Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

attention, illusion and magic

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

I found a recent article: “How magicians control your mind” on magic and neuroscience more interesting in its exploration of visual cognition than its take on magic – the explanation of the pin-point nature of attention and how we essentially make up reality, especially.

…a new model has arisen over the past decade, in which visual cognition is understood not as a camera but something more like a flashlight beam sweeping a twilit landscape. At any particular instant, we can only see detail and color in the small patch we are concentrating on. The rest we fill in through a combination of memory, prediction and a crude peripheral sight. We don’t take in our surroundings so much as actively and constantly construct them.

“Our picture of the world is kind of a virtual reality,” says Ronald A. Rensink, a professor of computer science and psychology at the University of British Columbia and coauthor of a paper on magic and psychology that will be published online this week in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. “It’s a form of intelligent hallucination.”

The benefit of these sorts of cognitive shortcuts is that they allow us to create a remarkably rich image of our environment despite the fact that our two optic nerves have roughly the resolution of cell-phone cameras. We don’t have to, for example, waste time making out every car on the highway to understand that they are, indeed, cars, and to make sense of how they are moving – our minds can simply approximate from the thousands of cars we have already seen in our lives.

But because this method relies so heavily on expectation – not only to fill in the backdrop around us but to determine where to send what psychologists call our “attentional spotlight” – we are especially vulnerable to someone who knows our expectations and can manipulate them, someone like a magician.
– Drake Bennett “How magicians control your mind
The Boston Globe

Things I saw today (Animation backgrounds)

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Animation Backgrounds gathers the beautiful backgrounds of cartoon movies.

As a child, cartoons strongly informed my understanding of other places in the world, how adults interacted or how things worked (or as with a favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon, formed the entirety of my knowledge of opera). It’s interesting to re-see these spaces with adult eyes and to realize the degree to which they lurk in my subconscious.

From Cinderella

From Bambi

From Bugs Bunny

From The Rescuers

From Tom and Jerry

From Peter Pan

From Lady and the Tramp

Mug or cup?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

I was having a discussion today with someone who collects mugs decorated with pictures of animals. I noticed one item in their collection had a teapot attachment that sits on the top of the mug. The mug itself was quite small in height and fairly wide. This made me consider what it takes to be a mug, and when a mug becomes just a cup. 1

I did a little research on the web and didn’t come up with anything. So here is my attempt: A mug must have a rim diameter greater than its height. This means the fancy teapot mug mentioned above is not really a mug (although the collector said my definition was full of shit). I might put it on wikipedia to make it a fact.

1. Yes, just a cup. According to the dictionary closest to hand, every mug is a cup, which means that there are more cups than mugs, which means that mugs are awesome and cups suck.

The slow decline of American positivism?

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

[crikey! a serious post from dino]

I’ve noticed a gradual but distinct change in America since I started visiting it often, around 2000. American people used to be unimaginably positive, especially when talking about anything related to America. They had the best, biggest, fastest, mostest and happiest of everything. Many people took it to be American arrogance, but I never thought of it like that. I don’t mean this to be insulting in any way: it is one of the most endearing things about a culture I love.

However, I’ve noticed this has started to change. I’m certainly neither a sociologist nor anything qualified that would give any credibility to what I say – it’s just a feeling I have. I sense that America is losing its positive attitude.

Here are some photos I took this week.

Sign on a church reading: The worst kind of religion is no religion at all.

The first, taken in Central Square, Cambridge, is a sign on a church that reads “The Worst Kind of Religion is no Religion at all”. I can’t help but read this as “Religion: better than nothing”. As a strictly non-religious person I appreciate the lack of strong messaging. However, it still puzzles me that one of the most religious countries in the World, a country whose government is basically chosen by the religious majority, has started to soften.

Sign on a school in Roslindale that reads: Students please do your best

The next is a sign in front of a school in Roslindale, MA that reads “Students please do your best”. It makes no mention of inspiration, achievement, goals, self-worth or encouragement of any kind. Instead it sounds like a desperate plea to the students to at least try for the minimum. I wonder what type of environment this school provides.

Of course these are only two minor examples. But I’m not hearing the positive statements I used to hear from my American friends. Instead they seem almost resigned to a lack of achievement.

I wonder if it is the way the American Government has broadcast the message of fear for the last 5 years: that America needs to be afraid of the rest of the World, of unseen, unstoppable terrorists that could strike at the heart of the country at any moment. It’s probably hard to be positive in that environment.

Then there is the fact that their armed forces, the bulging bicep of the World’s Greatest Democracy, has been unable to ‘finish’ in Iraq. Despite ending the reign of Saddam Hussain, something that I think of as a success, the current situation appears to be considered hopeless by my American friends. Maybe because it isn’t a loss? Americans can bounce back from a loss, they way they did from September 11, but an ambiguous and difficult situation like Iraq seems to be more upsetting in the long term.

Meanwhile we’ve seen the increasing rise in popularity of programs like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” which clearly point out the inadequacies of the government and much of American industry. I love these shows, as do many of the Americans I know, but they are successful because they make fun of the negatives in American life, or more accurately, the negatives that really should be (or used to be) considered positives.

Another fact: their obviously (to me) smart President acts like a moron. Sure, a minority of America can be happy in thinking that they don’t need to be the smartest in the world because they have it better than everyone in the world. But I see a huge amount of intellectual pride in cultures like France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Australia and England. I’m sure Americans had more of that pride while they had an intelligent President. The current government looks like they chose a type of messaging that would get them elected at the cost of their nation’s self belief.

[wow, I’m really getting into this blogging thing now!]

I don’t want to see America lose its positive attitude. America, please don’t change any more. Please elect a government that will keep you they way you used to be. I liked it.

Road Trip

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

I haven’t posted in months but i thought that the road trip that i am about to embark on was post-worthy!

In just 6 days a minivan will pull out of my driveway and head out for an 8 hour trip. Not too bad you say? well that minivan will be occupied by myself and my sister (if that was all it would be a blast) but then add a sarcastic 14 year old…. an 8 year old who thinks she should act like she’s 14…. and a 3 year old who never… i mean never….. stops talking! Ok i know…. that’s bad…. but now include a psychotic chihuahua and a pitbull with ADHD!!! YIKES….. (pity is appropriate here). I do not know why i put myself (and my poor sister) through such hell!!!

We (Amy and I) will not be able to listen to the music that we want to listen to…. either because “it’s not cool enough” (see previous post) or because “oooh mommy the CD just said the “f” word” or because we will be listening to the soundtrack to Disney movie Hell..

We will not be able to talk about what we want to talk about … either because “what we talk about is not cool enough” or because “oooh mommy you (or MiMi) just said the “f” word” or because we will be too busy suffering through the soundtrack to Disney movie Hell..

We can not stop at cool reststop gift shops…. kids will get lost or dogs will have a heat stroke (i speak from experience)…

We can not even eat real food…. we will drink juice from boxes and eat pb&j and we will be covered in cheerios by the time we get there…

All of this hell….. just to get to a small 3 bedroom cottage where there will already be 2 people and 2 dogs..(that makes 7 people..4 dogs.. in case you were wondering)… in a very small place..

our dad will make us… and i mean MAKE us eat pancakes and french toast so that we feel absolutely sedated…. i think that he does that so that we won’t run away screaming….

our mom will invite people over that she doesn’t know…. just because she’s an extrovert and she likes to make the rest of us introverts suffer in a major way….

BUT… my dear amy…. i promise we will sneak out for a smoke….. and play trivial pursuit while getting a little silly… because that is why i put us through such hell…. and it will all be worth it. If we survive!!

My wish for all who read this is that you all have a wonderful summer…

Well… I never posted this before the trip but now that I am back I need to revise it….. it is not an 8 hour trip…. it is atleast 10… thanks to the moustached customs agents… and various trips to fast food franchises… Dramamine works wonders for teenagers and small dogs but not so much for big dogs who just wake up randomly and bark because they’re not sure exactly where they are! And it is now official…. Grace does not sleep in the car no matter what the situation!! We spent 10 long hours… EACH WAY listening to her scream “scuse me…. scuse me….. SCUSE ME MIMI!!!!! She never stopped talking once the whole way… and expected us to acknowledge every statement she made.
Customs with Grace was fun…. on the way home she just kept screaming “Good God woman!! over and over again until we got to the agent” thanks to Amy who recommended we stop at duty free.

The best was when half way through the trip I was called back home for a job interview… Amy and I got to leave the kids behind and venture out for the 10 hours on our own… Toronto and Buffalo both have a rocking radio station that plays only the best of the 80’s so for atleast 3-4 hours of the trip we could do the robot, cabbage patch and variations of other cool dances while sitting in traffic.. Amy is correct when saying that Safety Dance needs more “whoos”!! We have also learned that I have an amazing ability to whistle GnR “Patience”…. not just a fluke.. I did it twice in the same trip!!!

Our trip was Crazy Fun…. and just a little Crazy…. And I can’t wait until next year so that we can do it all again!

Another Temperament Test Result

Monday, April 24th, 2006

***You Have a Psychopathic Temperament***

Introspective and reflective, you think about killing everything and anything. You are a soft-hearted time bomb. You long for the end of this ideal life. You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you, and that is why you must destroy it all.

Given enough time alone, it’s easy for you to lose your mind. You tend to be spiritual, in that you’ll torture the religious first. Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times, by chopping them into little pieces or attacking them with a golf club.

At your worst, you brood then maim. Your negative thoughts can trap you, just the way you like it. You are reserved and withdrawn and terrifying. This makes it hard to connect to others. That and the fact that you often kill them first. You tend to over think small things, and over think, and over think until you explode in a rage so pure that you are lost in the river of blood that flows from the bodies of the undeserving.

like the wind, only not nearly as nice

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Thanks to some ‘friends’ mentioning the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (and really, there’s no excuse for that) I have the song “She’s Like the Wind” in my head.  Damn you, Patrick Swayze.

My only comfort is that maybe it’s in your head now  too and you are suffering as well.  Cruel, yes, well, maybe, but  she’s like the wind and I’m a fooooool to believe.

Grand Master Grace

Friday, February 17th, 2006

It is a proud moment…. Grace has embraced Old School. I have been working diligently to get one of the 3 to enjoy RunDMC or Grand Master Flash and it seems that all the “tricky tricky tricky” (yet fun) work has finally paid off. Nothing makes me happier today than watching my little Grand Master Grace wander around (actually it’s more of a bounce w/ a sway) singing “don’t push me cuz i’m close to the edge… i’m trying not to lose my head… it’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how i keep from going under hoo hahaha”.

I must admit that she does a great job of mixing old with new. She even wears a bandaid on her face everyday for no apparent reason… I like to think that she’s mourning the loss of old school…. but it’s most likely because she’s 2 and bandaids are just plain cool. Oh well…. i’m happy anyway!

Listen to Grand Master Flash today and smile!

Seven Less Deadly, But Still Harmful, Sins

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006
  1. Eating Apple Pie with anything extra, such as ice cream.
  2. Saying “I’m gonna move to Canada if X” where X is something political, and then not following through
  3. Using hand slapping greetings as if you grew up in the ghetto
  4. Watching “Desperate Housewives”
  5. Dropping French phrases into English sentences
  6. SUV, Hummer or any pink car ownership
  7. iPod envy

Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.

Monday, September 19th, 2005

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I humbly but lazily offer a single quote from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, because this is already pirate talk, and because I like it:

Mr. Gibbs: Curse you for breathin’ ya slack-jawed idiot. Jack. Mother’s love. You should know it’s bad luck to wake a man when he’s sleeping.
Jack Sparrow: Fortunately, I know how to counter it; the man who did the waking buys the man who was sleeping a drink; the man who was sleeping drinks it while listening to a proposition from a man who did the waking.
Mr. Gibbs: Aye, that’ll about do it.

Speaking of which, I happily found out they’re brewing an opus II for 2006. I am a great fan of Johnny Depp.

Now, back to work, ye scurvy dogs!