Mike Beversluis

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thesis update

You shouldn't care, but just in case: I estimate I am this close to done:


Earlier, I said I was posting here as a way to divert the dross from entering my refined thesis prose. Said dross is now being shoveled directly into the thesis. I've really had it up to here with dyadic Green's functions, tip-particle plasmon resonances, intraband metal photoluminescence, ultrafast nonlinear optics, and single molecule and quantum dot fluorescence and absorption imaging of either the far field or near-field variety. Mothers, don't let your kids grow up to be grad students. Seriously, it's totally not worth it.


Friday, November 26, 2004

[Review] Primer, by Shane Carruth (2004)

Primer, by Shane Carruth (2004)

I have to confess that I have understood less than half of what is going on in this movie, because the actors speak in a tight american accent and at warp speed. But I think I have understood something, and I shall talk about that :-)

It is a home-made science fiction movie - the author proudly talks about having done it with just $ 7000. It has been filmed in 16 mm, by the way.

The plot is based on time travel. A group of friends has a small startup company, which they manage in their free time. While they tinker with one of the devices they have built, they realize that the gadget has some peculiar properties ... The attempt to take advantage of these properties will bring chaos to their world.

Despite the chaoticity of the movie, I think that it is worth watching it. First thing first, if you ever watch it please explain it to me!
Besides this it seems to me that the director attempts to enter the vortex of intricacies generated by the "time travel" theme. At a certain point the representation of the sense of anxiety and confusion that takes hold of the protagonists when they realize they cannot anymore manage the situation seems to me effective (I hope that the same confusion did not take hold of the director as well, I was sure confused). Besides, there is a subtle game, in my opinion, between the common run of everyday things and the depth of the concepts that the characters must debate; I would like to check this with someone else that has seen the movie: in fact the "common run of things" is the only option for a film-maker with a budget of $7000. As a last note, it is one of the few movies which I have seen in which the feeling of "not having enough time to solve all of the problems" is transmitted in a sharp and anguishing way.

OK, now I want to leave a hard task to the next reviewer (if there will be a next reviewer, that is): please find out if my praises make any sense, if I have just used my imagination because the movie got me too confused or if, once that the plot is absorbed and has sunk in, the movie really deserves praise.


Thanksgiving, coming to a table near you

Thanksgiving, like a viral infection, is spilling beyond American shores. Bow before our culinary and cultural hegemony. [cough] Of course, you'd expect the relatively like-minded anglosphere to slide into the abyss first, but watch out, you neighbors to the Sud - you with your religious and family-oriented culture(s); You're next. It's kinda like reverse killer bees.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I am a tool, so I am working. On Thankgiving. For the second year in a row. Welcome to academia. But best wishes to you, etc. By the way, can you think of a better reason to kill a turkey and eat its delicious flesh than the fact that Moby doesn't want you to?

See also, Turducken, for three times the sentient-being killing goodness.

Update: That turducken = 4x the killing madness, since there's sausage in them thar hills. Although you could have sausage in your normal turkey stuffing, which would make turducken 2x more genocidially delicious. Your call, Hitler.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Still life at the Institute of Optics 11

"If I were able to bounce my head up and down 30 times a second, at a rate faster than my eye can measure, I would see constant fringes. You can try it if you want." – Professor Tom Brown


Solar power

This article on solar heated Sterling engines is kinda neat. (via Engadget) I'm not sure that this offers a better way out for our energy needs than nuclear, but at least it's a different approach than silicon. Look, argue all you want about alternative energy sources but realize these facts - it's not going to work with silicon because the efficiency has never been more than a few percent. I have difficulty believing any numbers over 10%. Also, realize that these are expensive, but (bonus) degrade with time. It's like trying to build a Pentium with vacuum tubes. Certain devices don't scale, and wishing won't make it so.

Also, the article doesn't mention one of the biggest problems with solar power - the need for energy storage. Electrical power consumption must be instantaneously met. If you have a turbine running to make your electricity, the moment you turn on a lamp, there is a new drag force on that turbine, which represents the power load of your lamp. Now, in a hot and air-conditioned places like Las Vegas or Los Angeles, solar energy supply and demand coincide in place and time. And so if these Sterling engines can be mass produced cheaply, and with a long enough service life so that they can be implemented in quantity, then in these markets solar energy can supplement more instantaneous-demand energy sources, like nuclear or hydroelectic. But they won't obviate the need for such sources either. People use power at night - lots of it, and there is no mechanism which allows solar power, or any other source of power, to be generated at one point in time, and then used later in the quantites we need or at a price we can afford.

Machine Intended for Killing and Exploration


Monday, November 22, 2004

Stupid Republican tricks

The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then gets elected and proves it.
- P.J. O'Rourke

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Tom Waits and Merle Travis

Listening to one of the songs of Tom Waits reminded me of "Sixteen tons", by Merle Travis; both rhythm and melody.
What style does this music belong to?


Real gone

Ah, Tom Waits - have you ever produced an album that isn't worth a listen? Okay, I can't stand Black Rider, but everything else is brilliant. The reviewers say you're difficult, but whose fault is
it if you don't understand a genius? From my own personal experience, I tell you what, it's not the genius's fault. Okay, you do go overboard sometimes, it's all "Growl! [boom] Grr Grr Rah Groan! [bam]!" I know it's too far because I know what I like. But that beginning big beat at the start of Shake it, the one that's more pondermotive than percussive, that thing could cure cancer. You kinda wander off it, not unlike JSBX. Actually, there is the fairest comparison I can think off. Take grittly old blues, and then swagger and strut your way through a wall of distortion on top of a GZA beat.

However, as much fun as it is to keep the neighbors awake, I like the slow melancholy stuff better. Like Sins of my Father, or Dead and Lovely, and How's It Gonna End. These songs are very reminiscent of All the World is Green, from Blood Money. People say they're repetitive, since it's not a Tom Waits album till someone's getting hanged, but I think they're more evocative than anything. When you think of it, what in human existence isn't repetitive? So of course our stories are too, and music as drenched in cultural mythologies as Stager Lee being interviewed by Joseph Campbell about what he thinks of Genesis. Genesis the book of the Bible, not Genesis the band with Phil Collins, although, with the fervor some people have for the 80's, it probably doesn't make that much difference. But I guess that's how I'd approach a Tom Waits record, and furthermore, I think these songs would make a really, really, good soundtrack.

Grade: A

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Germany caves (a little)

Germany announces international plan to slash Iraqi debt (AFP) , via Brothers Judd.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I don't think that's what they had in mind

Hey, Mr. Army guy, this is not what ANSWER had in mind at all, and you're really not being helpful with such suggestions. (h/t ChicagoBoyz)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The most interesting thing I've read in awhile

From a longer Belmont Club entry comes a quotation of an interview with Paul Wolfowitz

One of the things about this moment in history is that nobody really thinks they can produce an army, a navy or an air force that can take on the US. That should channel human competitiveness into more productive and peaceful pursuits.

Just workin' on my persecution complex

From the department of no kidding, Captain Obvious is here to tell us that "Republicans are outnumbered in academia." Well that is true. But why is it so? Because Republicans are dumb, dumb, dumb; And don't you forget it, if that tiny little brain of yours is even capable of that much. I mean, it takes a lot of brain power to come up with shit like this. A lot.

Random thoughts

1) Sam Cooke kicks ass.

2) So does George W. Bush, who has real ultimate power (like Ninjas and other things).

3) Writing here is indeed zero sum with writing my thesis, but my idea is that the dross goes here, while the refined gold goes into the thesis, see? Didn't you get that feeling already?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

One of our own is in trouble

Let us all wish John Lesoine a speedy recovery. God bless you man; God bless.

UPDATE: For those of you out of the inner circle, that's totally meant in a sarcastic way, cause, it's like a super burn to compare John to Vincent D'Onofrio.

Now that's what I call: Take that Florida 3!

The latest results from the governor's race in Washington state has Rossi ahead by 19 (!) votes! (!) See, I told you Washinton state was Florida's antepode. (1,2)

Monday, November 15, 2004

This is cool

Rad. Rip a cheap-o 15" LCD monitor apart, stick it on top of an overhead projector, and bingo, your own shoe-string LCD projector. Brightness? Contrast? Uh, parley vous 1-2 orders of magnitude cheaper? (via Engadget)

It just hit me

Both werenotsorry.com and sorryeverybody.com have gone down/are slow due to traffic. Which means that, even in this arena, there is a standoff and the two sides are tied, just like bitter, bitter political gulf that divides the country.

Well, by tied, I mean one side controls all of the branches of federal government, and features prominently in all levels of most state governments as well. Although that's sorta the minor leagues.

Carville smashes an egg on his head

As promised by the title of this post, here is a picture of James Carville smashing an egg on his head, live on national TV. Which is less funny ha ha, and more like, funny ha.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The last election map post, I swear

Well, the last one this year at least: I think the 3-d map here is actually a little easier to understand than the distorted cartograms here. Anyway, this certainly is the last election map post I''ll put up this month.

UPDATE: Um, the last one this week?

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Mike's gallery of materialism 2

Oh Ekornes, how could I have forgotten you! Don't worry, it will never happen again, I promise.

Note - if you're a stereo/AV geek, like moi, and you spent all that money on some killer system, then you need an equally killer seat upon which to plant your fat ass. Ekornes chairs rule, and once you get the real Scandinavian furniture, you can totally lord it over Ikea dorks.

Friday, November 12, 2004

A spontaneous thought

Just thought I'd mention that both John and I are very eligible bachelors. No reason - just sayin' is all. Hey ladies.

An undesirable mixture

Yes, yes he is Roberto

Hey John - say whatever you like, but trust me, you do indeed resemble Roberto. At least, Roberto more than Travolta. I mean, seriously.

John's hat

The hat that I wear is called a "berritta". It is the traditional hat of Sardinia, where I, JTS, come from. You can have a better look at the berritta here:


(click on "ingrandisci" on the right to magnify the picture) and at the costumes here:

http://www.sarnow.com/sardinia/costu1.htm .

But I am not Roberto ...

A smiling JTS

Still life at the Institute of Optics 10

"Our carpet was supposedly cleaned - but there's cleaning the carpet, and then there's getting the carpet wet and pushing the dirt around." - Proffesor Robert Boyd

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Let the pissing contest begin!

Sorry? Not Sorry? Pick your poison: Blue vs Red.

In case you're having trouble getting sorryeverybody.com to load, Sorry people have their own mirror - of sorts. Tee hee.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

This is bad

This is very, very, very NC-17: SILENCE!: Silence of the Lambs: the Musical.

Also funny. Via Ace. But you've been warned. Also, the sentence above has 3 colons. Is that okay? Saying something has three colons certainly sounds bad. And on that note I'll exit: Stage right

UPDATE: Holy shit, this is funny! - GI Jew!

Rochester drivers

I can imagine getting flustered your first time out during driver ed and just through bad luck, pulling something goofy in front of a cop. Which is funny in a when-it's-happening-to-someone-else way, but when there are two cop cars boxing in "Ed's Driving School"'s Ford Escort... that can't be good.

Just reiterating for the 1000000 time

Like everyone else, Autoblog points out that the new mustang is awesome, and I will point out that I want one. Furthermore, I saw one driving around for the first time yesterday, and it ruled.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Grudging respect for industry

Riffing off this post on Jane Galt

Working in optics allows me to sit on the fence between engineering and science. In principal this sounds like you can reap the best of both worlds - In practice, you tend to look like the enemy to both camps.

Anyhoo, my definition of engineering is that it's science that works more than 1% of the time. Another name for this is fake science. Things are known, and you just need "Technical refinements" to build a product. But there are techinical refinements and there are technical refinement. Making something work half the time instead of 1% is generally easy. Making something work, say Toyota amount of time, is amazingly hard.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004


I always thought being forced to listen to Matchbox 20 was torture. Bastards!

Black boxes

AutoWeek has a nice article [link] describing the rather large amount of information your (relatively new) car is collecting and recording whilst you motor blithly about. Of course, in Europe, they've stuck cameras everywhere and tickets are automatically mailed to you. Next thing you know, pre-cogs will be handing out speeding tickets for your future deviations from set procedure. Don't run - If you strugle it will only make it harder.

Scaled nonlinear election maps

Scaled nonlinear election maps! Get yer scaled nonlinear election maps, right here! (h/t Guillaume)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Still life at the Institute of Optics 9

Kevin Charles: "Ah! A Fourier transform. We can do these because we're optics bad asses!"
Jason Puth: "No, not really. If we were a biker gang, I would be the guy in the little sidecar."

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Special prosecutors, anyone?

You can talk about the Democrats in the wilderness leading to painful self-evaluation. I kinda doubt this will set the tone. Rather, I expect to hear many, many calls for investigations into Plame, Enron, Intelligence failures, etc. Does anyone know who controls this? Besides the DoJ, of course - but what's the procedure?

John F Buckner

SoxBlog makes the Kerry=Buckner analogy, which I, ahem, made a few months ago. Yes, how brilliantly prescient of me to link a Boston-area politician to the Red Sox's most infamous national stage meltdown, but when you do it wit mad-photoshop skilz, well, I guess I'm compelled to point it out ad nauseum. Konichiwa, bitches.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election day diversionary activities

I suppose I can always disapear from the swirl of current events around me into my own little thesis writing world; you know, the magical land of angular spectrum Fourier decompositions and electrochemcial tip etching procedures. But what about you, dear readers? Here at Mike Beversluis, it's all about you. Well no, it isn't, but pretend it is for the purposes of this post.

How shall you amuse yourself without reference to exit poll demagraphics? Why not:

Find out your cyborg name.

Learn how ninjas fold their shirts.

Sincer rock-paper-scissors is too easy, play rock-paper-scissors-Spock-Lizard instead.

Clean pennies with taco sauce.

Glue foam bits to gether, and bring MC Escher to life.

So, if this is a record high turnout, does that mean voters are the opposite of apathetic, ie pathetic? Is that supposed to be a good thing?