Archive for October, 2005

Why is there so little Halloween-themed music?

October 31, 2005

Christmas music is practically a genre in itself, but I'm having a tough time finding some Halloween stuff to play on the stereo downstairs.

After looking all day, here's the playlist I came up with:

  1. Bobby Boris Pickett – Monster Mash
  2. Sheb Woley – The Purple People Eater
  3. Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
  4. The Addams Family Theme Song
  5. Halloween Sound Effects (Source unknown to me, just an mp3 I found)
  6. Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters
  7. John Carpenter – Halloween Theme Song
  8. Bernard Hermann – Psycho Suite
  9. End Credits to Simspons Halloween Special
  10. Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain
  11. John Williams – Double Trouble
  12. The Munsters Theme Song
  13. The Twilight Zone
  14. The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Medley

As venerable as that list is, it only equals about a half hour of music. Are there any obvious tracks that I'm missing?

Lifespan heads towards 100

October 31, 2005

Times Online:

Separate figures support that life expectancy for women in all social groups could even come close to 100 for people born in 20 years’ time if health continues to improve at the rate of recent decades.

Men’s life expectancy is also catching up with women.

I wonder if society is ready for this (actually, I don't really wonder: society's not ready for this).

I do figure that in my lifetime, we're going to see a cure for the biggest killers today. We're probably not more than a decade or two away from a real cure for Cancer. Ditto for AIDS. I think a cure for aging isn't all that far off, either. There are people alive today (myself among them, with luck) who might well live to see the dawn of the next millennium, as pretty much the only thing left that can kill us will be accidents (and who knows what cures for that might be possible in another century? Anyone wanna back up their brain and genetic code to the internet?)

The possibility is pretty exciting, although the cynical part of me thinks that the transition to this world of immortals will also be pretty painful.

On the other hand, if I don't achieve immortality, it's pretty depressing to think that a quarter of my life is over already.

Female geeks outnumber male geeks for first time

October 31, 2005

Telegraph:

Female science fiction fans now outnumber men for the first time.

The digital television channel Sci Fi UK has seen a 10 per cent rise in the number of female viewers over the past eight years and 1.4 million women now tune in – 51 per cent of the audience. The channel, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, links the rise in “girl geeks” to the proliferation of heroines such as Buffy, Lara Croft and Xena.

“Hey babe, wanna come over to my place on Friday night and watch Battlestar Galactica while arguing over whether or not it's better than Star Trek?”

Carmen Sandiego in all but name

October 30, 2005

It's called Brewster Jennings Protects America, but the gameplay is pretty similar to classic “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. Adapting Carmen Sandiego games to the Google Maps API was an idea that I had way back when the first Google map mashups started appearing, but I lacked the programming skills to pull it off. Luckily, someone seems to have finally stumbled on the idea.

Cemetery Photos

October 30, 2005

I went out this afternoon with the intent of photographing the rabbits that live in the cemetery across the street. I didn't see one damn rabbit, but I did get some nice shots of the graveyard – I thought it was appropriate given that it's Halloween Eve.

Clinton: Democrats should shit or get off the pot

October 30, 2005

From the AP:

“You can't say, 'Please don't be mean to me. Please let me win sometimes.' Give me a break here,” Clinton said. “If you don't want to fight for the future and you can't figure out how to beat these people then find something else to do.”

It's probably only because he's out of office and never has to run for anything again that he can say something like that, but it's still refreshing to hear the reality of the situation articulated like that.

People way smarter than me

October 29, 2005

I just finished reading a most excellent essay, Turing's Cathedral by George Dyson (billed as “a historian among futurists”). In it, the author traces the history of “the web” from its first conceptions to its modern inception, which looks and acts more and more like a collective brain for mankind – learning, remembering, and adapting in ways very similar to biological systems. The implication, of course, is that from the web will eventually emerge the first true AI – something which I've thought likely for a while, and has certainly been remarked upon by smart people since at least the late 90's. The article touches on the exact intersection of technology, culture, philosophy, and science fiction that endlessly fascinates me.

I won't recap it further than that – just read the essay, it's worth it, even for non-technically inclined people.

What I do wish to remark on though is several of the anecdotes he has. For instance:

“The whole human memory can be, and probably in a short time will be, made accessible to every individual,” wrote H. G. Wells in his 1938 prophecy World Brain. “This new all-human cerebrum need not be concentrated in any one single place. It can be reproduced exactly and fully, in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa, or wherever else seems to afford an insurance against danger and interruption. It can have at once, the concentration of a craniate animal and the diffused vitality of an amoeba.” Wells foresaw not only the distributed intelligence of the World Wide Web, but the inevitability that this intelligence would coalesce, and that power, as well as knowledge, would fall under its domain. “In a universal organization and clarification of knowledge and ideas… in the evocation, that is, of what I have here called a World Brain… in that and in that alone, it is maintained, is there any clear hope of a really Competent Receiver for world affairs… We do not want dictators, we do not want oligarchic parties or class rule, we want a widespread world intelligence conscious of itself.”

H.G. Wells, in 1938, described the world wide web, though he couldn't have known it at the time. The kind of prescience that that demonstrates, the kind of leap of imagination beyond anything which had been conceived of before just completely floors me. As someone who spends a great deal of time thinking about the future, I don't think I've had any insight which is even a shadow of the one quoted above.

NYC perplexed by pleasant smell

October 29, 2005

NYT:

An unseen, sweet-smelling cloud drifted through parts of Manhattan last night. Arturo Padilla walked through it and declared that it was awesome.

“It's like maple syrup. With Eggos. Or pancakes,” he said. “It's pleasant.”

The odor had followed Mr. Padilla and his friend along their walk in Lower Manhattan, from a dormitory on Fulton Street, to Pace University on Spruce Street, and back down again, to where they stood now, near a Dunkin' Donuts. Maybe it was from there, he said. But it wasn't.

[…]

There were conflicting accounts as to its nature. A police officer who had thrown out her French vanilla coffee earlier compared it to that. Two diplomats from the Netherlands disagreed, politely. Rieneke Buisman said it smelled like roasted peanuts. Her friend Joris Geeven said it reminded him of a Dutch cake called peperkoek, though he could not describe that smell.There were conflicting accounts as to its nature. A police officer who had thrown out her French vanilla coffee earlier compared it to that. Two diplomats from the Netherlands disagreed, politely. Rieneke Buisman said it smelled like roasted peanuts. Her friend Joris Geeven said it reminded him of a Dutch cake called peperkoek, though he could not describe that smell.

Now, I've experienced many smells in NYC. None that I would consider “pleasant”. This is indeed an extremely odd occurrence.

Where are all the good politicians?

October 29, 2005

In a forum discussion a poster was lamenting the realities of political strategy, that a candidates steer clear of hard promises, must be vague and fuzzy, and the question was asked:

Where are the men and women of personal convictions, that are not afraid to stand openly on them, who want to serve in our republic?

I think the hard truth is that people like that exist, but they're simply unelectable.

The sad reality is that the electorate has the collective intelligence of a rock.

  • Specific plans scare them because they don't understand them.
  • Hard truths anger them, and they shoot any messenger that dares speak them.
  • Warm-fuzzy-meaningless platitudes like “rah rah USA”, “strong on family values” and “tough on crime” make them feel better about themselves, despite the fact the statements are essentially meaningless.
  • Logical contradictions like “We can hire Einstein to teach your kids, pave the streets with gold, and double the number of cops and firefighters all while cutting your taxes in half” don't seem to bother them.
  • No one who ever got a blow job is fit for office, as it offends their sensibilities.
  • They're unwilling to tolerate any short-term sacrifice for long-term good.
  • The World Series is more important to them than the fact that White House aides are being indicted for criminal behavior.
  • They're more likely to follow what goes on in NBC's “The West Wing” than what goes on in the real one.
  • Having a (D) or an (R) next to a candidate's name is, in most cases, all a they need to know about a candidate.

The question isn't where the men and women of personal convictions are. The question is where all the critical, informed, and discriminating voters are.

The fact that there's so few to be found is deeply troubling in a supposed democracy such as ours.

Our Representatives in Washington, in touch with the people

October 28, 2005

“I want the president to look across the country and find the best man, woman, or minority that he can find.”
– Senator Trent Lott, yesterday

I can only assume he's trying to put comedians out of business; there's simply no way you can satirize that statement better than Lott has already.