Friday, April 25, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another Free Textbook

Graph Theory. Now, you can read this, along with the others from my older post, and be an expert in genetic algorithms, information retrieval, and graph theory. Quite a specialized niche, I'd say.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sushi Update

I haven't updated this blog with my latest sushi explorations, so it's time to do so. We'll start with a cool dessert place I visited today with Vanessa. The photo of the various desserts we got is above, and while it's not sushi, it's great. It's called Mamakura Minamoto Kitchoan at 608 Fifth Avenue.

In addition, a quick list of sushi places: Sushi Lounge (132 St. Mark's Place), Shiki (135 First Avenue), and Pasta Wafu (141 First Avenue).

General note: Pasta Wafu is very good.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

A few months ago I heard of Freebird Books, a small book store in Brooklyn. what makes them special is there monthly reading group, where they discuss a book and watch a movie, always focused on post-apocalyptic literature and movies. I have yet to attend a meeting, but always check out what they're reading and watching, as this interests me quite a bit.

It all started with Fallout, a post-nuclear roleplaying game (RPG). I miss those days, when RPGs were more engrossing, though Fallout 3 is set to come out late this year or in early 2009.

That being said, it's movies that seem to be on my mind now. Of course, I've watched and enjoyed movies like Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The ones that interest me more, however, focus on life after the bomb... Think of Mad Max, though others that come up as my favourites include On the Beach, The Day After, and A Boy and His Dog. A more recent example is Right at Your Door, though it focuses on the use of a dirty bomb rather than nuclear war. There's something to be said about watching hypothetical reactions to such things.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Housing Works Cafe

Tal and I at Housing Works Cafe, an awesome little cafe/bookstore charity.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Software Testing...

... can be extremely painful. The crawler I'm building has to be tested for many things. As such, here are two links which I am testing on. I won't go into details unless you want me to!

So, link 1 and link 2.

Research Through Open Source and Access

I'm on a few dozen mailing lists and today was informed of a newly released book that provides an overview of genetic algorithms. Called A Field Guide to Genetic Programming, it's available to purchase for about $15 or download for free... And that's what I love about it.

In the last few years, I've become extremely focused and active in social network analysis, and am now hanging out at IBM and learning about data mining as well. What amazes me is the amount of open source tools available for doing this work at virtually no cost. This includes projects like R for statistics, Weka for machine learning, Egotistics for social networks (sorry for the shameless self-promotion - also check out Network Workbench), and many others.

Similarly, books and papers are becoming more freely accessible as well. One of my all-time favourites is Introduction to Information Retrieval, but many others exist. I wish I knew about a few more.

So now you have the theory and the software... Need data? That's not a problem either... I can think of 1, 2, 3 sources off the top of my head... And besides, crawling the World Wide Web for data isn't impossibly difficult, especially if you use the currently available open source offerings, like Nutch.

Now, back to my research I go.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Technology as a Window to the Human Soul

This past Wednesday I finally attended a dorkbot meeting... Motivated by my growing interest in human-computer interaction and robotics, I wanted to see what others are up to, and I was incredibly impressed.

There were two presentations that stood out, one of which was Eric Siu's work. To sum up his work in one sentence: using digital cameras and small LCD screens, Eric creates two sets of stereoscopic eyes attached two your hands, giving you a whole new ability to move your "eyes". The experience is extremely disorienting at first, it's possible to eventually learn how to "live" with these eyes (though the longest he's used them is 30 minutes). This reminds me of a Wired article which describes visual technologies that stimulate other body parties (i.e. your tongue) to allow blind people to eventually learn to see.

The brain is amazingly versatile, and such technologies are not only potentially useful and interesting art projects, they also help a great deal in allowing us to understand how we work.

Now, let's jump into the realm of video games. The second presentation that really spoke to me was Adam Parrish's Frotzophone. In his own words, The Frotzophone is an interface for making music with interactive fiction. The topography simulated in the game is used to generate sound, as is the player's path through the game.

Initially, I was skeptical of this idea, mainly because aside from listening to the Beatles at work or some younger bands at home, I don't read music, nor can I keep a steady rhythm in any form. What was surprising and amazing is that his presentation, which consisted of him playing a text adventure with the music playing and moprhing, was very engrossing. The music helped a great deal, even if it was related to a more abstract object / graph structure of the game rather than the storyline.

And this is what I've been thinking about for the last few days. I'm still trying to figure out how the "perfect game" would work for me. I can't help but think of Bioshock again -- it's artistic and more importantly, its original story line (related closely to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged) really helps one ask some key questions about human societies. Specifically, the player is confronted with some ethical (and controversial!) issues, but on the broader scale, the game shows how greed, ambition, and a free market can actually lead to a dystopia.

I'm not sure where this post is leading, aside from another rant about video games. No, must avoid that! I'd say, though, that I think the beauty of the examples above are that they all help us learn about ourselves, or about the bigger issues confronting "our" societies. Amazing.

Note: click on photos for credits.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Grand Central Station

Every time I come in from Westchester. :)