Saw this chair on another blog and had to have the picture on mine...

A blessing and a curse: my brain doesn't stop working even if I really want it to. That's the main reason I'm a fan but not a practitioner of Eastern religions. I tried meditation when I was a kid, after a while I got these weird sensations like I was grabbing an electric fence combined with a weird surge of egomania and goosebumps. Kind of cool but I was worried about damaging some circuitry.

Later in life after rejecting Christianity I bought a book on Budhissm. The fact that nobody ends up in the firey depths of hell for all eternity somehow appealed to me. You're told to focus on clearing your mind of all thoughts. I couldn't get the image of pink elephants out of my head. The fact that I have ADD didn't help either.

I started measuring stats on this blog a week or so ago and I've got a few readers. A lot more people read the developer diary for my driving game project, 6000+ so far. It's sorta weird to think that that many people are interested in something I'm working on. I'm usually really hard on myself. Not quite sure why but probably becuase of my unaffected upbringing. Anyhooo, I had my weird little hobby, driving simulators, that I was totally obsessed with. It's been said that driving a car very fast is one of the most difficult things to do. That and hitting a fastball. I think I like a challenge because I race my car and can hit a fastball. Anybody sensing my ADD? OK so I started out idolizing these magical people who could with their godlike coding abilities and limitless imaginations recreate and simulate reality. The fact that they were simulating fast cars was what really sealed the deal for me. My former idols are now offering me advice and assistance with my current project, I get to work with people from all over the world which is giving me great perspective on what exactly I am as an American. Software is the first thing to benefit from the collaborative process made possible by the Internet. We software geeks know how to setup Subversion repositories and chat rooms and discussion boards so it makes sense that we'd be the first to take advantage of the net for purposes other than just simple email and web browsing.

So I drove the simulators because I couldn't afford to wreck real cars, I got really good at it too. I also built up relationships in my virtual racer buddy world. I can travel through Europe right now and I'd know people in just about every country. Eventually I wrote some articles for the websites that cover simulated racing software and was even invited to help test some of the software. I've raced real life racing drivers and watched them on Speed TV racing million dollar cars just days later. It's a very unique virtual world, lots of very intelligent people and even real race car drivers show up to the online races to compete with us mere mortals.

I'm usually really good at things I'm passionate about. I'm passionate about Linux, OpenSource software. The Utilitarian in me constantly reminds me about standards of living. I think that's why I have a love for Open Source ideals, globalism, freedom of information, etc. I get glimpses of what could be. I don't want to get old but I hate not living in the future.


Read an interesting tidbit about one of those weird, duality busting human nature chemicals.

"Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and Atlanta's Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) have found transferring a single gene, the vasopressin receptor, into the brain's reward center makes a promiscuous male meadow vole monogamous. This finding, which appears in the June 17 issue of Nature, may help better explain the neurobiology of romantic love as well as disorders of the ability to form social bonds, such as autism. In addition, the finding supports previous research linking social bond formation with drug addiction, also associated with the reward center of the brain...

The researchers discovered, just like prairie voles, the formerly promiscuous meadow voles then displayed a strong preference for their current partners rather than new females."

Does this mean that our girlfriends are going to start driving to Mexico to buy up gallon jugs of Vasopressin to inject into us while we sleep? I can imagine waking up in a next to a toothless hag after a night of boozing in a romantic stupor, syringe carefully hidden under the mattress, asking the lonely, neurotic woman to be the mother of my children. Gaahhhh!

Maybe I could start a marriage therapy clinic with Vasopressin tainted mints in a basket by the exit and slowly amass a fortune as word of my uncanny ability to inspire love in cold, dying relationships spreads.

I wish I could rewrite the source code of my brain. Gentoo Linux looks at your hardware environment and compiles itself with optimizations based on its surroundings. Evolution doesn't work quite that fast.


Woah, just read my last post. It's amazing what bad coffee and sleep deprivation can conspire to create. Operation Ferdinand update: The snoring is as loud as ever but I've come up with ways to deal with it. It's really not so bad having the furry little guy watch baseball with me. I'd probably even consider keeping him if my roommates didn't object.


I'm piecing together a worldview based on my belief in the following quote among other things. "I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth."

I don't totally agree with that quote though. I believe the world is only an enigma because we try to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth. I think Umberto Eco's quote misinterprets truth. His truth has shades of god in it. Fortunately, or not, I was obsessed with philosophy in college. We learned that God is a logical impossiblility due to the existence of evil. That combined with images of the "finger of god"(tornadoes) destroying churches on the news, led me to believe that god would have to have a pretty twisted sense of humor to justify the state of affairs on God's (increasingly less) green earth.

So I'm looking for the meaning of life without a belief in God or heaven and with the impression that love is a temporary chemical imbalance caused by the release of two hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin. It's a tricky journey, knowing that the ghost in the machine is based largely on a sequence of DNA and the laws of physics. It's like the Wizard of Oz except there's no con artist behind the curtain. It's just a mirror. Maybe those XTC lyrics rung true way too early for me. "Did you make mankind after we made you? "

Maybe that's why I don't call girls back after I get their number at a bar. I'm afraid they'll think I'm nuts if I rattle of the three preceding paragraphs after they ask me if I believe in God. How do you ask someone to marry you when you can't tell them you love them and believe it's something more than just a limited supply of goo sqeezed out of some rusty old gland under your armpit. It'd be easier to tell your kids that you're going to have a well catered reuinion in heaven, the dog will be there and it can eat at the table and even articulate its opinion of the angellic cullinary skills of the old bearded guy in the Kitchen. My friends told me I'd make a good dad. It was the nicest thing I think anybody has ever said to me. I wonder if I'll ever find out if they're right. I'm tired of logic but I think I don't have to give up on love, just tweak my version of it. Maybe its even more meaningful when it's not based on chemicals.

OK, on a slightly less scary note...

I saw an amazing movie this weekend. Even better than the Borne Supremacy. It's an old classic called The Apartment Here's a quote from a review "Truly a dark humor script with hope crinkled around the edges." That's my kind of movie for some reason.

I've decided to give the dog another chance. I managed to fall asleep somehow and got a couple hours of sleep and the grumpiness faded. I even walked him before work.

Operation Ferdinand
OK enough about robots and software. Today I borrowed my mom's dog to see how I'd handle the responsibility. I'm convinced that I'm not cut out for dog (or child) rearing because for better or worse, I tend to be pretty self absorbed.

Things started out well, I took him on a long walk, let him sniff whatever he wanted. He slept when we got back and I was confident the week would fly by. So it's time for bed and Ferdinand jumps up onto the mattress and settles down for a long summer's nap. No creatures were stirring but one was snoring, really really loud. Even my roommates said something. I couldn't sleep so I carried him out to the garage, brought him some dog biscuits and water and went to bed. Right when I was about to get the first sleep of the night at 3:30AM the barking began. Now he's back in my room sawing logs and I've given up on sleep for the night. The upside is that I'm paying all of my bills and folding clothes.

I'm going to have to take him back to LA. Probably tonight though I'm afraid I'll fall asleep at the wheel. I feel a little bit like a single parent with a collicy baby. He's really cranking right now, it's amazing how much noise can come out of the little beast.

It's now 4:17AM and I have two meetings tomorrow. I'd make a pretty crappy dad.


Drank too much coffee again. I've been watching how I think so I can figure out how to code DryWit version 0.1

I'm not really sure but I'm starting to think of the brain as a jagged array not defined by geometry, but by algorithms. So think of a neural network where the nodes aren't simple values that constitute a formula but evolving functions with standard interfaces. Maybe even a bigger function that passes interface changes to other nodes or even better, a node interface API so that no management functions are necessary. XML. A markup language for the brain. XML probably wouldn't be quite up for the task because XML is "a simplified subset of SGML, capable of describing many different kinds of data. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the sharing of structured text and information across the Internet." So we're left with SGML, something that's been in development for decades.


I'm going to start work on my little computer brain project again. It's not going to work. Hundreds of brillant scientists have tried and failed, but it'll give me some good insight into the way I think. The first thing I'm going to give it is an understanding of language so I can boss it around. I typed Define: breakfast into google and it found a cognitive science website created by some brainiacs at Princeton. I'm going to use it as a chunk of the brain along with the code I wrote that uses link:website.com to aggregate similar words. A crude form of comprehension. I'm also going to use Wikipedia as the memory/general knowledge lobe.

Here's a goal.
I type "Make me breakfast"
It replies: "I am not able to because I cannot manipulate physical objects"

It would look at the word make first to figure out if I meant the noun or verb form.
The verb "make" has 49 senses in WordNet. It is going to have to figure out which meaning is correct based on the structure and other words in the sentence.

Let's say that works and it picks definition 15.
15. make -- (make by shaping or bringing together constituents; "make a dress"; "make a cake"; "make a wall of stones")

I asked it for breakfast and it's already made a link from my perl code between food and breakfast and also between cake and food. That's how it knows to pick 15. Maybe even a relationship between ingredients and constituents. Some knowledge of latin would be good for making those links. In other words, it links breakfast with ingredients then links ingredients and constituents and cake with ingredients and can be fairly certain that 15 is the correct version of the word make. It should cache these links it makes so it doesn't have to go online to deduce them in the future.

It understands me because I'll give it some sense of self. A shallow sense of self. Maybe a couple of lines of code in the loop, but I hear the best Psychotherapists can have trouble managing their own emotions even though they can rationally deconstruct those of their patients.

It should do a runthrough of its peripherals every once in a while so it will be aware of the fact that it can't go into the kitchen and make food. It'll could make me a webpage about breakfast but not cook it.

It'd have two options at that point, look on the Internet for information about how to acquire locomotion or ask me to move it to the kitchen at which point it would request peripherals that would allow it to manipulate food.

My current code runs very very fast. I'll have to crank up the depth of links it tries untill I hit a bottleneck.


I used to read a lot of Isaac Asimov short stories when I was a kid so I was looking forward to checking out I Robot. I saw it last night and even my non-geek friends really liked it. We had an interesting discussion about the future of the economy when robots take most of our jobs. The word robot makes you think "not in my lifetime" but companies don't like to use words like Artificial Intelligence or Robot to describe their products. The recent Outsourcing backlash was the tip of the iceberg. Most of the jobs were lost due to productivity gains but people were more comfortable blaming the problem on Indian sweatshop workers. Companies wisely don't say AI or robot, they say "Process Automation" It's the same idea that brought us terms like Sanitary Engineer.

Legions of unemployed aren't going to vote Republican. Even God-fearing anti government types aren't going to vote for a wealth divider like GW if they've been unemployed for months. The Democrats are going to have two options: Lie and tell everybody that they can create new jobs or they can raise taxes on the wealthy. Capitalism is like Baseball. Nobody wants to play if the Yankees win every year, hence the luxury tax. Baseball might be a harbinger of things to come in the larger economy because the rules aren't supposed to change and innovation is viewed as a threat to tradition(wooden bats). That's not to say there won't be innovation when everything is automated but there won't be the impediments of bloated pensions and hangovers slowing down capitalism. Wealth aggregation shifts into high gear and suddenly we need a luxury tax on corporations.

I had an idea that's probably been thought up before but I'm writing it anyway. The robotic pets being manufactured by Sony like AIBO already have wireless antennas in their tails to communicate with the Internet but all of their logic is processed internally. My idea is to take the robot software and allow it to run on a PC instead of the scaled down computer in the dog. All commands would be tranmitted wirelessly to the dog. This would make the dog cheaper as well as expand it's capabilities to the limits of a home computer. If the dog's brain was Open Sourced it could evolve much faster than if it's brain was under the sole control of the Sony Engineering team.

I sometimes get a weird feeling of euphoria when I'm writing software or reading about things that really interest me. If there ever was something smarter than us, would it need emotions to regulate its own behavior? I get the feeling that the only reason we have "pleasure centers" in our brains is because we haven't yet evolved a sufficient level of logic to keep ourselves alive with logic alone. Instinct is evolution's answer to our stupidity as a species. So a robotic brain would only include emotion as a library it would use to aid in it's ability to communicate effectively with humans. Dry Wit. Double entendre, Dry being the opposite of wet, used in wet machines, a reference to our brains. Would make a good product name too...

OK so if our destiny is an emotionless existence, and by our I mean thinking beings, isn't our future about to get really boring? Would emotion become the drug of really smart AI?

EDIT: Wow just found an interesting quote:
"The limbic system is tightly connected to the prefrontal cortex. It has been conjectured that this connection is related to the pleasure obtained from solving problems. To cure severe emotional disorders, this connection was sometimes surgically severed, a procedure of psychosurgery. Patients who underwent this procedure often became passive and lacked all motivation."

That's exactly what I was wondering about. I get a "high" from learning because of the connection betwen the limbic system and prefrontal cortex. Who would have thunk it. So any working AI system wouldn't care to evolve unless it had a reward system. Apathy doesn't breed curiosity. Pure logic is certainly not a requirement for intelligent life but is it detrimental to it? Genius bordering on insanity?


I think I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that I need to work in games and software if I'm going to be content with a job. Maybe games and software are the only things I work on that really challenge and interest me that I've come across so far. Wonder what I'll be doing in 10 years...

Every wonder how games are made? Here's a discussion I had recently with the guys I'm working with on the driving simulator project. LINK That VW Bus was created by our graphics guru by the way.

I have a knack for taking something and breaking it down into pieces. That's how I did the search engine. With my self diagnosed case of ADHD it's the only time I'm able to focus for more than a few minutes on something.


There's something humorously anachronistic about a computer generated caveman. Today I'm having a good day. I think it's because a lot ideas I've come to believe over the past couple of years are starting to really sink in. I see Open Source as the next big thing, not just technologically either. I mentioned that study that concluded that our success as a species was due to increases in life expectancy because ideas and culture were passed down. There is a very strong link between life expectency and open source software because OSS doesn't die with a company like billions of lines of proprietary code have over the past decades.

Software is an amazing thing, it's pure creativity. This sounds crazy but software to me can be a beautiful thing. I remember sitting down and looking at all of the wacky structures and systems in place just to facilitate the creation of software, I was just thinking about how mind blowing this guy's code was and how small a percentage of the population understood the beauty in what he'd created. That for me was the true definition of modesty, creating something great simply for the fun of it, regardless of recognition.

Idea(s) of the day:
1> Software before the Internet enabled rise of Open Source was like a race of brilliant, shortlived cavemen, unable to educate their children. The role of the human population explosion in the likelyhood of the singularity is something that's probably overlooked because it's a boring stat compared to Moore's Law.

2> Corportations aren't willing to take if it means giving too. Even if the net effect is positive. That will change. Are Intellectual property and Capitalism incompatible?

I need to start writing articles for magazines, see what happens. There isn't enough time in the day for everything I want to accomplish.

"Open source can build around the blockages of the industrial producers of the 20th century," says Yale's Benkler. "It can provide a potential source of knowledge materials from which we can build the culture and economy of the 21st century."

If that sounds melodramatic, consider how far things have come in the past decade. Torvalds' hobbyists have become an army. Britannica's woes are Wikipedia's gains. In genetics and biotech, open source promises a sure path to breakthroughs. These early efforts are mere trial runs for what open source might do out in the world at large. The real test, the real potential, lies not in the margins. It lies in making something new, in finding a better way. Open source isn't just about better software. It's about better everything.

I'm going to do more research on the Benkler guy. I really should go to law school, it's what I want to do.

Amazingly good Benkler lecture

I'm beginning to smell a paradox which I've read lead to key insights into the fundamental nature of things. I think that's true because you've got two ideas, assumed to be true that conflict. One of them is wrong so if we solve the problem we can be more sure about the truth of the other and begin to look at the reason for the assumtion of the false truth. That'll probably tell us something about human nature. Automatic thoughts are a big part of Cognitive Therapy which is taking the Psychological world by storm. I wonder if that's just a coincidence.


Found an interesting article about the rise of the Human Race as a result of increasing longevity.

THE number of people living to old age more than quadrupled at around 30,000BC, giving modern humans an advantage in their evolution, according to a study in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
A longer lifespan has allowed adults to strengthen social and familial relationships.
Increased longevity in the early Upper Paleolithic Period may have contributed to cultural advancements because having more older people helped spread information between generations, Ms Rachel Caspari, a co-author of the study, said in an interview.
A longer lifespan allowed adults to have more children and strengthened social and familial relationships as grandparents could educate and contribute more to families, the study said.

There is an interesting article in Foreign Affairs Magazine about the Baby Bust that notes that peace is much more likely as the population ages. Fewer and fewer people are having kids and I wonder if it's due to the fact that we're now able to more clearly see the wacky state of affairs that we risk bringing some poor kid into. If we finally become smart enough to realize that we're only slightly smarter than chimps and that we're slowly destroying the planet with industry does that mean we're going to fade away as a species? If we develop a species self esteem issue due to the fact that we're not blissfully ignorant wouldn't reproductive rates decline like we're currently seeing? Is celibacy just a multigenerational painless suicide?


New Employment numbers out today and it's not pretty. Interest rates are down because there is a positive correlation between the number of new jobs and the strength of the economy right?? Not anymore. In fact, I think that in the not too distant future increasing numbers of jobs may only be a sign that productivity isn't improving. So what's the consequence? Well the Fed isn't going to raise interest rates as fast as they had planned based on the jobs data. The only problem there is that the economy is doing just fine. So cheap money and a booming economy is going to lead to inflation.

Abe Lincoln (my hero by the way) once said:
"The money power preys upon the nation in times of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its REIGN by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

I mostly agree. Capitalism breeds greed, no doubt about it. The only way to fight the aggreagation of wealth is through progressive taxation.