fear and loathing in san jose

fear and loathing in san jose
a namesake tribute to the movie

The stars don’t shimmer
the clouds are air
the land is dry
sucking up water
the cars pass by
no familiar faces
the promise to keep
this as a token
as a reminder in happier times
things aren’t all good
the hurried feeling
where am I going
what is bound to happen?

the hope of seeing
pretty faces, smiling faces
it’s all fear
like a cloak that descends
and does not let me breathe

some vestige of a nod
the glint of an eye
where is the town square
where are the people walking

content of a family raised
soothing green tea
pacifying, calming
making tame

where are children playing?
dads and sons
moms and daughters
alone in their drivers seats

what is intelligence
and approval and logic
and understanding

everyone’s home bored
listening to the piano
drugged out on tv
smash your radios now

sparkless lost people
with flies on their beards

hurrah for green shoes on black pants
the orange rays of the setting sun
have no counterpart here
this barren, silicon land

hurrah for colors
hurrah for orange shirts

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hacking academia

I came across a paper(pdf) about memes and culture by Hokky Situngkir of the Bandung Fe institute via Gary King’s unClog. As Gary mentions, the paper is pretty hard to read, style wise. I gave up after the first couple of paragraphs. I had followed the link because of my interest in memes, society, cultural anthropology and how they intersect. Just a hobby. 🙂

Out of curiousity, I looked up the Bandung Fe Institute website. At first glance, it seems like a normal research institute affiliated with a university. As you start digging deeper, for instance, the researchers, and the students, you start to realize the stark differences.

None of the researchers or the students have an academic degree from an institution of higher learning. Not that it’s a problem. I can point out a whole bunch of people that have no college degrees, yet are very successful at what they do which is usually a position that requires a minimum of a graduate level of education.

The researcher for this particular institute, it seems, went off on their own, formed an institute of research, published some papers, got some professors to act as advisors and are doing pretty well. Pretty well is subjective. I don’t actually know how well they are doing. One of Bandung’s papers was recently cited in an RFP for a Department of Defense project. That should be an indication. They even publish their own journal, Journal of Social Complexity, complete with it’s own ISSN number. For another, I don’t know if the researchers are working their full time and if so, where they get their funding.

Some of their papers that I’ve read, though, lack the clarity and rigor of traditional academic papers. Maybe it’s because of their lack of academic training, maybe something was lost in translation (to english), I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the papers I read. A simple google search on it will give you tons of papers produced by the institute. Or try Citeseer.

Whatever they’re doing, they seem to be doing all the right things. By right I mean the normal things that a normal academic research organisation or thinktank would do, without an academic background. I gotta applaud them for their efforts in this, no matter what the outcome. This has got to be one of the top hacks in my list – hacking academia.

will wright and spore

This guy is brilliant. He’s the guy who created the games Simcity, the Sims etc..
Now he’s come up with a whole different level of game creation. Very complex and evolutionary plots.
It’s called Spore..
It’s based on a game development paradigm called procedural generation. In a nutshell, you devlelop algorithms and simple rules instead of storing complex animations and graphics in the game itself. During run-time, animations, textures etc. are created dynamically (procedurally) based on the simple sets of rules and algorithms..

The concept is not new. It’s been around for a while and there have been other games that have used it. What Will Wright does in spore is beyond that though. He takes lessons he learned from the Sim series and adds plot complexity and even more building/designing interaction into the game. Sort of like Second Life but in a much larger Universe and with a more compelling game play strategy.

I’m betting this will spawn a whole new generation of video games.

There’s a write up of the demo he did at a game developer’s conference.

A video of the actual demo is also available online at google video.
It’s about 35 minutes but worth it..

Update: Apparently there’s even an article on Wikipedia about it.

on faith and un-faith

Some of my posts bring up the question of faith, religion and god quite a bit. A few comments from other readers got me thinking, what do I actually believe in the core of my heart? Would it be something that I would be willing to stand up for and/or defend with the backing of rational thought and analysis behind it?

There are quite a few people out there who call themselves atheists or agnostics or spiritual but not religious or some combination of the above.

This article partially quoted below is very similar to my line of thinking.

I thought it best to point to the entire writeup than quote it here in it’s entirety.


Agnosticism (from the Greek – a (without) gnosis (knowledge)) is a claim concerning itself with knowledge, or more put more aptly, the lack of knowledge. One can be agnostic about a great number of things: the number of jelly beans in the jar, the number of cars on the road at a given time, or the true rationale for war with Iraq. In these circles, however, agnosticism usually refers to the existence of God. Someone who claims that they are agnostic when it comes to God is simply stating that they don’t know. Could be. Could not be. More specifically, many agnostics (myself included) hold that it is actually impossible to know whether or not God exists.

While agnosticism makes a claim regarding knowledge, atheism makes a claim regarding belief – namely, I don’t believe God exists (or you can put it into the affirmative if you prefer, e.g. I believe God doesn’t exist). However you want to sexy it up, you’re basically saying the same thing: we’re godless creatures in a godless universe.

The key difference between these two notions is the difference between knowledge and belief. Belief is a sort of substitute for knowledge with respect to things that are not yet known or are inherently unknowable. In other words, one can believe something without having knowledge. For example, I can believe that there are one-hundred fifty four jelly beans in the jar, or that there are two point six billion cars on the road, or that the real rationale for war with Iraq was to feed the military-industrial complex.

secret to long lasting institutions

The vatican is pretty light on it’s foot when it comes to dancing with the winning social trends in the long run. Small wonder that it has survived as an institution intact for so long, 16 centuries in fact. Take that you current day multinational behemoths like Walmart, GE, and the likes. Even institutions like the the venerable constitution of the United States pale in historical comparison. Another close one, albeit with many changes, is the Magna Carta, with eight centuries under it’s belt.

There’s some secret to the papal legacy that needs spreading around. Maybe it’ll make for someone’s PhD thesis, or even another book or two.

here’s the blurb

BELIEVING that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday.

Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a “destructive myth” had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.
…..

more at
http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=674042006

evil robot lord

After some quality internet time, this is what I get:

Your Birthdate: December 25

You excel at anything difficult or high tech.
In other words, you’re a total (brilliant) geek.
It’s difficult for you to find people worth spending time with.
Which is probably why you’ll take over the world with your evil robots!

Your strength: Your unfailing logic

Your weakness: Loving machines more than people

Your power color: Tan

Your power symbol: Pi

Your power month: July