Monthly Archives: December 2006

Is Christmas driving you crazy?

Hilarious email from Christina:



* 1. Schizophrenia — Do You Hear What I Hear?

* 2. Multiple Personality Disorder — We Three Kings Disoriented Are

* 3. Dementia — I Think I’ll be Home for Christmas

* 4. Narcissistic — Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

* 5. Manic – Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and…..

* 6. Paranoid — Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

* 7. Borderline Personality Disorder — Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

* 8. Personality Disorder — You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll Tell You Why

* 9. Attention Deficit Disorder — Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy – can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?

* 10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells , Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

Don’t be so literal on Christmas

Today we received a holiday ham sent to us through Heavenly Ham by family members in Texas. The delivery guy handed me a small card with our family members’ greeting hand-written on it by somebody at When I saw the following, I immediately recognized that the card was transcribed from a web-based form:

Picture 691.jpg

Yes, it says “Chris & Critters”.

An explanation for those of you that don’t speak HTML:

In HTML, if you want to write “Bob & Nancy”, you can’t just write the “&” directly, because it has a special meaning to HTML: it begins a character entity reference. In your HTML source, you have to write it as: “Bob & Nancy”. The browser will show this as “Bob & Nancy“. Well, someone at had the tedious task of hand-writing all the Web-form-submitted holiday greetings to include in the shipments of delicious goodies. This unlucky person didn’t translate the “&” back to “&“. Which amused me immensely, because I: 1) am a web developer, and 2) am easily amused.

The Demon’s Paintbrush

Sweet Lord, my Genetic Algorithms course has ended. The giant pile of work is now behind me. I have to say that despite the large amount of work, the course has been one of the most rewarding in recent memory. There are a lot of exciting ideas in this field. The course instructor is David E. Goldberg, who is an influential luminary in the field.

For the course project, I decided to return to my decades-old interest in graphics programming by developing a genetic artwork program. The basic idea was to “breed” new images by figuring out which images in a random population are better than others. I needed a way to rank which images were better than others. Inspired by Flickr’s concept of interestingness, I decided to use color comparisons to popular images from as a way to rank images. An image that has a close match in color to a popular or interesting Flickr image is given a high rank. The genetic algorithm runs over successive generations to produce images with higher ranking. Eventually I got a lot of good results, and then a scary demon appeared:

Picture 69.jpg

The picture on the left is the Flickr image that the generated images resembled most. Lower numbers mean higher rankings. Look at 392. The demon got 4th place! Maybe that’s why he looks angry.

Here are some other interesting results I got with the demon’s paintbrush. Click to get to a more detailed writeup, including the many thousands of generated results:

UPDATE: Click here to see some giant tiled montages of artwork generated by the technique.

Mery Chrismas

"Wreats" for sale. This is at the same house that has the yard full of roaming chickens, junked cars, and the annual appearance of what we like to call the "Septic Snowmen".

Payment function

Verizon’s complex billing schemes for phone services are hard for us to understand. Why not return the favor?


(via the wonderfully geeky xkcd web comic)

Some subjects go well together

I like the fact that, in their product recommendations, offered me books on these two subjects right next to each other:


Yes, computers and anger are a natural fit. knows this. The technology wins every time, and we are left to fume at its dominance over us, as this classic clip perfectly captures:

(link to video)

Blips and Bleeps

When I was a kid, I spent a fair amount of time recording songs off the radio. That was back in the cassette tape days, when the only music piracy you could enjoy was whatever you could rip off the airwaves onto your hissy little boom boxes. The ones that would occasionally eat your tapes, chewing up the precious magnetic strips of musical goodness. You’d spend hours rolling the tape back into its plastic housing, unfolding the Gordian knot as you went, eager to preserve the now warbly-sounding once-glorious musical treat.

One night, some time in the late 80s, the local public radio station in Fayetteville was airing some so-called “space music”, which intrigued me, so I busted out ol’ Tape Eater and perched over the record button, ready to capture whatever spacey sounds came out of the radio. What came out was a synthesized song that began my long-standing infatuation with electronic music:

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I’m dying to know the name of the artist who composed this song. Does anyone have any guesses? It’s been bugging me for many years now. The song sounds a bit dated and cheesy today, but I credit that song for diversifying the dominant influences of metal and skate punk on my early teenaged musical interests. Metallica, Anthrax, and Suicidal Tendencies began to make room in my stereo to co-exist with artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, and Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos. Nowadays I listen to large swath of musical styles, including many genres and sub-genres of electronic music.

The second “space music” tune I recorded that day follows:

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I’ve never stopped enjoying the discovery of new music. Life would be pretty drab without it!