Steven Wolfram has done it again, this time bringing his ideas about cellular atomata to computer-generated music. Alas, the future has not yet arrived -- the generated music isn't very musical. If I still had access to mathematica, I'd be interested to see the algorithms involved -- I'd like to see if it can be enhanced by adding a large body of known openings, closers, and particular melodies that tend to be common to a musical genre. I suspect that in some ways generating music is a lot like playing chess -- until a much lower domain-specific abstraction is found that lets things be understood in a way very different than the way humans understand it, attacking the field is best done by mixing static knowledge of some important elements of a song/game with more free-form riffing. The deeper understanding is what leads to the truly novel playing, as Kasparov noted that at times he felt that Deep Blue was thinking, in a truly unique way. Bringing that kind of an understanding to music gives the possibility of truly genre-shattering work.. or are genres part of something we need to be able to parse music? In either case, we're not yet there. I also find myself wondering if we'd be losing anything significant by having computer generated music -- as a form of art, any embedded meaning that musicians might make their music about would have their forum destroyed by everyone listening to synthesised music. Of course, it is only their forum accidentally -- people don't listen to music for the message usually -- they listen for the effect that music has on us, and if for all of our species existence that has been the result of a human who gets to embed ideas and the like in it, now we're learning to pry those apart. Generated music may be like food with Nutrisweet, with little taste difference.
Yesterday, I upgraded to Firefox 1.5beta1. This is done in the hope that their auto-update tools will mean I won't have to download any further releases of 1.5. A few of my favourite extensions don't work, but some do, and I've found a few new ones that are 1.5-series only that are quite neat (including the special XUL-tweaking ones that preserve long entry names in RSS feeds and disable the dropdown arrows for forward/back arrows). The AquaTint theme is very pretty too. I hope that the ones I miss, like PRGooglebar, are ported soon. Browsing the updates site gives me a bit of humility in that I visibly see that a number of my preferred plugins are not very popular, and that a number of the most popular plugins arn't particularly interesting to me. I'm still impressed at the amount of creativity that there is in integrating wacky things into the browser. My favourite quote from one of them: Requires *powerful* computer on an extension called Autohighlight (*shudder* On Redhat/Fedora systems, the default behaviour for searches is to highlight the searched text in yellow, making it illegible and horrifically ugly if you use a back background. I always disable that systemwide). In other words, the extension is inefficiently coded :)
Recently, as I may have mentioned, CMU's Tepper business school arranged to have the food trucks at CMU moved because they were too close to their building and they were worried about their image being damaged. A friend of mine had an excellent idea on how to protest, and I've had a few additional, but a few people I've spoken with suggest that it's better to let the student government deal with it, and not to do anything outside of them. This is a gamble, I think, because the longer things are left the way they are, the less group-feeling it will be possible to summon to protest the move. I understand that it may give a better shot to the student council to leave it be, but I think that tactically, it's much better to strike on all fronts -- group-feeling is precious if one is to get anything done.
Finally, I think I've figured out how to avoid my incredibly frequent headaches. I haven't had one for about a week now, with the key change being that I eat a little more often and avoid taking so much sugar with my tea. I'm not sure which of the two is responsible, but life is much better without almost-daily intense headaches.