ALife in Flash
The Computing for Emergent Architecture weblog has a deeper look at the topic of computer-generated cities that I mentioned here. The weblog in authored by staff and students researching virtual environments at University College London. They've been blogging for a month now, and they're posting great content.
A-life in Flash, Part 1 gives a good introduction to artificial life and links to several Flash projects that illustrate the concepts. Mushroom Life is wonderful; an isometric view of Conway's Life, with growing mushrooms that reflect cell longevity.
CityBuilder an open source urban landscape generator.
Procedural Modeling of Cities (pdf paper) is a more scientific look at how cities grow. For this screenshot, SimCity 2000 graphics were used to illustrate their output — genius!
Nothing beats finding the perfect tool for the job. I've been wanting to set up PHP and MySQL on my computer, but I've had bad experiences trying to configure them on Windows. But getting a full Linux distribution takes forever, and the installation could be rough on my Vaio laptop.
LAMPPIX is a Linux LiveCD designed for web development with Apache, PHP, and MySQL preconfigured. Download the 200 meg image, burn it, and boot from the CD without doing anything to your computer.
Ben Fry's Mario Soup project displays the graphics stored in a Nintendo game program in a four color layout. It's reminiscent of how Nintendo games used to crash, with scrolling grids of miscolored graphic pieces and noise.
A large PDF poster showing dumps from other games is available for download too.
The new William Shatner album is actually really good.
On Wednesday I went to see my old friend Sarah in Carbondale, where she's been living for the last two years. She was leaving to move to Arizona the next day. Simply put, she's one of my favorite people. We talked about losing the idea of home, our ideal coffeeshops, growing communities, and how to leave.
Mostly, the trip gave me too much time to think. Stopping to rest by a lake, I felt a pre-Cambrian shiver about dark water; the unknown depth. Some instincts from our underwater ancestors persist.
We artificially limit our sense of heritage as humans. My great×1000 grandfather was an ape; makes sense. But great×10000000 grandfather may have been a fish. On and on, back to the first spark.
Presidential Debate 2004
StrokeIt is a Windows program that lets you launch tasks with recorded mouse gestures.
It'd be really cool to connect this with one of the alternative Windows shells, which let you replace much of the Windows interface. LiteStep was the forerunner when I was trying new shells last, but that was a few years ago.
It takes considerable effort to learn and configure these programs, but incredible improvements in efficiency are possible when you define your own interface. Not to mention the fun of having a Hackers desktop.
Last night was dedicated to watching the first presidential debate in Florida. I've always kept my politics separate from my writing on this site, but I genuinely believe that the upcoming election means everything for the future of America.
Kerry did better by giving the specifics of his plans, showing certainty about the future of Iraq, and generally appearing more knowledgeable and confident. His highlight was a long overdue criticism of the president's devotion to certainty, stating simply that you can be certain and wrong.
Kevin Guilfoile puts it best:
For as long as I can remember, decisiveness has been a morally neutral attribute. No one has ever said, "I love my proctologist. He's so decisive." Or, "Say what you want about the captain of the Exxon Valdez, the man never wavered." The White House wants to talk about the quality of decisiveness completely divorced from the resulting decisions.
Kerry denied the "flip-flopper" accusation, but it was too little too late. The fact is, Kerry has not changed his position on Iraq. It's just that his position is complex enough that it can't be broken down into a for/against soundbite. For example, Bush says that Kerry voted to go to war. He didn't; there was never a vote to go to war. The vote was to give that president that option; which was necessary to put pressure on Saddam. Had Kerry addressed this in an easily understood way, he could have taken away Bush's most common attack, and made Bush look like a simpleton at the same time.
Notice how many times Bush attacked a Kerry statement by talking about sending "mixed signals" and "messages"? It was ridiculous, and there was an opportunity there. Kerry could've easily differentiated himself as a man of action, something like "The president is obsessed with messages and signals and whatnot; I'm concerned with real, concrete actions and results." It would've resonated, as Bush used those phrases in almost all of his responses.
Bush's mention of meeting with a war widow was horribly botched. It was so obviously prewritten and painfully delivered, not to mention the Bushism (or Freudian slip?) "I tried to love her the best I could." That this isn't in the media shows how low the expectations for Bush are; just imagine what would have happened had Kerry done such a thing.
But, you know, it's over.
There are only two views being put out by the media outlets:
* Kerry won but the margin wasn't huge
* Kerry won but debates sometimes don't affect the polls
The big picture is that Kerry beat Bush on the one thing that the president polls best on, the war in Iraq. Given that, Kerry will eviscerate Bush in the social policy debate at Wash U.