January 27th, 2004

Semiformalishmaybe

The nose as a platform.. and wrinkled wings

This last weekend was a lot of fun... so much so that the entry I meantto write, titled "Wrinkled Wings", is going to be rolled into this one.I went to a fun atheist/agnostic conference in Florida, by plane with a friend,and heard a number of interesting presentations, swam in the ocean in January,hung out with friends, went to the clubbing area of Tampa with some people fromthe Cincinnati and Florida groups, and had some interesting conversations. I'llput some pictures up eventually. One of the neat things was that because Istayed at a Days Inn nearby instead of the conference hotel,I saved a lot of money and also had a nice enjoyable 2-mile walk each morning.I think I got more of a feel for the city because of it. My hotel was right bythe entrance to Busch Gardens (which, AFAIK, nobody went to)..The main theme of this meeting was cooperation with religious folk on the left,and the interaction there was explored pretty well. There were, of course,people who would minimize the differences to nothing (one presenter suggestedthat those who criticize religion in the general case, instead of justright-wing religion, are insecure...). Still, it was a lot of fun, and was apretty inexpensive trip. It wasn't quite as fun as Hypatia, but I'mup for both.

Life is, generally speaking, going well.So, now some more pointers..

The Joy of Sales is a story of one part ofconsumerism.. actually, kind of a tale of 2 car places... the second placesounds a lot nicer. I tend to worry when I see the world pushing towardshypercompetitivism -- it yields greater efficiencies, but then that kind oflife, which is a kind of a sprint, becomes the norm. When the sprint becomesthe norm, we all lose -- people who are naturally slower-paced (like me)end up looking bad, and the people who do sprint end up either burning out orbeing unhappy in life. I do value the memories of lots of things crammed intoa fun short time(like this weekend), but I value more the more slow-paced,gradual fun things. There's little room for that in ubercapitalism, and what'sworse, ubercapitalism's increasing dependance on every advantage means thatrolling the changes back will be very painful.

This is a funny idea along those linesjwz pointed out that we can now buycandicates via amazon.Not quite accurate, but funny. Kind of like jwz in general..It's unfortunate that you have to register to read it, but it's free.Go read this NYT article that talks about the issue of IntellectualProperty very clearly, and describes the un-IP movement that flows alongside thefree software movement. It's important that more than our movement and thecorporations on the other side understand the issue, so read it.

From the company that moved to XML after making a big deal over how it would makethem open and interoperable..

We're covering medical ethics in my Research Methods class, and coveredthe Willowbrook study. I'm not sure why, butI generally tend to find professional ethics to be fascinating, and I don'tseem to have as much of a push to conform to externally-imposed ones asothers do. Everyone else was sitting quietly in class, and I asked somequestions, and after I did, it was like I was stirring a soup -- slowly,and then more and more, other people were asking questions about why certainrules and guidelines are the way they are. I think most people arn'taccustomed to the idea of evaluating systems of rules, and will accept anysuch thing they're given. It's interesting seeing what happens when theseideas are stirred in them, and I think having the dialogue helped them, andme, to understand the reasoning behind some of the ideas, even if I don'tagree with all of them.

I'm not sure how accurate it is, but if true, I'm pleased to hear anotherreport of a human clone. I am very saddened by the efforts to bansuch research, and hope that it happens often enough that people are forced todeal with their superstitions about souls and 'creating humans'.

Here's a fascinating possibility: distributed "computation" in plants. Of course,life in general involves a lot of ... at least 'delegated' action. Theinternal operations of every cell are not, and because of bandwidth, cannotbe managed by the brain. A central part of the Gaia Theory is thatsuch processes exist as various equilibria, with guiding processes correctingfor imbalances. In my Cognitive Neuropsych class, I'm learning ways thatsemantic processing in the brain appears to fit this model on a neural level,with new possible equilibria being learned associations/concepts, and forminga N-dimensional landscape that various lesions can distort.

Oh, and a big lawsuit is over: DeCSS is no longer under attack.I wonder if the newer DVD formats that're being cooked are responsible forthem giving up on this front.

Unlike the joystick I write about earlier that claimed to get people inshape, Dance Dance Revolution is a real form of exercise. It's cool too. It reminds me --this coming weekend is both the Super Bowl, which I hope to watch with Debb onSunday, and SCS Day, a geek thing CMU is holding on Saturday. I hope I can go.

I'm thinking of making a CGI to handle making proper citations for all thedifferent citation formats, so I don't need to think about the stupiddifferences between, for example, psych and medical formats. There was anew york times article about an automatic paraphraser I wanted to link inhere, but it expired. Oh well.

On my other BLOG, I have a lot more worked out than this, but I'll give youthis teaser... Her name is Isa (Isabelle) and she's 17. The year is around2610 (Left my note sheet at home).