New York State, and California’s state award for Adaptive Reuse.  It’s nice to see this work recognized! See below for some view of it.

Herman Miller building interior

Herman Miller building interior

front view of the building

Front view of the building



Reagle on the Culture of Wikipedia
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 2:33 pm
Filed under: international,metrics,poetic justice,popular demand,wikipedia

Joseph Reagle is a Wikipedian and a researcher of social collaboration.  He was an early fellow at the Berkman Center before I got involved there, worked on some interesting W3C projects, and joined NYU’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication where he studied collaboration and Wikipedia.  He turned some of his PhD work into a book on Wikipedia culture, which was just published this month.

Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia” is an excellent read, suited for both my mother and for the armchair sociology buff.  Having seen some of the detailed research that went into it, I was pleased to find it organizes that into clear narrative facets, each illuminating part of the whole, without creating artificial story arcs.

The book is careful with its use of language and terminology, self-conscious of when it is sharing a widely understood phrase and when it is creating one that it needs for clarity.  It includes a comprehensive look at Wikipedian writings and coming-of-age debates during the heady period from 2004 to 2006, when much of the texture of current community structures was being formed.  The writing is poetic at times, and I particularly appreciate its comparisons to similar projects across two millennia (we have indeed been collating and collaborating for a long time)

This is also the first extended research into Wikipedian culture to strike what I feel is a carefully-sourced (60 pages of endnotes!) and neutral perspective, giving it a certain… idempotence.  In the tradition of early philosophical wikis, Wikipedia has long hosted a great deal of its own commentary on and analysis of itself and its community, and these existing analyses are given apprporiate historical prominence.  Good Faith Collaboration builds on these on-wiki conversations to offer a balanced look at decision-making within the community, describing the varied and sometimes conflicting views held by groups within the community.

Kudos to Joseph for this work, which I suspect will become a launching point for future community analyses.

There is much more that could be accomplished with the open ten-year history of Wikipedia across its many languages, subprojects, and variants!   One natural expansion (both for Wikipedia and for other long-lived transparent communities) would be to repeat a certain community analysis at regular intervals along a timeline.  We can observe and classify cultural change with a precision and a visualization of propagating memes that would be impossible in more opaque communities (dominated by invisible communication).  This was more true a few years ago than it is today — in the past year many significant documents or ideas were drafted in private, and perhaps not versioned at all, and many conversations left unarchived.  If we are to continue to make this sort of learning and analysis available for future generations, we may need to refocus our energies on public and transparent communication channels.



Three lovely things
Saturday August 21st 2010, 11:15 am
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,international,poetic justice

1) 23andMe has Genetic kits for genealogy and health analysis. I’m told they are like the OLPC version of genetic kits — green, cheerful, roughly lunchbox sized…

2) My mother made a lot of calls from her cell phone to my brother in Chile in the aftermath of its recent geologic activity. This week she received a letter from AT&T in the mail letting her know that all calls to Chile during that week were being refunded. Three cheers for transcontinental neighborliness!

3) Birthday Milongas and Holy Lolas.



Drinking the Kool-Aid (sic)
Tuesday August 10th 2010, 1:34 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid, they say — commonly remembered as a reference to the final drinks of most victims of the Jonestown massacre. At the time the phrase was coined,Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was also popular, and in the context of  60s hippie culture, “drinking the kool-aid” could also mean taking LSD.

Early reports about the compound referred to “cool aid(sic) packets”.  Since then, Kraft Foods and others have maintained that it was an urban legend that they all drank Kool-Aid, and that it was Flavor Aid instead – a misunderstanding thanks to the genericization of “cool aid” as a term.

Enter YouTube, Wikipedia, and the open web.  After decades of casual debate, we can now resolve half of the mystery: they certainly had both powdered drinks at Jonestown, and we have a handy link to the 9 seconds of a newsreel that shows it first-hand.  Whether the final drink was from one set of packets or the other, this handily settles the question of whether they had Kool Aid on site.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a few seconds of video effectively used as a moving-image citation!  Note to Readers: you can also embed YouTube videos and tell them where to start playback.

Hat-tip to brassratgirl for helping me towards enlightenment on the issue.



I am already addicted to “Young Imam”
Tuesday June 29th 2010, 1:34 pm
Filed under: indescribable,international,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

This new reality show from Malaysia looks amazing. I would go out of my way to watch this sort of show for any religion whatever. (The Frum and the Restless didn’t do it for me. But if you have another amazing reality show that captures real life, let me know.) The winner of the show is sponsored to take the Hajj, and has a chance to lead services for a famous congregation in Kuala Lumpur.

UPDATE: Here’s a YouTube video trailer of the show.



Bull dies of exhaustion near Times Square
Friday September 19th 2008, 7:04 pm
Filed under: poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

OK, it was in Queens.  And it was a young schizophrenic bull, not an old one with degenerative troubles.  But you can’t make this stuff up.



frightmotif: deleveraging and the veil of illusion
Thursday September 18th 2008, 3:50 am
Filed under: chain-gang,fly-by-wire,international,metrics,poetic justice,Uncategorized

Our interconnected global economy is built on the illusion of trust.  Gautama himself would be impressed by how far we have advanced the texture of societal illusion.  While there are certainly many non-illusory sources of trust, the trust most modern men have in our financial instruments and currencies is based on a blind association of “interest rates”, “inflation”, “market valuation” and similar concepts with a hazy set of economic laws, as though they were fundamental laws in the sense that one discoveres Mathematical or Physical Laws.   Not social norms that could change on short notice; not starting rules of nomic games of risk and manipulation; not Massively Multilayered Online Resource-Permuting Guidelines, hundreds of indirections removed from the original social norm of personal credit and unenforcable on any large scale.  They are perceived instead as Laws, discoverable and immutableNot quite.

For better or worse, we live in fascinating times.  Thanks to this motif of fright, many once-in-a-lifetime financial decisions are being made every day.  A few recent moves by the US Federal Reserve Bank, striving to maintain order:

  • Sunday: an unprecedented 4-hour Sunday afternoon org-to-org trading session, part of “last-ditch efforts to prevent toxic assets from ailing Lehman Brothers spilling into global markets and rupturing investor faith in the international financial system”.   The result: only $1B in trades, slightly less panic the following day, and a loosening of the shared global trust in unwavering financial regulation.
  • Sunday night?: Banks are told they may use deposits to fund their investment bank subsidiaries, flaunting Federal Reserve Act Section 23A. potentially stabilizing failing banks at the cost of risk to individual investors.
  • Monday: a ‘dramatic loosening’ of the standard for federal loans to banks, potentially stabilizing them at the cost of dramatically increased risk of government losses.  Meanwhile, the US Treasury’s S&P AAA rating is vulnerable. Shared global trust in regulation dips.
  • Tuesday: The Fed lends $85B to AIG, after refusing them $20B over the weekend.  True, AIG isn’t a bank, but see FRA Section 13(3).  AIG uses ‘all of its assets’ as collateral, giving the Fed an 80% stake.
  • Tuesday: the FDIC feels the crunch, says it’s ok for a while, but makes a medium-term request for a $500B line of credit.  Why?  Well, while there are over $6,000B in bank deposits in the US, more than half of them FDIC insured, banks report less than $300B cash on hand. And the FDIC reserve is down to $45B, only enough to cover ~15% of the difference in case of a widespread bank run.
  • Wednesday: Banks may count goodwill as capital when meeting regulatory requirements for capital onhand.  This allows a deepening of the leveraging of assets of troubled banks, which only caused trouble during the S&L crisis; what’s different now?
  • Thursday: After three Reserve Fund money market accounts drop below $1 a share, Putnam‘s Prime Money Market Fund shuts down to avoid losses.  It’s been a while.
  • Friday: The Treasury pulls out a few more stops and assigns the $50B in the Exchange Stabilization Fund to current money market funds.

Updates as the week progresses.  The large market swings are reminiscent of the month before Black Monday… so stay tuned, relax, stick to insured banks, and (remind your loved ones to) stay out of the stock market.

Liquidity pyramid diagrams, fractional reserves, and other comments below the fold. (more…)



XO Wikireader : compressed joy
Monday June 02nd 2008, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,international,poetic justice

Chris Ball, a Mad bio-savvy artisan, and Wade Brainerd all spent part of the past two weeks getting a disk-conserving wikireader onto the XO that supports browsing and simple searching over a 100-fold compressed set of articles.
The result :

  • a 100M activity containing most of the Spanish Wikipedia, with illustrations, math fontification, and templates
  • scripts that support generating a new version from the latest articles, from heuristics defining the most popular titles, with only a few hours of work

There is also a short blacklist of pages and images that need improvement which will change over time.  A whitelist of unpopular but crucial pages will surely build up, and the process will find a way to learn from the subject-specific wikireader efforts to produce smaller uncompressed collections.  The same idea and scripts can provide a roughly Britannica-sized collection for every major language; or a multilingual cover of the 200 smallest languages; expect an English one soon for comparison.
While this reader (which has to unzip each page as it is requested) is slower than browsing html, it is still a pleasure to use. The real lack, shared with other readers to date, is that comments and editing don’t yet work…



Splitting field of failure over the field of disciplines
Thursday February 28th 2008, 11:30 pm
Filed under: indescribable,poetic justice

Inspired by this spoof of Mankiw and the droll wit of my future Aikido opponent, I am tempted to publish a blog tackling each failed field in turn.  Oh, and there are so many…



browsing while cogitating, youtube edition
Saturday February 23rd 2008, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,poetic justice,Uncategorized

Chinese philosophers debated for centuries whether one discovers the nature of the universe by investigating oneself or by investigating the outer world. I don’t have a dog in that fight (I might say both grant equal power of discovery when approached properly), but I do like poring through random selections to get a feel for an expansive whole (yes, I want a Special:Random for the universe).

Sometimes I do that reflexively while thinking, practiving a little Langerfulness. So it was that I found myself tonight seven pages into the discussion threads for the YouTube video “Why Chuck [Norris] endorsed Mike [Huckabee] – Episode One [of Five]“, where I ran across the following exchange between BuckDresser and jtm04d; those of you who know my favorite tests of familiarity with good scientific method may appreciate it… (more…)



Friday March 30th 2007, 2:57 pm
Filed under: poetic justice

Quanta plans widescale rollout of cheap computers; the cheapest with small screens and no hard drive.  No word on whether they care about power and life…

… …



Nomenclatural justice
Sunday March 18th 2007, 4:14 am
Filed under: poetic justice

I keep on running into people who refer to Wikipedia with over-definite articulation. That is to say, with a definite article. I am reminded of a comment from years past, care of Joho:

The circle of articulate digerati who have recently preferred the
“the Wikipedia” to the “Wikipedia” option, however, highlight the
urgency of the struggle for nomenclatural justice.

I have updated the Wikipedia FAQ to clarify and rectify the reality of the matter, and trust that the “the” the Wikipedia-loving fans of the aforementioned circle have grown accustomed to, will in the near future fade into the recesses of the past.

Please fight for justice in nomenclature, and save us all from grammatical confusion and disorder.

Nomenclatural justice …



How to criticize Wikipedia: Lesson 1, Constructive criticism
Wednesday September 13th 2006, 12:01 am
Filed under: poetic justice

Welcome back to “How to criticize Wikipedia”, a series for bloggers and others hoping to change Wikipedia for the better.  After a brief delay, reporting live from Abuja, here is the first lesson, on constructive criticism.

Criticizing Wikipedia is a serious undertaking, and not one to be picked up lightly. You may have the world’s most incisive criticism of Wikipedia; but if you can’t express yourself in a way that will make any community member listen, being incisive won’t be enough.   Be sure that you

  • read up on past discussions along the same lines,
  • respect and take advantage of the way the Wikipedia community welcomes and responds directly to criticism,
  • place with care any criticisms, first identifying the 2 or 3 best places for them
  • assume good faith of others when wording criticisms.

Reading up: for one thing, most criticisms about Wikipedia and how it has treated your favorite writer, contributor, subject, biography, or ideology have already been stated somewhere, with cross-references and ensuing discussion and refinement, somewhere on Wikipedia itself.  For another, many controversial aspects of Wikipedia have also been the topic of policy debates, even proposed and adopted policy, and community WikiProjects.  Try searching WP for topics related to your criticism before typing out a new manifesto.

Respect:  Most organizations and most websites provide only for closed-circuit feedback and complaints.  Respect the open channels available to you (as well as the zealots and lunatics) for criticisms and discussions, avoid abusing them,  and recognize that those responding to you also spend their time responding to the aforementioned zealots and lunatics, and mistake the seriousness of your criticisms if they are in a hurry.  (They may also have had the same discussion a dozen times before.)  If someone snaps at you, don’t instantly snap back; it takes at least two for a critical debate to degenerate into a flamefest.

Place with care: The fact that you can post your criticism to the personal talk pages of every active community member, and to every discussion portal, does not mean you should do so.  Find one place to make your point clearly and solicit discussion, and no more than two other places where it or related topics are already being discussed, from which to link to your point.  When in doubt, ask on the Village Pump where to put such criticism; the community members likely to respond will know where all the policy and discussion pages are, even if you don’t.

Assume good faith: The contributors to the site are not part of a great conspiracy; do not share any uniform political, religious, or editorial goals; do not hate you; and are not ignoring what you have to say.  They do not all speak with one voice.  A couple of editors, even if they are 2 of the 1000 administrators on en:wp, do not represent the “view” of the entire project, nor any significant subset of it.  Individual editors may be immature, in a bad mood, uninterested in dealing with criticisms of the site.  The body of editors as a whole responds well to gracefully-put criticism, and even encourages and highlights it:

How to criticize Wikipedia: Lesson 1, Constructive criticism …




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