As I’m no longer a student, the carbonsilicon blog was rarely receiving updates. I decided to roll the content of that blog into this personal blog and let the carbonsilicon domain expire. Most of the carbonsilicon content can be found under the Cognitive Science category of this blog.
Last night I watched Fellini’s 8 1/2 for the second time. Although I enjoyed the movie the first time around, I think I was too focused on the dialog, figuratively and literally since I require the subtitles. This time, I ignored much of the dialog and really payed attention to the visual aspects of the film. Fellini, as compared against many modern filmmakers, makes incredible use of as many informational ‘axes’ has he can find in the visual domain. For instance, in one scene the emotional state of the character is described by the movement of his feet (his face is out of frame). A tremendous amount of attention is given to detail that contributes to the overall aesthetic of a scene, thus increasing the amount of information that can be delivered to the viewer; information beyond the dialog and superficial appearances. For example, modern filmmakers appear to have a fetish with presenting reality. However, in doing so they sacrifice additional information bandwidth that can be delivered to the viewer by dispensing with convention. The hyperreal and surreal provide additional dimensions of information that can be delivered in parallel with the ‘real’. Fellini leverages this dimension by experimenting with non-traditional modes of visual exposition. There seems to be intent behind seemingly mundane actions such as the way a woman is running her hands across a sheet or the way a person is kicking their feet while sitting. In addition, he merges fantasy and in-film reality in sometimes difficult to delineate patterns.
My overall impression was that far more information was being delivered to me, due to this efficient use of the artistic space, when watching 8 1/2 then is present in more traditional styles of films. In the traditional filmmaker’s reluctance to ‘overload’ the film-reality with ‘unreal’ or exaggerated elements they place arbitrary limits on the types and amount of information that is conveyed to the viewer.
The blog Neuronarrative, http://neuronarrative.wordpress.com/, has an interesting post on “Identify Politics.” In sum, it’s the notion that politicians will present themselves as characters that a large demographic will relate with and thus will gain their vote. Indeed, this tactic worked well for Bush Jr. by presenting himself as a modest “good’ol boy” rather than the product of unmatched privilege.
I also notice this sort of posturing in the corporate environment, albeit a slightly different manifestation. Anyone wishing to “climb the ladder” must present themselves as being “compatible” with the culture of management in ways that are obviously outside the scope of work such as family, interests, politics and even alcohol tolerance (there are studies that correlate people who drink with co-workers with higher wages).
Ultimately, people make behavioral projections based on how close a perceived identity matches their own. The people you work with extrapolate what you may do in the future by identifying you with some preconceived generalization. In politics, if people feel they identify with the politician they’ll say, “I just know he’s going to do ‘this’ because he/she’s like me.”
When you don’t make an effort to present yourself as “a compatible identity,” and believe me I have some practice at ignoring this aspect of social dynamics, you’re seen at best eccentric or worse a loose cannon. Rather than an asset, you’re a liability because the people essentially “don’t get you” and feel that you’re less predictable than those the person(s) can identify with, regardless of actual behavior.
In day to day life, this particular social dynamic is probably necessary. It is certainly very ingrained in most people. However, politicians, advertisers and anyone else seeking gain can exploit this behavior characteristic without many people being aware of it at a conscious level. I find that dangerous and unethical.
Macintosh computers and OS X have a reputation for usability, Linux does not, and Windows tends to sit somewhere in between in most people eyes. I run all three operating systems. The Ubuntu flavor of Linux being my primary workstation OS and Mac/OS X being my mobile solution. I run Windows XP and Vista on a VM on both Linux and OS X. Today, I was rather shocked when I plugged in my new Kodak camera into my Macbook and it was not auto-detected but it was on Ubuntu Linux! Then I removed the SD card and put it in a jump drive, still no action on OS X but Ubuntu auto-mounted it again and gave me a view of the file system.
What is the world coming to? Could it be that the open source community is actually surpassing Apple in terms of usability? Well, probably not quite yet in terms of the bigger picture but I remember when Linux was too imature to be a viable system for mainstream computing without a dual boot with some other OS. Certainly, that has not been the case for a couple years now. At this point, it is evident that strides are being made in the “it just works” department as well; an area where Linux was weak historically. Onward to glory!
Interestingly, both kinds can make you loopy. The wine we drink and the wine we use to play Windows games on Linux. I recently got a couple older games to work that required a little tweaking. First, Rise of Nations was failing to install upon entry of the CD key. This was remedied by copying mfc42.dll to wine’s windows\system32 directory. I’m guessing there’s probably some legal issue regarding redistributing this dll with wine. Secondly, Heroes 3 was failing to play under my default wine settings. Under the Graphics tab in wine config, I enabled the virtual desktop and then it worked fine. Appearently v1 of Heroes 3 requires a 800×600 video mode which I do not have configured under X.
“Because the universe is expanding, it takes me longer each morning to find my keys.” – Woody Allen
Beyond the simple matter that it facilitates far too much beer consumption, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been bound to golden handcuffs for the past 8 years; well at least gold plated. Working as a developer is financially rewarding but also spirit crushing. After all, profit and capital are king. Creativity is usually considered more of a liability than a virtue. If your goal is to make money and be efficient it is indeed sensible to minimize surprises. However, this is not the environment for me. Consistency and suppressed creativity leads to boredom, boredom causes frustration, frustration leads to stress and chronic stress causes brain atrophy! I would have stopped killing my brain cells long ago if it weren’t for my own insecurities and the propoganda machine telling me, “you need a large income to be safe and held in high esteem by others” and “you won’t be happy unless you have a big cozy house.”
For the last few years I’ve worked around the problem by taking a boring development project and turning it into something I was interested in. However, you can only get away with this for so long. Words like “loose canon” tend to get around after management discovers that you’ve written the application in a little known language using techniques unknown to anyone else in the organization. Although it may translate to near term job security, they’ll always remain paranoid of what you may do next if given any rope. I fully admit that this is terrible practice for a commercial application development environment but it’s the only way I can motivate myself to do that kind of work anymore.
It should have never gone that far…but those damn golden handcuffs. I may also be able to plea temporary insanity due to the loss of grey matter due to chronic frustration. Anyway, as previously alluded to in this blog, I’ve decided that I’m sure I want to return to school at this point and pursue a research career. I just need ‘way’ more variety of things to explore. Learning a new programming framework every now and then it nowhere near enough to keep me going. I’m just a bit bummed it took me so long to arrive at this conclusion. For the very near term, I’ll subdue my frustrations by trying to get neural critters to run around mazes in Lisp.
Where’s all the old Blog entries? Well, I finally ditched my old web host for a new one. At any rate, I will probably not migrate the few blog entries I had on the old site to this new server. Hopefully, this new host, A2 hosting, will work out better for me.
The main reason I left dwhs was their appearent ignorance, or apathy, toward simple security problems. When I complained about their levels of security they simply denied security issues rather then working to resolve them. For example, they regularly sent renewal e-mails that contained the site admin password in html. In addition, their site contained an unsecured redirect that had the admin password in plain-text on the url query string (not https). This would explain how I was hijacked twice, but months went by and they didn’t seem to pay attention to these issues. The hijacking got me temporarily blacklisted by Google, it was a mess. In addition, I had e-mails begin to mysteriously bounce which was the last draw. I didn’t even bother to contact them about it; I just left. Dwhs is flakey and overpriced. Here, I have a bit less bandwidth but more developer options, more apps, and it’s half the price.