Small Minds


Six months ago we all grew up a little.

A friend of mine recently told me that the owner of the graphic design company he worked for, made comments which I feel are pretty much typical of Americans when they think no-one is looking: After the first tower came down, Mr. Owner told his employees to come up with patriotic flag-covered t-shirt designs, because sales of flag covered shit always go up after events like 9-11. And, he said to print the designs on the cheap shirts because people will buy any old ratty shirt as long as it has a flag on it.

That friend quit a few days later.

Carrying around a flag makes you a good American in about the same way going to church makes you a good Christian. In other words, it really, ultimately, means nothing.

Frames of Reference

I was rearranging my bookshelves today and came across one of my old college texts, a small novel called Flatland. The story takes place in a two-dimensional world, told from the point of view of A Square. At one point A Square is visited by an extra-dimensional visitor: a sphere. The sphere takes A Square on a tour of the dimensions, from 0 up through 3, and maybe even 4. I forget; I last read the book almost ten years ago.

One concept which I still find fascinating is one of the incidentals to extra-planar travel (as described in Flatland) — namely, that from the point of view of dimension n+1 , an observer can see into the middle of a solid which resides in dimension n . Consider: from the point of view of the 3-dimension world in which we exist while traveling through 4d space, we can see into the middle of a 1d (line) or a 2d (plane) object. A square, seen from within it’s own dimension, is a line. A line, seen from within its own dimension, is a point. And a point(0d) is the only thing which exists within its own frame of reference.

So an observer in 4d space would be able to see into the middle of a 3d object. This intuitively makes sense. Assuming time to be the fourth dimension, pick a point at a particular location in space and time, and watch: When a 3d solid intersects that point, the part of that solid which occupies that point will be visible.

And, as these thing go, I have been reading more on memetics, and the points of view of the inhabitants of Flatland, when encountering an occupant of Sphereland , correspond with a concept I studied briefly in college — memetic engulfment .

Memetic engulfment is that which happens when you get so caught up in your your self-reinforcing world-view that you forget that what you see and experience is not the entire world. I studied this in the context of The University, and the idea that the what was taught — the experiences and information imparted to students — was becoming more and more removed from what was actually necessary for existing in “the real world”. The University Meme slowly crowds out the rest of the world.

But all of that was a long time ago, and now I wonder if, given the appropriate metaphors and practices, a person could perceive, with 3d sensory apparatus, the 4d world from the point of view of a 5d frame of reference. In other words, perceive the flow of time, from outside the flow of time…

And if you managed it, how would you get back?


Alas, the world has lost another saint. Chuck Jones, animator extraordinaire, responsible for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and the rest of that gang, passed away on Friday at the age of 89. Chuck made me laugh when there was little to laugh at, from the age of four up until… Hell, he still makes me laugh.

Last May we lost Douglas Adams. We are losing our jesters, the ones who point out the nakedness of our emperors. We have beadles, sycophants, and village idiots beyond number, but the jester is an endangered species. I take solace in knowing that our current village idiot, the one who is happily groin-kicking the rest of the world, is pissing off enough intelligent people that a new crop of jesters will undoubtedly arise, just in time to make us laugh through the next world war.

On Thursday/Friday I pulled my first 24-hour work shift. Thursday 7:00 am to 5:30 pm, then back at 9:00 pm to 12:00 noon on Friday. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I don’t want to do that again, any time soon.

A Small World Experience

Today I took advantage of a gift certificate and went to the local bookstore for my weekly fix. I picked up a couple of collections of Roger Zelazny’s short stories, and a copy of Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin .

This particular edition was translated by Douglas Hofstadter. As I was checking out, the clerk froze for a moment, then spun Eugene Onegin around and said “Why this edition of this book?” I mentioned my recent Hofstadter spree, and the clerk — who spoke with a very slight accent which might have been French — said he had helped with the translation, and had worked with Hofstadter on one of his other books, Le Ton Beau De Marot : In Praise of the Music of Language.

So now I am only one degree of separation from Hofstadter. Well, one degree and about ten thousand IQ points…

If you look to the right you will see a link to a page where I have collected all of the book references which I post on this site. I expect to have reviews up soon.

Love and Death

I heard an interesting statistic today: historically, more people die on February 14 than on any other day. Apparently this is a trend which has been going on for some time across the entire world. Maybe, if I feel motivated, I will look up some statistics.

It took a few days, but I have added destructive capabilities to my tank. You can find it here . Once again, arrow keys move the thing, mouse controls aiming and firing. It weighs in at a whopping 4k.

I have not forgotten about my artificial evolution experiments; they have, of necessity, been set aside in favor of learning more about Flash. Work has been taking up a lot of my time, too.

A word about the current sidebar: Is it a construct known as a Magic Square. It reads the same in all four directions. It is an interesting pattern puzzle to come up with other phrases which work as a magic square, while making sense, linguistically and grammatically. Numerical magic squares contain number grids which, when added together in rows or columns, always result in the same number. If I feel motivated I may post a couple in a few days.

I’m just not feeling very motivated right now.

Happy freakin’ Valentines Day.


Just to prove that Flash is great for making 80’s style arcade games, here is a little thing I whipped up in about an hour this evening. Use the arrow keys to move, and the mouse to aim. If the arrow keys don’t do anything, click on the window to bring it into focus. I will add destructive ability when I figure out how to attach a #%*)%*#%# click event to the root level of a Flash movie.

Programming is Kewl

I have another link to add to the Big Brains section of the links page: Math World. This is an amazing mathematical resource, with close to a thousand interactive Java applet examples created using the Mathematica engine, created by Stephen Wolfram , whose brain is staggeringly huge.

And on a lighter note, I recently came across the Tao of Programming . It is meant to be a satire site, I suppose, but reading through it, a lot of this (surprisingly apt) re-interpretation of the Tao Te Ching rang true for me. Your day will be better for the experience.

Tools of the Trade

Flash is sucking my time away faster than prime time television. No time to read, no time for fun stuff. Not that Flash isn’t fun.

I have a few development links for you, my three readers. First is this page , which has some extremely good tips for optimizing Javascript performance. It also includes benchmarks which show that the techniques actually do work.

Next is a Java development environment called NetBeans which is aimed at web developers. You will need the Java SDK in order to install NetBeans.

In other news, I have been listening to a great German band called Corvus Corax. Medieval music with bagpipes, with a distinct dark-ages feel, coupled with an overtone of punk. Good angry programming music. The problem is, the CDs appear to be nigh impossible to get here in the US. This is not really a problem as long as Audio Galaxy is around, but they are good enough that I want to have their music on CD. Original CD. Not burned copies.