Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another stab at a Mandelbrot fractal walk

Here's another stab at using povray to walk through fractal space in the Mandelbrot fractal set.. I reduced the number of images and the range of high and low magnifications. This one looks much better, even if it were garbled by youtube.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hey Dems: why use bleeding-edge formats from Microsoft?

I went to see the SCHEDULE of speakers at the Democratic National Convention. This information could be related in plain text. What do I get? A notice that I have to download and install a brand new proprietary format from Microsoft. I'm left out of the Big Tent.

Linear exploration of Mandelbrot fractal space.

This is an animation representing an exploration of the Mandelbrot fractal set in a different fashion that usual. Here, I'm moving across the coordinate space, and showing the same field of view at multiple magnifications at the same time.

This animation I believe taught me more about the fractal set than any other one I've worked on.

I've actually posted versions of the same animation posted at both youtube and vimeo. I'm trying to figure out if one service does a better job than the other with image quality.

Exploration of fractal space in Mandelbrot set from pterandon on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Liberal media vs. God, III: Accepting Christ undoes hate

Here's a remarkable testimony that was part of NPR's This I Believe series. It is remarkable because it is an inspiring story from the woman who was the naked, screaming girl in that iconic picture of a napalm victim from the Vietnam War. She spent some time fostering hatred in her heart but eventually found a way to faith in Christ and love. I think this is remarkable also because it's on NPR, and you know, the media is liberal and liberals hate God, right?

Several days after, I realized that I was in the hospital, where I spent 14 months and had 17 operations.

It was a very difficult time for me when I went home from the hospital. Our house was destroyed; we lost everything and we just survived day by day.

Although I suffered from pain, itching and headaches all the time, the long hospital stay made me dream to become a doctor. But my studies were cut short by the local government. They wanted me as a symbol of the state. I could not go to school anymore.

The anger inside me was like a hatred as high as a mountain. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal because I was not normal. I really wanted to die many times.

I spent my daytime in the library to read a lot of religious books to find a purpose for my life. One of the books that I read was the Holy Bible.

In Christmas 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It was an amazing turning point in my life. God helped me to learn to forgive — the most difficult of all lessons. It didn't happen in a day and it wasn't easy. But I finally got it.

Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.

Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness.

If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary's convention speech-- highs and lows

As an Obama supporter, I had grown to dislike Hillary during the campaign. Tonight, however, Hillary gave a rousing speech. It was a great unifying speech-- are you in it for me, or for the Marine stuck in Iraq, for the children with no health care, etc? I thought to myself, all hard feelings are over, the work to build up the party goes forward, etc.

Then CNN found an African-American woman on the convention floor and asked her what she thought of the speech. She started off by saying that it was surely a Presidential caliber speech. She said it was a tragedy for Hillary to have been held back because she is a woman. Then when asked about her voting, she said, "Would you put a new Harvard graduate as CEO?" She was reluctant to vote for Obama. It kind of put a sharp chill on the warm feelings that Hillary had just generated.

Then I guess I went back to square one with Hillary. I felt she stayed in the campaign longer to a destructive extent for her personal ambition. Somehow, I'm wondering during what part of the campaign this woman formed her opinion of Obama-- was it during this latter portion?

I went back to thinking of Clinton as someone with selfish personal ambition.

MSNBC, PBS Convention coverage

On these two networks, I saw groups of talking heads blathering about how there wasn't any attacks on McCain. I remembered Lessig's plea for the networks to actually cover the convention. Then I switched to CNN and immediately heard Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer give a real zinger. He said that we wouldn't have enough oil to get out of this crisis if we drilled in all the backyards that John McCain doesn't even know he has! It's perhaps not a vote-switching argument for independents, but the blathering idiots on the other networks weren't even covering the speech!

Thank you CNN!

International Olympic Committee yanks protest of Tibet

According to a slashdot article, the IOC asked youtube to take down a video that protested China's actions in Tibet. The tacky thing about the complaint is that the IOC complained about use of the olympic logo in the protest. (We're not convinced, IOC!) Youtube caved. Apparently vimeo has not yet done so. Here's the clip.

NYC Chinese Consulate Projection Action 08.07.08 from Students for a Free Tibet on Vimeo.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Using povray to select interesting portions of Mandelbrot fractal space

I was looking for interesting regions of the Mandelbrot fractal set. I developed an algorithm in povray to visit random points, and then determine if they were interesting or not. Basically, I was looking for a color difference in the highest magnification-- such that the difference of the lengths of the color vector were at least a certain distance. In the code below, I had previously defined a pigment "thefracpig".

#declare ready=0;

#declare lokey= <-0.540,-0.5435,0> +.25*<0.5-rand(ppp),0.5-rand(ppp),0>;

#declare pigoo=eval_pigment(thefracpig,lokey);

#declare pigoo2=eval_pigment(thefracpig,lokey+1e-11*<1,1,0>);

#declare yow=vlength(

#declare yow2=vlength(

#if (abs(yow-yow2)>0.3)

#declare ready=ready+10000;


#declare ready=ready+1;


What was interesting here is that I learned, if my limited sampling has any value, something about the geography of the Mandelbrot fractal space. I was hoping I'd find all kinds of little Mandelbrot nurseries-- the kinds of places where the characteristic "overlapping spheres" were being birthed. This is the kinds of places that in my experience makes the kind of art that folks like to see posters made out of. Instead I found lots of places where the set is changing extremely rapidly. In these places of rapid change, it may be impossible to apply a color pattern to it that will have any aesthetic value. The first image below is an example of what I'm talking about.

Now, on to develop an algorithm where I can find "Mandelbrot nurseries"!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saddleback: Conservatives' beef with Christianity

A reading from Jeremiah 26:
The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD. 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the LORD's name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?" And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD's house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, "This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!"

12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: "The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing."

In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the national priests had a metric for authentic words from the Lord. If the words were for the city, they were okay. If the words called the people of the city to repentance, they were naturally against the national religion and its speaker worthy of death. Do we have a similar metric today among practitioners of national religion?

The "Lutheran Zephyr" blog has this remarkable analysis of the recent debate between McCain and Obama at Saddleback, the church of Rick Warren. He quotes from the CNN transcript of the event.

Here's McCain's answer to the question of evil:
WARREN: How about the issue of evil. I asked this of your rival, in the previous debate. Does evil exist and, if so, should [we] ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century -- radical Islamic extremism.

Not long ago in Baghdad, al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is. And we're going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battle, is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq and we are winning and succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and with victory and not in defeat. And that's what's happening.

And we have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we're in a long struggle. But when I'm around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.

Here's Obama's response:
WARREN: OK, we've got one last time -- I've got a bunch more, but let me ask you one about evil. Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?

OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.

WARREN: In the name of good.
OBAMA: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that's very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good.

WARREN: OK. All right.

Before I get started in my commentary on these responses, let me affirm that I support the churches faithfully following documents like evangelicals' The Lausanne Covenant and the Lutherans' Book of Concord. If persons in such churches have something to teach me, even about public policy, I'm all ears. What gets under my skin, however, is when folks settle for a nominal subscription to the documents but are ultimately about affluence and personal peace. (Two things that Francis Schaeffer, evangelical theologian, excoriated Christians for in his writings.)

One thing that Obama will probably not do is leave folks alone in their affluence and personal peace.

If you know anything about Christian doctrine, there's a marked difference in the theologies of these two men as expressed in the above quotes. Obama sees evil as something in all of us. McCain readily identifies evil with the enemy of the nation-state and dresses his military campaign against them in theological rhetoric that should make believers shudder.

It's sad that so few did.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The kind of pranks that mimes must play.

Today, I was just imagining what kind of pranks you could play on friends if you were a really good mime. I guess that mimes learn how to create the illusion of mass. They could take a small empty box, and carry it out in public like it's really heavy. Then if they were to throw it at someone, I'm imagining it could give their friends a real start.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A look at the junk mail going to ""

Mailinator is a web site that offers you free "inbox" email. Make up any userid at all-- "heydude" or "frompresidentbushtogreg" -- and you can go to mailinator to look for mail that has been sent to them. So if you've got an acquaintance that you fear may be a flake or a scammer-- you can make up an address on the spot without having to give out your real address.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Musings about the Netflix Prize

The Netflix Prize is a contest by the movie distribution company Netflix. The goal is to come up with the best algorithm for predicting a user's future preferences in movies based on the ratings he or she has given to previously viewed movies. I have a really good idea for this but am too lazy and busy to invest the time in trying it out. So I'm posting it here.

First of all, I would state what I imagine is a typical and very poor movie rating system. If one rates a handful of movies, the algorithm decides which genre is your favorite. Then it suggests to you the most popular movies from your favorite genres. Lame lame lame LAME!

My idea involves concentrating on what I believe are the most important ratings for determining a user's actual heart in movies. These ratings are when a user has very different likes for different movies in a trilogy or a series that are nominally the same. Suppose someone loved Star Wars Episode Three (5 stars) but hated Star Wars Episode Two (1 star). For the lame algorithm described previously, it would merely average 1 and 5 stars to get 3 stars for the user's general preference for the science fiction genre. I say that the few places where one really sees how a user feels about film are shown when they have unexpectedly different ratings for nominally similar films. Supppose you love Dr. No but hate From Russia With Love, suppose you love the Joel episodes of Mystery Science Theatre but hate the Mike and Mrs. Forrester ones. That says everything about your tastes. My algorithm would ignore most of the ratings except these differentiating ones from series, and go seek out other users who had done the same. Then my algo would serve the user with films which were 5-star rated from these similar users.

That I believe is a winning algorithm.