This is what I read in 2008 in reverse-chronological order. It's mainly for my own future reference but you can keep track of what I'm reading at http://bkkeepr.com/people/tristanf
12 Books That Changed the World by Melvyn Bragg
3*. Interesting selection of books from history - like In Our Time but in book form. Note that it's "12 Books" not _The_ 12 Books.
The Plenitude - Creativity, Innovation and Making Stuff by Rich Gold
4*. Very short but good thoughts on innovation and overlaps between disciplines. I wish I could count myself as an artist, designer, engineer and scientist as he does.
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
2*. I didn't really engage with this, possibly because it was about two things I don't really get - poetry and religion. The "My Name is Red" adaptation on Radio 4 was great though.
Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean by John Julius Norwich
4*. Always good to learn and it's best to read stuff like this when you're actually there (Sicily in this case).
The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 by David Edgerton
2*. There was lots I didn't agree with but occasional interesting insights.
Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa by Matthew Fort
2.5*. It's always good to read about food and Italy, particularly when you're visiting there, but this was slightly annoying and not brilliantly written. Still, it's got recipes.
On Deep History and the Brain by Daniel Lord Small
4*. An exploration of whether history should include "prehistory". Lots of interesting stuff about how history is studied and how it can include new developments in linguistics, neuroscience and genetics.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
4*. Kind of as expected but good nevertheless. A bit worried that it's reinforcing my prejudices.
Spook Country by William Gibson
3*. Usual intertwingling stories leading up to the denouement but this time set in the recent past - he's going backwards! Still not quite sure what it was all about though.
The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker
4*. Fascinating - using language as the best way to study how the brain works.
A Very Private Life by Michael Frayn
4*. A very short fairy tale of the future.
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
4*. Eye-opening and controversial.
World War Z by Max Brooks
4*. Gripping and a bit too realistic.
In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore
2*. I like the concept but it was a bit of a disappointing read featuring a lot of fairly trivial examples, some if which weren't particularly convincing. He completely lost me on the alternative medicine chapter I'm afraid.
That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda
3*. This was hard-going but interesting Italian detective novel, but don't expect to find out who did it.
Batman: Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
4*. V.cool. What graphic novels should I read next (mainly done Alan Moore so far)?
Serendipities: Language and Lunacy by Umberto Eco
3*. It was slightly hard but there was some interesting stuff on languages.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
4*. A good story, hard to get your head around at times and very moving.
Mediated: How the Media Shape Your World by Thomas Zengotita
5*. Reread this, makes me think.
This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin
3*. It was OK - I felt like it should have been fascinating but there was nothing amazingly new in there.
Voices by Arnaldur Indridason
2*. Not particularly good and not a very good translation either. And seeing as Iceland is the country that sells the greatest number of books per capita where are the good/interesting Icelandic authors?
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett
2*. OK, but a bit dry and hard to get through at times.
Idoru by William Gibson
4*. Good, gradually making my way through all his books.
The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People by Tim Flannery
4*. A natural history of Austalasia. Did you know that there were no mammals on NZ until humans arrived? I read this while travelling around Australia and NZ - perfect.
That's 25 in total, a lot less than last year which I didn't expect, consisting of 10 fiction and 15 non-fiction. Best book? Not sure but how about Deep History to learn new things and World War Z for some fun.
I'm currently reading Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace but I'm not quite going to finish it in 2008.
Already on the stack for 2009 are...
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec
Heat by George Monbiot
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
It's been a while since I've had a Current Cost electricity meter but I've only just got around to trying to determine just where all that electricity is going. This morning, after much turning off and on of appliances I've got something of a baseline approximation for things which are typically on all day...
DTT set-top box = 10W
TV (standby) = 1W
TiVo ("standby") = 20W
2 cordless phone base units = 10W
Fish tank = (upto) 315W
Pump = 20W
Heater (on demand) = 170W
Light (on a few hours per day) = 125W
Halogen lamp (off) = 8W
Fridge/freezer = 70W
Microwave (standby) = 1W
Radio (standby) = 22W
Halogen lamps (off) = 12W
Wireless router = 16W?
Boiler (on demand) = 60W to 122W
The major users are the fridge/freezer (as expected), the fish tank and the boiler. The boiler is a gas-fired combi-boiler and I guess the electricity use from that is for pumping the water through though I didn't expect that to be so much. The fish tank is pretty expensive but the only constant drain is the 20W pump. Other big, but occassional users are the expected microwave, electric oven and kettle. Unexpectedly the kitchen flourescent tube was 50W.
So that gives a minimum baseline of around 180W.
My electricity use for one Saturday - the Current Cost graph is superimposed onto a timelapse video of our lounge with a soundtrack formed by some appropriate 50Hz hum (plus some noise) that has been modulated by the graphed values. Built with Processing.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I've been generating some slit-scan/time-lapse photos with Processing but here's some (much better) work in that area...
knapek.org - visualising time and space
"Well, I set up my trusty digital camera and captured images for 24 hours. Midnight to midnight. Then I apply a magic spell - homebrewn software - to collage all the images of a given time-span 24 hour period, into one image. The temporal progression in the images begins at the left, or the top, and continues to the other end of the image. The outcome is an image consisting of images of the temporal period captured, typically 24 hours." - nice collection of images and animations
(the teeming void): Watching the Street
Using time-lapse/slice images to show activities in urban environments. "...use the same time-lapse / slit-scan technique to image change in an urban environment. Technically, the setup was fairly straightforward. Instead of a digital stills camera I used a webcam (in portrait orientation), and wrote a simple Processing script to save stills at one-minute intervals, while extracting and compiling one-pixel slices into 24-hour composites."
An Informal Catalogue of Slit-Scan Video Artworks and Research - Golan Levin and Collaborators
"Slitscan imaging techniques are used to create static images of time-based phenomena. In traditional film photography, slit scan images are created by exposing film as it slides past a slit-shaped aperture. In the digital realm, thin slices are extracted from a sequence of video frames, and concatenated into a new image." - catalogue of slit-scan and timelapse related projects
Some publicity for my work; the Rockterscale made the Make blog and Gizmodo (the comments cracked me up) and an interview on The Guardian's site about me and the Radio Labs team.
NPR: API Upgrade : Mix Your Own Podcast and Other New Features/Content
"With today's launch, however, the API now allows users to slice through the NPR.org archive to create custom podcast feeds based on virtually any aggregation (or combination of aggregations) in the API"
How old is your music?
From the last.fm hackday, this looks up the release date of your most played artists (albums?) from MusicBrainz. Mine's 1960, late 90s and 2007/08.
Scrobble everything - including manual submission and tracks played on BBC Radio. Enter the time and then select the tracks we played to scrobble. Also from the last.fm hackday.
My two favorite music services - now combined! - Duke Listens!
Spotify now scrobbles. Also there's a GreaseMonkey script to use Spotify to play tracks you see on last.fm
Homepage | The Carbon Account
"The Carbon Account helps you reduce your footprint and share tips with friends." - manual entry but looks nice
UgoTrade » Blog Archive » Smart Planet:Interview with Andy Stanford-Clark
Interview with Andy Stanford-Clark about home automation, energy monitoring and sharing
bkkeepr | API
bkkeepr, a really nice little site for keeping track of your reading, now has an API - which books people have read and which people have read a book
husk.org. a flickr machine tag browser.
A site to browse Flickr machine tags
(the teeming void): Fabricated Growth Forms (Processing to Ponoko)
Experimenting with generative techniques (with processing) and digital fabrication (with Ponoko). Hey, I wonder if I could do some little wooden graphs?
Iceland: frozen assets - Times Online
A good read from AA Gill on the economic situation in Iceland.
Friday, December 12, 2008
VideoTagGame from Yahoo Research
"The video tag game is a multi-player game where users annotate streaming video with tags. Based on temporal tag agreement with other users in the game they can receive points. I.e. they will receive more points for a tag, if an other player has entered the same tag close in time, compared to the case where there exists more time between entering the tags.". Kind of a cross between Annotatable Audio and our current R&D project.
SHIFD - Shift Content Between Your Devices
"Shift notes, addresses and links between your mobile phone and computer". Noticed this beta site which is based on the original winner of the 2007 BBC/Yahoo Hackday.
Get Glue. Connect with friends around things you visit!
"Glue automatically recognizes books, music, movies, restaurants, wine, stocks and other everyday things on popular pages around the web. Once Glue identifies the thing it connects you with friends and other Glue users who visit the same thing around the web.". Similar to something we were thinking of building the other day.
And some 1970's Radios on Flickr
Some stuff from my friends...
BBC - Journalism Labs - blog
Another blog in the successful BBC Labs stable from Jonathan.
Whomwah.com » BBC Programmes iPhone webapp experiment
Duncan's quick experiment to put /programmes on the iPhone.
Connecting things together, theory to practice...
Public objects « Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird
"most public objects - and certainly all municipal objects - should offer APIs ... What’s a public object? A sidewalk. A building facade. A parking meter. Any discrete object in the common spatial domain, intended for the use and enjoyment of the general public"
CurrentCost to Pachube app: no hacking necessary! | Pachube - community
Processing app from Usman Haque to connect to the Current Cost meter, show the readings and post the data up to Pachube. Just waiting for my API key.
Current Cost monitoring from an iPhone « The lost outpost
I want this on my phone.
Games. I would like to play more but I don't have the time...
Play I wish I were the Moon, a free online game on Kongregate
Cute game. "It’s inspired on The Distance of the Moon by Italo Calvino, and it’s about a weird love triangle."
For The Love | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
"The game itself, dubbed Love (as in For The Love Of Game Development), is an exploration-based moderately-multiplayer FPS with astounding impressionistic visuals and a procedurally generated universe. Since Steenberg is a one man show, he’s relying on clever maths to build the world for him and then clever gamers to come in and help him figure out where to take it, and what to do with it."
Keynesian beauty contest - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"A naïve strategy would be to choose the six faces that, in the opinion of the entrant, are the most beautiful. A more sophisticated contest entrant, wishing to maximize his chances of winning a prize, would think about what the majority perception of beauty is, and then make a selection based on some inference from his knowledge of public perceptions. This can be carried one step further to take into account the fact that other entrants would also be making their decision based on knowledge of public perceptions. Thus the strategy can be extended to the next order, and the next, and so on, at each level attempting to predict the eventual outcome of the process based on the reasoning of other rational agents.". Things to think about for my current project.
Two genetic algorithms caught people's eyes this week...
Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa « Roger Alsing Weblog
Genetic algorithm to "paint a replica of the Mona Lisa using only 50 semi transparent polygons"
Evolving a car
Genetic algorithm to evolve a car-like contraption traversing a 2D terrain. In Flash.
And some random yet interesting things...
russell davies: asymmetric politeness
"PS - which has just made me realise. If you were going to be create a killer social application in the UK, the Social Object you'd build it around would be The Apology. Anyway. Again. Sorry.)"
A User’s Guide to Reykjavík Restaurants: The Vegetarian Edition at How do you like Iceland?
Vegetarian restaurants in Reykjavik. Look a bit ascetic for my tastes but just in case.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Visualisations of radio listening...
Radio listening in pixels from Tristan Ferne on Vimeo.
And time-sliced photos overlaid with electricity usage...
And the video...
I'm enjoying using Processing at the moment.