Friday, December 12, 2008

Where are All the Stars When They are Fallen?

I'm reading a book which reminded me of a painting which I haven't seen in a long time. The painting is the Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Icarus made wings for himself and tried to fly to the Sun, but the wax holding the wings together melted, and he fell into the sea and drowned.

Here's a link to a bigger version.

The picture is remarkable even at first sight, because we see lots of things on it except the hero himself. Peasants plowing the Earth, grazing animals, a guy fishing and so on. The difference is apparent between the magnificient event suggested by the title and the mundane proceedings depicted.

Who would  think someone in the middle ages (1555) could paint such an ironic picture which has a very strong effect even today? It's power didn't fade with time.

Now that I encountered this painting again I immediately associated it with today's celebrity world with its 5-minute-heroes and bright starlets like Paris Hilton. Their stardom is comparable to Icarus': Their life is completely irrelevant to the life of the average man. They don't change anyone's life and after their fall they disappear like they haven't existed before.

The painting is brilliant, beacuse it leaves room for other interpretations too. The author of the book I'm reading came to a completely different conclusion. He thinks Icarus did a great thing when he wanted to break out from the limits of everyday life, and his tragedy is his deed goes  unnoticed. The indifferent people mindig  only their own mundane life don't notice his heroic attempt and his failure at all.

Here's a little game for those who didn't know this painting until now: Can you find the spot on the picture where Icarus fell into the sea? :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Do you also hate classical music?

Classical music is boring, obsolete and uncool. Right?

Lost of people think that. For them I recommend this talk by Benjamin Zander who's such a passionate and funny speaker he's going to capture your heart:

Monday, July 14, 2008

1600 years old and likes it

Are you in a good shape? Are you a match for Saint Silvan who lies since 350 on his bed and there is no sign of corruption on his body?

According to the Catholic Church there are Incoruptibles whose body don't decompose which is a proof of their sainthood. Here's a top ten list of Incorruptibles.

Have you seen the first one? I bet lots of women would kill for her facial skin. Seems too good to be true.

Is it only a white life on the behalf of the Church to attract more believers? I wonder if there was a scientific investigation of the bodies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gang War on Video

THe local tough guys kidnap a kid from a group which flees in despair. But the bad guys can't enjoy their prey too long, because the underdogs call some tough friends of theirs and return to kick some ass.

Sounds like Hollywood movie? It could be, but it is for real and takes place in the animal kingdom.

It's not your usual nature video where hyenas pull bloody chunks of meat from a carcass surrounded by flies. It's as exciting as an action movie:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Haunting Piece of Music

This music below is the theme of the movie The Usual Suspects. This film is very memorable to me, because I didn't know anything about it when I went to watch it and I was washed away by the ending. It was so well thought out and executed that I was rooted to my seat while watching the cast list rolling away.

During the end credits the music linked below was heard and so it's sort of attached to the experience I had in the cinema.

It's a very a nice piece of music, the haunting theme is sinister and dark. I like it very much. Give it a go by listening to this 3 minutes with your eyes closed as some kind of short relaxation concentrating only on the music. It's not your average movie theme:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Being a Woman

Have you seen a beauty contest page like this? With a Western eye it is very strange. It's rather a burka contest than a beauty contest.

I really don't envy women, because their life quality can be very low or very high depending on where they are born. In China the foot of girls were bound for thousands of years and it had gruesome results. Forced female circumcision is still practiced in various places of Earth. And even if you're the first lady of a country your life might be very much controlled as the example of the first lady of Iran shows.

We know from the past women are the first to suffer when things turn to worse (e.g. raping in wars) and being a women is very much equal to being defencelessness against the circumstances. Even in the womb as in Asia people do anything they can to abort female fetuses which leads to the situation that not every male can have partner, so kidnapping women for wives is becoming more and more commonplace, so here also the women are those who suffer.

But even here in the Western world women are worse off than men. They earn less, it's harder for them to get a job if they didn't have a child yet, they have to be a good lover, a good mother and a good worker which is not easy. Poster girls are set before them as examples, and men see photoshopped ideals in Playboy, ideals which can not be reached in real life.

Of course, women can give birth, they can give life which men cannot do. It's true, but they also have to suffer morning sickness, carry their big bellies and live with the back pain, so it's not only bells and whistles after all.

Compared to that being a man is easier. A man with a tummy has no problem finding a partner which is harder for a woman with a tummy. When a man grows older then he is better looking. It's not such a big deal if a man is born into Taliban country or Africa, because they are still better off there than women.

I wouldn't trade places with a woman even if I could. It's easier for us. I wouldn't say a woman's life is continuous suffering, but I do think we men were luckier when our sex was decided.

Of course, a woman may think it differently.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

They Could Shout It from the Rooftops

The net is full of self-improvement, personal development and similar articles which have a lot of wise advices for the reader.

These advices are very good. They are mostly come from the distilled knowledge of thousands of years. The catch is they cannot be simply told they must be experienced.

Until one has the necessary life experiences these advices are weightless. The sound nice, they feel nice, but one cannot apply them to one's life, since the necessary experience is missing.

When the necessary experience is there then the advice itself is not necessary, since one knows it from experience.

It's like the Matrix. One cannot be told what the Matrix is, one has to see it for oneself.

So if this is the case then for whom these nice articles are written? It's not much use for the inexperienced as we reasoned above.

Are they for the experienced then? Reading them with an experienced eye one can only say "If I knew it when I was younger...". The thing is one did know. One hears these things all the time. Only then one could not use it.

So I'm still in the dark about why these lists are published and for whom. Seems like a wasted effort.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why the Ending of Lost's 4th Season is Illogical

By now everyone who wanted has seen the ending of Lost's current season which I enjoyed, I was only bothered by the strange logic of their actions.

Locke said to Jack he would have to lie to protect the Island. Jack did persuade the others to lie, but not to protect the island, rather to protect their friends who they had left behind.

But what kind of protection is this?

Widmore surely won't give up the search just because his men didn't return (Jack doesn't know anything we know from the flash-forwards). It should just add to this suspicion that something was not right, so he will send an other search party which can hunt for the island undisturbed, because the Oceanic 6 didn't blow his story with the false plane at the bottom of the ocean.

So the Oceanic 6 has thrown their friends to the mercy of the man, instead of protecting them from him.

Because they could also use the world-wide attention they get due to their appearance and tell the whole world the plane was planted there. Governments cannot ignore their statements, because it concerns stealing enough dead bodies to fill a plane at the bottom of the ocean. Surely, the false plane cannot be a perfect replica which a serious investigation would discover. Also, the number of the bodies wouldn't be right, since Oceanic 6 shouldn't be on the plane which the creators of the false scene could not take into account.

Consequently, the statements of Oceanic 6 could easily be proven, and a large-scale rescue effort could be organized to find the island and the people left on it.

This rescue effort (in which the government would also take part, since it's a conspiracy involving stealing bodies) would surely hamper Widmore's plans which he could not follow undisturbed.

It's also possible the false plane could be traced to him, so he should have answer a few uncomfortable questions.

So the whole lying-the-world-to-protect-our-friend scheme by Oceanic 6 doesn't make sense. Surprisingly, the others in the group give in very easily to Jack's stupid idea and are willing to take a part in it.

This plot device was very unpolished compared to the effort the creators put into creating the mitology surrounding the island. Didn't they have enough time to think it over?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Where the Hell is Matt?

Okay, here's this guy who dances his silly dance everywhere where he travels. He seems having a good time and so do the locals who join him in the dancing.

I'm envious of this guy. Not of his travels, but his courage to follow his dream not caring about what others think.

And the local people are wonderful too. Dancing with a stranger and having a good time. This is what life is about. Having a good time and being nice to each other.

Spread this video.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Livable Cities, Livable Earth

I stumbled upon a photo a few days ago which shows a part of Osaka:

Click for larger image.

The photo shows a very harmonic building which combines stone and green gracefully. It's hard to say where the green ends and where the building begins, and vice versa.

In an ideal world the whole of the city should look like this. And why not? Are we happier with so many people living in crowded places without any living vegetation around them?

Why do we have so many people? Wouldn't we be happier with more space for living? Is there any sensible reason to let the population grow so much?

This also brings the question: are we happier in this shiny tech world than our ancestors were in their huts on the prairies? Surely, we have cars and internet and cable TV, running water, electricity, but did all this make our lives better, or they simply solved lots of problems and created lots of others?

I born to this world and the thought of living on the plains and taking care of animals is not very attractive for my current self. But I crave for more nature, not just occasionally, but continuously, and I also want the comfort of the cities too. Could we have these two things at the same time?

In the future I imagine it could be done. With flying cars and stuff there would be no need for roads, so all the asphalt could be torn up and it's place planted. And then our cities may be like the building on the picture above.

I'd like to see it one day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Girls Are Watching Us

Every time I drive my car I notice girls are looking at me. I mean girls strolling on the sidewalk, standing in bus stops and so on.

I wonder why they look? Do they want to check if I look too? I surely do, adnd it must be something they need to keep up their self-confidence.

If I walk on the street I never pay attention to cars passing me. Why should I? However girls, unlike men, seemingly need a constant reinforcement of their self-esteem.

If I'm looking it means their appearance is OK, since I'm looking. Otherwise, they can think they haven't prepared themselves properly for going outside.

Non-attractive girls usually don't look. Probably they do not have enough self-confidence to make sure if someone is paying attention to them.

The looks from girls is very dangerous to traffic safety. I usually only glance at them, but when my eye meets theirs then I can't help but look again, so I watch the road less.

It's not safe, but I can't NOT do it. It's how I'm wired internally.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Decapitated Dog Head Kept Alive

Soviet scientists performed the strangest experiments.

They decapitated dogs and kept their head alive by maintaining blood circulation in the severed head artifically:

According to Wikipedia the experiments were real even if the results were a bit exaggerated.

For example, the Soviets said the severed dog heads lived for hours while the truth is probably closer to minutes.

Nevertheless, no matter how cruel and barbaric these experiments are they were invaluable for the Soviets to develop open-heart surgery methods.

Is animal suffering the inevitable price for human health?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Don't Mind the Injured Man on the Street

This video is pretty outrageous. What's with people in Connecticut?

They are just standing there and look. No one checks whether the man is alive or dead. And what about the other drivers? And the man holding his jacket in his hand and walking past the lying man?

The criminals running the man down are bad enough, but the onlookers are not much better themselves.

Maybe they was afraid the same will happen to them? Well, in that case do not expect better treatment if you are in the same situation.

At least somebody called the police, but shouldn't someone go out to the street to prevent other cars from running down the man lying on the street? It seems pretty basic behavior in a society.

Something is very wrong here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Crazy or Brilliant?

Have you seen Cyriak's animation mix? If not you should.

It's very... special. On first watching one doesn't if it's the work of a madman or of a brillant absurd animator.

The strangest pictures and combinations follow each other to annoying yet cool music.

It reminds me of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. Looks like he has a successor.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why the Library is Full of Pretty Girls?

I was in the library a few days ago I wondered why so many pretty girls are there. Wherever I looked I saw a pretty girl and I started thinking why it was.

In order to get back to reality I started to really look instead of scanning only and then I saw the non-pretty girls too. The explanation is obvious: lots of information reaches our brain, so most if it must be filtered out, so that we don't go crazy from information overload.

My male brain filtered out the important things for me and pretty girls are definitely fall into the important category. It didn't show ugly girls, because that information is thrown away anyway, so it shouldn't get into my brain in the first place. (Note that I don't talk about absolute prettiness. "Pretty" in this case means girls I personally find pretty which doesn't necessarily means cover girls.)

I wonder how women perceive their environment. Do they notice only able males who can provide for their family and overlook clumsy weaklings? After a certain age it must be the case.

This phenomenon is similar to the one which can be observed on online forums dealing with love issues. Those who don't have a partner complain that wherever they look they see happy couples, though surely there are lots of single men and women too.

One sees only what one wants to see.

The mantra of positive thinking is based on this psychological effect. If you think of positive things, things you want to get then you train your brain to look for opportunities to find them. There are different techniques for training the brain to look on the bright side of life. A gratitude journal is one such technique which can be very effective if applied consistently.

The Secret is also based on this principle. Of course, it was invented by clever people who want to get rich on the ignorance of others, but it contains a grain of truth nevertheless. You won't get all the riches automatically from the Universe even if you think about them all day, but by focusing on the things you want you set your brain too look for information which you missed before because of concentrating on the lack of your desired items instead.

So, dear singles who don't have a partner concentrate on meeting the love of your life and if you do so then you will notice not the happy couples, but rather Him or Her who's sitting the seat across on the underground as you go home. :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Women Don't Use RSS?

At least that's my experience if I consider the women I know. RSS is used mostly by hardcore users, but most women don't use it all. What can be the reason?

RSS is really useful. I can't image using the Net without it. I don't like doing mundane tasks like checking if a website is updated, so I let the computer do it, but not everyone thinks like that. I have a friend who is a computer expert, but doesn't use RSS because he thinks it's too primitive (the appearance that is). He likes to see all the articles at once, like in a newspaper, so he can scan the contents quickly and choose what he wants to read, so he uses the front pages of news sites which I don't see at all, because I use exclusively RSS.

Going back to the subject of women and RSS the root of the problem can be that I don't have a computer-maniac female acquaintance. Those I know want to learn only as much about the computer as necessary to use it, and from this standpoint RSS is a mystic, overly complicated, uncool thing which only computer-fanatics can appreciate.

Maybe RSS is similar to cars in this respect. Most women don't like fixing cars, because it's messy and boring, so they leave it to the pros instead. And it's true it's usually the boys who like to take things apart to see how they work and they are the ones who choose a technical carrier. Most of the computer experts are male, but is it a good thing?

Why do women avoid technical areas? Is it because of their genes, or is it because of how they are raised? Are their brains not wired for it in the first place, or is it more like the part of their gender role in society (the man fixes things, the woman cooks and takes care of the children)?

We know there are lots of excellent male cooks, so if cooking would be part of the curriculum from a really young age then boys would very much be able to perform well in the kitchen. What if we encouraged girls from a young age to take apart and fix things? Would there be more technical geniuses among them compared to the present situation?

We hear often that more women should be involved in politics, because they approach problems differently and they would bring a much needed fresh way of thinking into mainstream politics. Could they bring a fresh thought into technology too?

Our computer systems today are dominated by male thinking. They were conceived by men, implemented by men and maintained by men. (Of course, there are competent female technicians, but we're talking about averages here.) What kind of change could it bring if more women were involved in the IT industry? Would there be a significant difference in the computing landscape than today? Would programs be implemented with different approaches? Would there be less bugs in them? Or maybe more?

I'd really be interested in the answer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Proposal for a More Convenient Commenting System for Forums and Blogs

Commenting on forums and blogs is a nuisance. When a heated discussion is going on it involves constantly reloading the page, which is tiring and inconvenient.

Chats are much more useful when the participants are actually there, but the problem with chats is that the discussions are not permanent, since they are usually not logged.

Couldn't we somehow have the best of both worlds and combine the advantages of the approaches?

Why not have a chat box in the comment section of blogs, so that visitors can chat about the entry in question? It would be no ordinary chat box, because sent messages would be saved as actual blog comments , and vice versa, regular comments would appear in the chat as messages.

This way it would be very convenient to comment on blogs and the discussion would be recorded instantly.

Similarly, in forums online participants could chat with each other, and those who arrive later could read the discussion and add their opinion to it.

No more manual page reloading, it would be handled by the software automatically.

In order to give a structure to conversations the chat (unlike regular chats) would require the user to specify which message he's replying to: either to the first one (which is the blog entry for blogs and the topic starter for forum topics) or to an existing comment. This would make it possible to display threaded messges even for comments which come from the chat.

In these days AJAX is THE thing and this technique is just the thing where AJAX could prove very useful.

Has anyone implemented a similar setup already? If not who will be the first?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Aliens Do Not Live on the Holodeck

In this article the author states we can't find alien life forms, because they chose to live in virtual worlds. The virtual reality requires far less energy to maintain than doing actual space traveling, so it's logical they chose this way of existence which provides endless possibilities.

It's catchy concept, only I don't think an intelligent being would choose the model of the real world instead of the real world itself.

Virtual reality is a model which reflects its creators' current understanding of the Universe, so it's inherently limited, unless the creators know everything about the world, so they can emulate it completely.

But if they do know everything then why should they need a virtual reality? An all-knowing race surely comes up with an efficient and practically unlimited energy source, so the above argument about energy-efficiency does not apply.

An intelligent race wouldn't be satisfied with the shadow of reality when the real world is out there. What kind of challenges could a virtual reality hold? Surely only those kind which its creators can envision.

The real Universe is the ultimate challenge. Figuring out all its secrets and mastering it is the ultimate puzzle for any intelligent being.

Of course, it's possible the aliens have a completely different mindset than ours, and they don't want more than what their current knowledge can offer. In that case it's conceivable they choose to live in a VR world.

But as far as humanity is concerned I doubt this kind of existence would be appealing to humans. There would be people accepting it, but as a whole I think mankind is much more curious than that.

At least I am. :)

Why Doesn't Google Search for Partial Words?

Is it too much to ask? I know about stemming, but partial search would be much simpler.

For example, searching for compl* would find every word beginning with compl regardless of the ending.

This would make it possible to search for a specific form like completed without getting other hits, and when we want those other hits then we could use the asterisk form above.

Partial search would also be very useful for searching in languages other than English. The stemming algorithm is not that good for other languages, so partial search would help a lot in those cases.

The index for partial words could be generated trivially and I don't think Google would have any problem dealing with the bigger index size.

So why don't we have partial search already?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sick Tale About the Horrorballoon

This video is sick, but also funny in its own way. Absurd humor to the extreme. Don't show it to your kids! :)

Don Hertzfeldt is known to create such unusual cartoons. His most famous piece is Rejected. You gotta have a sense of humor to appreciate it:

A Musical Instrument with Ethereal Sound

In today's rock and pop world it's surprising a musical instrument invented only a few years ago doesn't produce sounds we're used to in these days. It brings us into some ethereal world instead.

The hang is invented in 2000 in Switzerland. The artist holds the instrument in his lap, and plays it with his hands. There are only two people in the world who make hangs, so it's pretty pricey when sold at internet auctions.

On the video below Manu Delago plays a piece on it. The sound may be foreign at first, so make sure you're listening to the video for at least a minute, so the music can expand to its full form.

It is like oriental, relaxation music, like one is walking amongst high mountains, clouds, or somewhere in nature.

I like it very much. It's much better than most music these days.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why Don't We Have Our Personal View of the Internet?

I read about bits of this concept here and there, but I haven't seen it implemented, though it could be very useful, revolutionary even.

Lots of information reaches us via the net. Lots of news, ideas, comments, and one usually has to spend lots of time cleaning up trash until some gold is found.

People come up with clever solutions to mitigate this problem. For example, the Digg community filters individual items, so that trash is buried and better content is endorsed.

This is very useful, I'm also a Digg reader, but it has the drawback that others still find things interesting which I don't, so the problem is not as bad as before, but it's not solved completely.

In order to solve this one could use the relations between the diggers (using Digg as an example, but the method is not limited to it), so that if one scores articles similarly to me in the long run then the system should give more weight to his or her scoring when showing news for me. The italicized part is important, because it has the implication that there is no common front page which is the same for everyone, there is no common denominator, but rather there is a personalized front page for each person showing articles which are relevant for him or her in the first place.

Why should there be a common, generalized view in case of a news site which relies on community scoring and has no group of editors who approve articles to appear on the front page? It doesn't make much sense, because the data is available to bring things to the next level.

If the above scoring method is used then very dynamic groups or bubbles are created from users with similar interests and values. These people are bound together by their scoring history and they help each other to find the best stories and articles within their interests.

Note that these groups do not exist in the algorithm, the word "group" is used only to illustrate the effects of this method in the long run.

If one changes his taste and starts scoring articles differently then he leaves his current "group" and is connected with other people who share that different taste.

This method would be very effective against spammers too, because they can send in their links and give them high scores, but if others - whose opinion based on their scoring history has more weight for me - score it down then I won't see it. So the spammer will be alone with his scoring history or he might get connected with other spammers by the algorithm, so that they can read each other's links.

This method would decrease the need for censorship too, because the dynamic group I belong to would work actively to show only those items which I want to see, therefore porn links are unlikely to get high scores in a "Christian group". On the other hand, a "porn group" would value these links highly and vote down religious propaganda.

In essence this algorithm would result in a personal Internet where (if I actively vote for or against the items I see) I would rarely see content which I consider trash, and much more of those which I like.

One could choose to go deep and score in the raw, unscored news flood. These people would be the adventurers who are not afraid of exposing themselves to different ideas or simple trash. They would dig up the promising items from the swamp.

Others could choose to play it safe and score only items which are already discovered by their peers. These would be the people who would decide the fate of an item for other safe players.

I hope something like this will be the next step in the evolution of sites like Digg which rely on user participation.

I hope to see it implemented soon.

Holding a Trial with a Dead Pope's Body

This notable event was the so called Cadaver Synod where the Pope Formosus' body was dug up and put on trial:

Probably around January of 897, Stephen VI ordered that the body of his predecessor Formosus be removed from its tomb and brought to the papal court for judgement.

Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Liutprand and other sources say that Stephen had the body stripped of its papal vestments, cut off the three fingers of his right hand used for benedictions, and declared all of his acts and ordinations (including his ordination of Stephen VI as bishop of Anagni) invalid. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once again, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber.

You can read more details about the trial on Wikipedia.

There is also a painting there depicting the dead Pope during the trial.

This story made me thinking about the sanity of rulers at that time. Torture can be explained: they needed confessions, had to make an example, etc. But this? What was this bizarre game good for? According to the sources I read there was a public outcry even then after this shameful procedure.

I wonder if we are better these days? Or are there lots of people amongst us who wouldn't hesitate to take part in such trials if it wasn't against the law?