graph·i·ca·cy [ gráffikəssee ]


understanding of symbols and diagrams: the ability to use and understand such things as symbols, diagrams, plans, and maps

[Mid-20th century. <graphic , after literacy]

More on Wikipedia. Also: graphicacy in education.
How have I gone so long without this word?

February 12, 2008. information visualization, words. No Comments.

Tea patterns

I love watching patterns form in a hot cup of coffee or tea. You see deep swirls when liquids mix, and funny arrangements coming alive on the surface.

Yesterday morning, my tea was doing something really weird. There were tiny micro-bubbles on the surface, forming and popping rapidly in the shape of tree branches. What’s going on here? Are there branchy fractals on the surface of my Throat Coat?

These videos are in real-time.

Teacup 1 (QuickTime, 3.2 MB)
Teacup 2 (QuickTime, 1.6 MB)

February 10, 2008. food, patterns. 3 Comments.

Keeping it simple (or: How to make it look like you’re flying)

children flyingMichel Gondry (wikipedia, music videos, Levi’s commercial, Rubik’s cube) came to MIT last week to show us his movie Be Kind Rewind.

My two favorite things he told us (I’m paraphrasing):

I have perhaps just spent hours watching related videos on YouTube. I especially like the paint piano.

I am so very glad that he does these things.

February 9, 2008. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Missed Scrabulous opportunity

scrabulous screenshot

Other prohibited possibilities: LOVEMEAT, MEATPOLE
(Thank you, Ian!)

February 8, 2008. games, words. 2 Comments.

Unfortunate Amazon classification

ice melter from amazonI was browsing the “Gourmet Food” department on Amazon, and came across this lovely product: NORTH AMERICAN SALT 56050 “SAFE STEP” ICE MELTER


And it’s even “Safe-to-use around pets and children.”

On a brighter and more mouthwatering note, just look at all the salt you can get at Amazon!

February 6, 2008. food. 1 Comment.

“Try quitting applications”

The disk “X” is in use and could not be ejected.
Try quitting applications and try again.

I get this error message a lot on my Mac. And it’s so completely irritating. “Yeah, just… you know, quit some things and try again.” T_T

Yesterday someone showed me a way to identify what’s holding onto your disk. Just type this in your Terminal:

lsof +D <path to disk>

For example:
[mycomputer:~] guest% lsof +D /Volumes/LaCie/
AdobeRead 11375 ..... ... ... .... ........ .... /Volumes/LaCie/dsp.pdf

… So if I quit Adobe Reader, I can then eject LaCie.

February 2, 2008. computers/programming. 1 Comment.

Funniness threshold

Do you ever watch or read a tremendous amount of something intended to be amusing, don’t find yourself laughing at first, but at some point start laughing and then just can’t stop? I do. And I love that there is something like that… kind of a threshold for silliness.

For example, I had this happen yesterday, because I did, as mentioned, watch all the “Get a Mac” ads at once. There are 30-35 of them on the site right now. I watched the first couple, thinking, “Sure, these are funny… ish.” But around when I finished the 15th one, I just couldn’t help but laugh out loud at every single one of them. I’m sure I was chuckling heartily for the last four that I watched, but I’m also pretty sure they weren’t any funnier than the first few. (My favorites were “Work Vs. Play”, “Choose a Vista”, and “Misprint”, btw.)

Other recent experiences with this phenomenon: Flight of the Conchords episodes and Cute Overload posts.

I need a name for that particular characteristic of amusing media that, with sufficient exposure, becomes exceedingly funny. All I can think of right now is “snowlol” …which may, as it happens, become much funnier if I had already made a similar joke 15 times.

February 1, 2008. comics, words. 1 Comment.

Making Terminal nerdier

I just sat in on a Max OS X Leopard Development Tools talk, where I heard about a few things that are pretty nerdy and pretty silly. nerdy + silly = awesome

Get A Mac commercial, ASCIIPlay QuickTime movies as ASCII in your Terminal — The code + app are here, although I had to rebuild mine to get it to work. This has been on the nets for a while, but it was new to me.

GLTerminal screenshotDownload GLTerminal and get a working terminal window with graphics that simulate those old green/amber, flickering, curved-on-the-edges terminals I remember from the early 80s. Complete with low baud rate simulation (hahaha), and adjustable flicker rate. Here’s a version for 10.5 Leopard (make sure to set “Preferences” first, as described on this page).

Also mentioned was code that enables you to read from the accelerometers and light sensors in your Apple laptop. Google Code has provided the Quartz Composer patches that grab the same information. I’ve been dying to mess with this, but don’t have time these days. I’m hoping one of my friends will read this, and then make something totally awesome with it.

Now off to watch all those “Get a Mac” commercials I’ve been missing…

January 31, 2008. computers/programming, MIT. No Comments.

TED Talks

(My last post was almost two months ago! I never intended to neglect “best thing” for so long, but all I can say is that I have been very busy. And now I have learned that the momentum of pausing a thing like this can be ridiculously self-maintaining… as I suppose momentum tends to be. Argh.)

Tonight I realized that my best professor friend ever, Deborah Gordon, gave a TED Talk back in 2003 about her work on ants. The video has just been posted on the TED Talks site. It’s a great introduction to a very interesting subject, and I count myself as lucky to have participated in the exact bits of tedious work she describes in that talk. If you haven’t seen her speak before, you’ll get to see some of her characteristic say-it-exactly-how-it-is-but-somehow-it’s-funny comments.

In other news, my current advisor, Tod Machover, will be speaking at this year’s TED conference. So I’ll be looking out for that one.

…And one more, from last year, by our soon-to-be-departed (a.k.a. soon-to-be-much-missed), TED-regular John Maeda.

January 30, 2008. academics, friends, media lab, patterns. No Comments.

“Come dressed to run and bring pen and paper!”

Just wanted to note this awesome new course offering as part of MIT‘s IAP this year:

Arabic Bootcamp
Betty Lou McClanahan
Tue, Thu, Jan 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, 31, 09:30-10:30am, Dupont Indoor Track

Enrollment limited: advance sign up required (see contact below)
Limited to 20 participants.
Participants requested to attend all sessions (non-series)

Improve your physical fitness while acquiring a basic knowledge of Arabic. This experimental course employs a strategic approach for rapid mastery and continued learning in reading, speaking and handwriting. Simple homework will be assigned. In-class fitness activities include pushups/situps, running and light stretching. All fitness levels welcome! Textbook: Alif Baa with DVDs (available from Amazon). Come dressed to run and bring pen and paper!

December 4, 2007. Uncategorized. No Comments.

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