January 9th, 2006


Shyness of Winter

Nature wants to keep on providing us days of spring instead of winter. It appears to be having an identity crisis.

I got a few hands in response to my hand post. As promised, here they are:

Not unlike my own efforts.

Apparently photoshop has a hand tool.


Same hand, filled in solid blue. I decided to go with this one, but..

I need just the outline of a hand, so I applied some GIMP filters

And after adding the touches I needed, I am done. I have 4 versions of this, but I think you probably can imagine the other finger variants. Why not use the thumb for A? Experience from a number of studies suggest that the motor controls involved in using the thumb differ significantly in strength from those involved in the other fingers. If for any reason you're running similar experiments and want the full-sized images for all the fingers, drop me a line and I can package them up for you.

Things on Wikipedia continue to be interesting, and also provide plenty of material for reflection. Although it's been rare, there have been times on Wikipedia where I've said things primarily because they're fun to say, or phrased things in a particular way for that reason. Catharsis/emotional expression seems to often be at ends with good behaviour (Freud has a few interesting things to say about that), and in a sense I'm suffering from inadequate emotional expression, but I also want to express myself less. It seems that the most satisfying types of expression are sadly the most destructive. Still, it is possible to satisfy oneself with other forms of expression.. painting, singing, drawing, writing, etc.

I also have had some interesting intrusion into my life from things I thought I had wrapped up and divested myself from a long time ago. I don't think it'll last long, but it's a bit like slipping onto an old rack.

Reading more of Lenin and Trotsky, I am beginning to think that their positions and positions in politics, while both being revolutionary communists, were leagues apart. Marx, while not exactly the origin of communist philosophy, was enormously influential on constructing a movement and providing basic theory on which others built their specialisations. Marx provided a new interpretation of economics (just as the advent of capitalism turned mercantilism and its gold fetish on its head), looking at it from the perspective of the worker instead of the factory owner. Marx's arguments were primarily intended to create the new economics to counter the negative effects of the economics of the time, along with a call to action to act out the obvious changes that a new economics calls for (just as an abandonment of mercantilism suggested radical changes in economic behaviour as gold was realised to be just another metal). Lenin and Trotsky, both working towards and in post-revolutionary Russia, then had the need to guide the next steps. Lenin's writings seem to be primarily aimed at guarding the safety of the movement and Russia - he has a conservative style and created the principle of democratic centralism, under which people are free to discuss openly matters at hand until a decision is made, after which unity is mandated. Trotsky was more of a philosopher and freethinker (interesting because of his role in leading the Red Army), focusing more on the social transformation needed for successful revolution than the day-to-day running of the party. Trotsky was right, I think, to state that without efforts to remove habits and mindset of pre-communist society, the revolution would be corrupted from within and would not fully work as a system. Reading their works, it seems evident that Trotsky is a liberal in the deepest sense of the word along with being a socialist -- Lenin's aims for the nation were in the direction of socialism, but missed the vitality and sense of purpose that Trotsky had. Trotsky was in the end a Socialist first and a Liberal second, sensing (correctly, I think) that liberalism cannot be safe until selfishness and greed are given less structure and privilege in a society. Eurocommunist parties come from the other perspective, placing liberalism first and adopting communism as it makes sense and to the extent it's compatible with liberalism. This mirrors another distinction on the other side of Eurocommunism -- the difference between Democratic Socialists and Social Democrats.

I found myself wondering if, for deaf people, there is "music" consisting of sounds that are feelable through vibrations. Loud speakers, especially while making bass sounds, produce vibrations one can feel. Would it be possible to produce a device that intentionally primarily makes vibrations for "listening" pleasure, and could deaf people get the same kind of emotional and similar effects from it that normal people get from hearing? I don't think it's impossible in theory, especially given that in some research, people have learned to "see" using pressure plates on their back feeding in bitmapped visual data. It would be worth looking into, both for the benefit of the deaf and to possibly provide an entire new realm of art for others.



My experiment works! I think all the issues with it have been resolved, and it looks great! Hurrah! Now all I have left to do is work out the instructions for users, and get a subject (hopefully this week) to run it through. This is fantastic. Of course, a number of the gotchas were quirks of E-Prime, which as I'm sure I've mentioned, is an irritatingly bad implementation of BASIC geared towards psychology experiments. BASIC is not a good programming language, and whatever judgement they used in picking it also led them to some horrifically nonintuitive GUI design and random limitations for their IDE (which you pretty much have to use). It's good to have that mostly wrapped up.

On the Psychology Department free stuff table, there were two books that looked interesting that I picked up:

  • Legal Risk Management (For when people are involved with the American Psychological Association)
  • Being Hurt and Hurting Others: Children's Narritive Accounts and Moral Judgements of Their Own Interpersonal Conflicts
On the effectiveness of my IP-consistency-based way to keep spam off my BLOG, it appears to be around 95% effective. Every so often, a GET and a PUT happen to come from the same machine (I've confirmed by the result of the redirect that it's random chance that does it), and the post gets through. So far, this means I get spam at a level that I don't mind deleting it (although at some point I may turn keyword filtering back on). For my email client, I've been playing with some concepts in advanced spam filtering -- one of the ways that spam makes it past traditional word-based filters is it uses either a limited form of Leetspeak or odd punctuation to avoid simple matching. There are a number of ways to deal with this using fuzzy matching, although I've been working on some slightly different tactics. I turn a text stream, using sets of transformation rules, into several separate text streams that are more easily analysed, using rules to downgrade leetspeak into normal english, eliminate punctuation that's obviously wrong, and as a last resort chopping out all nonalphabetical characters and matching against that (which can easily give false positives, sadly). If I decide this works enough, I'll combine it with whitelists and implement it both in my email program and on my BLOG.

Speaking of which, I checked up on the Pegasus Mail folk, and am disappointed to see that their project is still around. At one point in the past, they threatened to sue me to force me to rename my email program from its original name, PMail, to it's current name, PSMail, despite Pegasus Mail not having a good claim to the name PMail. They were rude and pushy, and I look forward to the day their product is forgotten.