Thursday, November 16, 2006

When Can I Watch Springer?

A friend recently asked me, given my meaning of life and nobility list, how I justify for myself watching super bubblegum TV. At the same time, how does one resist watching such TV when it's right there and so tempting?

If you're new to this blog I recommend reading my short posts on the meaning of life and the nobility list first.

Discipline is the first answer. If you take the nobility list seriously, and just be disciplined about it, then you won't watch TV or do mindless things very often-- only when you really need it to recharge your batteries, metaphorically speaking. But if you have a lot of willpower, will you, in practice, ever get to watch Strange Brew again?

Part of the reason I'm able to keep up such productivity and also watch Strange Brew over and over again is because I take Saturdays off. That is, the endeavours list is for work time, the nobility list is for leisure time, and Saturdays are completely off. That is, I work Sunday through Friday every week, and in the afterhours I use the nobility list (I do not allow myself to work at home). But I'm able to be disciplined about this because I know that when Saturday comes I'll be able to do absolutely anything I want.

More specifically, not only do I not work on Saturday, even if I feel like working, but I do whatever I most feel like doing in the moment (except work). I cannot even run errands, clean, or do shopping I don't want to do. If I want to watch the same Brady Bunch episode over and over again, or a pug that is confused video, I can. It helps because if, during the week, I am tempted to watch this stuff, it helps to know that I will be able to do it all I want on Saturday. I'm also reluctant to book Saturdays with anything that I'm not sure will be a real blast. If I've got the second season of Battlestar Galactica in front of me, and it's tempting me, I just look forward to my reward on Saturday, during which I could watch the entire season if I wanted to.

In my normal "free time," the nobility list is a harsh mistress, and you need a break from her once in a while. Since I work so hard most of the time, it's great to have a day completely to myself.
Another question about my nobility list: Where does socializing fit in? I realized that there is an implicit assumption about the list, and that is that it's stuff I do at home alone. I can't just choose to socialize with friends, because they might be busy. Regarding where socializing fits in terms of nobility, however, I'd have to say it depends on what's being talked about. Figuring out a scientific problem is high, and talking about how great Strange Brew is ranks lower.

The Nobility List for Leisure Time

In a previous post I described my personal philosophy
that the meaning of my life is to make the world a better place, at the largest
possible scale. I think many people relate to this life mission even if it's not as
explicit in their minds, and even if they're less committed to it. This post is
a recommendation about how to spend your time according to this philosophy.
I keep a "nobility list" of activities in descending order of importance. There
is one for my work hours (called "endeavours") and one for my leisure hours.
The work list changes constantly according to the projects I'm working on. The
most important and most urgent projects go at the top. Every day I have a
routine when I get into work. I read my email, go through my inbox, and update
my to-do lists and then schedule the hours in my day. Each hour gets assigned
to an endeavour. The item at the top of the list gets the first hour. This way
when things come up and the things near the end of the day end up not getting
worked on, the most important things got worked on already.
I don't work at home, but when I'm home I still want too maximize my
positive impact on the world, so when I think of what I want to do, I look at
the nobility list. I'm not asking you to use my nobilty list, but to get an idea,
given my ideals and talents, of what a nobility list looks like so you can make
your own.

1. Writing Lake. Lake is my working title for the cognitive architecture I've
been working on. I consider the making of a cognitive architecture the
most fundamental part of Cognitive Science's and AI's great work, so it
gets top priority. Specifically, "writing Lake" means coming up with ideas,
working on them, and writing them down in some document.

2. Reading Cognitive Science Book. A general motto for the nobility list is
"don't consume if you can produce." If I'm not creating a cognitive model,
I can read about what others have done that is relevant so I can better
work on my own model.

3. Reading Non-Cognitive Science Hard Book. Hard books are ones that are
not the most fun to read, but enrich my life, usually scientifically, more
than just through entertainment.

4. Creating Art. I think art enriches people's lives, and I enjoy it, so I create
art when I can. This is broadly defined, including writing plays, poetry
or novels, drawing, painting, directing, etc.

5. Reading Fun Book.

6. Watching Art Movie. By "art movie" I mean a challenging film that is
not just bubblegum entertainment. It takes more energy to watch one.

7. Playing Video Games. Low on the list. Videogames are usually pure

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ACTUAL Killbots

A while ago I posted a joke book cover I made called "Programming Killbots."

Now it turns out we have a real killbot. A robot that can see people, issue a warning, then automatically gun them down.

Watch the video here:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Guess I Don't Have Prosopagnosia

I often meet people again and have no recollection of seeing them before. I thought I might have some very mild prosopagnosia (the inability to see faces), but I just took an online test at and I scored 84%, where normals score 85%. Guess I'm normal.

The Poor Are Getting Richer (Slowly)

Everybody knows the gap between rich and poor is widening. This means that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, right?


The gap is widening because the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer. "Between 1979 and 2000, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the poorest fifth of Americans increased just nine per cent; the earnings of the middle fifth rose fifteen per cent; and the earnigns of the top fifth climbed sixy-eight per cent" (Cassidy, 2006).

This makes sense-- even the poor of today look quite wealthy compared to the poor of earlier decades. The new poor have color TVs and DVD players, and floors that are not made of dirt.

The gap is widening only because everyone is getting richer, but the rich are getting richer faster.

Cassidy, J. (2006). Relatively Deprived. The New Yorker, 42, April 3, pp42--47.

Introducing My Pug Mrs. Wiggles

I've been crazy about pugs for several years now (the pug is a breed
of dog). Yesterday afternoon, I finally got one. Her name is
Mrs. Wiggles. This whole post will be about this dog, so if you read
this blog for its more intellectual entries, you can safely skip this
one without fear of missing any profound wisdom. This post is
straight-up pug, people.


When I was first moving to Ottawa I was in touch with a woman who had
three pugs, and thought it was too many. She wanted to find a home for
one of them, Peachy. I met Peachy when I looked at houses and all was
go until she changed her mind.

Finding someone who is willing to part with an adult pug is not
easy. They are so friendly, loving, companionable, and funny. I didn't
want a puppy because I wouldn't be home enough to take care of it

Months later this same woman is started a pug rescue (a rescue
organization takes dogs of a specific breed from people who can't or
won't take care of them and places them with adoptive owners). Feeling
guilty about getting my hopes about Peachy, I was the first on her
list for her adoptive pugs.

Yesterday she picked up three pugs from some woman I don't know in
Quebec. She has about 150 dogs in her house and they are not well
cared-for. I don't think the term "puppy mill" applies, but "crazy
lady with 150 dogs" might work just fine.

I got my choice of three dogs, all female: Cleo, Chanel, and
Tibou. All three were filthy and stunk to high heaven. Tibou was the
friendliest, but I picked Cleo because I thought was cuter. So her
name technically is Mrs. Cleo Wiggles, but I call her Mrs. Wiggles for

She's fawn about five years old and has a long tongue that never quite
gets all the way in her mouth. Her breathing is snurffly and she
snores, which I really like. There are a few bad points, however. By
far the worst part is her breath. The breath is so horrendous I can't
have her near my face. I want to throw up when I get a good whiff of
it. Her teeth are in terrible condition and she needs dental work,
whic I hope she'll be getting Wednesday with her appointment with the
vet. The rescue woman said she got one of her pugs from this crazy woman
and the poor thing needed about ten teeth pulled and a major
cleaning. After this, she assures me, the breath will be fine in about
two months. I hate to say it, but the breath is so bad it's keeping me
from falling completely in love with her. However, she's very good and
cute so once the breath improves I'm sure I'll be hooked.

I took her home in my car. During the ride home she never took her
bulgy eyes off of me, and over the course of the ten minute drive she
crawled over so her head was in my lap.

Because she used a yard for peeing, she has never had a walk. I gave
her her first walk yesterday, and the leash really kind of freaked her
out. It's sad but also funny to see her on a leash. She'll move, and
when the leash touches her body she reacts like she's run into
something, or that something has run into her. Of course moving
doesn't help all that much. When I pull her she digs in her paws and
the skin bunches up around her neck as she resists the force.

She also grew up in a single story house, so she doesn't understand or
know how to use stairs. For now this is fine with me. I can put her on
my second floor when I go out (where there is no carpet) and she can't
leave it!

When she got to my house she was exhausted, but wanted to keep an eye
on me. She she sat there, looking at me, and nodding off, falling
over, and then waking up to repeat the process. Eventually she relaxed
enough to fall asleep.

I bought her a little dog bed but it's too small for her. She stepped
on it and it slid away slightly. That startled her, so now she's
scared of the dog bed. She sleeps quite comfortably on a folded up
towel, as seen in the picture.

the picture again:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Ambiguity of Citations

It's always kind of bothered me that citations are ambiguous. Seems it would be good if there were some different kind of notation depending on what the citation is for.

Sometimes a citation is there to point to evidence for a claim just made.

Sometimes the citation is there to point to an argument in favor of a claim just made.

Sometimes the citation is there to point to the first reference to an idea, even if there is no evidence.

Sometimes the citation is there to point to someone else saying the same thing, even if there is no evidence and that paper was not the first.

Also there are negative versions of the above; ususally these are preceded with a "but see also..."

Sometimes citations are for a reference to a direct quote.

Can anyone think of any uses for citations that I'm missing?

I Like to Offer Doctors Free AI Advice

I believe that medical doctors find it annoying that in social situations people are always trying to get free medical advice, so when I'm with doctors I like to offer them free AI advice. Sometimes they actually have things to ask me.