What’s Fractal and What Isn’t

Some comments on Ron Eglash’s very interesting TED presentation on the concept of fractals and and the history of their investigation in math and science, with special emphasis on Ron’s investigations into African village design. I hope these notes don’t read as any kind of dismissal of this fascinating work — in fact, I think this kind of dialog is what TED is all about. A fractal-inspired friend asked for my thoughts on this video, so here they are. (The following won’t make a lot of sense unless one views the TED talk before reading further.)

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Dada Canto #59

We are all the food.
Food? Who needs it?
Well. I am not going to be able to do much of anything without a spoon.
Meaninglessness is, but is Loch Ness meandering less?
Guns don’t kill people: artists make nothing.
A frog can’t bird sing flies. (Bananas.)
To the other, and yet but yet.
Is each of these the essays?

“When and but it’s yes yes yes.”

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More on Self-Publishing

[This posting originally appeared on the Authors Guild forum. Since that’s exclusive to AG members, I reposted it here for my blog readers.]

Several years ago, when Print On Demand (POD) was becoming practical, I started my self-publishing “company” — Mulberrry Knoll — and produced my first book, a collection of poems (start small!) called Cave Paintings. Create Space didn’t exist, and Ingram had only Lightning Source, which they were already willing to make available to self-publishers. LS didn’t, however, initially realize how much hand-holding would be required as people with no prior experience in book production suddenly began experimenting with self-publishing. This spawned IngramSpark, specifically designed to serve newcomers to publishing.

Since I do have experience in content and copy editing, and in the technical side of publishing, and have designed book covers and interiors over the years, it was tremendously satisfying to have total control over the whole process. This, of course, meant that I saved thousands of dollars (and paid myself nothing), but I got the books I wanted, and since no initial press run was involved, it cost about $100 per title.

To my surprise and delight, I found that Ingram’s long-standing business relations with Amazon, largely through the massive Ingram Catalog, meant that without doing anything at all further, I could have my book listed as “in stock” and “sold by” Amazon. No special arrangements, no contracts, just $12/yr to keep the listing in the Ingram Catalog, and suddenly my book was available to the entire planet. What’s more, Amazon offered my books at a modest but worthwhile discount. (That discount changed, and is still changing, but it’s a long story.)

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UNIFY — an amazing new software-synth host

I almost never review products here, but UNIFY is an exception. Technically, UNIFY is a software application that lets you mix and manage one or several software music synthesizers. If you’re not into that kind of thing, then this review will probably be largely meaningless. If you do, then you will surely enjoy finding out about UNIFY. It’s sold by PluginGuru, where you can find lots of details about what it is and how it works. Oh, and it’s < $80, and probably worth about $300.

First of all, UNIFY is indispensable, inexpensive, wonderfully functional, stable, and anyone working with computer music in any genre will be delighted and amazed at the truly unprecedented spectrum of things this tool can do.

There are two ways that come to mind to describe where UNIFY fits into the universe of soft synths.

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Finally, the obvious boomer.

I’ve always been annoyed when people younger than I identify “the sixties” with the stupid memes of Nehru jackets and bell-bottom jeans, etc. What I remember was that Time, Inc., coined the terms “hippies” and “flower children” to fabricate News out of them, as if they were real movements on a demographically significant scale. These times were meaningful to us boomers — because we lived them, not because of the labels and marketing BS. Remember movies like “The Trip” and “Beach Blanket Bingo”? This crap was exploitation of us, not something we created, and most of us found it repulsive. Sure, “Easy Rider” was reflective of the age, but Peter Fonda wasn’t a boomer (1940).

So, finally, someone has pointed out the obvious: young people don’t create the society they’re living in — they consume and respond to the world they grow up in. So the sixties, revolutions and tacky “modernism” and all, was mainly the product of the 20’s and 30’s (and some 40’s). In other words the “establishment” that a few of us were trying to get away from.

New Yorker Article

The subtler values of the sixties, represented by a very tiny percentage of us, are of course quite real, and are probably not very different than the visionary values of any generation. Laudable and insightful and cosmic, perhaps, but it doesn’t look like many of these dreams became real in the next generations. Some progress seems to have been made, but the orange idiot is himself a baby boomer (1946) bent on undoing as much as possible, right back to the 50’s, before our generation fades into oblivion and facile stereotypes.

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Buckyball Neodymium Fidget Magnets Don’t Last Forever

Apart from the furor over the dangers of allowing small magnets into the hands of children, there’s a less-known issue with these intriguing fidget toys for grown-ups — they spontaneously self-destruct.

Rotting Buckey Balls
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Numerology, or Something

Someone recently referred to Numerology as a branch of mathematics. I wouldn’t call it that, but it’s definitely in there with other number recreations. And yes, Pythagorus, like others fond of playing with numbers and geometry and such, loved finding the correlations between unrelated things, tying them together with formulae.

I haven’t found any credible evidence of numerology, but there is one phenomenon to keep in mind with this kind of exploration — the laws of probability and statistics apply in often surprising ways. For example, the odds of two people in a group of 57 or more having the same birthday are better than 99%. (Google “birthday paradox” for the math behind that.) Or the odds of a (truly unrigged random) penny coming up heads, after having just come up heads 100 times in a row, are 50:50. (The previous heads have no influence over the future.)

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Han Solo — old news

Han Solo. I’m the captain of the Millennium Falcon.
You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?
It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
What? Parsecs is a unit of distance? Damn. Always thought it was time.
Maybe the Millennium Falcon isn’t as fast as I thought.
How far is a parsec?
Three and a quarter light-years? Isn’t light-year a unit of time?
Distance? Really? Crap.

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Note from [The Management]

To whom or what it may concern:

Due to extraordinarily sustained and frantic participation from masses of readers, both washed and unwashed, for obvious reasons this blog, some years ago, entered into a state of stunned silence, gob-smacked, as it were, by the sheer volume of piercing interest and subtly-reasoned contributions from its readers. The blog survived, for a time, in a right-brain-hosted non-verbal limbo, a bright but silent domain of punctuation marks without substantives, of exhaled neurotransmitters with hints of the nasal and pulmonary microbiomes. This was a respite barely comprehended by the blog’s own introspection, since mentation itself remained in stasis for the duration, but a time of re-emergence eventually dawned, and the last contributions were approved, and this lone voice, unveiled once more, spoke out across the plains of humanity with this announcement.

Enough said.

[The Management]

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Telephodot (aka “Threnody”) / Samuel Beckett

There’s a “video” of this at Vimeo. This was my working treatment:

On a distant hillside two small figures were making their way down to a far-away road. Behind them, green waves of grass gave way to higher misty hills, on a backdrop of distant mountains. The mountaintops were lost in the clouds and their slopes were a gauzy purple.

The figures moved microscopically, or perhaps the silence and the distance gave the illusion of slow motion. The road before them was unpaved, broad, no more than a wide patch of gravel and dirt among the tufts of grass. At each side the vegetation was dusty and burnt, bracketing the road up and down the hills like strips of old newspaper.

Eventually the figures stood on the road, as if looking each way, perhaps deciding which direction to follow. They were too far off to see clearly. They appeared to turn and look back, up the slope they had just descended. They appeared to be talking, but in brief animated bursts separated by long moments just waiting. Mostly they stood facing each other, looking down. They might have been thinking. Perhaps they were considering what to say.

After a long time, one of them sat down by the side of the road, and began doing something with his boots.

In the late afternoon, two more figures appeared in the distance to the east, moving down the center of the road. They walked single file, as if there might have been a line connecting them. As they drew closer to the first two, one could just make out large pieces of luggage carried by the first man. The second man occasionally waved a buggy whip as if snapping it in the air, but there was no sound.

When the second pair of men reached the first two, all four of them became engaged in conversation, but my attention was drifting. Later, I noticed the travelers had gone on.

Still later, in the fading light I could just see a boy picking through the bushes farther off. He seemed to be heading for the two men, who were still standing in the road. But the day was failing, and I did not wait to see.

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