Boudreaux’s Boat

Boudreaux won a bass boat in a raffle drawing. He brot it home and his wife looks at him and says, “What the hell you gonna do wit dat? Tere ain’t no water deep enough to float a boat witin 75 miles of heah.”

” He says, “I won it and I’m a gonna keep it.”

Thibodeaux came over to visit several days later. He sees the wife and asks where Boudreaux is. She says, “He’s out dere in his bass boat”, pointing to the field behind the house.

Thibodeaux heads out behind the house and sees Boudreaux sitting in a bass boat with a fishing rod in his hand down in the middle of a big field. He yells out to him, “Wat de hell you doin?”

Boudreaux replies “I’m fishin. Wat de hell does it look like I’m a doing?”

Thibodeaux yells back, “It’s people like you what give people from Louisiana a bad name, making everybody tink we are stoopid. If I could swim, I’d come out dere and kick yo ass!”

Getting Started with Arduino

It’s hard to say which is more interesting right now: Lego Mindstorms or the Arduino stuff. Once the book is done, I want to spend more time exploring both before deciding to invest in one — and they do represent an investment of money and time. I definitely want not only to play and learn for myself but also to make it possible for Lily to play and learn, if she is so inclined.

The Maker Shed has a slightly expanded version of the [Getting Started with Arduino Kit][1] on sale right now.

[1]: http://www.makershed.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MSBUN25

Latent Semantic Mapping in Mac OS

There was a terrific presentation on latent semantic mapping at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. It not only was a great overview of latent semantic mapping (LSM) itself, but it also reveals that LSM is now, or will be in Lion?, built into the operating system. It will be available as a command-line tool as well as an API that can be written into native applications. The presentation also has a couple of nice case studies.

All of the presentations from this year’s WWDC are available, for free, on-line. Registration is required, but that is free, too. (I am no longer clear on the different classes of developers at Apple: one can sign up to be a Mac OS developer, an iOS developer, or a Safari extension developer. And you can still sign up to be a generic developer, as I have been for several years now.)

[Here’s the link to the LSM presentation that will work once you are registered.](https://developer.apple.com/videos/wwdc/2011/?id=136)

What Tau Sounds Like

There is a movement, somewhere out there, to replace pi, the number that results from dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter, with tau, the number that results from dividing the circumference of a circle by its radius. The argument goes that radii actually describe circles better than diameters. There is more at stake, and certainly more at stake than the simple doubling of pi, but with today being tau day, I am delighted to link to the work of Michael Blake, a musician who has turned tau’s infinitely long string of numbers into some amazing music:

> Nobody believes a theoretical analysis, except the guy who did it. Everybody believes an experimental analysis, except the guy who did it. — Unknown

Twitter as a Sensor Network

You’d like to think there is such a thing as synchronicity. Really, you would. The universe could then be counted upon for providing the necessary infrastructural support for you to fulfill your destiny. (Try to say that out loud without rasping like Darth Vader.) Or, alternatively, it could be readily blamed for any failure to achieve said destiny. (Or, on yet another hand that we do not as humans possess, the universe might respond that your failure is really one to recognize your true destiny, which is almost always a little (a lot) less fulfilling than the ones you glimpse in novels or movies.) But, really, you should put down that book, or turn off whatever screen you are watching, and get back to working on your destiny.

Or maybe it isn’t synchronicity but simply the fact that you are now aware of some particular thing. Two weeks ago I attended a small conference sponsored by the Louisiana Board of Regents and ended up in a fascinating conversation with someone. Posting someone’s name without their permission is against my policy, and so I will simply note that my own interest in using digital textual analysis tools to non-literary discourses meshed well with that person’s interest in seeking ways to sift through data generated by humans in order to determine the nature of an event.

With that conversation, and a follow-up lunch, in my head, I came across this [post on I Programmer][post] by Mike James that details the efforts of Rice University researchers to use Twitter as a “multimodal sensor network”:

> Can people be used as a “sensor net” to detect when important events happen? When it comes to sporting events it seems that all you have to do is look to the Twitter frequency.
The big thing for the near future is the Internet of Things but a group of researchers at Rice University (Houston) think that we are being a bit narrow in the meaning of the term “thing”. To quote from their paper: “The global human population can be regarded as geographically distributed, multimodal sensors.”

The post gives their method in a nutshell, and, thankfully, also has a link to a fuller account: http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.4300.

[post]: http://www.i-programmer.info/news/81-web-general/2657-twitter-as-realtime-sports-reporter-.html

Where there’s a will

The old saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” As someone interested in making, in the full [Make Magazine][make] sense of that word, I was delighted to read about a project to “open source” a wireless network … in Afghanistan. The project is called *FabFi* and it uses common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles. The [project’s home page][fabfi] has an Afghanistan TLD — and how many times do you get to click on a link with an `af` in it? — and notes: “With Fabfi, communities can build their own wireless networks to gain high-speed internet connectivity—thus enabling them to access online educational, medical, and other resources.”

I’m lucky enough to live in a community where our public utility, owned and operated by the city, offers amazing fiber-to-the-home connectivity, and so my desire in building anything like this is tempered, but, as they also say, you never know when you may need to know how to build your own network infrastructure…

[make]: http://makemag.com/
[fabfi]: http://fabfi.fablab.af/

Stealing Science?

Synchronicity seems to be on my mind a bit lately, for a variety of reasons. As very few people know, I have begun to play with writing what my colleagues might call a “commercial novel.” The protagonist is a retired university researcher who once published an article in a scientific journal that now, for reasons that surprise everyone, suddenly has a great deal of currency, among some very wrong people. The backstory I am playing with is that the nation’s security services are constantly monitoring a variety of data streams, which we know they are. One of those streams is, of course (at least in this version of reality), scholarly/scientific publishing. They are on the lookout for “coincidences” between things appearing in the pages of journals and events in the world. (If you are thinking “shades of _Three Days of the Condor_” I am sure that film played some role in this scenario.)

And so it was with amazement that I read in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ about [the traffic in illegal access to scholarly and scientific journals][che]. From the article:

> Now on sale in some online marketplaces: cheap, illegal access to SciFinder, an extensive database of scholarly articles and information about chemical compounds run by a division of the American Chemical Society. The sellers are pirates, hawking stolen or leaked SciFinder account information from college students and professors.

> “There are reseller Web sites in China where we’ve purchased access to our own products for pennies on the dollar,” says Michael Dennis, vice president for legal administration and applied research at the Chemical Abstracts Service, the division that publishes SciFinder. “We’re shutting down hundreds of these every couple of months,” he says, though in some cases the publisher has trouble taking effective action against sites in other countries.

> He says sellers use Taobao, a Chinese service similar to eBay, and other online marketplaces to sell SciFinder access, giving buyers hacked user names and passwords and instructions on how to remotely log in to a college Web site so that they appear to be on the campus. The database is popular with companies as well as with academics, though exactly who is buying the access is not clear.

[che]: http://chronicle.com/article/Academic-Publisher-Steps-Up/128031/

Perspective Drawing Tutorial for Illustrator CS5

I will leave my complaints about how badly Adobe handles updates for another time. There would be too many off-color words in anything I wrote. For now, it’s nice to have access to [this tutorial on perspective drawing tools in AI][ai].

[ai]: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/illustrator/cs/using/WS25dc2c49b27459df-3d11d54f124c3062cb1-8000.html

The New “Open”

The use of the word “open” as an adjective in front of an unexpected noun is ever expanding. At least it seems that way sometimes. It began of course with the coinage of the term *open source*, as in open source software. The *source* in that instance is the source code for the software, which is distinct from the compiled, binary code that one actually runs when using software. Source code looks something like this:

if (user clicks on this)
then (do this)

Whereas, what the computer actually needs in order to understand that is something that looks like this:

0100100101001010010010001010110011101010100

Which means that even if the binary code for a piece of software was open to its users, it couldn’t do them much good.

The idea behind open source software is fundamentally that you should not only be able to use a piece of software, to do whatever it is you want to do, but also to be able to improve it or at least modify it to make it do what you need it to do. What this idea enabled was tens of thousands of people all around the world, suddenly able to communicate (and thus able to form a community) thanks to the internet, to do was to collaborate in a new way to make an entire software ecosystem. (See Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”.)

Their first steps, in turn, inspired others and the *open access* movement was born. (My friend [Jason Jackson][jbj] is not only really articulate about this, he also puts his money where his mouth is every day.) Open access is an attempt to make important sources of knowledge available, accessible, to anyone interested and with a small modicum of resources, especially access to the internet. In many cases, open access stands in opposition to traditional, in the historical sense of that word, venues for knowledges distribution which are often tied to third parties like commercial publishers who collect a huge markup for being middle men.

In the era of a worldwide communications network, the middle is no longer needed as vessel. Other middles — reviewers and editors and UI designers — remain important in many ways. The publishing and scholarly worlds are still trying to figure out how to maintain one middle without the other. Some just want to pay for the necessary infrastructure; others of course seek to profit as much as they can.

*Open source* and *open access* have inspired the coinage of a lot of other *opens*. By far the most interesting one to me is the idea of *open innovation*. [Glyn Moody’s Slideshare presentation][gm] does a nice job of encapsulating the idea, which is also the basis for a number of recent books and the professional careers of a lot of pundits/consultants. (I really need to figure out how to become one of those.) I have embedded the slides below — it’s a Flash package, sorry. 25 slides. Less than five minutes.

[gm]: http://www.slideshare.net/glynmoody/glyn-moody-the-great-prize-open-innovation
[jbj]: http://jasonbairdjackson.com/