29 December 2007


Whatever you're doing now, stop it. I don't know what strange trail of links and memes led you here like a trail of breadcrumbs through the dark forest of the web, but you need to put them aside immediately, and go read Pinakothek. I mean, seriously, stop reading this, click on the link (the underlined word at the end of the previous sentence), and read that blog. All of it. If you aren't impressed with that prose, you need to go to the hospital and donate your eyes to someone who will put them to proper use.

Metal Fever

I'm linking "Metal Fingers in My Body" mostly for the following quote:
Personally I do not have much faith in the uncanny valley. The original publication on this topic (dating from 1970) was not based on any empirical research ... it was more an intuitive feeling expressed by Masahiro Mori that has since been hyped into an assumption of fact.
Every mention of interaction, sexual or other, with robots/androids seemingly requires a link to the wikipedia entry on "The Uncanny Valley." Doing so indicates that you're cool enough to be linked on boing boing and Metafilter.

I ranted about this a few times in the past, but who the hell listens to me? But said article provides the only positive note I can find in China's firewalling of wikipedia. In fact, I will delude myself into believing they block the resource only to prevent me from getting my blood pressure up the next time I find myself looking at that damned graph.

As to the article itself, I don't know a delicate way to phrase this. Mr. Levy says, "I believe that sexbots will change our perceptions of human relationships." Perhaps I'm missing something here, but what he's describing looks for the world like using more sophisticated technology for the purpose of jerking off, and if any group will focus a disproportionate amount of their time to said pursuit, it's those who work in the technology industry. I would even say that the necessity that's nominally the mother of inventions is the need to enhance the inventor's onanistic practices. I'm not criticizing or judging anyone. Lord knows I've spent countless lonely evenings thinking of great technological advances, to the point where I began to read microprocessor specifications and A.I. research summaries with an unhealthy gleam in my eye. But let's remember what we're saying here. It's still just a spectacular advancement in porn. If it leads to real, useful, world-changing advancements, wonderful, but for now, it's just a more complicated way for nerds to beat off.

08 December 2007

What's Up?

I just chanced upon Pinakothek a little while ago. Only two posts, but they're both damn fine reads.

Somewhere in the recent quick updates, Firefox fixed the arrow keys and the page up/down home/end things. I reached the point where I would try to scroll with the arrows and Slashdot would go to the bottom of the long-ass page (and good luck finding which iteration of "first post" or "Natalie Portman" you were skipping by looking for the actual discussion). Today, I pressed the down arrow, immediately said, "Oh shit," and then noticed that the screen merely advanced one line. At first, I was delighted. Then I realized that I was getting really excited over the computer doing something that might reasonably be expected. OK, perhaps you wouldn't expect the windows version of a program to do what the mac and linux versions do, or to do what every other program on windows does, but I have higher standards. Now, if I could figure out why the mouse goes absolutely apeshit every couple hours, I might finally make peace with this damned machine.

Long read of the week: Lester Bangs interviews Brian Eno. Eno made me want to be a musician, and still inspires me to think about that stuff. In fact, the ideas I heard him espouse led to my interest in the technology that would make such ideas feasible, and that, in turn, led to my studies and career in computer science. Then, at one point, I realized that what I liked more than the music itself was the description of the music. I purchased many obscure LPs, sometimes spending a great deal of time and money searching them out and badgering record store clerks to order them in for me. Almost none of them lived up to the expectations the reviews created. I'll extend that a little further, and say that software development went that same way. The expectations I had for tools, languages, methodologies, etc. were never matched by experience. I like the aesthetics of code, but actually trying to find something that needs to be written leaves me asking myself why I bother. I had a notion to write a version of vi for a 6809 machine I owned over twenty years ago. There's a nice emulator, and I have some development tools for the platform. But really, why would I do that? Vim has been ported to every platform I'm likely to encounter.

So, what did we learn today? I learned that writing is more interesting than music, software, or games. As wonderful as Eno's music is, it's more interesting to hear his theories and observations about composing and recording (or any other topic he chooses to expound upon). I learned that running jokes have finite lifespans, after which they are no longer amusing to sober, sane individuals. I learned that just because something is conceivably possible it's not automatically a good idea. I also learned that a small bag of nacho cheese Doritos will cause strong recollections of home, and that writing a concluding paragraph the way I was taught in middle school kind of blows. Fuck it. There's maybe five of you that will ever glance at this page, and at most, three of you even scroll this far down. All semester, we've struggled with trying to impart the skill of the five-paragraph essay to the freshmen, and then I recalled that in many, many years of public school, I never really mastered the format myself, and many of my classmates had an ever weaker grasp of the subject. If Chinese students have managed for over 5,000 years without that skill, I'm not going to push it. I'd rather they spoke out loud in oral class, instead of handing me notes that said they don't know how to "talk good enough English." I need to sleep now.