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Hey! You're looking at the front page of which is a temporary storage place for articles I didn't read/evaluate yet. I also use this platform to prepare new content to post where audio/video/image material is hosted completely on my server. On the recorder instead, media is loaded from external sources, so don't get mad if some of them don't work anymore.

Please note that the content posted here is explicitly intended to help me remember certain things, i.e. it is not intended to entertain you in any way (although you certainly will find stuff that fulfills this criteria).

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Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP - Getty Images

A gold-plated handgun, engraved and inlaid with diamonds on the butt, is displayed at the Museum of Drugs in Mexico City, on August 18, 2010. Gold-incrusted weapons, children clothes decorated with LSD-laced stickers and religious paintings packed with cocaine offer a glimpse into Mexico's growing drug culture in a unique museum.

What do you buy the narco trafficker who has everything? Apparently, normal folks can't visit Mexico's Museum of Drugs, though they allow the media in for tours.

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(In July, I went on a family vacation to Japan. Here are my posts about the trip: The Ghibli Museum | Watermelons in the shape of cubes, hearts, and pyramids | What happened to the Burgie Beer UFO of Melrose Avenue? | Shopping in Harajuku | A visit to Iwatayama Monkey Park in Kyoto Japan | Nara Deer Park near Kyoto.)

I felt like I was in a giant thrift store bursting with Japanese products from the the mid 20th century. No guards were stationed in the many rooms crammed with household goods, educational equipment, tools, and other cultural artifacts. No items, as far as I could tell, were nailed down. This place would be a shoplifter's paradise (and a liability insurance abuser's motherlode) in the United States, but we were in Japan, where they don't seem to worry as much about that kind of thing.

The place is called the Showa Kan (Showa refers to the time period, 1926-1989, and Kan means hall). It's a privately run museum in Takayama, a beautiful city in the Chūbu region of central Japan. My wife, two daughters, and I spent a couple of pleasant hours wandering through the rooms here, which were decorated like businesses and institutions from the period. There was a doctor's office, a classroom, an appliance store, a bicycle repair shop, a living room, a bedroom, a barber shop, and so on.

Many more photos and remarks after the jump. (You can click any photo to embiggen it.)

The display in the front window facing the street drew us toward the museum. I don't consider myself a collector of things (too much clutter!) but I would like to have that motorized bike and some of those figurines.


Before entering the museum proper (admission is ¥500 for adults, and ¥300 for kids), you walk past these cool-looking old cars. I'm not sure why Mickey Mouse is driving that three-wheeled pickup truck.


Signs with happy faces on them are an old advertising trick, and one that I approve of.




This hallway made to look like post WWII Japan, complete with a brothel on the second floor.


In this simulacrum of an appliance store, products separated by decades happily sit beside one another.



Too bad the washing machine in the middle can't wash itself!


Mod lamps.


Despite the missing ear, this dog keeps a cheerful expression.


The less said about this guy's engorged, long, stiff nose, the better.


Motorized bikes and a bike repair shop.



A semi-westernized, semi-depressing Japanese living room.


The next three photos remind me of Coop's collection.




My daughter is trying to play a non-working arcade game. I wish it worked, because it looks like fun! UPDATE: It's a Bally Spinner arcade game from 1962. Here's a video. (Thanks, Darryl!)


My daughter really wanted to sit on this toy JR train and take it for a spin around the museum. I didn't allow it, but I didn't blame her for wanting to. I recall reading that someone infamously sat on Rauschenberg's stuffed goat when it was on display and damaged it.


You can find character statuettes like this in front of stores in Japan today. They are about three-feet tall. I'm not sure what their function is other than to lure customers.



This creepy doll is a far cry from the kawaii look associated with contemporary Japanese characters.


Slightly less creepy doll inside a very creepy wooden child containment device that looks like something the Pilgrims would have made to teach their babies about the misery of Hell. How long would those beads on a wire keep toddlers occupied before they went out of their mind?


Bring back tin containers for food packaging! (Here's why.)


Missing BOTH ears and still as happy as can be!


This doctor's office could be used as a set for a scary movie.


The food goes into slot A, and moves its way down and out. An Alan Watts quote comes to mind:

[L]iving organisms, including people, are merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out at the other, which both keeps them doing it and in the long run wears them out. So to keep the farce going, the tubes find ways of making new
tubes, which also put things in at one end and let them out at the other. At the input end they even develop ganglia of nerves called brains, with eyes and ears, so that they can more easily scrounge around for things to swallow. As and when they get enough to eat, they use up their surplus energy by wiggling in complicated patterns, making all sorts of noises by blowing air in and out of the input hole, and gathering together in groups to fight with other groups. In time, the tubes grow such an
abundance of attached appliances that they are hardly recognizable as mere tubes, and they manage to do this in a staggering variety of forms. There is a vague rule not to eat tubes of your own form, but in general there is serious competition as to who is going to be the top type of tube. All this seems marvelously futile, and yet, when you begin to think about it, it begins to be more marvelous than futile. Indeed, it seems extremely odd.

Truer words were never spoken!


Another look at the interior of a tube.


Tube malfunction!


Joseph and the liver of many colors.


Making a new tube.


A red eye is an unhappy eye.


If I had to pick an eye disease based on the models alone, I think I'd pick the one on the lower right. How about you?


The kawaii is starting to kick in.


A classroom planetarium.


This looks like a machine to demonstrate bell curves and standard deviations. People who know more than I do about statistics (and that would be just about everyone) can explain the real purpose of this. Maybe it's a pachinko machine for Zen Buddhists.



Magnetic poles, electrical current, a rotor. What is it?


A classroom orrery.


As an early lesson in environmentalism, here's a model of a sea creature that bit into a can of expanding foam sealant that had been carelessly tossed overboard by a callous merchant marine.


Before you scroll down to the next photo, take a look at the long glass tube with a liquid-filled bulb at the bottom and try to guess what it is used for.


A fly catcher!


Thank you for making it this far. If you ever find yourself in Takayama, Japan, I strongly encourage you to visit the Showa Kan.


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If it’s true that 35 percent of all internet traffic is used for transferring porn, then the remaining 65 surely must be clogged up by the ramblings of elite Germans in skinny jeans and granny dresses who brazenly teach an unsuspecting audience about all those vapid little aspects that, in their acutely voiced opinion, make the particular part of Berlin they recently moved to the only place that’s still interesting to live at.

Yet, as the famous saying goes, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time,” it feels like most of these people are currently living in Berlin.

How so? Because now, as the hype they painstakingly created turns out to be working, in that droves of young, easily impressed people are crawling over each others’ shoulders to secure their place in one of the thousands of hyper-individualistic flat shares in the city of their uniformly predictable dreams, elite German people have come to the foreseeable conclusion that there is a downside to their desperate pursuit to become interesting by association with a trendy part of town. 

Upon closer inspection, the irritation seems to arise from the simple reality that it isn’t them who are in control of the immigration to their Altbau neighborhood. Although elite Berliners will argue that they are, in all likelihood, the most tolerant people on the face of earth, they throw tantrums as soon as someone moves in to the apartment next door who isn’t exactly like them. Oblivious to the paradox how they, arriving in Berlin as bumbling, provincial oxygen thieves barely able to hide their Osnabruck faces under a hastily grown, messy beard, resented being labeled as “gentrifiers,” elite Berliners tend to become extremely angry and insecure towards anyone who moves in after them.

That’s because the true German elite exists beyond the space-time continuum. Disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is never them or their buddies who are gentrifying Berlin, but, you guessed right, the folks who move in a month, a week, a day, even just an hour, after them. The good news, Auslander, is albeit you might have been called a gentrifying yuppie pig, because, uhm, you didn’t obey the council of elder gentrifiers’ memorandum about the maximum acceptable salary for your specific neighborhood, you can rest assured that there exists one group of people who your elite German friends still hate more than you: Schwaben.

Any self-respecting and -appointed Mitte bohemian is obliged to despise anyone from the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg who dares to share their ubernonconformist fondness for Berlin’s trendy neighborhoods. Schwaben, so the insinuation goes, make Berlin less hip because they all are nouveau riche, culture-averse countryside simpletons with way too much money and way too little enthusiasm for alternative art, crowd-sourced creativity, or old geezers publicly pleasing themselves at the Kit-Kat Club.

The accusations that all original gentrifiers can agree on is that Schwaben a) talk in an awful dialect that’s only remotely reminiscent of proper German and b) drive up the apartment rents because they are “good with money”. No word yet on whether elite German people also reckon that Schwaben have a weird physiognomy, you know, like huge, crooked noses.

Oddly enough, the more obvious criticism -- that Schwaben are hopeless johnny-come-latelies still in firm belief of the Berlin hype who are all-too-ready and gullible enough to trade in their narrow, yet likeable south-western environment of well-paid jobs, favorable climatic conditions, and tasty cuisine, for the despicable ambition to belong to a crowd of equally uninteresting pseudo-urbanites living in a perpetually up-and-coming city which, on a good day, feels like an abandoned suburb of Moscow -- should better be kept to yourself.

To the curious observer, the true motivation for the hatred is quite easy to grasp: Your German friends hate the Schwaben for holding a mirror up to them. Watching the hordes of corn-fed Schwaben roam the Berlin streets in naïve amazement about having accomplished the unthinkable by moving to a bigger city than Stuttgart, even the most narcissistic, full-of-themselves elite German people will come to the sobering realization that, in spite of all the blood, sweat, and tears spent in their effort to shed the marks of their own regrettably normal upbringing and become cosmopolites, all they are able to achieve is to barely stay two miserable months ahead of the average greenhorn from Tuttlingen.


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Impressive yoyo demo of Canadian national Champion Jensen Kimmitt at the 2010 World YoYo Contest

What a Real Yoyo Master Is Capable Of

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On this week's Drupal podcast, Bob tackles the nodequeue module. ;This module allows arbirary sorting of content for use in views (and other places), putting sort orders in the hands of clients and site operators, without the need for them to edit a view.

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"Time spent on hiring is time well spent," as they say. We round up 20 great questions for gaining insight into even the most wily interviewee.

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Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, a festive figure-drawing jam session, now has over 100 branches around the world. Artist Molly Crabapple founded it in 2005 in a "dive bar in Brooklyn."

From illegal flashmobs to the Museum of Modern Art, Dr. Sketchy's has brought artists a rule-breaking cocktail of dames, drinking and drawing. Whether you're an artstar or a scribbling newbie, Dr. Sketchy's is the perfect place to get your fill of life-drawing."

Bob Self, founder of Dr. Sketchy's Los Angeles, says:

I am pleased to announce that there is now a hub for all Dr. Sketchy's branches worldwide. 100+ branches. 1 web site. Woo! Dr. Sketchy's presents amazing figure-drawing spectacles in 16 countries on five continents... all unified through the Anti-Art School's brand-spanking-new global web site. Find the branch nearest you, or  learn how to start your own local branch. Don't make excuses... make art!

The only two continents without a Dr. Sketchy branch are Africa and Antarctica. If you live there, you are invited to start a branch!

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School

(Dr. Sketchy's - Bettie Page Tribute Session from William Zoe FitzGerald.)

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 Posts Post Full 1281657631Turbine

This is a photo of the Atlantis AK1000, a 130 ton, 74-foot-tall tidal turbine that will be installed underwater off the cost of Scotland. It is designed to supply electrical power for 1,000 households.

Sea water, which is 832 times denser than air, gives a 5 knot ocean current more kinetic energy than a 350 km/h wind; therefore ocean currents have a very high energy density. Hence a smaller device is required to harness tidal current energy than to harness wind energy.

Tidal current energy takes the kinetic energy available in currents and converts it into renewable electricity. As oceans cover over 70% of Earth’s surface, ocean energy (including wave power, tidal current power and ocean thermal energy conversion) represents a vast source of energy, estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 TWh per year, enough energy to continuously light between 2 and 4 billion 11W low-energy light bulbs.

Both the U.S. and the U.K., for example, have enough ocean power potential to meet around 15% of their total power needs.

Good: The World's Largest Tidal Turbine, Unveiled

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TEDxBoston - Felice Frankel -- More Than Pretty Pictures

More than Pretty Pictures: How Visually Representing Science Can be a Powerful Way to Clarify Communicate and Inspire AboutTEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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Jay-Z is releasing a memoirs titled Decoded, on 16 November. The 336-page book will be part lyric discussion, part interview and was written by The Source editor Dream Hampton.

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by Claire O'Neill

This video of some dude 'walking' across the country has been floating around the World Wide Web lately. Pretty cool. You can also see a behind-the-scenes explanation. All I can think is: his feet must kill.

Update Aug. 12, 11:47am ET: Oh, it's a Levi's commercial? Very smart, Levi's. You may have one-upped Old Spice!

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There are 6 billion people live in the world and thousands of different languages! We are not ready for all of them yet but we are happy to announce Public Gothic Typeface Family is now available in 42 new languages!
The updated Family is available at

What’s included?
New lowercase letters! (optional)
New Vintage and Federal style with unique character structure.
Full latin-based characters completed.
Central and Eastern European language support.
New figures, currency & related forms.
Improved structure for some glyph.
Better kerning!

Advertise with Design You Trust! - DYT on Twitter - Facebook

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TEDxByronBay - Kurek Ashley - Great at SEX...It's Not What You Think

Kurek Ashley is a true visionary whose ideas have impacted the lives of millions of people around the world. Kurek is a Number 1 international best selling author of the book, "How would Love respond?". Within four hours of the book being released it took the number 1 spot on bestsellers list for Hot New Releases. He is considered one the premier experts in personal development, self-discovery and peak performance. He currently has worked in over 14 countries around the world and gives up to 100 presentations a yearTEDx = independently organized event. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized

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The Discovery Channel has begun airing a new series called "Speed of Life". There were three episodes on last Sunday night and the show looks like it will run every Sunday.

The series is made up completely of footage of wild animals shot with cameras capable of taking several thousand frames per second (I think).

It's great reference for animators and any other artist to watch. Just twenty years ago at CalArts I struggled to find any kind of footage of moving animals to help understand how different animals moved. There was no internet yet, of course, and I used to collect nature shows on VHS tapes and laserdiscs voraciously to try and wrap my head around how all types of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish behave and move. It was a frustrating, time consuming and expensive method of study.

These days it's a lot easier. There are a ton of great nature shows out there (I don't watch any of them but I hear many of them are spectacular) and I'm sure they are all worth watching. I really enjoyed watching this one in particular because the frame-by-frame movement can be really helpful for understanding how certain animals are put together and how they move - some of them move so quickly in real life that you can't really see what's happening until it's slowed down. I really believe that the subjects of how an animal is put together and how an animal moves cannot be studied independently of each other ...the two subjects are so closely related that they should always be considered together. You could look at pictures of leopards forever - and pictures are great for studying - but seeing one in motion really tells you how they are put together and why.

Anyway, set your Tivo for it and check it out if you're interested.

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Attractive design, inquisitive structure and captivating content are the ingredients of every successful website. Since most people who wish to launch their very own website would usually not be well versed in all three areas, owning a website becomes tedious if not a costly venture.
Since all website owners may not be web developers, sometimes they may need to take the trouble of learning how to make even the smallest changes required on their site. Some may find this exciting, while the majority would get disheartened by the inconvenient task and even give up the idea of having an online presence.

If you are another one of those, who specializes at some business, service or has an urge to disseminate his interests and experiences with the world without learning web development, it is still possible. A Content Management System (CMS) is what you need!

Continue reading …

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Sensor Fusion on Android Devices: A Revolution in Motion Processing

Google Tech Talk August 2, 2010 ABSTRACT Presented by David Sachs. Gyroscopes, accelerometers, and compasses are increasingly prevalent in mainstream consumer electronics. Applications of these sensors include user interface, augmented reality, gaming, image stabilization, and navigation. This talk will demonstrate how all three sensor types work separately and in conjunction on a modified Android handset running a modified sensor API, then explain how algorithms are used to enable a multitude of applications. Application developers who wish to make sense of rotational motion must master Euler angles, rotation matrices, and quaternions. Under the hood, sensor fusion algorithms must be used in order to create responsive, accurate, and low noise descriptions of motion. Reducing sensing errors involves compensating for temperature changes, magnetic disturbances, and sharp accelerations. Some of these algorithms must run at a very high rate and with very precise timing, which makes them difficult to implement within low-power real-time operating systems. Within Android specifically, this involves modifying the sensor manager, introducing new APIs, and partitioning motion processing tasks. David Sachs began developing motion processing systems as a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. His research there led him to InvenSense, where he continues this work with MEMS inertial sensors used in products such as the Nintendo Wii Motion Plus. David's designs incorporate gyroscopes <b>...</b>

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“Radio taiso” are a kind of exercises to warm up in the mornings that are practiced by many Japanese people since the end of the Second World War. One of the main goals of performing “radio taiso” is the reinforcement of the cooperation and unity spirit of all the participants. It is always carried out in groups, usually in schools before starting classes and in companies before starting the working day. It is another example of the collectivist behavior of Japanese society.

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It may be true that the first thing to suffer when you are busy doing other things is the act of blogging. Why would you bother telling the world what you're up to when you're enjoying just doing it. This is the first post of August however and I promise to be more diligent in future. Something's better than nothing right?

First off a huge shout out to Howard Feinstein, critic, film fan and benevolent father figure for having Colony included in his outstanding 'Panorama' section at the Sarajevo Film Festival last week. Great city and some great movies.

Among the stand out efforts that I managed to catch at this Balkan cinema extravaganza were Simon Brumley's smart, lean and brilliantly executed hipster shocker 'Red, White & Blue'. Someone and by someone I mean you Harvey Weinstein should give Simon a three picture deal asap.

A scathing look at the nature of American laziness and the culture of violence that seeps from within it's greasy, Budweiser drinking, flag flying heartlands, Red, White & Blue was not for the feint hearted or the weak stomached.

Needless to say neither were the check golfing pants that Simon selected to wear at his Q&A.

He's a true original all the way and I have no doubt that great things await Simon as a writer/director and horror meister supreme.

Here's actress Amanda Fuller discussing the film. Nice to finally see her with some clothes on...

Next up was 'The Temptation of St. Tony' by Estonian auteur Veiko Õunpuu.

An existential black comedy that I would happily tout as the Estonian 'Big Lebowski', this was a film to be seen on the big screen. Shot in mindblowingly beautiful black and white, 'Temptation' is one that audiences will either love or hate.

Structured in chapters rather than following a traditional linear plot it reminded me of being a kid and turning on the television late at night and seeing a film with subtitles in black and white and people...just talking.

It's only now, as an adult, that I feel able to embrace these things that I may not quite understand and enjoy what I'm seeing...rather than changing the channel to watch 'Tango & Cash'.

I loved this film and Veiko's admission that after the success of his sophomore effort 'Autumn Ball' his discomfort at being touted as 'the savior of Estonian film' prompted him to make this movie as 'a big Fuck You to all of those people' was typical of the bone dry humor that fills the movie.

Full of self-deprecating comments, Veiko claimed to have stolen many of the films shots from masters such as Pasolini and Tarkovsky but I just think he was being modest. It's fair to say that movies like this just aren't being made anymore and it was wonderful to see something with a true love of cinema, philosophy and comedy up there on the big screen.

It's such a beautiful film that I'm just not sure why this youtube clip is so rubbish: there's enough moments of transcendental black and white cinematography in this film to make a year's worth of car commercials out of.

Here's a taster none the less:

Among other films that I managed to see were mischievous Columbian helmer Oscar Ruiz Navia's 'Crab Trap', Canne Palm D'Or winner 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' and finally I got a look at Lixin Fan's doc masterpiece 'Last Train Home'. Thank you to Lixin for one of the most incredible films I have seen this year. Having met the guy it's hard to imagine a more earnest person, full of integrity and talent. It's truly an amazing documentary film.

Taking the cake however was the long awaited 'Enter the Void' by perennial 'enfant terrible' Gaspar Noe. Introducing the film and saying it was inspired by his drug experiences kind of put me off and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat for a while before the film started. There's perhaps nothing sadder in my mind than some geezer in his early forties asking where you can score a few 'E's and talking up his love for the odd acid trip but in the end all credit is due as the film absolutely blew me away.

Inspired in part by innovative first-person perspective 1940s noir 'Lady in the Lake', 'Enter the Void' impressed me so much firstly because it completely eschews any of the kind of cinematic shoe gazing bullshit that is so prevalent in the 'auteur' filmmaking that fills festival schedules these days.

From the first frame it drops you straight in to a kaleidoscopic world that is part dream, part nightmare beginning at a million miles an hour with this Manga fueled title sequence scored by old techno supremo Thomas Bangalter. Classic stuff.

Noe is one of the most honest directors working today for my money and that's why I enjoy his films so much. Although 'Irreversible' remains nothing more than a video nasty for some, I still maintain it's the film 'Eyes Wide Shut' just didn't have the guts to be.

In many ways perhaps 'Enter the Void' is Noe's '2001'. Full of beautifully rendered visual effects, wild, dimension bending camera moves, flashing neon, dreamy sex and a healthy preoccupation with death, 'Void' may perhaps be on the verge of ruining the French film industry but I loved every minute. Well...almost every minute.

Props to all at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

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In a little over a week, Edgar Wright’s movie based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books will be in theaters nationwide. Just before the movie hits, Ubisoft will release Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a downloadable side-scrolling beat ‘em up on the PlayStation 3. After playing a preview build for the last few days, I know exactly two things. One, even on the lowest difficulty setting the game is extremely challenging. Two, while it can be frustratingly cheap at points, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is still pretty fun.

If you didn’t know already, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a bit of a throwback title. The characters from the comic and the worlds they travel to are all rendered in wonderfully pixelated high-definition graphics. Even the opening credits with the Ubisoft, Universal, and Oni Press logos are done in this style. Sarah already talked about how good the game looked in her E3 preview, so I won’t talk about that too much today. Once you actually start up a game, you and up to three other friends can pick either Scott, Ramona, Stephen Stills, or Kim Pine to play as. From there, you’re transported to the world map, which like the character select screen, pays loving homage to, among other classic titles, the Super Mario Bros. games from the cartridge generation. As the game follows the plot of the comics, you’ll travel to different locations on the map for each one of Ramona’s evil exes. Even though there’s nothing groundbreaking about the game’s progression, moving from point to point to fight a bunch of thugs over and over again doesn’t really get old.

When it comes to the actual combat, everything is pretty simple. You have two standard attacks (strong or quick), and you have two types of specials. Every character has a unique attack he or she can use when getting overwhelmed, and every character has a different assist/attack from Knives Chau. For example, calling her in can restore your health with a kiss, or leave your enemies hurting thanks to a flying dagger attack. You’re also able to level up and learn new moves (up to level 16), and though the system isn’t very deep, it’s still enjoyable. As fun as it is to fight the random assortment of enemies you’ll encounter, it can be equally frustrating. It’s almost impossible to play the game on your own. Without a partner, you’ll struggle to complete even the first level. Part of that lies in some cheap enemies, and part of that lies in the fact that partners can revive each other when they’re down. Resuscitation is incredibly important in this game as you’ll be getting knocked out quite a bit.

Even though the game scales how many enemies there are based on how many people are playing, it’s still quite difficult to go it alone. That said, it also took every bit of all three lives for all four characters to even reach the third boss battle, let alone defeat him. The difficulty curve is incredibly steep, partially because the game is actually challenging, and partially because the game is kind of cheap. A lot of enemies have unblockable attacks, and when there are dozens of them on screen at once, you can easily be overwhelmed. The game verges on frustrating instead of difficult on more than once occasion, and may turn off more casual fans. In addition to the leveling system, there are items you can purchase that will upgrade your stats, but the stores are more confusing than they are helpful. You don’t see the stats of the items you’re purchasing until after you buy them, so you have absolutely no idea what the item you’re spending money on will do for you. Perhaps this is something that only translates to the preview build, but if that’s the way the inventory and shops are going to work in the final game, that’s one very important section that will be incredibly broken.

After playing through the first three levels of the game, I can still say I’m really looking forward to the final version of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It’s going to be difficult to beat alone, but with a little help from my friends, and a lot of time to replay levels in which everyone dies, I think I’m up to the challenge. I did try out the game’s zombie mode, which was just a time trial to see how long I could last against a never-ending wave of zombies. It’s okay, but it’s certainly not the reason you’ll be buying the game. There’s just so much to like about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that I’m willing to give it a little more leeway, but I hope the final product is tuned just a bit better for the general public who’ll be interested in the game because of the movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World will be out on the PlayStation Network on August 10, with an Xbox Live Arcade version coming later this year.

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Screenshot of new Lite pager option in Views

The Views Litepager module solves a problem of scalability for sites with large amounts of content. Drupal's core pagination system creates a pager navigation that shows exactly how many pages of content exist for the content list. This requires that a COUNT query be executed based on the query used to generate the list.

While COUNT queries are blazingly fast on tables with MySQL's MyISAM engine, they are painfully slow when using InnoDB tables which is the recommended engine type for high traffic Drupal sites. The COUNT queries quickly degrade the more rows a table has.

The Views Litepager module solves this problem for Views pagination by providing a pager option that does not require a COUNT query to be executed. This "Lite" pager is only slightly less useful than Drupal's core pager in that it does not allow you to navigate to the "last" page and does not show how many total pages of content there are. But for large sites, this small cost in features is worth the boost in performance by ridding your pages of the painfully slow (and sometimes crippling) COUNT queries.

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Expressive Languages for the JVM

Google Tech Talk July 28, 2010 ABSTRACT Much has been made of having more expressive languages for the JVM. The recent explosion of interest in alternative JVM languages has shown there's a need for something better. But have Scala, Groovy, Fantom achieved this goal? We'll look at two language cases for the JVM: JRuby, which brings Ruby to the JVM; and Mirah, which attempts to implement Ruby's apparent features directly atop JVM types and code. In each case there have been gains and losses. Ruby often provides beautiful abstractions, but sometimes requires odd things of the JVM that influence performance. The dynamic capabilities are incredibly expressive, but we often need more static structure to enforce typing guarantees or integrate with the platform. On top of all this, much of Ruby's dynamism makes it very difficult to optimize on the JVM. Can we get those features in another way? Mirah may be one answer. It takes as a starting point the "apparent features" of Ruby, and as an end point the basic structures of the JVM, and attempts to tie them directly together. With a fairly simple compiler, Mirah can almost mimic the most common Ruby abstractions, but with static typing guarantees and no runtime library requirements. It provides a Ruby-like way to write Java, the ultimate goal of so many JVM languages. In the end, a combination of the two languages probably leads to truth. But what will that combination look like? Charles Oliver Nutter has been programming most of <b>...</b>

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Example of a node form/page with a tree-enabled text field.

Allows multi-value fields to be stored and displayed as hierarchical trees. Basically any Field API field can be transformed into a tree.






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What kind of dead technology do you have in your cupboards?

I recently found two old instant cameras in the back of a drawer-- with half-advanced rolls of film still in them. The local photo developer was able to develop only some of the shots (the film was around a decade old) and I was treated to some grainy, red-tinted photographs of my old apartment in Japan. The time stamps were shortly before I bought my first digital camera.


I've also got a stack of blank CDs and DVDs in a drawer; I used to stockpile them to burn things for friends, but now the flash drive has rendered them useless. I hardly even watch DVDs from Netflix anymore, though I get plenty of usage out of their "Watch Instantly" service.


In an effort to clear domestic clutter I recycled the film cameras last week (thanks Best Buy, for offering free in-store electronic goods recycling), along with a pair of once-extremely-cool landline phones I'd purchased while living in Japan.

I may recycle the unburned discs next. If anyone needed a sure sign that they'll disappear, Apple is allegedly dropping iDVD from their next version of iLife. Remember when they dropped support for the floppy disk? Yes, most of us thought they were crazy, but months later I regretted stockpiling a crapload of the useless squares that a local store had slashed the price on, and I won't make that mistake again!

In any case, I originally started this post to point out that Best Buy offers free e-recycling at their brick-and-mortar stores. Bring in a bag of whatever you've got and they'll take care of it, so you can clean house and get those dust-gathering precious metals back into the product stream, hopefully saving a modicum of natural resources.


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The phenomenal success of MTV’s “Pimp my Ride,” a show in which everyday folk have their unglamorous vehicles jazzed up with chrome wheels, fancy paint jobs and state-of-the-art sound systems, has sparked huge interest in the art and practice of motor-vehicle customization. So it wasn’t long before a show emerged that focused on two-wheeler makeovers. “Biker Build-Off” aired on the Discovery Channel and featured America’s top custom-bike builders competing to create the most impressive ride. Among the contestants were two Japanese builders, Shinya Kimura and Chica.

While Chica builds flashy, ultramodern bikes not dissimilar to the work of popular American customizers, Kimura’s creations are radically different. Some observers have even gone so far as to label them “rolling works of art,” and that is a label this innovative creator is trying to burnish through an exhibition of his work currently on show in Tokyo’s fashionable Harajuku neighborhood.

American bike customization enthusiasts credit Kimura with originating the now hugely popular grunge look, or retro-classic style of bike-building, using assorted scrap parts from vintage Harley-Davidsons and pre-’60s Triumph and BSA engine components, which he finds at swap meets or junkyards. Also fashioning some parts himself, Kimura spends around four months creating each of his “old-school choppers,” often building almost everything, from the engine to the transmission, and even the wheels, from scratch, using junk metal and salvaged parts.

Kouichiro Narita, editor of Hot Bike Japan, a magazine devoted to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, to which Kimura is an occasional contributor, says that anybody interested in custom bikes in Japan knows the name Shinya Kimura. “Kimura is a legend in the world of motorbike customization,” he says. “He created a new look that nobody had ever seen before, using the old Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi (austere refinement), bringing out the beauty of the raw materials and incorporating the essence of wa (harmony) into his designs. About five years ago it became known here in Japan as ‘Zero Style,’ and it’s still having a big impact on the scene here.”

Kimura, who recalls customizing his bicycle in his youth so that it would stand out from those of other kids, quit his post as chief mechanic at one of Japan’s leading motorcycle manufacturers to set up his own company, Chabott Engineering, in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, in 1992. The following year, he changed the workshop’s name to Zero Engineering and took on a team of five mechanics. Over the past dozen or so years, the firm has produced about 200 motorcycles.

Hot Bike magazine’s Narita says that Kimura’s background as an engine specialist has also been pivotal to his success. “The beauty of Harley-Davidson bikes, especially the older models, is the engine,” he explains. “If you look at the Zero Engineering bikes, you’ll see that they all make the engine a prominent part of their design — that was something that really captured the imagination of Harley fans.”

The no-frills, retro-chic machines that Kimura creates, with their deliberately worn metal surfaces and mostly dark, muted paint work, are a far cry from the gaudy all-chrome or eye-achingly airbrushed custom designs that dominate the American market. They appeal only to a small, highly discerning clientele that includes actors Brad Pitt (who owns three) and George Clooney.

Kimura’s recent application for a green card to work in the United States was submitted along with a letter of recommendation from Pitt, who has struck up a friendship with the unassuming Japanese. Unsurprisingly, the creator’s request for residency was duly granted, and in July this year he set up a new workshop, Chabott Engineering, in Azusa, Calif. He still works as Zero Engineering’s chief designer, with a six-strong team of mechanics in Aichi realizing his visions, but since moving to California he has begun to build alone too. That is part of his drive to gain recognition as not only the pioneer of a new aesthetic for bike-building, but also as the creator of pieces of what he dubs “functional art.”

Many of Kimura’s designs are based around themes gleaned from nature, such as a cheetah chasing down a kill, or a female praying mantis devouring her male mate. Often, too, he bestows on them outlandish names like Peanut Fighter or Muscle Granddad. Despite prices starting at around $ 40,000, there is a four-year waiting list for one of his bikes.

“My creations go down a lot better in the States than they do here in Japan,” says Kimura, slumped back in a stylish chair at Tom Dixon-designed Harajuku fashion store Tokyo Hipsters Club, where an exhibition of his work is on show until Nov. 12. Sporting tinted glasses and a battered biker jacket, he says there are far more takers across the Pacific than in his native land.

“Here [in Japan] you have all these regulations about insurance and registration, and there are far fewer places to ride. The bikes I make really need a long stretch of straight road to experience them fully, and there aren’t so many decent strips like that here. Out in California, though, there are hundreds of miles of desert.

“It’s also about the mind-set,” he continues in muted Japanese. “Playing around with vehicles — the spirit of customization — is far more respected in the U.S. And I guess in terms of the market [for bikes], there’s more of a culture of spending money on yourself — rewarding yourself with big purchases, especially autos. Here in Japan, people feel guilty about that kind of outlay, they think they should be saving money for their kids.”

Kimura’s path to becoming a hero of the custom-bikers’ world took a new twist after 10 years of building eye-popping bikes. By then, aided by his team of mechanics, Kimura had bagged every award a customizer in Japan could hope to win. In 2001, the publication of a book in English titled “Zero Chopper Spirit: Samurai Bikes from the East,” showcasing 34 of his designs, kicked up a big storm in the bike-enthusiast community overseas.

“I started getting e-mail and letters from bike fanatics all over the world, and overseas magazines started calling up asking to do features on my work,” recounts Kimura. “So I began to wonder about entering my bikes in a show overseas and seeing the reaction from bike fans over there with my own eyes.”

He duly entered his first overseas event, the Easy-Rider Show in Pomona, Calif., in 2004. He won third place, and says he was amazed by the reaction of bike fans there.

“There was a big crowd that gathered around and people were saying stuff like ‘This is a work of art! Thank you so much for bringing it here.’ And they were shaking my hand and taking so many photos. It was totally different from the Japanese audience, who would always just stand in silence admiring from a distance.”

Kimura has gone on to win various prestigious awards in the U.S., including the coveted Best of Show prize at the L.A. Calendar Show, and as well as “Biker Build-Off,” he is the subject of a chapter in Tom Zimberoff’s long-selling monograph “Art of the Chopper.”

The “samurai bike” builder says that Americans’ different perception of what constitutes art has also encouraged him to set up over there.

“In the States,” he explains, “People are far more willing to label themselves artists. From an old lady who sells the paintings she’s made at a flea market to a bunch of young girls who get together and play in a band, they’re all ‘artists.’ So if I’m using bikes to try to express something, well I figure that makes me an artist, too. I won’t be getting myself a beret and a pipe, though!”

The unassuming engineer says that the consensus among American enthusiasts that his creations were works of art had a profound effect on both his perception of, and approach to, his work.

“Since setting up in America, I’ve moved from being just a custom-bike builder to slightly changing my direction a little more toward the world of art. I don’t know whether success or failure is awaiting me in the future. Can custom bikes become art? Maybe we’ll know in 10 years’ time.”

Besides laxer restrictions on engine sizes across the Pacific, and a web of regulations issued by the Japanese authorities that he felt was hampering his creative freedom, Kimura says his move Stateside was also driven by a realization of the different perception of motorbike customization that comes with a more deep-rooted biking culture.

“America has a long and rich motoring culture that doesn’t bear comparison with that of Japan,” says Kimura. “You get granddads taking their grandsons to see custom bikes and saying ‘Gramps used to blaze down the freeway on a Harley back in the day, kid.’ When I experienced that sense of bike history, I started thinking about a move to the States.”

It would appear, though, that Kimura is already well on the way to having earned his place in the bike-builder hall of fame. This history of the motorcycle, as chronicled in an exhibition “The Motorcycle as Art,” organized by New York’s Guggenheim Museum, includes a chapter devoted to the aesthetic that Kimura is credited with pioneering. Titled “Retro/Revolutionary: 1990-2004,” it traces developments in motorcycle design: from the grunge aesthetic, whereby bikes are stripped of their traditional trappings, to reinterpretations and updates on classic designs from decades past.

The world of motorcycling is taken very seriously in the U.S., where there is even an academic quarterly, the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies, devoted to exploring the history and culture of two-wheeled vehicles, as well as dozens of societies and circles ranging from outlaw gangs to Jewish biker club Sons of David, black biker club Ebony Riders, and a biker poet group by the name of the Word Pirates.

But while biker types are of course inclined to label the best examples of the customizer’s craft as works of art, there seems little likelihood of the establishment accepting them as pieces of “fine” art.

So can Kimura really be serious in thinking this exhibition at Tokyo Hipsters Club is one step toward his work being accepted as art?

“Well, this exhibition at THC has that desire underpinning it; it’s just one small step toward that. I hope that people visiting the show are able to feel the sense of art under all that iron and steel.”

The art of the machine

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Three Cool Things About D - The Case for the D Programing Language

Google Tech Talk July 29, 2010 ABSTRACT C++ has been through many battles and won most of them. Invariably it has been patched with more armor, given more makeshift weaponry, and sent back to battle. Many contenders have tried to spell its demise, but C++ has remained undefeated ruler in one niche: high-performance systems with difficult modeling challenges. Between the halt of Moore's law for serial speed and the continued demand for performance, one thing has become clear: a replacement for C++ must be good at what C++ is good at, and good at what C++ is bad at. The D programming language is that contender. It packs much more punch in a much smaller package. Better yet, D has the flexibility to compete against other languages on their own turf. This talk gives an introduction to the D programming language along with its motivation and basic tenets. The person who asks the more intriguing question wins a signed copy of the recently-published "The D Programming Language". Andrei Alexandrescu coined the colloquial term "modern C++", used today to describe a collection of important C++ styles and idioms. His eponymous book on the topic, Modern C++ Design (Addison-Wesley, 2001), revolutionized C++ programming and produced a lasting influence not only on subsequent work on C++, but also on other languages and systems. Andrei's work has garnered appreciation in both industrial and academic circles through is work on C++ and on Machine Learning applied to natural language <b>...</b>

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Noah Shachtman reports at Wired Danger Room blog that the investment arms of the CIA and Google are together backing a firm that monitors the web in real time, and claims to use that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands
of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships
between people, organizations, actions and incidents -- both present
and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal
analytics engine "goes beyond search" by "looking at the 'invisible
links' between documents that talk about the same, or related,
entities and events."

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it
happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that
chatter, showing online "momentum" for any given event.

The "How People Use It" page on Recorded Future's website makes absolutely no attempt to hide The Creepy:

Research a person
Monitor news on public figures to...

Identify future travel plans; spot past travel trends and patterns

Search for communication with other individuals; graph their network

Monitor career history and announced job changes

Find quotations and sound bites in the news and blogs

Discover future and past strategic positioning

Uncover public political ties and family relationships

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in 'Future' of Web Monitoring (Wired Danger Room blog)

Video above, a trailer of sorts for "Recorded Future."

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TEDxPennQuarter - Shevaun Voisin - Reinventing the Self

REINVENTING The Self About Shevaun Shevaun Voisin is not the titles she holds, the awards she's won, or even the sum total of her net worth statement. She is a woman on a mission to inspire others to re-invent themselves, achieve in quantum leaps, and choose to be remarkable every day. She has promoted a world ranked boxer, built a mall, taught hundreds of entrepreneurs how to start and grow their companies, and interviewed some of the world's most accomplished leaders. But, none of these experiences have compared to dancing intimately with death and grief; an encounter that served as the catalyst to publish her international business magazine, MOTIVATED. Challenging widely accepted beliefs about pursing a life of mediocre success versus passionate significance, readers appreciate the truths shared directly from leaders around our world. About TEDx In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

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The Metaphysical Meaning of Baseball:

In his later philosophy, Heidegger liked to indulge in eccentric etymologies because he was certain that there are truths deeply hidden in language. It is one of the more beguilingly magical aspects of his thought and therefore—to my mind—one of the more convincing. Consider, for instance, the wonderful ambiguity one finds in the word invention when one considers its derivation. The Latin invenire means principally “to find,” “to encounter,” or (literally) “to come upon.” Only secondarily does it mean “to create” or “to originate.” Even in English, where the secondary sense has now entirely displaced the primary, the word retained this dual connotation right through the seventeenth century. This pleases me for two reasons. The first is that, as an instinctive Platonist, I naturally believe that every genuine act of human creativity is simultaneously an innovation and a discovery, a marriage of poetic craft and contemplative vision that captures traces of eternity’s radiance in fugitive splendors here below by translating our tacit knowledge of the eternal forms into finite objects of reflection, at once strange and strangely familiar. The second is that the word’s ambiguity helps me to formulate my intuitions regarding the ultimate importance of baseball.

What, after all, will the final tally of America’s contribution to civilization be, once the nation has passed away (as, of course, it must)? Which of our inventions will truly endure? We have made substantial contributions to political philosophy, technology, literature, music, the plastic and performing arts, cuisine, and so on. But how much of these can we claim as our native inventions, rather than merely our peculiar variations on older traditions? And how many will persist in a pure form, rather than being subsumed into future developments? Jazz, perhaps, but will it continue on as a living tradition in its own right or simply be remembered as a particular period or phase in the history of Western music, like the Baroque or Romantic?

My hope, when all is said and done, is that we will be remembered chiefly as the people who invented—who devised and thereby also, for the first time, discovered—the perfect game, the very Platonic ideal of organized sport, the “moving image of eternity” in athleticis. I think that would be a grand posterity.

I know there are those who will accuse me of exaggeration when I say this, but, until baseball appeared, humans were a sad and benighted lot, lost in the labyrinth of matter, dimly and achingly aware of something incandescently beautiful and unattainable, something infinitely desirable shining up above in the empyrean of the ideas; but, throughout most of the history of the race, no culture was able to produce more than a shadowy sketch of whatever glorious mystery prompted those nameless longings.

The coarsest and most common of these sketches—which has gone through numerous variations down the centuries without conspicuous improvement—is what I think of as “the oblong game,” a contest played out on a rectangle between two sides, each attempting to penetrate the other’s territory to deposit some small object in the other’s goal or end zone. All the sports built on this paradigm require considerable athletic prowess, admittedly, and each has its special tactics, of a limited and martial kind; but all of them are no more than crude, faltering lurches toward the archetype; entertaining, perhaps, but appealing more to the beast within us than to the angel.

In a few, peculiarly favored lands, more refined and inspired adumbrations of the ideal appeared. The Berbers of Libya produced Ta Kurt om el mahag, and the British blessed the world with cricket, but, because the running game in both is played ¬between just two poles, neither can properly mirror the eternal game’s exquisite geometries, flowing grace, and sidereal beauties. And then there is that extended British family of children’s games from which baseball drew its basic morphology (stoolball, tut-ball, and, of course, rounders); but these are only charming finger-paint renderings of the ideal, vague, and glittering dreams that the infant soul brings with it in its descent from the world above before the oblivion of adulthood purges them from memory; they are as inchoately remote from the real thing as a child’s first steps are from ballet. In the end, only America succeeded in plucking the flower from the fields of eternity and making a garden for it here on earth. What greater glory could we possibly crave?

You needn’t smirk. I admit that my rhetoric might seem a bit excessive, but be fair: Something about the game elicits excess. I am hardly the first aficionado of baseball who has felt that somehow it demands a “thick” metaphysical—or even religious—explanation. For one thing, there is the haunting air of necessity that hangs about it, which seems so difficult to reconcile with its relatively recent provenance. It feels as if the game has always been with us. It requires a whole constellation of seemingly bizarre physical and mental skills that, through countless barren millennia, were not only unrealized but also unsuspected potencies of human nature, silently awaiting the formal cause from beyond that would make them actual. So much of what a batter, pitcher, or fielder does is astonishingly improbable, and yet—it turns out—entirely natural. Clearly, baseball was always intended in our very essence; without it, our humanity was incomplete. Willie Mays was an avatar of the divine capacities that lie within our animal frames. Bob Feller’s fastball was Jovian lightning at the command of mortal clay.

And there is something equally fateful, as has been noted so often, in the exact fittingness of the game’s dimensions: the ninety feet between bases, the sixty-and-a-half feet between the pitching rubber and the plate, that precious third of a second in which a batter must decide whether to swing. Everything is so perfectly calibrated that almost every play is a matter of the most unforgiving precision; a ball correctly played in the infield is almost always an out, while the slightest misplay usually results in a man on base. The effective difference in velocity between a fastball and a changeup is infinitesimal in neurological terms, and yet it can utterly disrupt the timing of even the best hitter. There are Pythagorean enigmas here, occult and imponderable: mystic proportions written into the very fabric of nature of which we were once as ignorant as of the existence of other galaxies.

How, moreover, could anyone have imagined (and yet how could we ever have failed to know) that so elementary a strategic problem as serially advancing or prematurely stopping the runner could generate such a riot of intricate tactical possibilities in any given instant of the game? Part of the deeper excitement of the game is following how the strategy is progressively altered, from pitch to pitch, cumulatively and prospectively, in accordance both with the situation of the inning and the balance of the game. There is nothing else like it, for sheer progressive intricacy, in all of sport. Comparing baseball to even the most complex versions of the oblong game is like comparing chess to tiddlywinks.

And surely some account has to be given of the drama of baseball: the way it reaches down into the soul’s abysses with its fluid alternations of prolonged suspense and shocking urgency, its mounting rallies, its thwarted ventures, its intolerable tensions, its suddenly exhilarating or devastating peripeties. Even the natural narrative arc of the game is in three acts—the early, middle, and late innings—each with its own distinct potentials and imperatives. And because, until the final out is recorded, no loss is an absolute fait accompli, the torment of hope never relents. Victory may or may not come in a blaze of glorious elation, but every defeat, when it comes, is sublime. The oblong game is war, but baseball is Attic tragedy.

All of this, it seems to me, points beyond the game’s physical dimensions and toward its immense spiritual horizons. When I consider baseball sub specie aeternitatis, I find it impossible not to conclude that its essential metaphysical structure is thoroughly idealist. After all, the game is so utterly saturated by infinity. All its configurations and movements aspire to the timeless and the boundless. The oblong game is pitilessly finite: Wholly concerned as it is with conquest and shifting lines of force, it is exactly and inviolably demarcated, spatially and temporally; having no inner unfolding narrative of its own, it does not end, but is merely curtailed, externally, by a clock (even overtime is composed only of strictly apportioned, discrete units of time).

Baseball, however, has no clock; rather, terrestrial time is entirely subordinate to its inner intervals and rhythms. And, although the dimensions of the diamond are invariable, there are no fixed measures for the placement of the outfield walls. A ball that would be a soaring home run to dead center in St. Louis falls languidly short in Detroit, like a hawk slain in ¬mid-flight. A blow that would clear the bleachers at Wrigley Field is transformed into a single by the icy irony of Fenway’s left field wall, while a drowsy fly ball earns four bases. Even within a single park—Yankee Stadium, for instance—there is an often capricious disproportion between the two power alleys.

All these variations, all these hints of arbitrariness, are absolutely crucial to the aesthetics and moral metaphysics of the game because they remind us that fair territory is, in fact, conceptually limitless and extends endlessly beyond any outfield walls. Home plate is an open corner on the universe, and the limits we place on the game’s endless vistas are merely the accommodation we strike between infinite possibility and finite actuality. They apprise us, yet again, that life is ungovernable and pluriform, and that omnia mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. They speak both of our mortality (which obeys no set pattern or term) and of the eternity into which the horizons of consciousness are always vanishing (the primordial orientation of all embodied spirit). And something similar is true of the juncture of infield and outfield, where metaphysics’ deepest problem—the dialectical opposition but necessary interrelation of the finite and the infinite—is given unsurpassable symbolic embodiment.

Now, of course, when I speak of baseball’s “idealism,” it is principally Platonism I have in mind: Greek rather than German idealism. But I have to admit that, as I have just described it, much of the game seems to speak not only of the finite’s power to reflect the infinite but also of a kind of fated, heroic human striving against the infinite. There are few spectacles in sport as splendid and pitiable as the batter defiantly poised before all that endless openness. We know that even the most majestic home run is as nothing in its vastness, that even the greatest hitter is a kind of Sisyphus, proudly indifferent to the divine mockery of that infinite horizon; and it is precisely this pathos that lends such moving splendor to those rare Homeric feats that linger on in our collective memory: Babe Ruth in Detroit in 1926, Frank Howard in Philadelphia in 1958, Mickey Mantle in New York in 1963, Frank Robinson in Baltimore in 1966 …

No other game, moreover, is so mercilessly impossible to play well or affords so immense a scope for inevitable failure. We all know that a hitter who succeeds in only one third of his at-bats is considered remarkable, and that one who succeeds only fractionally more often is considered a prodigy of nature. Now here, certainly, is a portrait of the hapless human spirit in all its melancholy grandeur, and of the human will in all its hopeless but incessant aspiration: fleeting glory as the rarely ripening fruit of overwhelming and chronic defeat. It is this pervasive sadness that makes baseball’s moments of bliss so piercing; this encircling gloom that sheds such iridescent beauty on those impossible triumphs over devastating odds so amazing when accomplished by one of the game’s gods (Mays running down that ridiculously long fly at the Polo Grounds in the 1954 World Series, Ted Williams going deep in his very last appearance at the plate); and so heartbreakingly poignant when accomplished by a journeyman whose entire playing career will be marked by only one such instant of transcendence (Ron Swoboda’s diving catch off Brooks Robinson’s bat in the 1969 Series).

Really, the game has such an oddly desolate beauty to it. Maybe it is the grindingly long, 162-game season, which allows for so many promising and disheartening plotlines to take shape, only to dissolve again along the way, and which sustains even the most improbable hope past any rational span; or maybe it is simply the course of the year’s seasons, from early spring into mid-autumn—nature’s perennial allegory of human life, eloquent of innocent confidence slowly transformed into wise resignation. Whatever it is, there is something of twilight in the game, something sadder and more lyrical than one can quite express. It even ends in the twilight of the year: All its many stories culminate in one last, prolonged struggle in the gathering darkness, from which one team alone emerges briefly victorious, after so long a journey; and then everything lapses into wintry stillness—hope defeated, the will exhausted, O dark, dark, dark, all passion spent, silent as the moon, and so on. And yet, with the first rumor of spring, the idiot will is revived, the conatus essendi stirs out of the darkness, tanha awakens and pulls us back into the illusory world of hope and longing, and the cycle resumes.

All that said, though, one should not mistake the passing moods that the game evokes for the deeper metaphysical truths it discloses; one must not confuse the tone color with the guiding theme. Ultimately, baseball’s philosophical grammar truly is Platonist, with all the transcendental elations that that implies. This is most obvious in the sheer purity of the game’s central action. In form, it is not a conflict between two teams over contested ground; in fact, the two sides never directly confront one another on the field, and there is no territory to be captured. Rather, in shape it is that most perfect of metaphysical figures: the closed circle. It repeats the great story told by every idealist metaphysics, European and Indian alike: the purifying odyssey of exitus and reditusdiastole and systole, departure from and ultimate return to an abiding principle.

What could be more obvious? The game is plainly an attempt to figure forth the “heavenly dance” within the realm of mutability. When play is in its full flow, the diamond becomes a place where the dark, sullen surface of matter is temporarily transformed into a gently luminous mirror of the “supercelestial mysteries.” Baseball is an instance of what the later Neoplatonists called “theurgy”: a mimetic or prophetic rite that summons (or invites) the divine graciously to descend from eternity and grant a glimpse of itself within time.


I am not nearly as certain, however, that baseball can be said to have any discernible religious meaning. Or, rather, I am not sure whether it reflects exclusively one kind of creed (it is certainly religious, through and through). Its metaphysics is equally compatible and equally incompatible with the sensibilities of any number of faiths, and of any number of schools within individual faiths; but, if it has anything resembling a theology, it is of the mystical, rather than the dogmatic, kind, and so its doctrinal content is nebulous. At its lowest, most cultic level, baseball is hospitable to such a variety of little superstitions and local pieties that it almost qualifies as a kind of primitive animism or paganism. At its highest, more speculative level, it tends toward the monist, as a consistent idealism must.

In between these two levels, however, the possibilities of religious interpretation are numberless, and it may require the eyes of many kinds of faith to see all of them. My friend R.R. Reno sees a bunt down the first-base line, in which the infield rotates clockwise while the runner begins his counterclockwise motion, as a clear evocation of Ezekiel’s vision of the divine chariot’s living wheels, and so an invitation to Merkabah mysticism. A Buddhist acquaintance from Japan, however, sees every home run as a metaphor for the arahant who has successfully crossed the sea of becoming on the raft of dharma.

Of course, the mental and physical disciplines of the game are clearly contemplative in nature. No one could, for instance, no matter how fine his eyesight or physical coordination, hit a major-league pitch with a cylindrical bat if there were not some prior attunement on his part to the subtle spiritual force that flows through all things, a sort of Zen cultivation of the mindless mind, in which the impossible is accomplished because it somehow simply accomplishes itself in us. Japan’s greatest hitter, Sadaharu Oh—whose hitting coach, Hiroshi Arakawa, was a disciple of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido—even wrote a book on his discovery of the Zen way of baseball. But there are contemplatives and adepts in all major religious traditions.

One could, I suppose, conclude that baseball is primarily Western in its religious orientation, on the shaky grounds that the game as we know it has a somewhat eschatological logic: Within the miniature cosmos of the park, the game must be played down to its final verdict and cannot end before judgment is passed. No one, I think, doubts that Yogi’s most oracular formula, it ain’t over till it’s over, is a perfectly condensed statement of what for us are the game’s highest spiritual and dramatic stakes. And yet the Japanese will play to a draw with equanimity, content at the last simply to let go, so that all forces can reach equilibrium, and I do not believe their version of the game is necessarily any less elegant or profound than ours.

There are, however, at least two respects in which I suppose baseball could be said to speak to, and speak out of, an essentially biblical vision of reality. First, there is simply its undeniable element of Edenic nostalgia: that longing for innocence, guileless play, the terrestrial paradise—a longing it both evokes and soothes. Bart Giamatti, though, wrote so famously and so well on this topic that I have little to add. I only observe that the ballpark is a paradise into which evil does occasionally come, whenever the Yankees are in town, and this occasionally lends the game a cosmic significance that it would not be improper to call “apocalyptic.” This, in fact, is why that dastardly franchise is a spiritually necessary part of the game in this country; even Yankees fans have their necessary role to play, and—although we may occasionally think of them as “vessels of wrath”—we have to remember that they, too, are enfolded in the mercy of providence.

And, second, the game is, for many of us, a hard tutelage in the biblical virtues of faith, hope, and love. Here, admittedly, I am drawing on personal spiritual experience, but I can do so out of a vast reservoir of purgative suffering. My team, you see, is the Baltimore Orioles. In my youth I was full of wicked pride. The Orioles, for nearly the first two decades of my life, were the envy of the baseball world: winning more games than any other franchise, the only team with a winning record against the Yankees, awash in Gold Gloves and Cy Young Awards, a team that was often said to be “magic.” In those days—the days of Frank and Brooks, Powell and Palmer, Blair and Buford, Eddie and the rest—it was almost unimaginable that a season would pass without a pennant race, or that New York would not tremble before us.

And now?

These—and I shall close on this thought—are the great moral lessons that only a game with baseball’s long season and long history and dramatic intensity can impress on the soul: humility, long-suffering, dauntless love, and inexhaustible faith in the face of invincible misfortune. I could no more abandon my Orioles than I could repudiate my family, or my native heath, or my own childhood—even though I know it is a devotion that can now bring only grief. I know, I know: Orioles fans have not yet suffered what Boston fans suffered for more than twice the term of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, or what Cubs fans have suffered for more than a century; but we have every reason to expect that we will. And yet we go on. The time of tribulation is upon us, and we now must make our way through its darkness, guided only by the waning lights of memory and the flickering flame of hope, not knowing when the night will end but sustained by the sacred assurance that whosoever perseveres to the end shall be saved.

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The Spirit of Truth is a series of video clips taken from the Los Angeles area public access program “One Man Show,” which features the coarse religious rantings of a televangelist Reverend X. The program was originally filmed in the late 1990s, but taped episodes have begun to resurface on YouTube and Google Video in 2006.


One Man Show was a television show broadcast for approximately five years on Los Angeles public access during the late 1990s. A segment called “The Spirit of Truth” featured the self-proclaimed deity and foul mouthed evangelical preacher Don Vincent (credited as Vincent Stewart). The show was eventually canceled when Vincent dropped his pants on the air and requested that viewers “look for sin”.

Tapes of the show were recovered and episodes started to appear online in early 2006. YouTube comments suggest that the original uploads of the show have since been deleted. The earliest found upload is dated April 25th 2006 on Google Video by user victah. The current oldest iteration on YouTube was uploaded by user stinkendefakkinturk on May 13th 2006.

On May 14th 2007, YouTube user paramicium07 uploaded an extended version of the original uploaded episode followed by the same episode uploaded by stinkendefakkinturk and an additional eleven videos of other episodes and various clips over the following months. More clips as well as some older clips were uploaded to YouTube by user emacc32 on a sporadic basis starting in April 2007, one of the most notable being “The Healing Dance”:


During the initial spread of the videos, Vincent’s real identity was still a mystery. Many radio shows discussing the video referred to him as “Reverend X”. Vincent’s identity was revealed on July 27th 2006 when he made a call in appearance to The Howard Stern Show.

He was later played on the Florida-based radio show “The Hideout” on April 4th 2006. The broadcast date supports evidence found on YouTube that the original upload may have been deleted. Radio stations in Detroit, Dallas, and naturally Los Angeles have also played sound bytes on air. named The Spirit of Truth one of the 10 Craziest Public Access Shows in America.

Vincent is also slated to appear on season two of Tosh.O for the weekly Web Redemption segment but a broadcast date of the episode was not been listed in the press release. is an entire website dedicated to The Spirit of Truth, and contains an archive of all the videos.


Vincent has spawned a series of animated GIFs and image macros featuring some of his more famous quotes from the show, dance moves, or other hilarity.

YTMND sites:


Both spikes in search traffic correlate with the first set of episode uploads but quickly die out. Traffic from aggregation sites like EBaum’s World and remixed content from YTMND also contributed to searches.

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K1 Clip – Demo by thingstocome

Here’s some music I recorded for a German female producer. It’s in her court to add vocals for this and send it back to me. You’re hearing two slightly detuned Yamaha CS5 lines. Both are going through D16 Devator’s. You also hear white noise from the CS5 modulated through Ableton’s Auto-Pan. Assorted booms are my own recordings and swing is up.

Alles klar?

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This module allows you to assign one or more legal agreements to a product. The customer must then accept the legal agreements to complete the checkout process. Once the customer has accepted the agreement, further checkouts can proceed without additional prompts to review and accept the same agreement.

A record is kept of the date/time that a legal agreement was accepted.
Each legal agreement automatically expires after a period of time (default 12 months), forcing the customer to review the agreement upon next checkout.
If the legal agreement has changed since the customer last accepted, then the customer will be prompted again to accept the legal agreement.

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Lifecycle of Software Objects ABC Art.jpg

Avi: Could you introduce yourself?

Ted: My name is Ted Chiang. I'm a science fiction short story writer.

Were there any formative experiences that led you to become a
science fiction writer?

Probably the most formative experience was reading the Foundation
Trilogy when I was about twelve years old. That wasn't the first science
fiction I had ever read but it's something that stands out in my memory
as having had a big impact on me. Reading Asimov and then Arthur C.
Clarke when I was twelve definitely put me on the road to being a
science fiction writer.

When did you actually decide to go pro?

It depends on what you mean by going pro. I started submitting
stories for publication when I was about 15, but it was many years
before I sold anything. I don't make my living writing science fiction
so in that sense I'm still not a pro. Writing for publication was always
my goal, but making a living writing science fiction wasn't. When I was
a kid I figured I would be a physicist when I grew up and then I would
write science fiction on the side. The physicist thing didn't pan out,
but writing science fiction on the side did.

How has being a technical writer affected your fiction writing?

I can't recommend technical writing as a day job for fiction
writers, because it's going to be hard to write all day and then come
home and write fiction. Nowadays I work as a freelance writer, so I
usually do contract technical writing part of the year and then I take
time off and do fiction writing the rest of the year. It's too difficult
for me to do technical writing at the same time as fiction writing -
they draw on the same parts of my brain. So I can't say it's a good day
job in that sense, but it's a way to make money.

Could you give a walk-through of your writing process?

In general, if there's an idea I'm interested in, I usually think
about that for a long time and write down my speculations or just ideas
about how it could become a story, but I don't actually start writing
the story itself until I know how the story ends. Typically the first
part of the story that I write is the very ending, either the last
paragraph of the story or a paragraph near the end. Once I have the
destination in mind then I can build the rest of the story around that
or build the rest of the story in such a way as to lead up to that.
Usually the second thing I write is the opening of the story and then I
write the rest of the story in almost random order. I just keep writing
scenes until I've connected the beginning and the end. I write the key
scenes or what I think of as the landmark scenes first, and then I just
fill in backwards and forwards.

How do you classify your writing? I feel like it's a kind of
philosophical fiction, because it's actually making people think, waking
them up and making them wonder about things.

That's one of the things that science fiction is particularly good
at, that's one of the reasons I like science fiction. Science fiction is
very well suited to asking philosophical questions; questions about the
nature of reality, what it means to be human, how do we know the things
that we think we know. When philosophers propose thought experiments as
a way of analyzing certain questions, their thought experiments often
sound a lot like science fiction. I think that there's a very good fit
between the two.

I also think religion plays a very important role in your work.

I do think that religion is a very interesting phenomenon;
obviously it affects many people very profoundly. There is a similarity
between science and religion in that they're both attempts to understand
the universe, and there was a time in the past when science and religion
were not seen as incompatible, when it made perfect sense to be both a
scientist and a religious person. Nowadays there is much more of an
attitude that the two are incompatible. I think that's sort of a 20th
century phenomenon.

You have very specific views on the difference between magic and
science. Can you talk about that?

Sure. Science fiction and fantasy are very closely related genres,
and a lot of people say that the genres are so close that there's
actually no meaningful distinction to be made between the two. But I
think that there does exist an useful distinction to be made between
magic and science. One way to look at it is in terms of whether a given
phenomenon can be mass-produced. If you posit some impossibility in a
story, like turning lead into gold, I think it makes sense to ask how
many people in the world of the story are able to do this. Is it just a
few people or is it something available to everybody? If it's just a
handful of special people who can turn lead into gold, that implies
different things than a story in which there are giant factories
churning out gold from lead, in which gold is so cheap it can be used
for fishing weights or radiation shielding.

In either case there's the same basic phenomenon, but these two
depictions point to different views of the universe. In a story where
only a handful of characters are able to turn lead into gold, there's
the implication that there's something special about those individuals.
The laws of the universe take into account some special property that
only certain individuals have. By contrast, if you have a story in which
turning lead into gold is an industrial process, something that can be
done on a mass scale and can be done cheaply, then you're implying that
the laws of the universe apply equally to everybody; they work the same
even for machines in unmanned factories. In one case I'd say the
phenomenon is magic, while in the other I'd say it's science.

Another way to think about these two depictions is to ask whether the
universe of the story recognizes the existence of persons. I think magic
is an indication that the universe recognizes certain people as
individuals, as having special properties as an individual, whereas a
story in which turning lead into gold is an industrial process is
describing a completely impersonal universe. That type of impersonal
universe is how science views the universe; it's how we currently
understand our universe to work. The difference between magic and
science is at some level a difference between the universe responding to
you in a personal way, and the universe being entirely impersonal.

I feel that one can look upon language as a connecting link
between magic and science, so potentially a scientist could be led back
to the world of magic by the very fact that he is using language. Maybe
if he overuses it, or "overclocks" his language use, that might lead him
to some kind of magical experience.

When you say he has a magical experience, are there effects in the
external world?

No, there might be effects on his body, somatic effects, but not
on the external world.

Ah, okay. It's probably worth making a distinction between
subjective magic and objective magic, or between spiritual magic and
practical magic.

Or between white magic and black magic.

Right. In practical magic, the goal is to affect the external
world. That's the kind of magic I meant when I was talking about turning
lead into gold. In spiritual magic, the only goal is to affect the
internal state of the practitioner. It sounds like you're talking about
spiritual magic as opposed than practical magic.

Yes, let me give you an example. So, Fred Hoyle came up with the
mechanics of how stars produce heavier elements that end up in us being
here. There was an Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell; I listened to
one of his interviews, and he was describing an ecstatic experience he
had on the way back to the Earth from the Moon. He had a very intense
bodily experience of that fact, that the matter in his body was made in
an older generation of stars. It was a kind of revelatory experience,
and it was based on a piece of scientific knowledge.

Okay. I don't think his experience was fundamentally different from
the ecstatic experiences that religious people have had for millenia,
whether they achieve it through prayer, or meditation or some other type
of practice, they achieve an epiphany or some kind of revelation. It
sounds like you're talking about a similar type of experience that
scientists might have.

Yes, he did say that when he got back to Earth, he researched the
experience he had, and it matched something called savikalpa samadhi in
a yogic Sanskrit text, but he didn't know about that beforehand, and his
experience was based on a fact of physics. So my question is, can
scientific knowledge lead to new kinds of experience, or are they just
religious experiences in a different form?

I don't think that there's anything that requires that what the
person was thinking about actually be true, for that person to have this
experience. The fact that we're made of elements that were born in the
heart of stars, that happens to be true, and that contributed to this
astronaut's experience, but someone could have the exact same experience
contemplating something which is not true; for instance, that we are all
children of God or whatever, any religious claim you want to use. I
don't think the truth of the statement is actually necessary for that
ecstatic experience.

So it doesn't have any impact on the validity of the experience?

I'm not convinced that it does. For example, I recently heard this
ethnobotanist, Dennis McKenna, on the radio, talking about his
experience taking a powerful hallucinogen. He could see photosynthesis
actually happening; he could see water molecules actually being
processed in the chloroplasts of plant cells. He also felt this
incredible sense of oneness, a feeling that humanity was part of this
planetary organism. I'm sure this was a very profound experience for
him, but I don't take it as evidence of the truth of photosynthesis. He
himself admitted that he already knew how photosynthesis works, and I
think the fact that he knew this contributed to his hallucinatory
experience. Other people who don't know about photosynthesis have
different hallucinatory experiences, and most of these experiences do
not reflect scientific truth. People will have incompatible experiences,
and they can't all be true. So I don't think that this powerful ecstatic
or hallucinatory experience is an indicator of truth. I think it can
accompany an accurate insight about the world, but it doesn't have to.
It can accompany someone thinking about the nucleosynthesis of heavy
elements in stars, but it could also accompany someone thinking about
the need to excoriate one's flesh to make the Lord happy.

Your story 'Understand' relates to this. I think it came before
the fad of going to Peru and taking Ayahuasca, but it's about a similar
experience, making all these connections, perceiving things in a more
intense way.

Yes, I suppose it is. I remember when some friends of mine read
'Understand', they were certain that I must have taken hallucinogens at
some point, but I have not. I wasn't attempting to describe someone
hallucinating, but I was attempting to describe the experience of
having a revelation, an incredibly deep and profound revelation about
the nature of the universe. I guess it so happens that most people's
experience of that occurs when they're taking hallucinogens, but the
hallucinogen aspect was not my intent.

I recently read Rick Strassman's book 'The Spirit Molecule', about
the psychedelic drug DMT and the effects it's had on people, and I felt
that it connected with 'Understand'. I feel like many things connect
with your story, in retrospect.

I think that's one of the things that happens when you are thinking
about a given idea a lot; you start seeing resonances to that idea
everywhere, in the things that you read, the things that you see.

I'll give you another example. I read 'Hell is the Absence of God'
while living in Jerusalem at the height of the suicide bombing campaign,
so that was my association: the angel as a suicide bomber.

That's an interesting association; I hadn't really thought about
that, but I can see the resemblance.

The story resonated for me because it explores the issues that
many of us were forced to grapple with at that time, because we knew we
could die any day. I mean that's always true, but it's more obvious when
there are bombs going off.

It really makes you conscious of the fact that you could die at any
moment. It probably makes you think, have you made your peace?

And how fast can you make your peace!

Which is one of the arguments that religious people make: you don't
know how long you have, so you'd better make your peace now because you
might die at any time. That is an argument that some characters in the
story 'Hell is the Absence of God' make, citing it as one of the reasons
God orders these angelic visitations: it's a way to remind people that
they don't have much time, or that they don't know how much time they have.

One of the characters in your story makes his peace regardless of
the fact that God has created upheavals in his life; he makes a moral
choice that's not dependent upon God's actions.

I think it's a hard thing to achieve. You can describe a character
achieving it, but I can't say that I have achieved that myself.
Accepting all the terrible things that happen in the world, making your
peace with that, trying to make sense of that is one of the fundamental
problems of religion.

In your story 'Seventy-Two Letters' you draw parallels between
Jewish Kabbalah, computer programming and bio-informatics. Do you see
any similarities between these, given that they are all reliant on
manipulating a base code? What are the differences in your view?

Well, I think one can draw metaphorical connections between them
for a science-fiction story, but I don't think they have a lot to do
with each other in reality. Computer programming is a rational practice
while Kabbalah is a mystical practice, and DNA is different from
computer code, and I wouldn't want anyone confusing one with another.

At a metaphorical level, they all provide ways of thinking about the
relationship between language and reality, which is a topic I find
interesting. There's this old idea in magic that there's a language
where the symbols have a tight relationship with what's being signified,
so by manipulating those symbols, you could manipulate reality itself.
That's a form of practical magic, according to the distinction we
talked about earlier. And that certainly bears a resemblance to
computer programming, where code is translated into actions by a
computer. And in turn that bears a resemblance to DNA, where code is
translated into the bodies of living organisms. So I think it's fun to
imagine a connection between all three of these, so long as we're
talking about fiction. I wouldn't want anyone to take this too literally.

Many of your stories play with the implications of knowing the
future. What fascinates you about the nature of Time?

The question of free will. I think free will is what underlies most
everything interesting about time travel. And when I say time travel,
I'm including receiving information from the future, because that's
essentially equivalent to someone traveling from the future. The idea
that you can create a paradox assumes that you have free will; even the
idea of multiple timelines assumes it, because it assumes that you can
make choices. There have always been philosophical arguments about
whether we have free will or not, but they're usually kind of abstract.
Time travel, or knowing the future, makes the question very concrete.
If you know what's going to happen, can you keep it from happening?
Even when a story says that you can't, the emotional impact arises from
the feeling that you should be able to.

I gather you have a large fan base in Japan. How do you account
for it?

I can't; I was completely surprised when I found out. It did
prompt me to think about what might make some works more suitable for
translation than others. I'm sure there are stories that are very
rooted in aspects of a particular culture, which require familiarity
with that culture to fully appreciate, and those stories probably don't
translate well. To the extent that my work is philosophical fiction,
it's not enormously reliant on American culture, and that might make it
a good candidate for translation. That could explain why my work got
translated into Japanese, although it wouldn't explain why it's more
popular there than here. I gather that Greg Egan is considered a god of
science fiction in Japan, while most of his work is out of print in the
United States; some people compare my work to his, which I consider a
great compliment, and which would support the idea that Japanese
science-fiction readers have very different tastes than American ones.

What prompted you to write your newest novella 'The Lifecycle of
Software Objects'?

It's primarily a response to how Artificial Intelligence has been
depicted in most science fiction. The typical science-fiction depiction
of AI is this loyal, obedient butler; you simply flip a switch, turn it
on and it's ready to do your bidding. I feel like there's a huge story
being glossed over, having to do with the creation of that AI. I don't
mean the technical details of developing software that's as smart as a
human brain; most science fiction posits a miraculous technological
development, and there's no need to explain it. It's just that with AI,
I feel like there's a second miracle assumed, which is that someone was
able to take this software as smart as a human brain and make it as
useful as a butler. Current computers are still light-years away from
being as capable as the brain of a newborn baby, but even after you've
reached that point, you're still only halfway to having a useful butler.

For example, in Arthur C. Clarke's 2010, supposedly the first thing that
HAL 9000 said when he was activated is "Good morning Dr. Chandra, I'm
ready for my first lesson". That is not something a newborn baby says.
There is implicitly a lifetime of experience underlying that simple
statement. Where did that experience come from? If it could be
programmed in, HAL wouldn't need to have any lessons at all. How did he
learn to speak English? How does he know what it means to be ready for a

It takes years to turn a human being into a useful employee. In fact,
the more useful you want the employee to be, the longer it takes to get
there. You might not have to repeat the process for each and every AI
you want to use; once you've got one trained, it's possible that you
could just make copies of it. But someone still needs to do it for the
first one, and that's going to be difficult, and really time-consuming.
Most depictions of AI assume that this step is unnecessary, or that it
will be easy, which I think assumes an entirely separate miracle from
the technical one.

How optimistic are you about the practical realization of these
two miracles of AI?

In practical terms, I'm pretty skeptical about AI. I don't think
it's impossible, but I think it's so difficult that I'm not sure why
anyone would bother. Right now Google is enormously useful, but it's
not remotely conscious, and it's not moving in that direction. If anyone
tried describing a computer as useful as Google in a science-fiction
story fifty years ago, they probably depicted it as having consciousness
of some sort. But it turns out that a computer doesn't need to be
conscious to be useful; ordinary software serves our purposes just fine.
I expect that will remain true; we will have software of ever increasing
usefulness without it ever "waking up".

On the other hand, there is one form of rudimentary AI software that has
turned out to be surprisingly popular, and that's virtual pets. The Sims
was the best-selling PC game of all time, and who would have predicted
that? It turns out that having a kind of emotional relationship with
software can be very appealing to people. So I tend to think that the
most likely reason for us to develop conscious software would be because
it's fun, rather than because it's useful. It will all depend on
whether software that's actually conscious is more fun than software
that simply mimics conscious organisms, like The Sims. If it is, then
that might actually motivate people to put in the time needed to train
an AI to be useful.

The AIs in your story have virtual bodies. How important is having
a body for consciousness to come into being? Is there a difference
between having a "real" physical body and a virtual body?

A lot of researchers believe that AI needs to be embodied and
situated, meaning that it has to have some kind of physical body and
exist within some kind of physical environment. The general idea is that
we learn by doing; our understanding of the world comes from moving our
body around, pushing solid objects against each other. I suppose it's
possible that there are modes of cognition that could exist without
these things, but I think they'd be so foreign to us as to be

A virtual body and a virtual environment ought to work just as well as
physical ones, assuming the simulation is detailed enough. However, a
program like The Sims isn't actually simulating physical bodies to any
significant degree. There are other video games, like first-person
shooters, that do some physics simulation when it comes to destructible
environments, but they don't actually do a detailed physics simulation
for the character avatars. That's why their feet often pass through
objects they're walking over. You'd have to design a far more detailed
physics simulation to provide a sense of embodiment for an AI, but it
should certainly be possible.

Your novella made me look at my own experience raising two young
kids in a fresh light, which is one of the indicators that the story
served it's purpose, in my book. The sense of touch is essential for the
emotional health of kids. Could you elaborate on the role of touch in
the world of the AIs in your story?

The AIs enjoy being touched, but that's a deliberate decision on
the part of their designers; it's a way to make them appealing to their
owners. There are some autistic children who don't like being touched,
and that's hard for their parents, because parents like hugging their
kids. And given the choice between a pet that enjoys being touched and
one that doesn't, most people would choose one that enjoys it. Touch is
important to people, so if you want to encourage an emotional bond
between humans and AIs, if you want people to want to spend time with
them, you should make touch important to AIs too.

In 'A Primate's Memoir' Robert Sapolsky details his highly
emotional connections with the troop of African baboons he studied. Did
you read any primatological works while preparing your novella?

I didn't read about primates in the wild, but I did read about the
chimpanzees who'd been taught sign language. They were famous for a
while, but you don't usually hear about what happened to them after the
language studies were over. Some were sent to medical labs for
experimental use. The case I was most interested in was a chimpanzee
named Lucy; the humans who'd been teaching her couldn't find a chimp
sanctuary that would take her, so they decided to send her to Africa,
even though she'd lived her entire life among humans and never seen the
jungle before. A grad student named Janis Carter went with her to help
her adjust to life in the wild. Janis Carter was supposed to stay there
just a few weeks, but pretty quickly she realized that that wasn't going
to be enough. She spent years teaching Lucy how to live outdoors and
forage for food. Ultimately Lucy died because she wasn't able to adapt
to the wild, but I was really struck by Janis Carter's commitment; here
was someone who didn't even like camping, and she changed her entire
life in order to help Lucy. How many people would be willing to do that
for someone who isn't a human being?

Finally, are you planning on printing 'Exhalation' on copper sheets?

Ha! I suppose it could be done. That would be a very cool art
object or an interesting limited edition. I don't think I'm famous
enough to warrant such an expensive endeavor, but I would be thrilled if
someone did it.

Thank you

You're welcome.

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Robert Moses Beach iPhone

Lately, I’ve been hit with the photography bug. It usually happens to me once a year. It goes something like this: I get the bug, I research cameras for a week, I buy an expensive camera, I use it non-stop for a few months, the bug goes away, I sell the camera.

I’m a gear head, so when I become obsessed with something I immediately try to find all the best gear that I can get my hands on. It’s good because I get to learn and experience new things, but it’s also bad on my wallet. And when it comes to photo gear, there’s no stopping me.

Until recently.

After countless cameras, and years of searching for the perfect camera that would push my photos to the next level, I’m now a firm believer that the best camera is the camera that you have with you. Yes, a Hasselblad H4D-60 will blow any other camera away, but you don’t see many people in street with a $42,000 camera hanging from their necks.

I hated lugging around a big ass body, with a big ass lens and a hood attached to it. That was the primary reason why I would stop shooting: I didn’t want to carry around all that stuff. I used to carry around a Hasselblad 503, with a prism and metal hood. The damn thing weighted a ton—and it sure captured some amazing photos—but after a few hours of carrying it, I wanted to throw it in the garbage. I hated that feeling because it ruined the moment and eventually led me to feel unmotivated. The tool was getting in the way of my creativity.

Now I just shoot with my iPhone 4. I already carry it around, and the built-in camera is pretty damn good. When I see an interesting shot, I just pull it out and snap a photo. The joy and spontaneity of shooting is instantly back. I would love it if Apple added some advanced features to the camera app—like shutter and aperture control—and I do miss me some depth of field, but overall the phone produces some fine images.

I think I’ve achieved some good results with this little camera. I took the photo to the left with my iPhone. This guy did a fashion shoot with an iPhone 3GS. Granted, he used a great lighting system, but the images are still impressive. Check out these folks who took a great looking shot with a Canon Powershot SD630 and some basic lighting. Professional fashion photographer Terry Richardson does entire shoots with a Yashica T4 point and shoot and the photos look great.

Don’t get me wrong, it is much easier to produce a great photo with high-end camera. That’s why it’s even more impressive when a great photo is taken with a lower-end one. The talent truly shines in that case.

My point is, in any creative field, the tool isn’t important. It’s what’s behind the tool that counts. So, don’t stress about getting a Canon 1Ds Mark III or the latest version of Photoshop. Just create.      

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From the guys who brought you the surprisingly catchy Total Recall musical comes one done for Rambo II, this time titled “You’re Not Expendable.” As it turns out, Stallone has just as good of a singing voice as Arnold does. Who knew? Actually, I probably would have known.

This one actually has a female singing in it too, and it actually makes you believe that Rambo could make a pretty entertaining opera if done correctly. What, you’re telling me you wouldn’t go see Rambo on Broadway? You totally would over Rent, be honest.

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TEDxMyeongDong - HeoHansol - Keep Drawing

Dear all, Hansol who is a desinger someday got an interest in iPhone app devleopment. And he just started to study it to develop his iPhone app based on his own project which calls Type Drawing since 2005 on the web. And now he got incredible success on Apple app store. Enjoy this talk!TEDxMyeongDong About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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Going on step up from my old version of this which broke by the time i came back to London. Best compact to take onto the street...

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TEDxTelAviv - Bruno Guissani - Ideas About Spreading Ideas

Bruno Guissani, the European Director of TED, shares TED vision for spreading ideas by making talks accessible, setting up spaces for dialog and calling out to the TED community to extend the effort via self-organized events.

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TEDxMälaren - Anne-Marie Körling - You Can't Imagine I am a Teacher

Anne-Marie is an Educator, Blogger, Writer and Columnist. She received the The Swedish Academy Award, The Swedish Teacher of the Year 2006 and Microsoft Innovative Teacher 200. Now amongst the most progressive educators in Haninge Kommun, Stockholm, Sweden. Anne is passionate about the way children are always learning and how schools should meet children with a hundred ways of education, rather than giving them one way. She will talk about how a teacher can make a difference, change, participate and feed forward. TEDxMälaren (June 15, 2010) was organized by a bunch of quirky students from Singapore while on exchange in Sweden. The name Mälaren comes from Lake Mälaren, the third largest lake in Sweden. Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea on its eastern end to form 14 major islands, thus shaping Stockholm. Just like Lake Mälaren that connects towns across Sweden, TEDxMälaren will connect topics in featuring a holistic perspective of inter-linked global issues through the audience, the organizers and speakers of diverse backgrounds, with different forms of media. TEDxMälaren aims to reach beyond the Scandinavian seas and explore the influence of cultural, political and socio-economic diversity on the way we think, and ought to think for a better future. AboutTEDx, x = independently organised event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video <b>...</b>

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TEDxAuckland - Brenda Frisk - Z Depth Technology

AboutTEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organised events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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bestofwikipedia: Karo-shi  which can be translated literally from Japanese as “death from overwork”, is occupational sudden death. Although this category has a significant count, Japan is one of the few countries that reports it in the statistics as a separate category. The major medical causes of karo-shi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress.

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by Claire O'Neill

I've never seen the Pieta or the Terracotta Army. I mean, obviously I've seen them if I'm linking to them — but not in person. What's interesting is that before photography, people would make pilgrimages to see these works of art. But, if you're like me and studied the photos in your high school history classes, there's less of an urgency to see the legendary creations in person.

In that sense, sculpture has been inextricably linked to the image since the advent of photography. This idea is being explored with a new exhibition opening later this summer at MOMA: The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today.

Where sculpture meets photography

Credit: Photos courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

I have seen The Thinker and Unique Forms Of Continuity In Space (phew!) and a few other favorites, and I must say: a photo is a nice preview, but sometimes art is worth a pilgrimage.

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Algorithms are Thoughts, Chainsaws are Tools from Stephen Ramsay on Vimeo.

In an extended video that begins with Radio City’s Rockettes and kettle drum players, Stephen Ramsay explains a litany of technology’s most elusive topics, in terms anyone could understand — no, really. I dare you to ask anyone to watch a few clips of this video, regardless of whether they’re regular readers of this site. Secrets such as why the programming language Lisp inspires religious devotion, or how someone in their right mind would ever consider programming onstage as a form of musical performance, represent the sort of geekery that would seem to be the domain of an elite. But in the dry deadpan of this Professor of English, those mysteries actually begin to dissolve.

I love the title: “Algorithms are Thoughts, Chainsaws are Tools.”

I doubt very seriously that live coding is the right performance medium for all computer musicians. (I expect I’ve occasionally made people wince with a couple of lines of code in a workshop example; I shudder to think of scripting in front of an audience. I’d probably be less disastrous at stand-up comedy.) But Ramsay reveals what live coding music is. It’s compositional improvisation, and code simply lays bare the workings of the compositional mind as that process unfolds. Not everyone will understand the precise meaning of what they see, but there’s an intuitive intimacy to the odd sight of watching someone type code. It’s honest; there’s no curtain between you and the wizard.

That should be a revelation about other computer music performance instruments, even the MPC. They, too, bring in elements that are as compositional as they are about performance (though the MPC has the unique power to be both at the same time). And sometimes, it’s seeing the naked skeleton of that process that allows audiences back into the performance.

The live-coding composer in question is Andrew Sorensen, who has live-coded an orchestra and does, indeed, also use samplers in the tradition of Akai. Whether you do it in front of an audience or not, you can try his gorgeous Impromptu music language, among other tools.

If you’re messing with code at all, even just to make an occasional bleep in Csound or picture in Processing, it’s worth watching Stephen’s videos. In fact, if you compose at all, it might be worth watching. (See also his reflections on writing, programming, and algorithm.) After all, even someone strumming out a tune on an acoustic guitar and scratching the results on paper is using some sorts of algorithms.

This video has been out for a few months, but I sometimes wonder how we got into the business with blogs of posting stories with expiration dates in the hours. It’s like buying milk in Manhattan.

Thanks to Philip Age for the tip.

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Murray Templeton was forty-five years old, in the prime of life, and with all parts of his body in perfect working order except for certain key portions of his coronary arteries, but that was enough.

The pain had come suddenly, had mounted to an unbearable peak, and had then ebbed steadily.  He could feel his breath slowing and a kind of gathering peace washing over him.

There is no pleasure like the absence of pain – immediately after pain.  Murray felt an almost giddy lightness as though he were lifting in the air and hovering.

He opened his eyes and noted with distant amusement that the others in the room were still agitated.  He had been in the laboratory when the pain had struck, quite without warning, and when he had staggered, he had heard surprised outcries from the others before everything vanished into overwhelming agony.

Now, with the pain gone, the others were still hovering, still anxious, still gathered about his fallen body –– Which, he suddenly realised, he was looking down on.

He was down there, sprawled, face contorted.  He was up here, at peace and watching.

He thought: Miracle of miracles!  The life-after-life nuts were right.

And although that was a humiliating way for an atheistic physicist to die, he felt only the mildest surprise, and no alteration of the peace in which he was immersed.

He thought: There should be some angel – or something – coming for me.

The Earthly scene was fading.  Darkness was invading his consciousness and off in a distance, as a last glimmer of sight, there was a figure of light, vaguely human in form, and radiating warmth.

Murray thought: What a joke on me.  I’m going to Heaven.

Even as he thought that, the light faded, but the warmth remained.  There was no lessening of the peace even though in all the Universe only he remained – and the Voice.

The Voice said, “I have done this so often and yet I still have the capacity to be pleased at success.”

It was in Murray’s mind to say something, but he was not conscious of possessing a mouth, tongue, or vocal chords.  Nevertheless, tried to make a sound.  He tried, mouthlessly, to hum words or breathe them or just push them out by a contraction of – something.

And they came out.  He heard his own voice, quite recognisable, and his own words, infinitely clear.

Murray said, “Is this Heaven?”

The Voice said, “This is no place as you understand place.”

Murray was embarrassed, but the next question had to be asked.  “Pardon me if I sound like a jackass.  Are you God?”

Without changing intonation or in any way marring the perfection of the sound, the Voice managed to sound amused.  “It is strange that I am always asked that in, of course, an infinite number of ways.  There is no answer I can give that you would comprehend.  I am – which is all that I can say significantly and you may cover that with any word or concept you please.”

Murray said, “And what am I?  A soul?  Or am I only personified existence too?”  He tried not to sound sarcastic, but it seemed to him that he had failed.  He thought then, fleetingly, of adding a ‘Your Grace’ or ‘Holy One’ or something to counteract the sarcasm, and could not bring himself to do so even though for the first time in his existence he speculated on the possibility of being punished for his insolence – or sin? – with Hell, and what that might be like.

The Voice did not sound offended.  “You are easy to explain – even to you.  You may call yourself a soul if that pleases you, but what you are is a nexus of electromagnetic forces, so arranged that all the interconnections and interrelationships are exactly imitative of those of your brain in your Universe-existence – down to the smallest detail.  Therefore you have your capacity for thought, your memories, your personality.  It still seems to you that you are you.”

Murray found himself incredulous.  “You mean the essence of my brain was permanent?”

“Not at all.  There is nothing about you that is permanent except what I choose to make so.  I formed the nexus.  I constructed it while you had physical existence and adjusted it to the moment when the existence failed.”

The Voice seemed distinctly pleased with itself, and went on after a moment’s pause.  “An intricate but entirely precise construction.  I could, of course, do it for every human being on your world but I am pleased that I do not.  There is pleasure in the selection.”

“You choose very few then?”

“Very few.”

“And what happens to the rest?”

“Oblivion! – Oh, of course, you imagine a Hell.”

Murray would have flushed if he had the capacity to do so.  He said, “I do not.  It is spoken of.  Still, I would scarcely have thought I was virtuous enough to have attracted your attention as one of the Elect.”

“Virtuous? – Ah, I see what you mean.  It is troublesome to have to force my thinking small enough to permeate yours.  No, I have chosen you for your capacity for thought, as I choose others, in quadrillions, from all the intelligent species of the Universe.”

Murray found himself suddenly curious, the habit of a lifetime.  He said, “Do you choose them all yourself or are there others like you?”

For a fleeting moment, Murray thought there was an impatient reaction to that, but when the Voice came, it was unmoved.  “Whether or not there are others is irrelevant to you.  This Universe is mine, and mine alone.  It is my invention, my construction, intended for my purpose alone.”

“And yet with quadrillions of nexi you have formed, you spend time with me?  Am I that important?”

The Voice said, “You are not important at all.  I am also with others in a way which, to your perception, would seem simultaneous.”

“And yet you are one?”

Again amusement.  The Voice said, “You seek to trap me into an inconsistency.  If you were an amoeba who could consider individuality only in connection with single cells and if you were to ask a sperm whale, made up of thirty quadrillion cells, whether it was one or many, how could the sperm whale answer in a way that would be comprehensible to the amoeba?”

Murray said dryly, “I’ll think about it.  It may become comprehensible.”

“Exactly.  That is your function.  You will think.”

“To what end?  You already know everything, I suppose.”

The Voice said, “Even if I knew everything, I could not know that I know everything.”

Murray said, “That sounds like a bit of Eastern philosophy – something that sounds profound precisely because it has no meaning.”

The Voice said, “You have promise.  You answer my paradox with a paradox – except that mine is not a paradox.  Consider.  I have existed eternally, but what does that mean?  It means I cannot remember having come into existence.  If I could, I would not have existed eternally.  If I cannot remember having come into existence, then there is at least one thing – the nature of my coming into existence – that I do not know.

“Then, too, although what I know is infinite, it is also true that what there is to know is infinite, and how can I be sure that both infinities are equal?  The infinity of potential knowledge may be infinitely greater than the infinity of my actual knowledge.  Here is a simple example: If I knew every one of the even integers, I would know an infinite number of items, and yet I would still not know a single odd integer.”

Murray said, “But the odd integers can be derived.  If you divide every even integer in the entire infinite series by two, you will get another infinite series which will contain within it the infinite series of odd integers.”

The Voice said, “You have the idea.  I am pleased.  It will be your task to find other such ways, far more difficult ones, from the known to the not-yet-known.  You have your memories.  You will remember all the data you have ever collected or learned, or that you have or will deduce from that data.  If necessary, you will be allowed to learn what additional data you will consider relevant to the problems you set yourself.”

“Could you not do all that for yourself?”

The Voice said, “I can, but it is more interesting this way.  I constructed the Universe in order to have more facts to deal with.  I inserted the uncertainty principle, entropy, and other randomisation factors to make the whole not instantly obvious.  It has worked well for it has amused me throughout its entire existence.

“I then allowed complexities that produced first life and then intelligence, and use it as a source for a research team, not because I need the aid, but because it would introduce a new random factor.  I found I could not predict the next interesting piece of knowledge gained, where it would come from, by what means derived.”

Murray said, “Does that ever happen?”

“Certainly.  A century doesn’t pass in which some interesting item doesn’t appear somewhere.”

“Something that you could have thought of yourself, but had not done so yet?”


Murray said, “Do you actually think there’s a chance of my obliging you in this manner?”

“In the next century?  Virtually none.  In the long run, though, your success is certain, since you will be engaged eternally.”

Murray said, “I will be thinking through eternity?  Forever?”


“To what end?”

“I have told you.  To find new knowledge.”

“But beyond that.  For what purpose am I to find new knowledge?”

“It was what you did in your Universe-bound life.  What was its purpose then?”

Murray said, “To gain new knowledge that only I could gain.  To receive the praise of my fellows.  To feel the satisfaction of accomplishment knowing that I had only a short time allotted me for the purpose. – Now I would gain only what you could gain yourself if you wished to take a small bit of trouble.  You cannot praise me; you can only be amused.  And there is no credit or satisfaction in accomplishment when I have all eternity to do it in.”

The Voice said, “And you do not find thought and discovery worthwhile in itself?  You do not find it requiring no further purpose?”

“For a finite time, yes.  Not for all eternity.”

“I see your point.  Nevertheless, you have no choice.”

“You say I am to think.  You cannot make me do so.”

The Voice said, “I do not wish to constrain you directly.  I will not need to.  Since you can do nothing but think, you will think.  You do not know how not to think.”

“Then I will give myself a goal.  I will invent a purpose.”

The Voice said tolerantly, “That you can certainly do.”

“I have already found a purpose.”

“May I know what it is?”

“You know already.  I know we are not speaking in the ordinary fashion.  You adjust my nexus is such a way that I believe I hear you and I believe I speak, but you transfer thoughts to me and from me directly.  And when my nexus changes with my thoughts you are at once aware of them and do not need my voluntary transmission.”

The Voice said, “You are surprisingly correct.  I am pleased. – But it also pleases me to have you tell me your thoughts voluntarily.”

“Then I will tell you.  The purpose of my thinking will be to discover a way to disrupt this nexus of me that you have created.  I do not want to think for no purpose but to amuse you.  I do not want to think forever to amuse you.  I do not want to exist forever to amuse you.  All my thinking will be directed toward ending the nexus.  That would amuseme.”

The Voice said, “I have no objection to that.  Even concentrated thought on ending your own existence may, in spite of you, come up with something new and interesting.  And, of course, if you succeed in this suicide attempt you will have accomplished nothing, for I would instantly reconstruct you and in such a way as to make your method of suicide impossible.  And if you found another and still more subtle fashion of disrupting yourself, I would reconstruct you with that possibility eliminated, and so on.  It could be an interesting game, but you will nevertheless exist eternally.  It is my will.”

Murray felt a quaver but the words came out with a perfect calm.  “Am I in Hell then, after all?  You have implied there is none, but if this were Hell you would lie to us as part of the game of Hell.”

The Voice said, “In that case, of what use is it to assure you that you are not in Hell?  Nevertheless, I assure you.  There is here neither Heaven nor Hell.  There is only myself.”

Murray said, “Consider, then, that my thoughts may be useless to you.  If I come up with nothing useful, will it not be worth your while to – disassemble me and take no further trouble with me?”

“As a reward?  You want Nirvana as the prize of failure and you intend to assure me failure?  There is no bargain there.  You will not fail.  With all eternity before you, you cannot avoid having at least one interesting thought, however you try against it.”

“Then I will create another purpose for myself.  I will not try to destroy myself.  I will set as my goal the humiliation of you.  I will think of something you have not only never thought of but never could think of.  I will think of the last answer, beyond which there is no knowledge further.”

The Voice said, “You do not understand the nature of the infinite.  There may be things I have not yet troubled to know.  There cannot be anything I cannot know.”

Murray said thoughtfully, “You cannot know your beginning.  You have said so.  Therefore you cannot know your end.  Very well, then.  That will be my purpose and that will be the last answer.  I will not destroy myself.  I will destroy you – if you do not destroy me first.”

The Voice said, “Ah!  You come to that in rather less than average time.  I would have thought it would have taken you longer.  There is not one of those I have with me in this existence of perfect and eternal thought that does not have the ambition of destroying me.  It cannot be done.”

Murray said, “I have all eternity to think of a way of destroying you.”

The Voice said, equably, “Then try to think of it.”  And it was gone.

But Murray had his purpose now and was content.

For what could any Entity, conscious of eternal existence, want – but an end?

For what else had the Voice been searching for countless billions of years?  And for what other reason had intelligence been created and certain specimens salvaged and put to work, but to aid in that great search?  And Murray intended that it would be he, and he alone, who would succeed.

Carefully, and with the thrill of purpose, Murray began to think.

He had plenty of time.

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