art Pearls

Skip traffic, fly to work

James Franco attended 4 graduate schools in different places).

How might one pull that off in the coolest, most flexible way possible? Well, one way is to fly your own plane around everywhere.

For specificity, let's say you love boating around Nantucket on the weekends, but you got into the top English program at Yale. You want to have your cake and eat it too. The not-so-obvious solution is to buy a small airship and fly it to and from school as needed. How do you become a pilot and what are the costs?

You can obtain a Private Pilot license with 40 hours of instruction for $5,000 - $12,000. A flight instructor might cost $50-80 per hour to teach you, and each hour on a plane costs $100 (give or take) for small, old planes. There are other costs (like textbooks and logbooks that are minimal compared to these other costs). Therefore, if you are a sharp, hardworking student, you might get a license for just around $5,000. If it takes you longer, it may take over a year and cost more like $12,000.

You can do the training in under 2 months if you try hard. Try to log at least two hours of flight time each week because otherwise you forget your training each week and it will take you longer and cost you more. Because you can only begin training in clear, bright conditions, it can be much easier to learn to fly in places like Florida or California.

Alternatively, think about first obtaining just your Sport Pilot license which requires only 20 hours of flight time. This can halve your costs and training time. With your Sport license, the FAA lets you fly during clear, bright days with up to 1 other passenger at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet (basically the max altitudes of small planes). A Sport License has no requirements except that you must have a driver's license (and thus passed a rudimentary eye exam). You can always log the next 20 hours of training to obtain the Private Piot license so that you can fly at night with more people in more airspace later. The Private Pilot license has the extra requirements of accurate color vision and a full medical exam.

Then you can buy or rent a plane to fly between Nantucket and New Haven. Small planes cost about the same as expensive cars. You can buy a small, old cheap Cessna 150 for a round $20,000. They no longer produce these models, but they are reliable and common. The Cessna 172s are still in production and can be $40,000 used. These planes can achieve max speeds of ~150 miles per hour with ranges of over 800 miles. Other small ones that carry 1-4 passengers might go up to $80,000. Bigger or luxury planes can cost millions.

You can rent a plane cost effectively. Planes rent by the number of hours that you actually use them in flight. So, if you fly to Nantucket in the morning in 2 hours, go fishing all day, and then fly back at night then you only pay for 4 hours of flight time usage. The cheapest planes might cost only $80 per hour "wet" (with fuel included in the hours rate). More pricey small planes might be only $100-150 per hour wet. Even much larger planes that seat 10 or dozens might cost only $2000-$5000 per hour which is comparable to driving on a per person-mile basis. Note that you can rent a plane for multiple days, but most charge a minimum number of flight hours per day (like 4/day).

The advantages of your own plane include the flexibility of choosing your own schedule and the fact that you can fly into any airport you want. For small or secluded areas with infrequent travelers (like Nantucket and New Haven) this can save you a lot of time and car traffic congestion. Cities run small municipal airports for free just as they do roads for free.

Flying your own plane is a fun and safe (but expensive) way to travel or commute like a badass James Franco. It's not any more dangerous (it's safer with the right care, since a drunk driver won't hit you in the sky) than driving the same distance on a road trip.

I found it surprising how easy and attainable in price (though not cheap, unfortunately) it is to become a licensed pilot. It doesn't take millions to reach the heavens and fly like a bird, just a little saving up and a few weeks of training.

over 6 years ago on September 6 at 12:15 am by Joseph Perla in life, travel, art


The Gossips

Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) Wayside Gossip, 1883. Albumen print

http://www.ssplprints.com/image/123584/robinson-h-p-henry-peach-wayside-gossip-1883

Robinson sets up a landscape narrative with a few possible interpretations of the scene. His use of lighting and the structure of the scene reinforce these interpretations. The nature of the photograph forces a broadness in viewpoints. This one scene forms the intersection from several narratives which portray themselves in this one snapshot.

We focus on three women. Who gossips? The two women together by the river may be gossiping. A first interpretation implies that they gossip about the stroller, the third.

The photographer designs a tension in this photo by posing the figures in such a way as to reveal a story in a single frame. The path on which the woman walks meanders all of the way back, and yet the two seated women look at the stroller only when she is close enough to be in earshot. They stop talking, watching until she leaves.

The photographer tells a story with each element of the piece. The textured trees and ground provide a backdrop to focus the eyes on the figures. In a sea of repetition, each detail of individual variation of a leaf deindividualizes and is lost, pointing the viewer to look away at the mass as a whole or moreso to the subjects. The two women and the stroller stare at each other. The viewer finds himself following the gaze of both parties, searching for meaning in their glances.

The grass and trees are also blurred at portions. Presumably the wind moved the trees and grass slightly, creating a blur on the negative. The blur indicates the passage of time as they stare at each other. This does not distract.

The path is worn, so it is a well-known path that the gossiping figures knew she could walk down at any time. They aren't scheming, which would cause an out-of-the-way encounter, but merely idle gossip over lunch. The picnic basket indicates a small meal eaten there.

The setting displays a prominent vanishing point in the upper left of the painting just below the corner. This balances the image since the two figures on the right are the most white. Two faces emphasize the right half of the print. Emphasizing the third figure on the left, the vanishing point draws the eyes along the lines of the river and the path to the left to balance the image.

The figure on the left is standing on a walking stick, probably to hold the pose for a long time. The other two also have their hands supporting themselves for a long pose. These poses are taken carefully to attempt to produce a natural image meant to capture a single moment. Careful study, however, reveals the true nature of the poses, and yet these poses still convey an effect of a normal extended conversation.

The seated women are not particularly dressed up for a special event, but rather they seem more natural. It is posed but the are using quotidian pastoral attire. Their clothes give away the time of the photograph, as well as the setting in a rural area. The viewer can feel the quaint aspirations of this rural township, whose most interesting days soak in gossip.

The flat contrast in the background de-emphasizes the outline of the trees and grass. It focuses the energy of the viewer on the tension in the figures, on the actual drama and story rather than the setting. The top of the sky is a beige, so it is easy to ignore it over the also flat contrast trees. The whitest parts of the image are the white aprons in the center on the figures on the right, with the left figure's apron a little darker given the position of the sun. The lighting is behind this woman. The final white is the white of the path on which the woman walks, suggesting a purity in her intentions. The path symbolizes her more innocent actions in contrast to the gossipers who perform darker acts of gossip.

The photographer uses lighting to emphasize their deceptiveness. The gossipers look at the figure on the left, but they hide their eyes in the shade of their bonnet. Hiding eyes classically inspires feelings of deceit. They lack smiles due to the unwelcome friend. Of course, it may just be that holding a smile for a while in a portrait is hard; it is generally unusual in portraiture, and someone cannot be staring at the sun waiting for exposure so shaded eyes are required. Nevertheless, the photographer uses these necessities to enhance the image's narrative.

The setting is open and rational and not quite but mostly static. Certainly, nobody is bustling in the background. The wind however has blurred some leaves. We are in a secluded rural area. The women here found a private place to talk amongst themselves away from eavesdroppers, by the wayside, which surprises them when the figure on the left appears. It halts their conversation.

The other interpretation creates a gossiper of the woman on the left. Perhaps the woman is merely participating in gossip as she meets new people on her walk. They can all be genially discussing the matters of the day, the tidbits of the week. They could be great friends, or strangers becoming new friends. They gossip about local news and people they both know in common. It is odd that she doesn't approach closer and keeps her distance. No mouths are open on either side, implying they are merely staring each other down. Moreover, they are all staring. Normally, one of the ones not speaking of the two on the right would be looking around at random other objects.

The faces are portrayed in profile or semi-profile view which strongly captures their roundness and detail. It generally is a very painterly landscape and figure photo. The dress details are captured well, and he makes sure to position the figures on the right so that the sunlight captures everything. The sun, by the way, is clearly high in the sky; but not noon, which would be overhead, behind the woman on the left. Not behind the other two, the sun lies somewhere on the left.

The photo is in a landscape orientation with a size of 13 inches by 10 inches. The large size allows a lot of the detail in the texture and the small faces show up, but not so much that they look blown up. In very good condition, the glossy print paper is caused by the albumen print. Without abrasions or damage, the quality of the image is preserved. Despite close inspection, no hand-tinting or painting is apparent.

The whitest part of the image are the white dresses of the women on the right, which if you indicate as purity, then might imply that they are not gossiping but it is the traveler sneaking by on the path who is. She is darker, muddying the purity of the path with her presence, which is entirely in the shadow given the sun behind her. She meets them, slides back onto her walking stick, and begins to chatter about the juicy tellings she overheard. This is the most consistent interpretation of her position and stature.

The picture appears to be taken at a great height above the others. Perhaps the landscape slopes up quickly, or perhaps the photo is taken on a stage. The photo is clearly taken many feet above the others. This high view makes the spectator not feel the part of a participator in the gossip. In fact, the viewer becomes a bit of the subject of the gossip, overseeing that someone is telling stories, but too high up and far away to tell exactly what. Too far away to hear or see anybody's mouth moving at all. It is a view more common in painting rather than photography; people shoot photos at waist or head level due to the physicality of holding the camera.

In conclusion, the photo evokes the sense of a daily story which happens in the rural farmland of the UK every day in these times in the 19th century. Gossip happens matter-of-factly as they go on their normal days. This is not a special event, nor is the moment captured unique to one particular story. It evokes a sense of several stories which may happen many times throughout the week.

over 7 years ago on October 5 at 4:42 am by Joseph Perla in art, writing, photography


Log Reader 3000

I wanted to show off another python script today.  I think it’s pretty cool.  It’s kind of like a very rudimentary version of something you might see in Iron Man.  And, of course, anything in Iron Man is cool.

I dub it Log Reader 3000.  It’s purpose?  It helps me monitor logs.  How?  Well, sometimes I need to follow a log in real time as it is written, but I can quickly get bored.  The log scrolls by endlessly while, very often, little new information spits itself out.  I can quickly lose focus, or at the very least, damage my vision after staring at a screen intently for extended periods.

Ideally, I want the log to simply flow through me, and if my subconscious notices something odd, then I can act on it.  If the log is read aloud to me, then I can work on other tasks and let my auditory memory and auditory processing take note of oddities on which I need to act.

So, I made a python script to read the log out to me as it is written. It is my first Python 2.6 script.  I take advantage of the new multiprocessing module built into the standard library.  I also use the open-source festival text-to-speech tool.

First, install festival.  sudo apt-get install festival in Ubuntu.  You probably want to set it up to work with ALSA or ESD sound.  By default, festival uses /dev/dsp, which means that you can’t use festival and any other program that uses audio (like Skype) at the same time.   Fortunately, and as usual, Ubuntu provides detailed, simple instructions to set up festival with ALSA: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/TextToSpeech .

Finally, just find an appropriate use case.  Note that most log monitoring applications would not be improved with Log Reader 3000.  If you just want to be notified of errors, you should have a program email you when an error appears in a log.  If you want to understand the log output of a program that has already run, understand that Log Reader 3000 is meant for live-running programs.  Yes, Log Reader 3000 can be modified to read any text file line-by-line.  But, you will find that reading ends up being much faster than listening to a slow automated voice, so I recommend that you just try to skim a completed program’s output with VIM.

So then why ever use Log Reader 3000?  It is useful for applications which fit all of the following criteria:

  1. you want to monitor a live running program
  2. and the debugging information is nuanced and you need a human to interpret it (i.e. it cannot be filtered programmatically) and/or you want to be able to intervene while the program is running to keep it doing what it ought to be doing in real time.

Applications:

  • Say that you are spidering the web, and what the spider should and should not be spidering is not yet well-defined, but a human knows, then the Log Reader 3000 can read aloud where the spider is, and the human can correct course as he or she notices the spider going astray.
  • Or, say that you are working on some kind of artificial intelligence.  Perhaps, the AI program can reason aloud and a human can correct or redirect the machine’s reasoning as it goes along.  I have no idea how or why an AI would do that.
  • Maybe you want to protect against bot attacks, but your aggressor is particularly clever and seems to avoid looking like a bot in all of the obvious ways.  You can pipe the output of your log into Log Reader 3000 and notice new kinds of suspicious patterns live while reclining in your chair or surfing the web.
  • You run a securities trading program.  You have numerous checks and double-checks to ensure that everything works correctly.  Nevertheless, you need to have a human monitoring the system as a whole continuously anyway, so you have Log Reader 3000 read aloud total portfolio value, or live trades, or trading efficiency, or fast-moving securities, or all of the above.
  • The lobby of your startup has a TV screen with graphs of user growth and interaction on the site.  You want to increase the coolness factor by having a computer voice read aloud some of the searches or conversations happening on your site live.
  • You make a living by selling cool techy art projects which blend absurdity with electronics.  You read aloud live google searches, or live wikipedia edits, or inane YouTube comments out of what looks like a spinning vinyl record.  Passersby whisper of your genius.

Once you have the application, just tail -f the log, parse out the parts you want the log reader to read (you can use awk for that, for example, or maybe a simple python script), and pipe that into the Log Reader 3000.

tail -f output.log | awk “{ print $1 }” | ./log_reader_3000.py

How does Log Reader 3000 work?  The main process reads in one line at a time.  As it reads in each line from stdin, it sends it to the processing queue.  The child process reads the last item in the queue (it discards the items at the top of the queue because those are old and we need to catch up with the latest output line) and then calls a function to say() the line.  The say() function simply uses the subprocess module to call festival in a separate process and then blocks until it is done saying it aloud.

Because having a computer voice read aloud a sentence takes a while, the log probably outputs many more lines than can be read aloud.  That is why a multiprocess queue is needed, and that is why Log Reader 3000 only reads out the most recent line which has been output, which is why it is most useful for specific applications.

Here is the script, log_reader_3000.py:

#!/usr/bin/env python2.6
import sys
import subprocess
from multiprocessing import Process, Queue
def say(line):
    say = '(SayText "%s")' % line
    echo = subprocess.Popen(['echo', say], stdout=subprocess.PIPE)
    subprocess.call(['festival'], stdin=echo.stdout)
def listen_to_lines(queue):
    line = 'I am Log Reader 3000.  The world is beautiful.'
    while True:
        while not queue.empty():
            line = queue.get()
        say(line)
queue = Queue()
p = Process(target=listen_to_lines, args=(queue,))
p.start()
while True:
    line = sys.stdin.readline()
    sys.stdout.write(line)
    queue.put(line)

over 10 years ago on November 21 at 4:33 am by Joseph Perla in art, hacks, technology


It’d be hilarious

As seen on Slashdot:
>Oh well. 1998 me is still pleased to hear this.

Is 1998 you still on the line? Warn him that Star Trek: Insurrection really sucks!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, @04:37PM (#23908891)

    That’s all you’d tell your 1998 self?!?? I’d tell mine to invest heavily in the DotComs so he’d lose all his money…it’d be hilarious like that time someone told me they were my future self and that I should invest heavily in DotCom start-ups and I lost all my money!


over 10 years ago on September 16 at 5:55 am by Joseph Perla in art


Font Comic: Attempt #1

I love to read about others’ unique creations.  I love to get ideas from them.

By pure chance, I happened up on David Friedman’s excellent blog called Ironic Sans where he showcases designs both illustrative and mechanical.  He recently created a funny (punny) little graphic:

Darth Vader

It reminds me of XKCD, a beautifully simple yet intellectually esoteric webcomic.  David Friedman’s graphic above also reminded me of a typography exercise my friend Mason Simon recently created and posted on his blog:

Collapsed

I like these little designs so much.  In kindergarten, I never took to drawing and coloring like everyone else.  My sketches of people looked like pizzas more than faces.  I think I can do a decent job at making a font comic, however.  My attempt sits below.  It took me half an hour to figure out how to make the black rectangle border.  I ended up just making a solid black rectangle with a white rectangle on top.  I need to learn Photoshop/The Gimp.

Thank you Comic Sans MS, and the Beat My Guest font from Larabie Fonts.

over 11 years ago on July 28 at 1:27 am by Joseph Perla in art


Learn 100 digits of pi at lightning speed

Learn 100 digits of pi at lightning speed.

In a previous post, I wrote about the Secret to Pi.  I wrote about the method I used to learn 100 digits of pi in under an hour and remember them days later without extra practice.

While memorizing the digits of pi using this method, I realized that I was spending most of my time trying to think up words that would translate to the digits.  I tried to think of the longest word I could.  Sometimes I would screw up and use a word that did not translate to the correct digits.  I spent 2/3rds of my time just thinking of good words, images, vivid pictures.  It was hard and slow.

So, I decided to make a computer program to find the words and optimize everything for me.  I did, and I’m releasing the code under Affero GP.  Of course, all the code is PYthon2.5.  Please allow me describe it to you.  With the words precomputed, I can learn pi as quickly as I can tell a story!

At the top above, I linked to a page which I generated automatically using these libraries I’m releasing.

There are a few libraries.  They all require NLTK.  NLTK is an excellently-designed, well-developed, actively-maintained open-source natural language parsing library.  It has many (nearly 1GB of) corpora.

First, generate_nouns.py is a script.  We need to automatically generate a good, long list of concrete nouns for you to have strong images and remember the story of pi visually. It uses the CMUDict Pronunciation Corpus which is in nltk.corpus.cmudict.  It also uses the wordnet corpus in nltk.wordnet.  The script does some intelligent processing to filter out archaic words, curse words, and abstract nouns.  Run generate_nouns.py at the command line to create a nouns.csv file, or just download my copy in the repo.  50-75% are very good, concrete, vivid nouns for this purpose.  If you can help me get a higher percentage/more good nouns, please tell me.

Second, there is soundmap.py.  Soundmap.py is a library (import soundmap) that you can use to convert a word or phrase into the corresponding digits.  To be perfectly flexible, it loads a file which describes how to match which sounds to which digits.  I provided the sounds.csv file which is the one I use.  I haven’t tried to figure out what would be the optimal configuration yet, but maybe you can :) .  This also uses the CMUDict Pronunciation corpus (of course).  Call soundmap.convert_to_digits(phrase) to have it return a string of digits.

Finally, there is mapwords.py.  Mapwords.py is a library that takes in a string of digits (such as the digits in pi) and uses the nouns.csv list of nouns and soundmap.py to figure out the optimal sequence of words for people to remember that sequence of digits.  It also has a couple hundred digits of the famed constant inside the library: mapwords.pi.  Simply call mapwords.get_best_mapping(mapwords.pi) for it to return a list of words.

You can put all these together and quickly learn thousands of digits of pi.  Here’s a great page with many digits to throw into the program.

over 11 years ago on March 14 at 12:01 am by Joseph Perla in art, hacks, science, technology


Sympathy

Guess who:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
Ive been around for a long, long year
Stole many a mans soul and faith

And I was round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a generals rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens

Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself
Im a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But whats confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails, Just call me Lucifer
cause Im in need of some restraint

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or Ill lay your soul to waste, um yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, um mean it, get down
Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
Tell me baby, whats my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, whats my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame
Ooo, who
Ooo, who
Ooo, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Oh, yeah
Whats me name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who

Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Ooo, who, who
Oh, yeah

over 11 years ago on March 6 at 3:48 am by Joseph Perla in art


Have a Happy New Year

In high school, there was a friend of mine who would send out this very cheery holiday email every year. I remember I loved to receive this little card from her. I also remember how I love to receive little warm random greetings from strangers. When I got the idea to send out a holiday greeting to my friends, to see how they are doing, I thought about it more. What if I could send out the holiday cheer to more people? So, I looked online and figured how to use the princeton.edu main site to reach out to a lot of my fellow Princetonians. I crafted a very brief message, and I attached a link to a surprising and cute little YouTube clip. Then, I made a program to send out the emails on New Year’s.

I expected to receive replies from my friends, so I could reply back. They did, of course, and I’m happy to catch up with them. However, I also received hundreds and hundreds of replies from my other fellow tigers, strangers. I didn’t expect replies, but I’m glad some did. Every reply was positive, some very positive:

Thanks! That video was really cool. Happy New Year to you too!

Sweet! I appreciate the holiday cheer!

hahaha, thanks man

Happy New Year to you too! nice video, the cat looks a bit like mine !

Each one brought a big smile to my face. Most people appreciated the video and understood that I was just a fellow tiger sending a random warm greeting. But, I also received a few dozen replies asking, basically, “who is this?” I realized I left my message too brief; I didn’t explain clearly the scope and purpose. For example,

I think maybe you sent your new years wishes to the wrong person? But this video is amazing all the same. Especially that he lets his cat knock over the first domino. :)

I replied individually apologizing for my mistake and hoping it didn’t cause any them trouble. I don’t want confusion, I want smiles :) . Some of the re-replies really got me,

Well that’s awesome–I like to receive random little greetings as well so I appreciate it :) I hope you had a fantastic break and uhhhh….now it’s time to get back to work!!

and especially,

In that case thank u so much, u did brighten my day!

So overall, I’m really glad I sent this out. There was actually, however, exactly one negative response from one guy. He used the f-word in a short angry message, concerned about spamming. I thought about his perspective, and I understood where he was coming from. I replied, and so did he, and in the end he calmly showed himself to be a good concerned guy. He just wanted to make sure his and others’ Princeton e-mails stayed Princeton-related. I was surprised, but I can see why he might get annoyed by the message. I understand where he’s coming from. Because of his reaction, I will not do this again. I’m not in the business of causing even a tiny bit of pain to one person even if it brings a lot of smiles to more people. There are other ways to spread cheer.

He also said that a few people took it negatively and were negatively talking on some listservs about it. There was one other re-reply where the person mentioned at first thinking the message was “sketchy” (women aren’t usually called sketchy, if I happened to be a woman, would these same people react in the same way? interesting sociological question…). I think that’s because I wasn’t clear in the message that I was sending it to many of my fellow tigers, both friends and strangers. Again, unfortunately, far too curt a message.

I hope that those who initially took it negatively, I hope they eventually see my intention, reread the warm greeting, smile, and have a wonderful 2008.

over 11 years ago on January 5 at 11:38 am by Joseph Perla in art, personal


Dave Barry’s 2007 Year in Review

Almost four years ago, I went to a Books and Books in Miami for a book-signing. James McBride was there to talk about his book, The Color of Water. He also brought his band along to play a few songs and promote the band’s new album. James McBride plays incredible jazz. Contrasting his abilities with the dry jazz I normally heard on 91.3 NPR at night, I realized that there is a gulf of difference between good jazz and bad jazz.

There were no seats left in the audience, so I stood in the back with a large group of Miami natives also eager to hear. As I listened to one of McBride’s stories, a couple just arriving walked through the back and situated themselves next to a column nearby in front of me. “Excuse me,” the man said as he passed by me. He had a boyish face, and looked oddly familiar. The man’s slender wife was slightly in my way. I was about to politely ask her to move and start some small talk, but suddenly she moved herself. I could see and hear, so I said nothing.

Later on, Mr. McBride was expositing between songs. I forget the exact context, but he mentioned, “…Dave Barry, who is in the audience right now,” and then pointed at me. Confused, I realized that he was pointing to the couple right in front of me. At first, I thought he was kidding, but it slowly dawned on me that my best recollection of Dave Barry’s visage was the same as the man’s. Around that time, I was a fervent Dave Barry fan, reading all of his columns (he no longer writes for the Miami Herald regularly). I began to wish I had talked to them earlier. Now that I knew, and everyone knew, that he is Dave Barry, I did not want to be part of a horde who mobs him for an autograph. I would have preferred to just talk, hear a joke, see what he’s like as a normal guy. So I said nothing.

I very much wish I had. I read more and more of his columns. My first week into college, I found out that a good friend of mine there, Jono Leitch, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, is also a big fan of his. He was jealous of me after I told him this story, also disappointed that I didn’t really talk to him. I am disappointed too.

But I still read his articles. Every year, even though he stopped writing regularly, Dave Barry writes a year in review. The year in review for 2007 is out: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking_dade/story/359770.html.

If you follow the news, it’s pretty funny. I recommend it. I like to read it out loud slowly, imagining the situations as I go along.

Some highlights:

While the White House ponders its options, congressional Democrats vow to strongly oppose whatever action the president decides to take, while at the same time voting to fund it.

Sports remains in the news in . . . FEBRUARY . . . when South Florida hosts Super Bowl Roman Numeral.

In other show-business news, the surprise contestant on American Idol is llama-hairstyled Sanjaya Malakar, who, with the support of millions of viewers, all apparently deaf, manages to reach the late rounds of the competition before being eliminated by a blowgun dart from Simon Cowell. Upon being revived, Sanjaya is signed by the Miami Dolphins.

So New Hampshire moves its primary to early January, and Iowa moves its caucus to even earlier in January. Soon the other states, not wanting to be left out, start moving up their elections; before the frenzy is over, Nebraska has officially declared that its 2008 primary election will take place in 1973.

As May draws to a close and the Atlantic hurricane season looms, weather experts, having reviewed all their data and their sophisticated computer models, announce that they have absolutely no clue what is going to happen.

Ha ha! We are, of course, kidding. The experts confidently predict that we are going to have a worse-than-usual hurricane season. This is also what they confidently predicted last year, which, as you may recall, was an unusually quiet season. It is only a matter of time before these experts are hired by the Miami Dolphins.

In sports, the Anaheim Ducks defeat the Ottawa Senators in a Stanley Cup playoff series watched, worldwide, by most of the players’ parents.

But the biggest story in June, as well as the history of the universe, is the release of the Apple iPhone…

In the arts, July is dominated by the release of the seventh and last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter Spends Half the Book Camping…

In sports, suspicions of doping continue to plague the Tour de France when the grueling 2,200-mile race is won, in a stunning upset, by Barry Bonds.

…the Democrats fare little better in their ”West Side Story Rumble Debate,” which ends early when a switchblade-wielding John Edwards ”accidentally” stabs Hillary Clinton in her pantsuit.

Sen. Craig explains that, even though he pleaded guilty, he is innocent, but he promises that he will resign, a pledge he later clarifies by explaining that he will not resign. The Senate, responding with unusual speed and firmness, funds a large unnecessary project in Alaska named after Ted Stevens.

On the weather front, the nation is gripped by a heat wave. This has happened pretty much every August since the dawn of human civilization, but it totally stuns the news media.

In politics, the race for the Democratic nomination heats up during a nationally televised debate when John Edwards and Barack Obama, in what political observers view as a thinly veiled attack on Hillary Clinton, repeatedly raise the issue of ankle size.

Meanwhile CNN faces allegations of allowing planted questions in its televised debates after a group of audience members billed as ”ordinary, undecided voters” — including a police officer, a construction worker, a soldier, a rancher and a native American — turn out to be, in fact, the Village People.

In economic news, the Federal Reserve Board, responding to recession fears and the continued weakening of the dollar, votes unanimously to be paid in euros.

Abroad, French transit workers attempt to end a strike, only to discover that they have forgotten how to operate the trains. Everybody enjoys a hearty laugh and returns to the café.

This leads us to . . . DECEMBER. . . in which the race for the presidency becomes even more riveting than it already was, if such a thing is possible. On the Democratic side, a major spate of snippiness erupts when Barack Obama suggests that Hillary Clinton is more ambitious than he is. In response, Clinton’s campaign, showing the wacky sense of humor it is famous for, releases documents showing that Obama thought about running for president when he was in kindergarten. Obama’s campaign retaliates by releasing a sonogram allegedly showing that Clinton was running for president in the womb. (I am making only some of this up.)

But the big story on the GOP side is former senator or governor of some state Mike (or possibly Bob) Huckabee, who surges ahead in the polls because (a) nobody knows anything about him, and (b) it’s fun to say ”Huckabee.” Huckabee Huckabee Huckabee.

In a major Latin American story, Venezuelan voters reject sweeping constitutional changes pushed by President Hugo Chávez, including a law that would make it illegal for anybody to be taller than he is. A defiant Chávez concedes defeat, but notes that he is still polling ahead of both Joe Biden and John McCain in Iowa.

over 11 years ago on January 1 at 4:42 pm by Joseph Perla in art, personal


Tiles

When someone searches for your name on Google, you don’t know what they might find. They might find an article or two in which you were featured, or they might find a random post you made to an open source project. Or, they might find someone else and not know he is not you. The scattered information evaporates and confounds your online persona. You have a blog, but it might not point to your LinkedIn account, or your home-made balancing robot video.

What I need to be able to do is manage my online identity easily. Moreover, I don’t want my data to be hostage to a single company. But, that’s exactly the opposite goal of a company like Facebook or Microsoft. Ideally, companies want to trap your data entirely on their platforms so that you must use their services, even as they become inferior due to lack of competition.

Now, a knowledgeable guy like me could set up, for example, his own identity server and RDF Friend-Of-A-Friend (FOAF) page. However, most people cannot, of course. Moreover, such an technical, intellectual exercise would seem to serve no purpose. FOAF has not the following of Facebook.

I propose a service which I would value today, even if I were the only person using it. It may even improve as more people use it. Am I proposing another social network? No.     Please, no. Facebook wouldn’t want you to link to your MySpace or LinkedIn accounts. No, Mark Zuckerberg want to be MySpace and LinkedIn. He even wants to be Windows.

I propose an elegant identity aggregator. You constantly create yourself and reveal yourself online. You want to make sure that people can see all that you created and all that you are. Additionally, you want to authoratatively say which sites are about you, so the imposters can stay hidden. You want this to be easy. You want this to be elegant. You want it to be open. You don’t want to sign up for another social network.

I envision a beautiful, simple way to aggregate all of your online personas onto a single page which summarizes and links to all of the others. Onto a single page, a single tile. Your tile shows small thumbnails and links to your Flickr photos, knows who you are on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, points out and highlights the best articles about your accomplishments.

It happens simply, you go to OneTile, tell it about your blog. Then, it intelligently searches for more about you. It guesses that you might be this user on Digg, and that user on Yahoo Answers. Eventually, it picks up enough information to create a personalized, flashy tile for you. The best content about you stands out, but it’s all reachable. Now, when someone searches your name, your tile comes up. It’s impressive, concise, and accurate. Plus, all the data you have collated is easily downloaded through RDF, not locked into OneTile.

As more and more people start using the service, it gains notoriety. I imagine a sea of tiles for everyone online. This is what I imagine the OneTile homepage could be:
Tiles Homepage Mockup

It highlights the most fascinating tiles with the most interesting content. You can zoom in to have a closer look:

Tiles Zooming Mockup

Slick animation zooms through the sea of tiles as you browse through people’s public online lives. Finally, you can choose one tile to examine closely.

Tiles OneTile Mockup

When choosing a specific tile, one person’s tile, you can see their name and all the tiles that are theirs: their flickr pictures, their photo albums, their rss reader on the right, maybe some friends, links to social networks on the left, some research tiles in the middle.

Some people link to blogs when they mention their friends. I think OneTile would be more complete.

My friend Dan O’Shea sparked the idea for me. He described to me a similar vision, and I had this one. We might start building this soon. As I said, if I can make this nice, it would be useful for me myself. If I can help others, that’s just extra pasta.

over 11 years ago on November 21 at 12:48 am by Joseph Perla in art, entrepreneurship, hacks, technology


Catch-22 Videos

I am reading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 again. It’s hilarious. As I read through Yossarian’s attention-deficit narrative, I can hear his dry, serious voice, “They’re trying to kill me.” I can see the insane soldiers scurrying through abrupt transitions. I can imagine hilarious shorts made from each chapter of the book.

Traditional media companies like CBS are confounded by online video. They don’t know how to make money with it, or at least they didn’t a year ago. They seem to be on the right track now, posting their television shows online. But that is just a start.

As television loses its prominence, IPTV, internet television, all on demand, will be the prominent medium. With every new format comes a new art. Movies require people to go out to the theatre (or wait on a DVD from Netflix) and sit down in front of a large screen for a couple of hours. The kinds of stories you can tell in a movie are different. The Godfather would not have played out the same on television. The Simpson’s doesn’t necessarily lend itself to being a good movie. Movies compact their character development into key scenes building up to a single climax. Television shows extend character development over months and years, with regular climaxes in each episode.

Internet video is very different. People online want information fast. YouTube videos are often just a few minutes in length. The only videos longer which are seen at all are clips which were shown on television: South Park, Colbert Report, presidential debates. I think the videos can be longer on television because of social effects. I can watch House knowing that I can relate to many others who watch House on FOX. If I watch a random video on YouTube, I don’t want to invest half an hour into something not entertaining that nobody else will watch. I might be willing to spend a couple of minutes for a quick entertainment snack.

Which gets me back to my idea. Movie producers constantly try to make quick money by adapting books to the silver screen (see Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and so on). But creating a screenplay usually demands that the screenwriter emasculate the book of much of its meaning. The movie format is far too compact. That’s why many recent book adaptions often exceed 120 even 150 minutes in length filled with action and dialogue, while pure movies are often just 90 minutes long.

I think books can easily be adapted not for the silver screen but for the computer screen. They would play out well. Each chapter can be an episode, just 5-10 minutes long. Or shorter. The Internet does not have the limitation of television in forcing the writers to extend or contract episode plots to a specific 23 minute time slot. Each chapter can naturally fill its vessel. Moreover, book chapters are inherently self-contained stories. Many books often end chapters with cliff-hangers. Cliff-hangers like those in The Giver would make me want to wait eagerly for next week’s show. Most TV shows don’t do that for me. IPTV book adaptation can be straightforward, cheap, simple, and much more faithful to the original than movies.

Catch-22 and Harry Potter each have about 40 chapters. A producer can release one chapter-episode each week for nearly a year. At 10 minutes each, that’s 400 minutes of content for the book. One year of a half-hour television show might yield a little more than that if you subtract out advertising. Typical movies are between 90-120 minutes, longer ones might be 150 minutes. An IPTV book show would be able to delve much deeper into the book than the movie with all that extra time. Why not put books on TV? It’s far too difficult to adapt the book to make an interesting show precisely every 30 or 60 minutes. Books aren’t so periodic: there are short chapters and there are long chapters. Only on-demand Internet episodes can handle this new format requirement.

I would love to watch Catch-22. Many other books, like all of Michael Crichton books, similarly would require little editing of the source material to make an entertaining show. The artform is new, and needs to be perfected, but I think it can be done. Robert Rodriguez faithfully kept to the source material for Sin City, and made a good movie. That fit well into a movie because comic books have less depth. Books need a different video adaptation medium.

I would love to make this video version of Catch-22. I would need some people to help me. I would love to learn how to direct and edit video. I imagine it’s incredibly difficult to turn ideas into good-quality video. I have no misconceptions that it would be easy. I do think it would be fun.

over 11 years ago on October 31 at 5:35 pm by Joseph Perla in art, entrepreneurship, technology


Why Plant Rights?

over 11 years ago on October 29 at 8:07 pm by Joseph Perla in art, ethics


Why Plant Rights?

Almost all of us grew up eating plants, wearing cotton, and going to forests and gardens. Many of us bought our beloved “seedlings” at garden supply centers, had chia pets, and kept beautiful flowers in pots. We wore linens and hemp, ate McDonald’s french fries, and tramped on lawns. We never considered the impact of these actions on the plants involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should plants have rights?

In his book Plant Liberation, Joseph Perla states that the basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment; it requires equal consideration. This is an important distinction when talking about plant rights. People often ask if plants should have rights, and quite simply, the answer is “Yes!” Plants surely deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of the reforming utilitarian school of moral philosophy, stated that when deciding on a being’s rights, “The question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’” In that passage, Bentham points to the capacity for suffering as the vital characteristic that gives a being the right to equal consideration. The capacity for suffering is not just another characteristic like the capacity for language or higher mathematics. All plants have the ability to suffer in the same way and to the same degree that humans do. They feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and parental love. Whenever we consider doing something that would interfere with their needs, we are morally obligated to take them into account.

Supporters of plant rights believe that plants have an inherent worth—a value completely separate from their usefulness to humans. We believe that every creature with a will to live has a right to live free from pain and suffering. Plant rights is not just a philosophy—it is a social movement that challenges society’s traditional view that all nonhuman species exist solely for human use. As PETA (Plants demand Ethical Treatment Association) founder Breanden Beneschott has said, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rose is a rose is a rose is a mimosa is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights death.”

Only prejudice allows us to deny others the rights that we expect to have for ourselves. Whether it’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or species, prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you wouldn’t kill a majestic redwood, why kill a sugarcane? Redwoods and sugarcane have the same capacity to feel pain, but it is prejudice based on species that allows us to think of one plant as valuable and the other as disposable.

Read More: Excerpts From Philosopher Joseph Perla’s Groundbreaking Work

over 11 years ago on October 20 at 8:02 pm by Joseph Perla in art, ethics


What Is Plant Liberation? Excerpts From Philosopher Joseph Perla’s Groundbreaking Work

“Plant Liberation” may sound more like a parody of other liberation movements than a serious objective. The idea of “The Rights of Plants” actually was once used to parody the case for animals, as were animals for women’s rights. When Mary Wollstonecraft published her Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, her views were widely regarded as absurd, and before long, an anonymous publication appeared entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes. The author of this satirical work (now known to have been Thomas Taylor, a distinguished Cambridge philosopher) tried to refute Mary Wollstonecraft’s arguments by showing that they could be carried one stage further. If the argument for equality was sound when applied to women, why should it not be applied to dogs, cats, horses, and flowers? …

When we say that all human beings, whatever their race, creed, or sex, are equal, what is it that we are asserting? Like it or not, we must face the fact that humans come in different shapes and sizes; they come with different moral capacities, different intellectual abilities, different amounts of benevolent feeling and sensitivity to the needs of others, different abilities to communicate effectively, and different capacities to experience pleasure and pain. In short, if the demand for equality were based on the actual equality of all human beings, we would have to stop demanding equality. …

The existence of individual variations that cut across the lines of race or sex, however, provides us with no defense at all against a more sophisticated opponent of equality, one who proposes that, say, the interests of all those with IQ scores below 100 be given less consideration than the interests of those with ratings over 100. Perhaps those scoring below the mark would, in this society, be made the slaves of those scoring higher. Would a hierarchical society of this sort really be so much better than one based on race or sex? I think not. But if we tie the moral principle of equality to the factual equality of the different races or sexes, taken as a whole, our opposition to racism and sexism does not provide us with any basis for objecting to this kind of inegalitarianism. …

Fortunately, there is no need to pin the case for equality to one particular outcome of a scientific investigation. … There is no logically compelling reason for assuming that a factual difference in ability between two people justifies any difference in the amount of consideration we give to their needs and interests. The principle of the equality of human beings is not a description of an alleged actual equality among humans: It is a prescription of how we should treat human beings.

Jeremy Bentham, the founder of the reforming utilitarian school of moral philosophy, incorporated the essential basis of moral equality into his system of ethics by means of the formula: “Each to count for one and none for more than one.” In other words, the interests of every being affected by an action are to be taken into account and given the same weight as the like interests of any other being. …

It is an implication of this principle of equality that our concern for others and our readiness to consider their interests ought not to depend on what they are like or on what abilities they may possess. Precisely what our concern or consideration requires us to do may vary according to the characteristics of those affected by what we do: concern for the well-being of children growing up in America would require that we teach them to read; concern for the well-being of pigs may require no more than that we leave them with other pigs in a place where there is adequate food and room to run freely; concern for the well-being of a houseplant may require no more than that we leave them with other plants in the real ground with adequate pH-balanced food and room to grow freely. But the basic element—the taking into account of the interests of the being, whatever those interests may be—must, according to the principle of equality, be extended to all beings, black or white, masculine or feminine, human or nonhuman, animal or plant.

Thomas Jefferson, who was responsible for writing the principle of the equality of men into the American Declaration of Independence, saw this point. It led him to oppose slavery even though he was unable to free himself fully from his slaveholding background. He wrote in a letter to the author of a book that emphasized the notable intellectual achievements of Negroes in order to refute the then common view that they have limited intellectual capacities: “Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a complete refutation of the doubts I myself have entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature, and to find that they are on a par with ourselves … but whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the property or person of others.”

Similarly, when in the 1850s the call for women’s rights was raised in the United States, a remarkable black feminist named Sojourner Truth made the same point in more robust terms at a feminist convention: “They talk about this thing in the head; what do they call it? [“Intellect,” whispered someone nearby.] That’s it. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?”

It is on this basis that the case against racism and the case against sexism must both ultimately rest; and it is in accordance with this principle that the attitude that we may call “speciesism,” by analogy with racism, must also be condemned. Speciesism—the word is not an attractive one, but I can think of no better term—is a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species. It should be obvious that the fundamental objections to racism and sexism made by Thomas Jefferson and Sojourner Truth apply equally to speciesism. If possessin