Your Own Personal Wiki

Wherever I am, I can type "w recipes" into my browser's address bar and get an editable list of recipes I've tried and liked. If I type "w books" I get a list of books people have told me to read. Or "w rails" to see the notes I've been taking as I've been learning to program in Ruby on Rails. I can also do this from my iPhone, using a special search page I made. What's a Wiki? It's the same kind of software that runs Wikipedia - it's easy for anyone to view and edit pages, whether or not you already know how to make web pages. But you can have your very own wiki, and you can keep others from being able to view or change it. Then a Wiki becomes a useful tool to organize your information, and have it accessible from wherever you are. The software that runs Wikipedia is called MediaWiki. It's free, but it's tricky to set up and probably overkill for you. I'm using a simple wiki called W2 by Steven Frank, which is optimized to look good on standard web browsers as well as on iPhone. If you have a web hosting provider (and who doesn't these days, right?), you just upload the files to your site (it's written in PHP), optionally password protect it using an .htaccess file, optionally set up a Quick Search in Firefox (so you can just type "w" instead of ""), and you're good to go. It saves files as plain text, no databases to muck around with. I use it every day.


Art Nouveau

I just bought this book on Art Nouveau.  This turn-of-the-century style is marked by its bold, organic, flowing lines and intricate ornamentation, and has had a strong influence on modern graphic design.  The stems of flowers and vines are prominent - in fact, Art Nouveau has even been called "stem style." The work of Alfons Mucha, with its radiant, neoclassical women with flowing robes and hair that almost resembles celtic knotwork, is quintessential Art Nouveau.


Live Deep-Sea Streaming Video

The Ocean Observatories Initiative is a project by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology to bring live streaming video and data from the deep sea to internet users for free. It should be available in the "next few years." (via SF Gate)


Cellulosic Ethanol

Range Fuels is building the world's first commerical cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia, producing 100 million gallons per year. Cellulosic ethanol makes use of normally discarded plant material, such as the husks and stalks from corn, or easily grown switch grass. The process creates 16 times more energy than is required to create it, vs only 1.3 times for corn ethanol, which only uses the kernels of the corn. The plant should be online in 2008. (via AutoBlogGreen)


Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will collect 90 terabytes of images of the whole night sky every three days using a 3-billion-pixel camera, in order to detect faint long-term astronomical changes, or rapid changes that we don't normally see because we were looking at the wrong part of the sky at the time.  The 8.4 meter LSST is scheduled to go online in 2013.


Series Hybrids

Unlike today's "parallel hybrid" cars, where a normal gas engine and an electric motor are both mechanically connected to the wheels, the Volvo C-30 Recharge Concept "series hybrid" has four electric motors, one in each wheel well, and a diesel engine that isn't connected to the wheels - its only job is to act as a generator and recharge the batteries when they are low, or send electricity to the wheel motors if the batteries are empty. The car can travel 60 miles on batteries alone before the engine kicks in - and since you can recharge it by plugging it in at night, that means if you drive less than 60 miles a day, you'll never need to buy gas. And in a 93 mile drive starting with full batteries and a full tank, you would effectively get 124 miles per gallon. (Yes, that electricity from your wall probably doesn't come carbon-free, but even if 100% of it comes from coal-fired plants, your overall emissions will still be far less than a conventional gas engine.) Sadly, this car exists only in a test version, and may never reach production. However, GM is using the same basic design in their Volt hybrid car, with just slightly lower specs, which is entering production and should be available by 2010.


72 Hours in 72 Minutes

Director R. Luke Dubois spent three days filming actress Lian Amaris Sifuentes moving in extreme slow motion on a set in the street near New York's Union Square, made to look like an old-fashioned boudoir.  Her performance, in which she goes through the ritual of preparing for a date, will be digitally sped up by sixty times and shown as a feature-length film, such that the actress appears to move at a regular pace while city life races by in the background. New digital processing techniques are used which result in smooth motion, unlike the normal fast-forward that we are used to. Scheduled for exhibition in galleries and on HD-DVD in 2008.



The Cat's Snowflakes

I was assisting a group of scientists in performing a behavioral experiment. We would pick up a large, thin sheet of translucent rainbow-colored material by its edges and follow a cat around the room with it. When the cat stopped, we held the sheet of material just above it. The material would then melt onto the floor around the cat, and the multi-colored droplets on the floor would then start to arrange themselves into a symmetrical pattern, like a giant snowflake. The cat would watch the pattern taking shape, and would then use its paws to help complete the design, pushing the droplets along to their final positions before they solidified. When the pattern was complete, we would pick up the new solid sheet of material, the cat would begin to wander, and we would follow it around until it stopped. Then we would hold the sheet over the cat, the sheet would melt, and the cycle would repeat.Eventually the cat grew tired of the game, and refused to stay under the sheet. "Looks like the jig is up," I said.

Red Birds

I was holding a device that I had somehow reconfigured such that when I pushed its button, it would cause a bird to slowly fly down from its perch over a reflecting pool, perform a series of graceful swoops and curves, touch the surface of the water, and finally return to its perch - after which it would dive down again and continuously repeat the pattern. Every time I pushed the button, it would cause another bird to appear, in a different shade of brilliant red, yellow, or orange. Each new bird would begin perched next to the previous bird, and would then begin to perform the same flight in the same pattern, but in just a slightly offset position. I began to push the button as rapidly as I could, until there were hundreds of birds. At first they were spread out in a continuous ribbon that flowed in a slow, shimmering loop. But after a while, they began to synchronize to each other such that they resembled a giant flickering smear that would start up at the perch and pour itself through the air above the reflecting pool.It was beautiful to watch, but somehow in the back of my mind I knew I was breaking a rule. My fears were confirmed when a crowd began to gather, and an old man in a raincoat curiously stepped close to the path of the birds. When the flickering red smear passed by him, they caught the edge of his coat and lifted him off the ground.

Lucid Dreaming

Some friends and I were experiencing a particularly bizarre sequence of events, when suddenly I realized, "This is way too ridiculous, we must be dreaming." When I expressed my revelation to my friends, they all shook their heads in shock and wonderment and congratulated me on my insight. We then proceeded to occupy our idle minds by performing such tricks as levitating objects and eating giant strawberries. However, I then had another realization. I asked my companions, "Don't you think it's a bit odd that we're all having the same dream?" We all agreed that this was not very likely, and that in reality it must be only one of us that was having the dream. I personally was fairly sure that it was me, since I knew that I was self-aware, which should theoretically prove my existence under René Descartes' philosophical statement, "I think, therefore I am." However, my companions resisted the idea that I was the one having the dream and that the rest of them didn't exist. Being not totally convinced myself, I asked one of them the following question: "So in your mind, you are totally convinced that you are self-aware, that you are the one having a dream, and that the rest of us are just constructs of your imagination?" She thought briefly and replied, "Yes, I am." This made me begin to seriously doubt my own existence. But then I woke up, and my first conscious thought was, "Whew! It WAS me!"

Soup in the South

While visiting a large, comfortable house somewhere in the South, I very unwisely chose to climb into a bathtub of chicken soup while fully clothed. I soon realized the folly of my situation, but fortunately there was a second bathroom right across the hallway where I could go to clean myself up. While in this second bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was drenched with chicken soup, and had had several days of beard stubble. As I focused on my image, I realized I was beginning to levitate above the floor by sheer will power. I floated throughout the bathroom, occasionally hovering near the window to see the beautiful sunset that was taking place outside. I found I could also levitate miscellaneous small objects in the bathroom with my mind, such as towels, and toss them about, leaving the room in a state of disarray. Then I found that I was outside. I flew over the hills and fields, remarking at the colorful landscape and winding roads. When later I returned to the house, I met a friend outside who suggested that I join her in a walk to her house in Oakland. I told her I still really needed to clean myself up, as the chicken soup I was drenched in had now become raw egg. I also decided that since I didn't remember coming outside, I must still be in the bathroom, projecting myself outside psychically. When I brought her to the bathroom to prove my strange claim, to my surprise, I wasn't already in there. But there were several startled people lounging amid the disarray I had earlier created. Later, I sat on the porch with the house's matron, discussing the constant arguments and disagreements she had with her daughter. While absently brushing a white long-stemmed flower against the steps, I gave her some very sage advice on how her daughter just needed to be herself.

Bananas and Spielberg

As I was getting slightly drunk with wine at a social gathering, a friend told me he desperately needed my help. One of the performers in the dance routine scheduled for that evening didn't show up, and he needed me to fill in. There was no time to rehearse. Several minutes later, I found myself on stage, dressed up in a banana suit, trying to follow the movements of the other dancers. I stumbled around the stage, cursing my luck. But after the grand finale, the audience burst into thunderous applause. Later, still slightly tipsy, I wandered along the waterfront until I happened upon Steven Spielberg, who was relaxing with my dad and uncle on the cluttered patio of a condo. They invited me to catch a movie with them.

Abalone Fisherwoman

I was rudely awakened by little bits of the ceiling falling on my bed. Apparently my upstairs neighbors were doing some "improvements" and were creating a widening hole in the ceiling and adjacent wall above me. I quickly stumbled out of bed. My bleary eyes watched as the rapidly widening hole started to reveal the structural skeleton of the building, and light began to stream through the gaps. Soon the hole was large enough that an abalone fisherwoman in a wetsuit was able to fall through. She was as surprised as I was.

Michael Douglas and Tofu

I was working as a temp for Michael Douglas at a large corporation, doing research on using tofu as a meat substitute in cooking. As I was chasing after Mr. Douglas with my stack of notes, I ran into Julia Roberts. Then it occurred to me that this must be the making of a movie. "Hello, Miss Roberts," I said politely, in awe of her greatness. "Please, it's Julia," she answered with a smile. "This movie flopped, didn't it? I've never heard of it before," I said. "Actually, it's still being made," she answered. I felt like such an idiot.

Meat Loaf Recipes of the Old West

I was sitting in a nicely furnished living room with Joan Collins and some guy I didn't know (I assumed he was a friend of Joan). We were all armed with automatic weapons, and we were calmly firing blanks at each other's heads. Now, this house was built on one of those circular iceplant-filled areas inside of a freeway onramp, so out of all the windows we had a view of the surrounding stop-and-go traffic. The outer perimeter of the onramp was lined with enormous state-owned bookcases filled with enormous state-owned books (I knew they were put there because the onramp is state property, obviously). I only read the title of one of the enormous books (about 4 inches wide by 4 feet high), and the title was "Meat Loaf Recipes of the Old West".