art history

I’ve been rather ignorant of this discipline, and only saw categorization of historical style progressions as a taxonomic exercise. Over the years as I listened to classical music, I’ve gained at least one understanding of why there is a progression — something rooted in human expectation and its motivic innovation, I suppose (some fascinating papers on the subject of aesthetics here and here). But why this particular progression was never clear. Perhaps there was no rhyme or reason, I thought, just a coincidence.

So lately I’ve been considering whether there is some organization to better understand some milestones of (Western) art history, which get period labels like:

premodern, classicist, medieval, renaissance, baroque, rationalist, romantic, modern, and postmodern.
(Read the article)

kinect and smart input devices

The Kinect hardware seems to be in high demand at the moment, perhaps for a good reason. Smart input devices such as beamforming microphone arrays, vision-algorithmic 3d scanners, and the like are finally moving out of research labs. Given the right software, these can do quite sophisticated things… even an ordinary webcam can acquire 3d models, so these can only be better.

The nice thing about these input devices is that they don’t require anything special in terms of hardware — maybe a duplicity of some parts, but not expensive ones — all the smarts are in software. This can only mean two things: the devices will get smarter and smarter as time goes on, and, they will (soon) become standard parts of computers (and indeed, all devices), enabling a new field of naturally human-interactive applications. Definitely something to look forward to.

death of Encarta

Here’s an interesting article about the shutting down of Encarta, the Microsoft published encyclopedia product, and implications for the media/information/publishing landscape at large.

At first, I thought it was the CD version that was being shut down, but no, it’s the online version; apparently the former, along with many Microsoft Home products (some were classics), had long been discontinued. Incidentally, I’ve used the CD product, but never the online product — I’ve been aware of it because it comes up in searches, but since it’s just the CD version put online, I’m not surprised it is meeting the same fate. It just goes to show that whatever process is driving traditional publishing into the ground is rather far along.
(Read the article)

daylight savings time

… is a stupid idea. Yes, daylight is nice to have, but then go to work from 7 to 4 instead of 8 to 5. The only reason to change the clocks instead of changing schedules is because changing schedules (and habits in general) is hard. So we must pretend 7AM is 8AM. In fact, as long as artificial lighting exists, having a non-symmetric waking schedule will always be the norm, I argue. If daylight savings time existed year-round, people would start going to work at 9AM, and end up with no savings of daylight at all. Why don’t I break all my light bulbs and start getting up at 4AM and going to bed at 8PM. That maximizes daylight usage not to mention you see both sunrise and sunset. Sounds good to me. Why doesn’t everybody do that?