Weblog | Archives for July 2004
Past posts.
Evolved Color Schemes

Colorcell — help evolve the "most beautiful" set of colors by contributing your own combination and selecting three favorites from the current gene pool.

At the Upstairs

Hit the Upstairs Lounge with Beth on Saturday night, and met up with some of the Jupiter Jazz people. With the passing of Tangerine, the Upstairs is now my favorite bar in St. Louis. Hidden behind a blank door on S. Grand, it regularly hosts many of the area's best DJs and experimental acts.

Learned a new term from Jerry and Jason: parasitic entrepreneurship — supporting a business using resources from your day job. 99% of this is probably stealing copies.

Saturday also marked three months of dating Beth, winner of the twist contest at Taste of Chicago 1987.


Misprinted Type has been updated for the first time in a year, and it's fantastic.


Asian-American Trendsetting on a Shoestring (archived)
NY Times article on one of my favorite magazines, Giant Robot.

St. Louis River Splash

Stick around after the music at River Splash
"90 feet tall and 140 feet wide big. That's what the water screen at River Splash will be like. And on that screen images of St. Louis' sports, culture and personalities will appear as fireworks and lasers flash and music plays. All of this will take place about 50 feet off the banks of the Mississippi River, in full view of the thousands of spectators expected to take in the River Splash concerts."

July 22: Paul Oakenfold (with DJ Gow)
July 30: Taj Mahal Trio (with Farshid Etniko)
Aug. 5: Big Head Todd & the Monsters (with Jesse Harris)

Thursday: Eve 6 (with Just Add Water)
Saturday: The B-52s (with the Love Experts)
July 23: Liz Phair (with Nadine & the Hang Ups)
Aug. 20 : St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Aug. 14: Lyle Lovett

Baby Hippo

"Hippopotamus mother 'Petra' and her one week old offspring"

I ♥ hippos.

Wordmap | Comments (1)

creates a spring-based graph of word similarity. The target distance between each pair of words is determined by the Levenshtein distance, defined as the number of letter changes necessary to transform one word into another.

The results are pretty obvious in this case. Levenshtein distance is also used to compare genetic code (the Lev. distance roughly approximating the number of mutations between two sequences). Something like Wordmap would make it easy to identify groups of similar genes.

Gateway Grizzlies

Last night I went to see the Grizzlies, our minor league baseball team. My girlfriend's editor gave her free tickets to the Journal's party suite. It was awesome.

I was especially impressed by GNC Stadium (layout, photos). Every seat is close to the action, and you can even get picnic table and lawn seats. Concessions were reasonably priced, at $4 a beer and $2.50 for a good hot dog — though our suite came with free BBQ, chips, beer, and soft drinks. It was much more relaxed than a trip to a Cardinals game.

Tons of gimmicks, both during and between innings. They raced mattresses, tricycles, and rabbits (sort of). Happy toddlers swept the bases between innings. You could purchase a set of numbered tennis balls, to be thrown at the end from your seat into a bucket in the field for a jackpot. Depending on certain players' batting, sections would win donated schwag or a player/contestant pair would win $500 each. There were many more — too many to keep track of — but every moment something fun was happening.

I don't know if the minor league experience is this good everywhere, but it's great in St. Louis.

Lightning Fossils

"Fulgarites are rocks produced by the intense heat of lightning striking the ground. They normally consist of glass, created when the lightning melts the sand and rock, with embedded sand and rock fragments. Due to the rapid heating of the materials making up the fulgarites, they also contain abundant gas pockets that are usually lined with glass."

Sushi and Modularity

My girlfriend and I prepared sushi last night — avacado and crab. It's amazing how many pieces a half an avacado and a few crab sticks will make. Tasty.

The ingredients in a single piece of sushi match the proportions described in the Asian Diet Pyramid. This appeals to me, because each piece is a discrete unit of meal. Whether you eat six pieces or twenty, balance is maintained (though self-respect may not be).

I'm realizing that modularity and scalability have always been fascinating to me. When I played SimCity, I was always trying to develop a city block that would work well when copied across the board. I love the patterns in Tetris. And I could bore someone for hours talking about emergent behavior in social insects and artificial agents.

Part of what I'm learning from reading Synergetics is that there are certain models and concepts that are common between all people, independent of language and culture. These models guide the way that we think, even when we're not conscious of them. We organize problems by which model we think fits them, and apply solutions that generally fit that model (much like how computer programmers use design patterns).


Ninjatune Desktop Competition, five categories of nice desktop wallpapers.

Feral Robotic Dogs

In the Feral Rebotic Dogs project, researchers are hacking toy robots to add new sensors and behavior. Some dogs are programmed to exhibit pack behavior, while others can seek out contaminated areas using a radiation sensor. The site includes tutorials on modifying the electronics and mechanics of certain toys.

Tangerine, she is all they claim With her eyes of night and lips as bright as flame Tangerine, when she dances by, seņoritas stare and caballeros sigh And I've seen toasts to Tangerine Raised in every bar across the Argentine Yes, she has them all on the run, but her heart belongs to just one Her heart belongs to Tangerine — Frank Sinatra, Tangerine

Two of St. Louis' best clubs, Tangerine and Lo, closed down for good on June 13 due to tax issues. I liked Lo, but I'm really going to miss Tangerine. For the flaming volcanos and sake bombs, and the atmosphere. Tangerine managed to simultaneously be more stylish and comfortable than anything else the Lou has to offer.


Full text of Synergetics by R. Buckminster Fuller. The FAQ is useful.

A facinating piece of work. Fuller applies geometric concepts to build models in semantics and philosophy. An exploration of patterns that appear thoughout the universe and thought. It's as confusing as it sounds, but compelling. This is the kind of book I dreamt about finding hidden in the public library.

From the forward:
"Fuller expresses himself metaphorically: his poems sometimes convey his meaning more lucidly than his prose. Gertrude Stein's language really becomes unintelligible only when analyzed; the sentence 'Entropy is not random; it is always one negative tetrahedron' (Synergetics, Sec. 345) is worthy of a place in American literature next to Miss Stein's. And if happiness be a warm puppy, why should not entropy be a negative tetrahedron?"

"I have learned never to reject one of Fuller's outrageous statements without careful consideration, and even hesitated to call 'Sum of angels around each vertex' in the rough manuscript a misprint. The truth has usually turned out far stranger than Buckminster Fuller!"


All you need is a screwdriver — a great post about modular, prefabricated, diy homes from Alt Text.


imhelix — A public workbook of Yoonseok Lee

AI is Getting Closer

Programmer seems to have a technology that does everything (STLtoday)
"Thaler, 52, has used the program to compose music, to coin words, to invent a new type of toothbrush and to detect patterns in seemingly random series of events. It has enabled a cockroach-like robot to learn to walk, and it shows potential for instantly spotting structural problems in items rapidly rolling off a manufacturing line."

Imagination Engines, Inc. is marketing a powerful neural net-based artificial intellegence package.

Independence Weekend

I celebrated July 4th at Fair St. Louis. We had a great seat for the fireworks on the steps of the Arch. Afterwards, dinner at Skeeters on the Landing and a gigantic beer. The Gin Blossoms were playing Hey Jealousy when we got out; it was a nice surprise. The only gripe was the cost of concessions at the fair; everything was about double the prices I saw at Taste of Chicago last weekend.

Mall on the 5th to look for a couch. "I don't want stupid palm trees [pillows] in my house." Explainably funny.

Saw some folk music in my home town park. Met a man born Sept. 11 1920, who shared some local history and anecdotes. He showed me an ancient glove used for field work; it had two thumbs, so that it could be flipped over and worn on the opposite hand once one side was gone. Medical scrubs are similarly reversible, but for speed, rather than thrift.

We were caught in an unbelievable storm: flooding, tornado warnings, one inch diameter hail, ninety-two mph winds. The lightning can close and fast, in every form: spidering heat lightning, strong pulsing straight bursts, wide curtains. Today, helicopters are doing low circles around the suburbs taking damage photos.

Kleenex Girl Wonder

Listening to Smith by Kleenex Girl Wonder.

I love it. It's a double-disc album, with tracks alternating between fantastic lo-fi rock and an (admittedly stupid, unfunny) ongoing storyline about an AI program doing the rockstar lifestyle. Personally, I think the story added to the album in a camp sense; that is, until I burned the album into a single, songs-only disc.

High School Reunion

I spent last weekend in Aurora, Il at my high school's five-year reunion. Attendence was huge. Everyone I wanted to see was there.

Some background: I went to IMSA, a public experimental high school. The state's plan was to improve Illinois education by testing accelerated teaching methods on "gifted" students and passing the successful techniques on to educators. My plan was to escape the parental watch, live a bit, and go to a good college.

The academics were amazing. We had a mass spectrometer, an olympic-size pool, open labs, and unregulated T1 internet access (in 1996!). I finished calculus and spliced jellyfish genes into E. coli. The average teacher was a PhD with university experience; my geometry class was taught by the author of the textbook. We were so busy that we had Wednesdays off for personal projects; artificial life, in my case. All-nighters came in strings. We were largely self-governed, and were possibly the most tolerant and accepting group of adolescents ever assembled.

This was why I went, but it isn't why I'm glad I did.

IMSA is where I learned that being smart isn't everything. It's where I perfected my ollie, mastered public transit, dyed my hair green and blue, snuck off to Chicago (research Wednesdays!), smoked at the Broadway Diner, and generally developed the non-intellectual parts of my personality.

Overall, it gave me a chance to experience those high school rites of passage: first ever date, trouble, kiss, booze, ... and everything else you wouldn't want your mom reading about. I had a normal high school experience. My life in southern Illinois didn't offer me that.

By the end, I was sure that we were all still the same people we were when we graduated. That we'd always know each other. We did, after all, grow up together.