crepuscule with nellie

Over at Volokh, Orin Kerr has a tip on an album I will just have to buy — a long-lost recording of Monk and Coltrane live at Carnegie Hall. Just listening to Monk’s Mood (free stream on the BlueNote site) makes me want to buy the album. It’s a whole new way of listening to Monk’s music. The Monk-Coltrane album I already have is great, but this is more interesting to listen to.

more tracks

Four discs are in the works, and I noticed that I’m tempted to put the same songs on many mixes. Partly this reflects the fact that I love those songs, but it also stems from an unwillingness to subject these mixes to a rigorous programmatic form. One pair of CDs is for a move — since the move has happened already I’m roughly theming them as “departure” and “arrival” or “homesick” and “new home,” but many of the songs are similar artists or tracks I’ve used before.

Another factor is that most of the people for whom I make mixes have different musical tastes than myself, so I’m always looking to introduce my favorite artists that they probably haven’t heard much from. But there’s a limit to introductions — I’m unlikely to put Aphex Twin, Karlheinz Stockhausen, or Perotin in a mix unless I’m sure the person is going to like it. So the mixes tend to be rather conservative. I’m hoping to break out of this mold, maybe after the next few get finalized.


I went to a National Puzzler’s League minicon today, at Trazom’s beautiful flat (pun intended) in San Francisco. It was fun, although my rusty slow puzzling skills resulted in slowness and mistakes that could have been easily avoided. I’m afraid that I must have annoyed Rubrick with my ineptitude. I couldn’t stay very long, only enough time to play a few games and get a good running crack at Bartok’s megagame from the convention, which I had missed.

This is probably gibberish to most people who read this. The upshot: I went to a puzzle party this afternoon, and it was fun. I met some interesting people, but I am a slow solver.

bad blood

Accodring to my most recent blood test, I have high cholesterol. While this doesn’t particularly suprise me genetically, I never really thought of myself as an unhealthy eater. Apart being liberal with the cream cheese when I have bagels and a fondness for whole-fat yogurt (both of which are not everyday things), I don’t really eat unhealthily. So it was rather baffling when I looked at a recommended diet and suggested eating guidelines and discovered that I had been following most of them already. I suppose I’ll just have to cut out the incidentals like delcious Powell’s Fried Chicken. Mmmmm, fried chicken…


I went to a talk by David MacKay today on distributed phase codes for associative memories. One of his demos used a program called Dasher, which is a text entry system with a novel interface that could be used by disabled people. It’s baffling at first, but I imagine it becomes quite intuitive after a while. There are some demos on the website — it’s definitely worth checking out.

As far as the talk went, I have to admit I was a little lost, since everything I know about Hebbian learning and associative memories could fit on a 4×6 index card, probably. The main point of the talk was that utilizing inter-neuron spike times (or phases) and coincidence detectors that look for spatiotemporal spike pattens (with given delays) can produce structures that learn several patterns within the same neurons and can recall multiple patterns simultaneously. It’s an interesting idea, but the presentation was math-poor, so I ended up with very little idea about the “pattern capacity” of these memories, the effects of noise (and how it was modeled). These prosaic engineering questions weren’t really the focus of the talk, however, but maybe I’ll do the back-of-the-envelope calculations later.

top 100 novels revisited

I recently looked at the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list again, and noticed an addition that wasn’t there before. It’s the top 100 list as selected by “readers.” Just glancing at the top 10 gives us some insight into the nature of these readers:

3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard

The readers, it seems, are mainly Objectivists and Scientologists (read: nutcases). The sci-fi selections get better farther down the list, but Ender’s Game makes a surprise appearance at number 59. I never read it in middle school, but I don’t think it really would have resonated with me then. Reading it when I was 22 was like listening to a Linkin Park song on repeat for 3 hours. Oh so painful.

The whole thing kind of resembles the reading list that the MIT Extropians sent to everyone in my entering class at MIT. Some juicy excerpts can be read in Geeta‘s Village Voice article on the Larry Summers debacle. Ah, those were the days.

posts I would like to see (I)

I realized today, while talking to someone about blogs and why I read them, that many people I personally know are doing some interesting things that I think should be read by more people. So I’m going to start calling them out because I want to hear them write about what I’ve heard them talk about and I think others should read it as well.

This will be a series of posts — if you take up my challenge I’ll post links here and hopefully start a discussion at your place. Or just write about something else because you think my idea of a topic sucks. In any case, we all win — you’ll write about something you care about. I’ll start out with only three requests:

Deb: What is so interesting about film noir, and why?

Ranjit: Why should everyone care about cops in schools? What do you realistically think youth can do to organize and protect themselves?

Ram: What do you think is broken about political rhetoric these days? Is it that the radicalization of viewpoints is unproductive? How should we effect a debate so that we really end up understanding one another?

If this works I’ll try and get more ideas going. I like blogging, but I’m lacking a purpose most of the time. Requests can be nice, I find.

the ship is headed nowhere good

According to a BBC article today, Jean Charles de Menezes was, in fact, behaving relatively innocuously before being shot in the head while being restrained. He picked up a paper, ran to catch his train, and sat down. No bulky jacket, no leaping over ticket barriers, just a guy trying to catch his train.

In the aftermath of this incident I was willing to give the cops just a little sympathy — perhaps it was a tense situation and things got out of hand. I could, with little effort, construct scenarios in my mind that would have led to the same outcome and a less-than-clear-cut assignment of good and evil to the players involved. However, with this new information my dramatic imagination is stretched to its utmost. I’m left with the premise of “cops see swarthy/brown man running, shoot to kill.” Hopefully there will be some accountability here rather than the parade of official deceptions to which we were treated in the aftermath.