Friday, November 20, 2009

Recording Streaming Audio in OS X

I finally got around to finding a way to record streanubg audio: not hard.

What you'll need:
Audacity: Good, free and open-source sound editing suite.  (Does more than steal sound from the internet.)
Soundflower: Doesn't do much: presents a sort of audio bridge so that you can direct input to a given channel and then record form a given out-bound channel.  Very simple.

There are other packages out there that do things a bit "better", but they either aren't free or as flexible.

After you download and install those packages:
1) Start Soundflower.  You should see a flower icon up in that "tray" thing near the clock.  Don't fuss with it.
2) Start Audacity. First time you need to tell it to record input from the "Soundflower (2ch)" device.
2a) You may want to tell Audacity to "play-through", as in, let you hear stuff as you record it.
3) Open your system->sound preferences and tell it output to "Soundflower (2ch)".
4) Click on that record button.
5) Go to your favorite youtube song and play it.  Don't worry about timing, you can edit stuff out later.
6) When it's done press stop and give it some ID3 tags in Audacity if you're into that.  Delete the junk at the beginning and end of the scopey looking sound-track.
7) Export it.  I recommend Ogg Vorbis, but you can use other formats.  If you use that Other Format, you'll allegedly need the LAME encoder package thingy.
8) When you're done exporting you can add it your iPhone/Tunes/Pod/Mac/Life/Work/etc...

Don't forget to change back your audio settings so

The next how-to or at least how-I-did-it-and-seems-to-work will be on bike painting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book Review

I am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter.

Douglas Hofstadter was an aspiring physicist and recovering mathematician when he accidentally wrote the cognitive science masterpiece/tour de force/award winning/whirlwind/etc... Godel Escher Bach (GEB).  It's long, complicated, very good, and altogether mesmerizing.  If book-critics didn't use the term as much as they do, I'd call it whirlwind.  Apparently, it was so whirl-winded that old Doug thought the message was lost.  So he kicked back for while, and then a long time later, wrote another book called I am a Strange Loop.

This book claims to focus on what was missed in GEB: consciousness rising from the "strange" recursion of symbol-strings made possible by our minds.  He begins by defending his view that there are varying degrees of consciousness. At one end we have amoebas, on the other we've everyone's favorite evolutionary pinnacle: humans.  He draws analogies to music, win, and other things about which people are connoisseurs, but he does it more artistically and less technically than in GEB.  He explains Godel's incompleteness theorem, which proved that math would never be free from self-reference, which is very important for everyone who thinks math is pure and free of contradiction.  Doug goes on to show a couple of "fun" problems with basic mathematical concepts.  Great. 

While he has a gift for metaphor, I could have used more tofu and potatoes.  He centres his first base-hit around an experiment (more of an activity) where he looped some videos of their own playback and took pictures of the results.  (think hall of mirrors in 4-D.)  Very pretty, moderately stimulating, but still astronomically far from consciousness.  In the second half of the book he begins talking in terms of I-referencing, which is what people do when they think "I".  All his examples of strange recursion fall short in one way or another, which almost seems planned so that he can bounce back and say, "you see! you see!  It only works in the mind!  Booyaah!"  Well that's fine.

Interestingly, having begun my endeavor into syntax, and recently been inspired by a certain eminent linguist, the idea of recursion has been made very clear: pretty important.  It's sure evident that recursive schemas in the minds we got gave rise to the linguistic capacity we also got!  Since I am a Strange Loop didn't leave me with much more than that, I'll leave you with it too.

And since you all have to quote old Chuck D. this year: "My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts."  Now that's got to be recursive!

I say 2.5 / 5 on the superior-scientific-star-scale.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Typicality, not Stereotypes

Everyone knows there are discernible comedic attributes about academic folks.  Here are the new ones I've uncovered:

Linguistics Professors:
Sociolinguists: Language is everywhere! Everything everywhere has languages and meaning and value and social relevance.  If you talk, gesticulate, grunt, smile, hit things, or do so much as move molecules, you're a lingual creature and I care.  You're great and if I write my paper about you, it'll be great too.
Semanticists: Don't talk about people, babies, or gorillas.  Don't talk about science, philosophy, psychology, or math that isn't Complete.  If it's not modeled or model-able, it's not linguistics.  If it pretends to be novel, it's not linguistics.  If it's old, new, from the West Coast, the 60's, the 19th century, or from anywhere but MIT, Brown, or guessed it, it's not linguistics.  I don't want anything to do with anything to do with anything but semantic models.  Got it?  It's not rocket science!  That wouldn't be linguistics.  In fact, all the linguists that couldn't cut it went into rocket science after doing shrooms at UC Berkeley.

Neuroscientists: Well, my fMRI clearly shows this red area is clearly red...and in this area over here...which is probably important.  I've done more statistical modeling than I can count, which is ironic, but there are still more holes in my paper, which has a paragraph of a title.  But besides that, I think we can all agree that a) these pictures are sweet, and b) this esoteric, small, weird-named piece of the brain gives rise the Veritable Human Condition.  If I could please just get another multimillion Euro grant, I could do, like, two more fMRI's and have this whole thing sorted out.  We're so close!

Cognitive Psychologist
: Ok...we got it wrong up until the 20's.  And yea, we had wrong in the 60's.  But Chomsky wrote that book...but kinda got it wrong until the 70's.  And that PDP group jumped the gun a little bit.  But now!  We think we're pretty sure we've got it wrong again...  But there are exciting prospects for such fields as [insert unrelated technical field].  There's also this new-wave, a second wind if you will, that's gaining don't forget about us!

Cognitive Scientists: I think we've got some really great pieces to the Big Puzzle That Everyone Has Been Working On Since The Beginning Of Time.  It's really just a matter putting it together.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Bike!

I found it in a Brand New Bush Bike!

But!  It's a 1978 Raleigh Tourist Roadster LD-4.  (Judging by the hubs, Sheldon Brown, some flickr pictures, and TEH INTERNET)  It's condition?  That can only be described by denying it of it's doesn't roll.  And, as my very astute roommate pointed out, rolling is key.  But come on!  It's a 78' Raleigh.  I don't know if that means anything.  What I do know is that it's a steal-lugged frame...albeit rusted...and is a good size for me.  Honestly, the best components are in the lamentable you-ride-with-that? condition.

Here's the run-down.  To get it to a minimally operating state (call it "rolling"), I need a pair of track wheels.  I'm looking into this.  If it's a keeper, then I need to get it powder-coated and completely overhauled.  Here's what I'm thinking: €100 (US $5,000,000) for some wheels, "tyres", cog, chain, and tubes.  And then!  I can scoot around on an old rusty Raleigh!

Better still: If I can make get the frame scraped and coated, I can make minor upgrades throughout the year.  Then!  I'll either have a sweet old Raleigh that I found in a bush and fixed up, and doesn't it look great, or I can sell it on for about €400.  It's a sure bet!  If anyone out there knows late-70's Raleigh componentry (ie. new stuff I can get that won't not work), leave me line.

This means I'm eating Ramen for the rest of the year...



Saturday, September 26, 2009

TCD and then Vote No:

Trinity College Dublin:

Were a murder committed, an eccentric British investigator called, a cooky professor implicated, and a star "maths" student expelled for some silly reason, the whole thing would be filmed at this place:

It's got Giant Doors, cobble stones, intimidating statues, that book o' Kells, and smart students. 

Now then...

Vote No:

Sitting on a bench reading something about connectionism (the answer to all cognitive questions) I was asked by a homeless man, "How come when I steal from my boss, I go to jail...but when he steals overtime, tips, and raises from me, the economy goes up?"  Good question!  Which brings to a tid-bit of current Irish politics: The veritable Lisbon Treaty!  Ireland voted against a treaty that would broaden it's ties to the EU by providing it with a partial voice on a EU economic council, among other things.  Now the same vote is back, because the folks in power think Ireland got it wrong.  Far lefties, like the anarchists, socialists, Sinn Fein, Greens, and People Before Profit, along with far right nationalists are against the treaty.  The lefties are generally opposed to globalizing economies, which they see as largely responsible for Ireland's economic collapse, while the nationalists see EU involvement as European (and probably UK) capitulation which would of course be the ruin of Ireland.  Centrists from Fine Gael and Fine Fail are promoting the treaty and mainly responsible for it's re-appearance on the ballot.  In my opinion, I'm with the lefties.  It strikes me that economic treaties, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and this Lisbon treaty (smaller but similar) erode workers' rights by consolidating markets across borders where less protective and increasingly opportunistic companies can exploit human labour.  It is, however, a fine line.  There are no jobs in Ireland.  Not a single one.  A treaty, as proposed, would indeed create jobs, which is important, but at the cost of devaluing new and existing employment, and more importantly devaluing labour in general.  I'll stick to the socialist party line on this, and pretend to vote no.

Monday, September 14, 2009

As it Turns Out

Cognitive Science is pretty neat.  Another neat thing that turns out to be true: fMRI is the Mother Of All Brain Imagining Techniques.  So far, the only reasons to do anything /but/ an fMRI is that you can't, won't, or just really like scans with names like "CAT" and "PET".  As it turns out, MRIs (functional and otherwise) use GIANT MAGNETS (awesome!!!) to align those little dipoles we like to call hydrogen atoms.  And then the gizmo measures the time it takes your dipoles to discombobulate.  In turn, this tells us something about someone's brain.  What's particularly audacious about these things is how dramatic the post-processing needs to be in order to get something useful.  First you have to compensate, computationally of course, for movement along all three spatial axes.  Then you gotta antialias your voxels.  Then you're looking at collating your slices into a 3D image.  And, of course, you have to choose your imaging type, probably T2.  Lastly you'll want to take relative averages against your baseline for each time-slice.  And Voila!  You have a vague idea that something may have happened...and you know vaguely where it happened.  Now we're cooking.

In another not-so-recent not-so-scientific breakthrough, it turns out that single-speed bikes--you know, the ones people like because they're cheap and simple--are both expensive to buy and complicated enough to stump the most Irish of bike-store people.  So it goes.

But!  I have a number of nifty ideas for a cognitive psychology question.  As it turns out, coming up with smart questions really /is/ almost as hard as answering them.  We had to come up with a question concerning human cognition for this week's class.  My ideas are here in list form:

1) How do people separate words in spoken speech?
2) How do people simplify language for assumed learners (baby talk, pet talk)?
3) How do, if at all, people find the meaning of made-up adjectives?
4) How well can people make up a verb for a given noun?
5) How accurate are people at determining projectile trajectory in 2D?
    5a) How fast can someone /decide/ accuracy?  And how is this speed related to accuracy?
    5b) How might visual distractions affect accuracy?
    5c) Does technical knowledge of spatial geometry have any effect on accuracy or speed?

What interests me most about number 5 are the potential evolutionary aspects.  For instance, there's an obvious advantage to determining the accuracy of parabolic curves (so as to throw something accurately...or dodge that dodge-ball).  There may also be advantages to accuracy in linear prediction.  But might we be significantly less accurate for logarithmic or exponential curves?

As it turns out, you'll have to check back in seven years to get answers to any of these questions.  And, as it will likely turn out, the answers won't make anyone better at basketball.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Moderately Uninteresting Update

I'm in Ireland.

Interesting things: wonderfully friendly people...everywhere...I'm talking smiles on the streets friendly. Already got caught in the rain. Oh well. Roommates are sweet folks, though two are from the US. Hah! Two more from Ireland and one from Japan. Went to an Anglican church service this morning—ye olde Holy Communion Rite 1—all words, no songs. But lead by two women reverends. Way to go Church of Ireland. Now I need a Book o' Common Prayer. Next up is hurling. Rough sport. Then there's the Irish language...sounds pretty sweet to me. Then you have the proxied internet connection here are UCD. Not very nice. But I think Skype will work. Oh and one other not very nice thing: big college campuses. Oh well. One high note to end on is that classes start tomorrow.

Here's the rundown on classes. Advances in Neuroscience: primary literature review in the field. Not sure what to expect. General Linguistics: “A tour of the ologies.” Meaning semantics, syntax, phonology, and morphology. Then we have Cognitive Psychology, a computer science module. This one is being taught by a particularly professional looking gent who happens to head the department. Oh well. Lastly is Neuropsychology where “the primary purpose of this course is to demonstrate how data from brain-damaged patients and from functional neuroimaging are used to test theories of normal cognition, and how cognitive theories and methods are used to understand brain-behaviour relationships.”

Oh well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Room's of Their own

Having recently finished V. Wolf's A Room of One's Own, I got to imagining other writers as if they were women.

In first was J. Keruoac, the veritable vagabond himself.  I imagine a number of differences were Jack a woman.  First, I figure she wouldn't have been so found of railroad cars, hitchhiking, and garden-level squats.   Instead, I see a bit more apprehension in her travels.  I'm sure level-three sex offenders would be at the top of the fear-list, as well as all her friends.  I doubt her womanizing down south would have reversed very literarily...except to a Very Progressive Crowd.  And that scene pissing off the back of the flat-bed truck would have put the whole thing over the edge.  Nice try girl-named-Jack, but no cigar(s).

Next up is R. Ellison of Invisible Man fame.  Of course, the title would have been different.  What's more, I don't think it would have the same sting.  In the 50's, women were just coming into literary visibility.  A whole book on the subject would have been ill-timed and not a likely choice for publishing.  In the book, however, we could trade the paint factory for a bakery.  And the political escapades for a series of home-furnishings commercials.  The opening wrestling scene could stay, but we'd have to add some mud.  And maybe we fore-go the whole process of becoming and realizing one's invisibility, and settle for just figuring the whole damn thing was planned.  Sorry Ralphy, but I think you'd have sucked as a girl.

Lastly I have P. K. Dick.  No jokes about the name.  Now then.  While it's hard to isolate a typifying Dick novel, I imagine we have to trade the predictably present drug-addiction for society-inflicted psychological problems.  Then we trade Dick's hardened male figures (caught in helpless situations) for otherwise helpless women caught in hardening situations.  Very good.  But most of all, we'll need to trade in all the technology jargon (invariably unexplained) and get some Huxleyan eugenics programs.  All in all, the novels would be a hit!  Way to go Dick!

There you have it.  Now, if they all meet in a bar?  Depends on the bar, but I'm guessing they don't have a thing to say to one another.

   - G.