I've finally upgraded to the latest version of MovableType. I was sore tempted to swap out to WordPress, since in general I prefer using open source software and I'm not all that pleased with MT's Passport-like play for lock-in, but in the end convinience and the prospect of having to redirect hundreds of blog entries and comments won out.
The biggest upshot of this is that comments are now working again (I'd disabled/broken them in a diluge of spam a while back), and hopefully the latest version of MT Blacklist is up to the task.
The Makyoh (Japanese for "magic mirror") is an ancient art that can be traced back to the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC — 24 AD). They were made of metal, usually with an intricate pattern carved or cast on the back and the front polished to a mirror finish. The front looks like a smooth reflecting surface, but when sunlight or other bright light is reflected onto a wall a glowing pattern emerges. Usually the image seen would be the same as the image on the back of the mirror, often an image of the Budah or other focus for meditation. The art later moved to Japan (especially Kyoto), and after missionaries brought Christianity into Japan in the mid 1500s many mirrors were made with secret images of the Holy Cross or of Christ. Because Christianity was punished at the time, many Christians wore such magic mirror as a secret sign of their faith.
I just received a modern makyoh from the Grand Illusions toy shop, a wonderful site for exotic, clever and scientific toys (and they now accept PayPal). One thing I love about Grand Illusions is that they include videos and articles about how their toys work, including the magic mirror. Much as I respect the secrecy magicians have for their tricks, I much prefer the magic scientists perform — real magic isn't spoiled when you know the secret, it's even more amazing.
I've posted a few other pictures on my pictures page.
In early November & late January MIT has a little local astronomical phenominon known as MIThenge, when the sun shines directly down the 825-foot infinite corridor that forms the spine of main campus. This year's convergence starts at around 4:49pm EST for the next few days.
I always loved this little architectural Easter egg when I was a student, but according to the MIT News Office the phenominon is likely by accident rather than design:
Historical data suggests that the solar alignment was not intended by the buildings' architects, who were more concerned with the view of the Charles River. According to a recent article in Sky & Telescope magazine, the phenomenon was noticed and publicized in the 1970s by Thomas K. Norton, a research affiliate in architecture. Students at the time did some calculations as part of a class project, and posters were put up around campus advertising a "sun set celebration."
My friend Wex has just joined the authors-list at Copyfight, where he'll continue his insightful analysis of the morass that is IP in this digital age. Well worth putting on your short-list of RSS feeds if you're interested in IP stuff ('course, if that describes you you probably have Copyfight in your RSS-reader already). 'Gratz Wex!
This past Sunday I was really sore from dancing for four hours after a two-and-a-half-hour intro-to-yoga class. So a friend of mine offered some homeopathic-remedy pills (Arnica). I followed the directions and took four pills under the tongue, but the next morning I was still sore.
So then I started thinking... homeopathic medicine gets stronger the more you dilute it, right? So that next morning I took just two pills — kinda like taking twice the recommended dose of ibuprophin I figured. Even that didn't seem to be enough though, so that evening I really pushed it and didn't take any of the pills. And you know what? The next morning I wasn't the least bit sore.
After that experience I'm afraid I went overboard, and started not taking all sorts of homeopathic remedies. I didn't take Belladonna for headaches, took no Allium for my allergies and even avoided Ferrum Phosphoricum to improve my stamina. So far I feel great, but to be honest I'm a little concerned. After all, there are a lot of other homeopathic remedies I'm not taking, and most of them I don't even know I'm not taking them! Could I be going too far with this? Is better living through lack of chemistry really the answer?
I just finished hooking up voice over IP so it services all my house phone ports, with the Motorola Voice Terminal hiding in the closet along with the house's patch panel, DSL modem and firewall router where it belongs. I can't say it was totally painless, but most of the effort was just gathering the right tools, connectors & knowledge. Useful resources included this general phone wiring primer and this one specifically on how to distribute VoIP throughout a home. Since I was starting kinda from scratch, I also found this basic page on how the heck to use a punch-down tool useful.
DocBug Exclusive — Google revolutionized the internet. Now it is hoping to do the same with inter-galactic communication.
The company behind the US-based internet search engine looks set to launch a service that turns unused bandwidth into a powerful signal generator capable of sending advertisements to the far reaches of space. Thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable laid during the boom of the late 90s now lies dormant, and this so-called dark fiber capacity is available at a price that industry experts say is ripe for being turned into a giant planet-sized billboard.
Jules Hewlett, senior analyst at a company that talks to reporters about technology, said: "From an intergalactic advertising perspective there is a big appeal in the fact that Google is a search operation — and of course the Google brand is a huge draw." We're not sure what he means by this, but he's very smart so we've quoted him anyway.
Though the project is hush-hush, Google spilled the beans about their new project by posting a job advertisement on their website that calls for a "strategic negotiator" to help the company to provide a "global backbone network" — in other words, an Earth-sized Light Bright.
By investing in capacity, Google could reroute packets to certain parts of the world, lighting up the dark fiber to spell out words or even full phrases that would be visible against the darkness of space for light-years.
Although Google is reluctant to talk about its plans, off the record people close to the company have called reports of the plan "mere speculation," "baseless rumor" and in one case "the biggest load of malarky I've heard since The Times reported we were coming out with telephone service."
When I was a kid one of my favorite toys was a 3x-normal-sized combination lock made out of translucent colored plastic so you could see how it all works. I get the same feeling reading Matt Blaze's paper Safecracking for the computer scientist. (Props to Bruce Schneier for the link.)
Media Lab Europe is closing its doors after just 5 years (here's the NYT article, subscription required). I know folks who were there, but I don't have any deep knowledge of what went down (besides the obvious problem of opening just before the tech crash in 2000), so I'll just raise a Guinness wish them all a happy landing wherever their next gig lies.
We've just posted the Call For Papers for the 9th Annual IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC 2005), to be held October 18 - 21st in Osaka, Japan. This will be the first ISWC in Asia, and I'm proud to be co-program chair along with Professor Kenji Mase-san from Nagoya University.
I still think the MP3 player could become a satellite-radio killer, but in the meantime Trax Technologies is coming out with a satellite-radio-to-iPod dock...
Some time ago I posted about the ongoing debate between David Hockney and our Cheif Scientist, David Stork, about whether the great painters of the 15th century "cheated" by secretly using optical devices like the camera obscura. Hockney thinks the realism one suddenly sees in paintings around 1430 proves that such devices were used, even though no record of them can be found (they were secret, remember?). Stork thinks it's hogwash, and has both proposed numerous ways the realism could have been acheived using technology known to exist at the time and pointed out reasons the optical techniques Hockney proposes wouldn't have worked anyway.
Now the New Scientist is reporting that evidence of one alternative technology Stork suggested has been found:
Separate findings will be published in March by Thomas Ketelsen, a curator at the Museum of Prints, Drawings and Manuscripts in Dresden, Germany. Hockney has argued that the similarity between Jan van Eyck's drawing Portrait of Niccolò Albergati and a larger oil painting of the same name could only have been achieved using optical projections. But using a microscope, Ketelsen has found evidence of previously unseen pinpricks in the drawing - suggesting the copying method was mechanical, not optical. He suggests that a type of reducing compass called a "reductionzirkel" might have been used.
Falco points out that the pinpricks could have been made 50 years after van Eyck's death by someone wishing to copy it, or even 500 years after. "Holes can't be carbon dated," he says. But Stork thinks the mounting evidence can't be ignored. "The evidence doesn't support Hockney," he says.
"The debate is fascinating," Hockney says. "But it cannot end just because someone found pinpricks."
Hockney's argument was never strong to begin with, but it's starting to sound like he's join the ranks of creationists, alien abduction followers and conspiracy nuts. If so, he may as well have ended his last sentence after the fourth word...
To quote a coworker of mine, "Apple's going to make unspeakable amounts of money on these." I'm especially glad to see the Mac mini, since it's exactly what I've been searching around for as the media hub of a new entertainment center I'm putting together now that I'm no longer in a one-bedroom apartment. Cheap ($499 starting, a little over $600 for the bluetooth & 80G version I want), small (6.5" x 6.5" x 2"), and quiet — it'll be my combination CD jukebox, DVD player and MIDI munger for my keyboard.
As for the iPod Shuffle, I could really see this becoming the satellite-radio killer. If the iPod is your music collection in your pocket and the iPod mini is your jogging music / music wherever you want, the iPod Shuffle is going to be the daily download. Mix it with iMix, Wiretap Pro and/or a Radio Shark and you've got a personalized commercial-free radio with a "next song" feature. You miss out on realtime info like traffic reports (which really should go to your GPS/nav system anyway) and breaking news, but how much news breaks between the time I leave for my commute and arrive at my destination? I'd also miss out on Howard Stern if I don't go with satellite radio, but for me that's a feature, not a bug.
As is traditional, Apple's stock is down almost %6 as of this writing. Me? I just put in a buy order...
BusinessWeek and Reuters mention that the New York Times is "considering" moving to a pay-for-content model for their web-based news, though they've no immediate plans to do so. Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly comments :
For all the big talk in the blogosphere, if this happened it would pretty much spell the end of political blogging. Without a copious supply of online newspapers and magazines providing the raw material, there are very few bloggers who would have anything left to say.
I doubt that, though honestly I'm not sure it would be a bad thing if it happened. Riffing off my basic belief that the trend towards decentralized communication are too powerful for one company (or even one cartel) to reverse, I see one of two things happening should the NYT make such a move:
Personally, my money's on #2 happening regardless of what the Times does.