Weekly Head Voices #139: Luna.

Well hello there friends!

We have just returned from a ridiculously enjoyable holiday in The Drakensberg, or uKhahlamba in isiZulu.

More specifically, we started in Giant’s Castle, the place of no internet mentioned in the previous edition of the WHV, and also the subject of that post’s main image, but we spent the largest part of the week at Cathedral Peak.

Due to it having been holiday and all, the rest of this post will follow the trusty old bullet list form.

  • The mountainous surroundings are stunningly beautiful.
  • At Giant’s Peak we did the short hike to the main caves to see rock art by the San people. According to the guide the paintings we saw range in age between 100 and 3000 years. Here are two examples:
  • We did more hikes in the mountains. GOU#3, who just turned 2, was a trooper, relatively speaking. We will never again mention all of the kilometres that we had to carry her.
  • I squeezed in a number of trail runs. It’s a badly kept secret that I have absolutely no sense of direction. This, together with the routes finding themselves at 1400m altitude, made for challenging but awe-inspiring trips.
  • On the way back home, we stopped in Durban for the most amazing curries at The Oyster Box. Me = blown away.
  • At the airport, that thing I said would never happen to me, happened to me. At the security check, we discovered that I had forgotten my trusty Leatherman Wave multi-tool in my backpack, and my trusty Gerber Dime mini multi-tool in my trouser pocket. In a massively pleasant surprise turn of events, I was able to go back out through security, where the amazingly helpful British Airways check-in attendant calmly packaged up the offending tools in a spare box, labeled it, and sent it through with the checked baggage, and to return to my people all in the space of about 15 minutes.
  • We hit a thunderstorm, initially undetected by the weather radar, on our way back to Cape Town for some of the scariest turbulence I’ve ever experienced.
    • At one point, the plane dove so hard that the Kindle lying on my lap (I’m halfway through Mastery by George Leonard, thanks Leif for the recommendation!) flew up into the air, made a slow-motion arc and came crashing down on the floor.
    • It was at this point that a large number of passengers involuntarily panic-shouted, adding to the atmosphere.
    • I myself could not show any external signs of fear, primarily because I needed to comfort GOU#1, who sat next to me, and is now old enough to appreciate the potential risks of the situation we found ourselves in, but also because I had to fit in my behaviour with the narrative that YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO TRUST THE ENGINEERS.
  • During our time away, these puppies had finally made their way through customs ($115 in total for Luna Mono 2.0 sandals + tabi socks, $66 SA import duties ouch):

Yes friends, they are Huarache-style running sandals, in which you go running.

My friend Stéfan sent me a message on Signal shortly after WHV #134, but before I had even started reading Born to Run.

Besides sporting best-in-class encryption, his message was suavely convincing:

Charl, let me bring you a pair of the magical sandals that I run in.

I was not able to purge the thought of running free like that.

When I finally realised that it was only a question of time, I decided not to wait any longer than necessary, and ordered them directly.

This morning I started with a short run, just to see what it was like, and to start acclimatising.

It was exactly like I had been dreaming for the past two nights.

Time will have to tell, but at this very moment, I’m not sure if I’ll want to run in normal running shoes again.

Ubik on the beach, please. [Weekly Head Voices #54]

At least part of this post was conceived right on this balcony over here:

One day, I wish to own such a balcony.

Yes friends, that there right in front of us is the beach, and right in front of that the North Sea, and right over that the beautiful setting sun. We will definitely be going back there, it’s just that awesome spending a few days right on the sand.

During my vacation, I had time to to spend some of it with one of my favourite authors, the late but fantastically great Philip K. Dick. Those of you with some culture will immediately think of VALIS, a masterpiece that he wrote after becoming more or less psychotic in 1974. The rest will go Ah! when I explain that Bladerunner, Total Recall , Minority Report and many more movies are based on his work. This time I visited Ubik, a book he wrote in 1969, chock-full of precogs, telepaths, anti-psis and the whole idea that your current reality might not be the only or even the most authentic reality. After reading this with great enjoyment, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dick might have been functionally psychotic for a longer time, but somehow was able to channel this masterfully into his truly psychedelic writing.

Ubik drops you back in the thick of things fast. Taken as directed, Ubik speeds relief to head and stomach. Remember: Ubik is only seconds away. Avoid prolonged use.

In other extremely significant happenings, genetic offspring #2 spontaneously started walking independently on Monday, August 8, 2011. Just to prove a point, she started doing dance moves during walking on the same day. Picture this: Little person, head and eyes disproportionately big and hence super cute, walking like a beginner across the room and then stopping halfway to do a little swinging-hips-jig. My cuteness-appreciation gland just about burst.

We’ve now also acquired the pinnacle of human transportation technology:

Say hello to your transportation future, humankind!

Yes people not from Holland, that’s a really weird three-wheeled bicycle with a huge wooden container on the front. Here it’s called a BAKFIETS. You fill the wooden container with kids (I’ve tested up to 4, works like a charm) or crates of beer (I’m soon going to test), fit the tent if it’s raining, and then cycle anywhere. It’s silent and does infinite miles to the gallon! I did get some funny looks when I cycled the 15 kilometres from Bergschenhoek, where we bought this baby, to Delft, but that might have been the fact that it was pitch dark at a time, and I had that crazy I-just-bought-a-bakfiets-and-I-will-cycle-her-home-come-hell-or-high-water look in my eye. Whatever the case may be, I can only very highly recommend this form of transport.

Alright kids, that’s it for now. I’m doing pomodori left and right, but The Man keeps on piling on more work. It’s especially funny how just about every research grant programme worth its salt has its deadline right about now. One day I’m going to stick it to The Man I tell you!

P.S. This weekend, I’ll not be working on research grant proposals at a truly wonderful event with some suitably wonderful people.

Island Style [Weekly Head Voices #27]

(This post introduces the new Weekly Head Voices Nerd Index, or WHV-NI, a metric by which you can see if you should read a post or not. See this page for an explanation of the WHV-NI. The NI of the first part of this post is 0/5, whilst the NI of the part starting with the accepted paper is 3/5, also due to the extensive Head Voices Review at the end.)

Kids, I’m still here! It just that the holiday season is here, and I’m feeling all strange, but I’m super-busy, mostly because I have to put oodles of time into a cool new augmented reality project for the new computer science first years that will be arriving in the first week of September. There’s also the complicated issue of WHV-regularity vs. worthwhile content: I really like entering your visual cortex on a weekly basis, but I prefer doing so with at least some kernel of information value.

We spent some fantastic quality time, perfectly scheduled right in the middle of the Dutch heat-wave (harr harr), on Texel, beautiful little island on the North Sea. Here it is on the map:

View Larger Map

… and here it is in real life:

One fabulous unit of my genetic offspring running on what appears to be our private beach on the island, but wasn't. It was just that nice.

Here’s a nice path on that same island, just because I hope it makes you all nostalgic and pensive:

This photo makes you feel like you should go somewhere mystical, right? Photos of mysterious paths on islands do have that tendency. Check out those clouds, man...

I can do nothing but very strongly recommend that you visit an island when the weather is perfect.

(WARNING, NERD INDEX 3/5 starts here!)

In other great news, Stef’s paper on example-based exploration of multi-fields was accepted by the journal Computers & Graphics. Get it, read it, CITE IT:

S. Busking, C. P. Botha, and F. H. Post, Example-based interactive illustration of multi-field datasets, Computers & Graphics, 2010.

In spite of the fact that my TPN has not yet been able to deliver that jingle he promised, the Head Voices Review simply has to discuss a number of items that have recently been extensively analysed and, err, reviewed. We make use of the proven HVR classification system:

  • Samsung SyncMaster P2370 23 inch 1920×1080 (HD) screen for my home workstation at € 185 including shipping: AWESOME. Many many pixels. Two browsers adjacent.
  • Philips GoGear Ariaz MP3 player with 8G memory at € 70: MOSTLY AWESOME. I can copy music to AND FROM the player on Linux and Windows, no extra software required. Sound quality great, good in-ears. It’s a shame that the slightest perturbation to the ear-phone plug causes audible disturbance, so no carrying this in your super-tight Mika jeans pockets.
  • Sony PS3 Eye USB camera at € 40: AWESOME. Based on a number of websites, we got this camera at work for doing augmented reality work, and oh my, is it fast! Just to make it an even more attractive deal, the lens is adjustable between 54 and 75 defrees of field of view.
  • Nokia E71 at any price: DIVINELY AWESOME. Many of you know that I love my phone.  We’ve been together for almost two years now, and I thought that I might be falling out of love, until I ordered a new battery. Once again it manages 4 days on a single charge. Other smartphone users come to me with jumper leads when they run out of juice, and then I just smile as I jump-start their pitiful fruit-themed bricks. I have also temporarily stopped lusting after the latest and greatest Android-running keyboard-toting battery-draining super-phones. Together with the battery life, the keyboard makes this e71 the ideal phone for the socially-adept, attractive nerd with stamina. YEAH.

So boys and girls, that’s it for this week’s edition. I have to go jump-start some phones, and also do a bit of work on a slightly longer term blog project that I hope to finish sometime in the next few weeks: It’s a post called “The Human Animal Post” and with it I hope to perturb, ever so gently, some of your brain cells.