Saturday, January 30, 2010

It is undeniable: we are living in the future.

posted by Joe Ardent @ 4:11 PM

When I came back to the US in 2008 (the year 2008 is IN THE PAST), I got a phone with a new-to-me phone number. The previous owner of that number is some Spanish-speaking dude who owes a lot of businesses a lot of money, so occasionally, I get calls that are related to that. I wanted to block the number of one that did robo-calls (PHONE CALLS, MADE BY ROBOTS), so I initiated a real-time chat session with a support human who could have been in India. Here is a partial transcript of that session:

~William D: May we please know why you would like to block calls?

Joe Ardent: Because once upon a time, my phone number belonged
to someone else who, as it turns out, is a very, very bad credit
risk, and since I've had the phone, his creditors have called
me. Also, he seemed to only speak Spanish.

~William D: We do apologize for that. It must be frustrating
when your handset has calls coming in that are not welcome.

Joe Ardent: You correctly infer how that must feel.

I know Christopher appreciates the irony that sending text with a phone is considered high-tech, since the bandwidth required for voice is so much higher than for text. And yet, it really is super high-tech, since it requires so much base tech to support, such as good batteries and very cheap, very low-power electronic memory (not to mention the enormous radio-tower and fiber-optic underground cable infrastructure to handle the traffic). It's completely insane.

Originally, I just wanted to show off my dry wit with a tech support person, but the very fact that I was able to preserve a perfect record of the transaction made me think of all the other crap.

The fact that I'm still so awed by all this is the strongest indicator that I am old :)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Because I can

posted by Joe Ardent @ 10:00 PM

Sometimes, you just want to.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Update from America; shit I won't be patenting

posted by Joe Ardent @ 1:14 PM

So, we've been in San Francisco for a little over three weeks. It feels like we've been here for much longer, but really, three weeks is not that long a period of time. As expected, we miss our Wellington friends terribly, but we've been muddling through.

We've been looking for a place to live, and it's been really difficult. There were a couple places we really wanted, but one fell through not unexpectedly, and the other was a total blue-balling con job. That is, we were told the place was ours to refuse, we said we wanted it almost immediately, and then we were rejected with no explanation.

The job front has also been frustrating. Kris thought there was a job waiting for her, but it turns out that it's not happening for a few months. I've interviewed at a couple places, one of which does not have a good position for me (this was expected), and the other of which would be perfect, but they have institutional issues which are preventing them from making an offer at the moment; I've been told to "sit tight". This is mildly irritating, but not overwhelmingly so. It's also possible that our employment status is a turn-off for prospective landlords, though we are flush with cash. We have rental packets that include a bank statement to show that we can pay their dang rent.

WARNING: extreme geekery follows.

OK! Enough of the bitching. I've been meaning to post something about some ideas I have for human-computer interfaces for a while, but since I'm looking for work, the issue has gotten a little pressing: I want to get this out, so that the ideas are not appropriated by any future employers. This also stands as a public record of the ideas, in case there are patent issues; I want this stuff in the public domain.

First, some background. There are a couple of consumer-class EEG machines due to be hitting the market soon. There's NeuroSky and Emotiv Systems. EEGs read brainwaves, and are not exactly new technology. What makes these devices special is their price, which should eventually be less than $200, and the fact that you don't need to carefully place the electrodes on your skull using conductive gel. You just put on a headband or helmet or something like that, and you're good to go. This lowers the barrier to use significantly.

The second bit of background has to do with how I believe the mind works, and especially with how it interfaces with our senses. You may have read about people that developed a magnetic sense by implanting small magnets in their fingers. There was a guy that wore a belt that imparted an absolute directional sense, and let's not forget the phenomenon of seeing with your tongue, where a grid of mechanical or electrical pixels is placed on the tongue and driven by a camera. As you use it, after about half an hour, your brain just starts interpretting that input as visual data, and you can actually navigate around and recognize objects while blindfolded.

All these things point to a cognitive theory popularized by a guy named Jeff Hawkins, who wrote a book called On Intelligence. In it, he articulates and defends a theory of cognition, that the cortex (the wrinkly part of the brain, the part that makes mammmals so smart) operates with one fundamental algorithm: it recognizes temporal patterns of pulses from the sensory system and itself. So, as long as a certain stimulus produces a characteristic and repeated pattern, the brain will learn to interpret that pattern as a true sense. There's no difference between a pattern of pulses coming from the tongue and the pattern of pulses coming from your eyes; as long as they are consistent and driven by photon-sensing instruments, your brain can use them to see. (This is a pretty drastic simplification of Hawkins' thesis: I'm omitting all the hierarchical nature to the patterns, but it's good enough to have context for what follows.)

OK, so, what does this have to do with using a computer? Plenty. By having a computer reading your brainstate as it interacts with you, it can learn to respond to your intentions without you having to prompt it to. Imagine the following scenario:

You are using a text-to-speech program to write a letter (or some software, or anything). The program transcribes the wrong homophone (say, "your" instead of "you're"). You see this happen, and as you do, your brainstate indicates that you're displeased/irritated/distracted. The computer then automatically erases the wrong homophone and switches to correction mode. You select the right word, and it automatically switches back to transcription mode. The key idea here is that the computer can use your brainstate to automatically switch modes in the tool that is currently being used, eg, from transcription mode to command mode, and back. This is a very powerful notion, and in a sense, is a true "computer implant"; the loop between intention and action is very tight, and since all your brain knows is pulses of data, there's no qualitative difference between that and the intention/action sequence that goes with, say, recalling an incident from episodic memory.

You can close the loop tighter, though, if you enlist more senses into the interface. Imagine that you have a system that uses your eyes to control a mouse pointer. When you want to "click" on something, the desire alone causes the action to occur. I have a dream of a software development environment like that, where it actually recognizes your brainstate to do things like bring up a definition of a variable or function, in conjunction with cursor position. Kind of like the Emacs Code Browser, but again, with modality and other actions controlled via the brain interface, always modulated by the current context. There's no reason to not combine the speech recognition with the code browser; the more of these capabilities utilized together, the more profound the immersion and the more powerful the cybernetic system that is the human/computer partnership. Eventually, the computer will act as a true enhanced memory and cognition aid, all by using non-invasive feedback.

OK, last usage scenario for this tech. There's a scene from Neal Stephenson's book, The Diamond Age, which concerns society with a crude type of advanced nanotechnology (that's not really a contradiction; non-crude advanced nano leads to the end of material scarcity, and it's hard to write a story that people can relate to in that universe, though it's not impossible). Anyway, at one point, one of the main characters is fitted with some augmented reality goggles, and he can't take them off. The goggles read his brainstate and subtly change the image of what he's seeing based on that. What happens is that as he is talking to a woman, the goggles make small random changes to the visual representation of her, and keeping the ones that result in him feeling better/attracted. What he feels is that this woman just keeps looking hotter and hotter, until he eventually realizes what's going on. Just FYI, nothing bad happens.

With that in mind, imagine that you have a computer display that is driven by a program that generates random shapes/colors/etc. By measuring your pleasure or displeasure, as well as knowing where you're looking on the screen, the computer would be able to keep the random fluctuations that please you, and get of the ones that displease. It would be like finding faces in clouds, but clouds that sensed what you were looking for and kept the patterns that fit that.

OK, still with me? I apologize for the long ramble about non-personal stuff. I wanted to get these ideas out in the open, as I said. I actually registered a domain for this stuff, which I'll eventually use to share my implementations of them: But I've not set up a server to actually serve any content, or even configured the DNS for it. Maybe with all this freetime I have, I will do that soon!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Home Again

posted by Kris Ardent @ 9:27 AM

So, we are back in America. And it hasn't disappointed at all. After spending 18 days in Thailand (amazing) and a week in Chicago (aah, so relaxing), we're back in San Francisco for good. And it's so good to be here. We're spending our time working on the details: car, housing, jobs and seeing a lot of old friends.

The weather has been lovely here. A little colder than I expected at first, but yesterday and today are perfection. Warm, sunny, a little breezy. Just heading into another summer after a lovely one in New Zealand. We did it right this time, after learning from our mistake when we moved there. Two winters is no way to go. Take my word for it. Endless summer! That is the way!

Aimee and I are catching up, watching American Idol and the terrible The Bachelor. It's so good to be here and do stupid things, like shop at Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl and in Chinatown. The first week here, we bought a half duck and used our newly acquired Thai cooking skills to make Red Curry with Roasted Duck and Som Tam (Spicy Green Papaya Salad) for Nikhila and Jeff, who are graciously caring for The Cheat and The Sneak while they recover from their travels.

We bought a car. It's a 2006 Scion xB. It's tiny and full of pep, and it gets great gas mileage. And we can park it on a postage stamp, it's so small and nimble. It's the nicest car either one of us had ever owned, and we're really enjoying zipping around the city. The only downside is that it has zero moon roofs (and you know how I loves me some moon roofs).

The job front is looking good. I already have a lead on a personal chef client, and an interview set up on Monday for a part-time administrative job with a company that works with nonprofits and philanthropic organizations to conduct needs assessment and evaluate their impact. It's feel-good work, good pay, and flexible hours from home, and the job description reads like it was written for me. So I'm excited, putting all my eggs in one basket, waiting to see if that basket blows up. Cross your fingers.

I start working for the San Francisco Food Bank on Thursday, and I'm most excited about this position. I'm going to start out as a teller, and work my way up to Vice President of New Accounts. Get it? Food bank teller? That part is a joke, although I secretly wish that could be my title. Maybe I'll get a nametag made for myself, to wear as I stack cans and assemble bags, to further enjoy my joke.

We're looking at a couple apartments today, trying to find the perfect place to settle down for at least a year. It's so hard though! There seem to be a lot of options, but each one is just shy of perfect. Staying in such a lovely temporary place isn't helping either. If we were sleeping in the car, it might be easier to settle on a rental. But Cary's place is a delightful mansion, with a motley crew of lovely people. O life, why must you be so difficult?!

We've got a lot of plans in the coming weeks, aside from job and house hunting. Tonight is Yuri's Night, celebrating Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space. There's a big party, with exhibits, lectures, art installations and music late into the night. Then it's up at 9 tomorrow for a trip to Napa with Aimee and her sister. We're going to visit Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. How could that not be cool?! I've never been, but I have high hopes.

Next weekend, we see Point Break Live!, which is a stage adaptation of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze "classic" in which Reeves plays an undercover FBI agent (FBI Special Agent John 'Johnny' Utah) charged with busting a gang of pseudo-Buddhist bank-robbing surfers. Yes, that's right. And each night, a different audience member is selected (after an extensive audition process) to play the role of Johnny, reading all his lines from cue cards, just as Keanu did in the original film. I can't fucking wait.

I love you, San Francisco. You rule.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ze plane! Ze plane!

posted by Joe Ardent @ 11:39 PM

Why, you might wonder, am I referencing Tattoo? For a very good reason! Look at what I got last night:

Yeah, I got that as a real tattoo. It comes from the last panel of this Dinosaur Comic. Our friend Kevin gave me the tattoo; he used to own a shop, and as you can see, he's incredibly good. Francisco and me were the first tattoos he's made in three years. Not too bad, Kevin! Anyway, I got the tattoo so that I'd have a little guardian T-Rex on my shoulder, encouraging me to follow through on my wacky schemes. I can always get a Utahraptor on my other shoulder saying, "Don't do it!" But I'll wait for that.

Anyway, other than that, we're just preparing to return to the US (we get back to San Francisco on March 29th, after six days in Chicago), and preparing to spend eighteen days in Thailand before that. OK, plus four days in and around Auckland before Thailand. We got some travelling to do in the nearish future.

We're both looking forward to getting back to the US. I'm even allowing myself to feel hope that the US is not marching inexorably off a fascist cliff, now that Obama is kicking so much ass. But at the same time, it's going to suck to leave our friends back here in New Zealand. I know we'll see them again, but we've got a really nice, tight crew here. Damn this globe-trotting: you leave a trail of blood and broken hearts in your wake, yours included.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

We got plans!

posted by Kris Ardent @ 11:15 AM

Hello People of the World.

After 2 years in this southern hemisphere wilderness, we are planning to make our way slowly back to San Francisco. Yay!

Here is the plan:

On February 25th, globe-trotting sensations Mr. Cheat "The Cheat" Cheaterson and his sidekick Squeaky "The Sneak" Scaredypants pack their bags and head to San Francsico to live with Aunty Nikhila and Uncle Jeff until we return and find them a suitable permanent home with us. I'm hoping the pilot of their mad-cap adventure gets picked up.

On March 1st, we move out of Marine Manor and fly to Auckland for a few days of exploring the north of the north island, Bay of Islands and whatever else looks pretty.

March 5th we fly to Thailand (!) with Francisco, where there will be tigers, elephants, monkeys, cooking classes, night markets and massages. We'll be in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui on the beach, and then at The Sanctuary for a raw retreat and some full moon rave party action.

From March 23rd through March 29th, we'll be in Chicago. Can we come visit you? After we take a nap, of course. Maybe we need to have a birthday party for Joe on the 27th? He's been very good this year. I think he deserves a party. Maybe even a pony.

On March 29th, we return to San Francisco for good. For real. We're never leaving there again, even to go camping. If you want to see the Ardents, you'll know where to find us.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy earthquake news, a long-belated video, and travel news

posted by Joe Ardent @ 1:14 PM

There was an earthquake last night, a 6.8, relatively close to Wellington (within 200 miles). So, we felt it here, but there was no damage. The town that was closest, Gisborne, had some buildings collapse, but no one was hurt. I wanted to point this out because apparently there's some international media covering it, and I don't want anyone freaking out. Everything is bon, people!

In non-earthquake news, about a month ago, we had people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Well, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, as we all had to work on Thursday. But it was great. There were sixteen people at our house, which we accomodated by renting tables and chairs and dishes and silverware. We had a 23-pound turkey, which was awesome. In fact, all the food was amazing (it was kind of a pot-luck). Everyone agreed, it was the best Thanksgiving ever. But don't take my word for it; see the video!

It was also our friend Brenda's surprise baby shower (she's since given birth), hence the baby pinatas. The one that Kris and I made is the one that doesn't look quite so fetal. Oh, and also, you'll note the killer whales in the video. They happened to be swimming past our house after we ate, but before we had the pregnant woman smashing the baby pinatas. As I said, it was the best Thanksgiving ever.

In travel news, we'll be coming to California for ten days, arriving on December 23rd, and leaving on January 4th. After that, it's back to New Zealand until March, then a triumphant return to San Francisco. It will have been almost exactly two years since we left. I'll have more to say about the whole experience later, I'm sure, but Kris and I are both looking forward to coming home very much (even though we'll be sorely missing our friends here). That's the trouble with traveling: you are always going to miss someone when you leave.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007


posted by Kris Ardent @ 3:44 AM


Mmmm...pyramids are even more delicious than pies.
Something just isn't quite right here.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Your Score: Sad Cookie Cat

posted by Kris Ardent @ 1:55 PM

Your Score: Sad Cookie Cat

55% Affectionate, 40% Excitable, 75% Hungry

You are the classic Shakespearian tragedy of the lolcat universe. The sad story of a baking a cookie, succumbing to gluttony, and in turn consuming the very cookie that was to be offered. Bad grammar ensues.

To see all possible results, checka dis.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

People Make Cool Stuff With Ones and Zeroes

posted by Kris Ardent @ 3:38 PM

Spell With Flickr is kinda cool. If you ever need to make words out of images of letters, that is. This would come in handy for kidnapping, or other ransom-type capers.

R is for Roll A W


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And Jentacular Means "Pertaining to breakfast".

posted by Kris Ardent @ 5:08 AM

the worthless word for the day is: bricoleur

[F, handy-man] someone who continually invents his
own strategies for comprehending reality

"Joe had that authentic air of the solitary bricoleur,
the potterer of genius, like the Facteur Cheval..."
- Michael Chabon, Kavalier & Clay

Found here.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

What Weight Watchers recipe card from 1974 are you?

posted by Kris Ardent @ 5:48 AM

You are Fish 'Tacos.' You might think you're exotic and worldly-wise, but in reality you're just a bunch of crap on toast. Repeat after me: 'just because you put something in quotation marks doesn't make it so.' And 'taco' isn't Spanish for 'toast.'
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

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So Was It Really Popular, Or Just Regional?

posted by Kris Ardent @ 5:28 AM

Take the soda vs. pop etc. challenge.

I chose the most popular answer in every category, except drinking fountain vs. water fountain. It's totally drinking fountain. Duh.

(100th post! What a freakin' miracle!)

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cool Burning Man Art - Big Rig Jig

posted by Kris Ardent @ 4:23 AM

Guess what this piece of Burning Man art is made of?

That's right. Big rigs.

Only 358 days until Burning Man 2008.

Photo by spiffydamnpoodle from


Monday, August 27, 2007

My Blood Pressure is 120/84

posted by Kris Ardent @ 9:27 PM

This means I get to eat more salt, right? Don't you get some kind of bonus for having such stellar blood pressure? Maybe a gold star.

I signed up for a Kilbirnie Pool membership, because the classes are $8 each, and the monthly membership is only $67.50. Plus you get spas, sauna, all water and fitness classes at both Kilbirnie and Freyberg, AND 5 sessions with a personal trainer. I really only wanted cheap swim classes (deep water aerobics, underwater kickboxing), but when they throw in all that extra stuff it's hard to resist having your biceps measured and all your other stats taken.

Despite my efforts to avoid any actual time in the gym part of the facility (obviously some magical mind control process was involved), I ended up with a weight training plan. I went through the plan for the first time yesterday, a day in which I could almost not get out of bed because my abs were so sore from scuba this weekend.

Joe and I are now certified PADI Open Water Divers! I won't go into the details, suffice to say it was one of the more difficult things I've ever done. If I'd known how hard it was, I never would have done it. But I'm glad we did, and I'm looking forward to trying it out in WARM water, with more than 1 meter visibility. Seems if you learn to dive in the winter in New Zealand (like all geniuses do), you're ready to dive anywhere in the world.

So, here's the poll:

Where should we vacation in March?

Possible contenders:

Cook Islands
Great Barrier Reef

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Your Score: the Wit

posted by Kris Ardent @ 3:19 PM

Your Score: the Wit

(71% dark, 30% spontaneous, 10% vulgar)

your humor style:

You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.

Your sense of humor takes the most thought to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.

You probably loved the Office. If you don't know what I'm
talking about, check it out here:

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais

The 3-Variable Funny Test!

- it rules -

If you're interested, try my best friend's best test:
The Genghis Khan Genetic Fitness Masterpiece

Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

50 Things I Love About America

posted by Kris Ardent @ 2:00 PM

1. Wide Freeways
2. Going 140 km/h Without Fear of Losing My License
3. Hots Summers
4. My People
5. Seeing My Old House in Mar Vista
6. Ame Restaurant in San Francisco
7. Hotels
8. Nieces
9. Swimming in Outdoor Pools in the Evening
10. Lightning Bugs
11. The Parkway Speakeasy Theater
12. Spelling "Theater", "Center", and "Color" the Right Way
13. Raver Camping
14. Redwood Forest Smell of Northern California
15. Bourbon
16. Pedicures
17. Zao Noodle Bar's Vietnamese Rice Noodles Seared Prawns and Mushrooms
18. Becky Hemberger
19. Falling asleep to TV
20. Bridges
21. Camp & Sons
22. Really Big Caves
23. Tipping Well for Good Service
24. Raw Vegan Restaurants
25. Old Navy
26. BBQ'd Ribs
27. Cooking Breakfast For 400
28. Chez Panisse
29. People Knowing What to Do at 4-way Stop Sign Intersections
30. Big Macs
31. Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Resort
32. 7&7s
33. Vegetables on Every Menu
34. Buying Cheap Books
35. Sushi
36. Burritos
37. Frank Lloyd Wright
38. The Grand Ole Opry
39. Affordable T-Shirts
40. Laundromats
41. Bass Pro Shop
42. Giant Aquariums
43. Southern Accents
44. Third Street in Santa Monica
45. Really Tall Buildings
46. My Grandparents' Old House in Pasadena
47. The Asparagus at Ton Kiang
48. Ethnic Diversity
49. Tractors
50. Being Warm

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

We like to make fun of cricket

posted by Joe Ardent @ 3:13 PM

It's the sport with the most wickets!(tm)

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Food is Interesting

posted by Kris Ardent @ 12:45 PM

A chef in Chicago wants to blow your mind.

Please, if you ever happen to be in Chicago, visit Alinea for the most interesting meal.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Fancy Meeting You Here!

posted by Kris Ardent @ 2:40 PM

It's been a while, hasn't it? Where have I been? Mostly all around New Zealand with Joe and Nikhila, waiting for summer to start, working on the business, watching Top Chef 2.

So summer is HERE. It's beautiful. Sunny, mild, crowded on our street like it's never been before. I enjoy sitting out on the deck with The Cheat, watching the peoples go by.

Brenda and I are hard at work on Vida Foods. This week we upgraded the website to make it extra pretty. Check it out, and tell me what you think.! We've sold and delivered our first Excalibur dehydrator, and now we're working on adding more content to the website (I'm particularly interested in the Recipes page). We're in talks with the local organic market in Wellington about carrying our products. They like our stuff and have agreed to sell it there, but we're still wrangling about price. In the meantime, we're looking for other businesses to sell to. So far there's been a lot of interest and things are looking good! I've gone back to eating non-raw foods (and it's awesome), but have noticed a significant increase in my raw food consumption. I feel great!

Nikhila came to visit for a few weeks and we had a great time touristing around. We spent Christmas on the south island with some lovely friends. It was rainy and dreary and there were lots of sandflies, but the food was lovely and the company was spectacular. Then we went white water rafting and jumped in the river and had to be saved by our guide. Fun! The weather was too rainy for our glacier helicopter tour, but Joe and I did manage to see some dolphins again in Kaikoura. Can't recommend this tour more highly. If you're ever in New Zealand...

For her last week here, she and I drove leisurely up to Auckland via Rotorua and Taupo. I love Auckland! I think I actually got a city high just from being there. We did all kinds of touristy things, including a bungy rocket in the middle of downtown. It was at least 4.3 times as terrifying as the Wellington bungy! I was really impressed by Nikhila's bravery. Had I known how scary it was going to be, I don't think I would have had the balls to do it. Never again. I think I prefer scary water adventures to scary heights adventures.

Saturday will be the Ardents' fourth wedding anniversary (also the fifth anniversary of our first date). What should we do to celebrate? We've tried to make a tradition of travelling, but since we seem to be already travelling, maybe the only logical choice is to stay in. We're thinking about going here for dinner.

Friday, January 19, 2007

for every rulage, there is a suckage

posted by drspam @ 3:53 PM

so, new zealand is pretty awesome. the people are friendly, it's a beautiful country, and the whole place is run with common fucking sense, which is more than we can say for most other countries in the world.

except sometimes the common sense kind of flies out the window. consider this: open roads have a 100kph speed limit (~65mph). when they pass through a town, the limit drops to 50kph, which makes sense. think of the children! as you leave the town, the limit jumps up to 100km/h again. so, in once such place, as i exited town i sped back up to 100. unfortunately, it turns out the 100kpmh zone was still some yards ahead, and i thought i'd entered it already. i was clocked at 88kph in a 50 zone, which carries a $400 fine. ouch!

so, as is the case with any ticket, you go through maybe an hour or so of righteous anger, then you get over it, pay up, and chalk it up to the general, harmless grievances people simply go through. i walked in to the bank, plunked down the cash, shared some exasperated jokes with the teller, and that was the end of it. right?

no! new zealand takes this particular issue very seriously. so they decided to send me a letter, which i just got today. it was partially a threat: do that again, and we'll suspend your license. but mostly it was a letter telling me what an asshole i am. i submit to you the exact contents of this letter (with interpretation in square braces):

[on the left, a photograph. a woman sits in the center of frame, staring disapprovingly at me, holding a picture of her dead sister. hate fills her eyes, because apparently i killed her.]

"Dear Francisco,
Just like you, the driver of the car that killed the young woman in the photograph was speeding. [ asshole]

Her name was Tanya.

She was training to be a nurse - to save lives. [ murdering asshole]

She never made it.

It's changed her family's life forever.

At her funeral service in the chapel, to remember her 23 years, there were 20 candles burning. Her sister, mother, and father lit the final three.

Think about it. Your points go in a couple of year's time, her family will never get her back.

If you're prepared to speed, be prepared to kill. [ asshole]"

what the fuck is that about? i apologized to the officer for the misunderstanding, and i paid my ticket. why is this necessary? this is some serious "if you smoke pot you may as well be financing terrorism" crap.

shit like this really makes me miss san francisco even more. at least they're condescending dicks to your face when you get a ticket, and then they're done with it.

oh hell that reminds me, i have 2 SF parking tickets to pay.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I forgot some things!

posted by Joe Ardent @ 12:56 AM

So, some time ago, like a month ago, I happened to have dinner with a small hero of mine, author Rudy Rucker. He had said on his blog that he'd be in New Zealand, and to drop a line if anyone reading was there. So that was neat. He and his wife Sylvia were incredibly nice, and it's humbling to think that at his age (60!) he's thinking the things he's comfortable thinking about. Ain't that a mouthful. But really, he's way way out there, in a completely coherent, rigorous way. Kind of like Philip K. Dick, but happy. He wrote about our dinner, too.

About the whales, I still don't have the photos, but I'll try to get those up before we leave for the South Island tomorrow night. We'll be taking the ferry over with our car. Down there we'll be hanging out with some friends of ours at a beach cottage in a town called Punakaiki ("poon-uh-kye-kee") for a few days, then going down to hike on a glacier. Also, once we get to Punakaiki we'll re-connect with Nikhila and her friend Saman, before parting after the glaciers, until Nikhila comes back to Wellington on the 31st. I'll try to get some pictures of the glacier, especially if we wind up doing a helicopter tour of it.

Finally, someone on a list at work posted a photo of one of these:


I thought it was pretty awesome.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm a dork

posted by Joe Ardent @ 2:29 AM

First, dang. Dang, man, I been a hermit the past two months. Really withdrawn, but not really in a bad way. At least for me. For anyone who's wanted to get in touch with me, probably not so much. So, if you've written email to me, or called me, I'm really sorry for not writing or calling back.

So, like I said, I've been really withdrawn. Partly due to spending all day every day since early September by myself in an office in the forsaken wing of the building where I work (the hallway where my office is is known as "The Chicken Wing"). It's clearly not part of the original structure, and it's cold, and the bathroom is smelly and has no hot water or mirror. So I haven't had the daily routine of interacting with people, and not having that interaction tends to make me withdrawn. Then, come the weekend, all I've wanted to do is lay around and not have to do anything. Since Nikhila will be here in a few days, it's a good thing I'm starting to come out of my shell a bit. Not that I'll be able to keep up with her, but at least I won't be such a neck-albatross.

On the other hand, starting last week, my job changed, I got an officemate, and I've been working on some really interesting stuff. I'm working on a framework for doing particle effects that Chris Horvath originally wrote, and really getting into the details of how all the stuff used to make special effects works, in addition to some serious leveling-up as a programmer. Plus, because I'm a math and physics geek, it pleases me to no end to be able to send mail like this, AS PART OF MY JOB:


Here are two pictures. In the first one, the "velGain" attribute of the
instancer is set to 1.0 (that is, the velocity multiplier is 1.0), and in the
second, the velGain is 1.1. Notice the streaks in the second. The reason
they're there is that the entire emitter-particle-camera system is moving very,
very fast from the lower left to the upper right. The particles were cached
out with their velocity in world space, and so when the motionblock is
constructed in the instancer, the second position was been calculated thus:

P1 = P0 + (dt * velGain * velocity);

where dt is our deltaTime in seconds from Solid, and velocity is the
per-particle attribute in world-space. Because the emitter-particle-camera
system's velocity, which the particles inherited, is so high, the effect of the
velGain multiplication is dominated by it, and the naively-desired normal
velocity (with respect to the emitter) is completely overwhelmed. In effect,
the second image shows what would happen if velGain were 1.0, and dt were too
high (as was the case in Allen's original issue). We've still got enough rope
here to hang ourselves with, and this shows that for all the good work we've
just done, it could amount to nothing if the instancer writer does the wrong
thing (in this case, set velGain to anything but 1.0).


Super dorky, eh? Here are the two pictures:

The first is how it should look, and the second is how it looked to cause us to spend the last week changing the architecture of the system to behave "correctly". Clearly, we didn't fix it enough, eh? (OK, not really; the system in question is capable of universal computation (that's its biggest feature, in fact!), so it's basically impossible to predict all the ways it will be misused.)

But the email goes on to suggest a way to get people to do the right thing, and to do some fancy math to create a unit vector (or rather, one for each particle, or little blue dot) that points out from the center of the sphere and goes through the particle, then use that to get a new vector to act as a direction for a new velocity, then multiply "velGain" by that new velocity. There would be some linear algebra (hello, cross-product AND dot-product!), which for an irrational reason pleases me greatly. Probably because there's no way I'd have ever needed to use linear algebra in my former career as a sysadmin, and I was ready to shoot myself if I had to keep doing that.

And then around 5:00 today, Kris called me to say that there were killer whales swimming near the shore in the bay that my office is near to. So I rallied some of my coworkers, and we went out there, and followed the whales as they swam along the beach. It was awesome. At least four orcas, swimming along, doing that orca thing where every thirty seconds or so they come up for air as they swim. Everyone kept parking their cars, getting out to look at them, then getting back in and driving another quarter mile up so they could get out and watch the whales swim past, then getting into their car to repeat the process. I took some crappy pictures with my cellphone, but Francisco got some better ones with a borrowed camera. I'll wait to post my pictures for him to get me copies of the ones he took. Then you can see how crappy mine are.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Why I've Been So Busy Lately

posted by Kris Ardent @ 6:38 PM

Last night, Brenda and I catered our first raw foods event for Bikram Yoga Wellington. We've been working our asses off for weeks, figuring out the menu, testing recipes, printing our own business cards (hand cut, for that "rustic" look we're going for) and working on the website so it would be ready for all the new customers we would get from this party.

Check out the two pages we've managed to cobble together, but no making fun of my sad little html skills:

As part of our business, we've teamed up with Excalibur Dehydrators to be their New Zealand distributor. When I got home last night, there was an email from an appliance company requesting our price list and delivery schedule, so they can place an order! Wha?! Seems Excalibur already has us listed on their distributors list! Crazy. This morning, I had a food order on my cell phone. Seems there may be something to this raw food.

We made 8 dishes for the party, but each one had multiple recipes comprising the whole dish. Holler if you want any recipes.

Almond-Tahini Hummus with Sliced Veggies and Sun-dried Tomato Crackers

Lasagna Roll - Zucchini "Noodle" Marinated in Lemon Juice and Olive Oil, Rolled with Sweet Sun-dried Tomato-Spinach Marinara Sauce and Pinenut Ricotta Cheese

Nachos - Flax Corn Chip Topped with Spicy Un-bean Dip, Guacamole and Cashew Sour Cream

Marinated Mushrooms Stuffed with Mushroom Walnut Pate & Pistachio Basil Pesto

"Salmon" Pate Made From Walnuts, Red Pepper and Celery Served on Cucumber Rounds, Topped with Dill

Thai Wraps filled with Mango, Carrots, Red Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, Basil, Cilantro, Mint and Almond-Ginger Dressing

Fruit Skewers are pretty sprinkled with fresh mint.

And finally, Coconut Cashew Divines - Dates, Cashews, Coconut, Vanilla and Agave Syrup

Now, the big sleep.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eating raw is hell!

posted by Joe Ardent @ 7:12 PM

Nice title, eh? It's not really true. Here's a picture of what I had for "second lunch":

It's a salad I made at work with the produce that they bring in every morning, a really nice perk. It has an avocado, two tomatoes, a zuchini, some red onion, and a couple mini sweet-peppers. It's dressed with salt, pepper, a little olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, and some hot sauce (kind of like Luisianna Hot Sauce). See??? It's HELL!

Actually, one thing that's not so great is that the venues for dining out are limited. In fact, the only reason I made this second lunch is that first lunch was so pathetic. We decided to try eating out at Wellington's only salad bar, a place called Kapai. It wasn't bad, but it was $9 for a pretty small salad. Verdict, don't go to Kapai again! ("Kapai" seems to be Maori for "sweet-as", which is Kiwi for "good".) In most respects, Wellington lacks for nothing in the restaurant scene (Mexican cuisine being the most glaring exception). So much, then, for its one shot at a decent salad place.

Anyway, on most days, around 4:00, I'll try to eat a little snack, like an apple or an avocado, to give me the food-strength to make it through the yoga class at 8:00. Don't want to eat too close to the class, otherwise I'll want to puke while doing standing-seperate-head-to-knee pose. So my original intent when I went into the kitchen was pretty modest, but then because Kapai's offering wasn't nearly enough to satisfy my hunger, one thing lead to another, and pretty soon, I had that salad. It was tasty.

The moral is: avoid Kapai if you care about a good value for your money! Also, salads don't need to have lettuce in them, even though lettuce is tasty!

Holy crap! (politics)

posted by Joe Ardent @ 12:57 PM

One of the nice things about living in New Zealand is that the pervasive anxiety about the US turning into Germany-circa-1935 is at a slight remove. Not completely gone, and more than once a week, the fury would rise up in my gut as I read about some other hitherto unknown atrocity committed by the current administration. But still, I was glad for the distance.

But today, I was surprised. I mean, I was expecting the Dems to take the House. Although that would not be enough to do anything to fix all that has been broken these past six years, it would be enough to prevent further grievous damage. But, they're currently one tied election away from real majority of the Senate, too. And good-bye, Rummy. Real control of the Legislative branch means:

- investigations into cooked intelligence (impeachable offenses)
- investigations into illegal wiretapping (impeachable offense)
- investigations into crony spending in Iraq (people would go to jail)
- no more lies about "cutting taxes" (to spend is to tax, and Bush has spent more than anyone, driving up the deficit, fucking the economy and everyone whose net worth is less than several million dollars)
- Maybe, just maybe, this will give some balls to the Washington (and especially White House) press corps, so that when Cheney/Bush/Rice/etc. blatantly lies, their bullshit is called to their face. I'm not exactly holding my breath there, though.

My favorite uncle once said that he wanted to be immortalized in statue form, portrayed in the act of jumping up to grab and hang onto the kicking legs of George W. Bush when he's hung for treason. We're one tiny step closer to that shining, beautiful dream. (cue music) Don't stop believin'. Hold onto that feeeeeeleeeee-innnnnn'...


posted by Kris Ardent @ 3:31 AM

I think breatharianism is next for me. It's the only thing more RADICAL than not eating cooked food. Every day I seem to need less food. Either I'm developing an awesome eating disorder, or the food I'm eating is so energy and nutrient rich, that I just don't need as much. We're making a lot of delicious things to eat around Marine Manor, and Brenda feeds just about every time I see her. I'm afraid for Thanksgiving, when we take a break to eat dead food again. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Finally, A Difinitive Answer on the Asparagus Pee Issue

posted by Kris Ardent @ 1:25 PM

So everyone's pee smells funny after eating asparagus, but only some people have the ability to smell it. Epicurious entry here.

The more you know...

4.5 Hours at the Bikram Studio

posted by Kris Ardent @ 1:05 PM

Yesterday, Vanessa and I went to the 6:00 AND the 8:00 classes. It wasn't so bad, until this morning. Ouchy. I am old.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Christopher is OLD.

posted by Kris Ardent @ 9:45 PM

Happy Birthday Christopher! Tonight, we celebrate by bowling at the fancy new bowling club/swank bar that just opened up in Wellington. It's called The Lanes. Oooh. (Aaaah.) I too will wear my stiletto boots to bowl in. That is smart.

Vanessa and I tried to go to the 6:00 yoga class today, so we could make it to the birthday party, but it was too full when we got there! O great tragedy. While it's nice to have a break, it also means we'll have to double up on a day soon to make up for missing today. I'm curious to see what back-to-back yoga will be like, particularly considering the condition of my back. Not as bad as a couple weeks ago, but definitly still getting stiff after yoga. The bed problem is fixed, so now it's just a matter of healing the strained muscles and tendons in my lower back before trying to build them up again. But otherwise, I'm totally healthy! No whining here! Raw food and everything!

An ultimately unsatisfying post!

posted by Joe Ardent @ 1:49 PM

I warn you in advance: this is going to be very fast and light. I'll post more in a few days, maybe.

Many things have happened since last I updated. We went to Burningman, and along that way, were in San Francisco for a few days. It was so great to see everybody, and to be in San Francisco. The smell of the place was awesome, and I'm not being sarcastic. Being there made us miss it very much.

Then, we came home, and Kris' parents stayed with us for ten days. We went to Christchurch, and other stuff. Then they sent me and Kris some books from our Amazon wishlist, which were greatly appreciated. Thank you, Caldwells!

We've also formed a film club, and have started making a movie. There are about ten of us involved. We identified roles, such as "writer", "director", "director of photography", etc., wrote them on paper scraps, then drew out of a hat to determine who would do what. I drew "producer". We did essentially the same thing to determine what movie we would make. The one that go chosen was called "Produce Passion", and the original description was something like, "Follows the life of a vegetable from farm to toilet." Our writer wanted to make a horror movie, though, so this is what he made: Produce Passion, a movie treatment. What we've shot has mostly stayed true to that. And though the original idea was to take no more than one month to make a movie, and have it be 30-180 seconds long, we're well into month two now, and it's looking like it will be at least 5-7 minutes long. Ah, well. I think we're learning quite a bit, and the next one will probably go faster. And on the upside, "making a good movie" was not one of the original goals, but I think we might actually wind up doing that here. The next movie we make, everyone will rotate jobs, so everyone gets a turn (eventually) at each role needed to make a movie.

In other news, as Kris has mentioned, November saw us starting two challenges: 1) to go to 24 yoga classes in 28 days, and 2) to only eat raw veggie food. Both are going pretty well so far, after five days. Our house, I think, has it pretty easy. There are three of us (out of four; Francisco is not participating in either challenge) eating raw. Hence, there are three people preparing different yummy raw things to eat, so there's never the "what can I eat here" dilemma. So far, so great. I'll post later about the nutritional benefits, but for now, the short version is: you get more than enough protein, calcium, vitamins, calories, and whatever else you need from food if you eat raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts only. You don't need to eat animal-based food, and in fact, you will be healthier if you don't. Plus, just about everything we've eaten in the last five days has been fucking delicious.

That's it for now. I hope everyone reading this has a great day.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The South Island: A Retrospective - DAY FOUR

posted by Kris Ardent @ 6:52 PM

For those of you who may just be joining us, this is the tale of a trip taken last June. That's right. And I'm still posting the play-by-play. Clodagh and I went to the south island, and here's more about what we did:

We started out day four with a dip in the pools-of-a-variety-of-temperatures at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. While Clodogh was having her first of two spa treatments, I amused myself by hopping from pool to pool with my book, trying out each degree of hotness. Turns out, I like them hot. This place was lovely, with plenty of vegetation and little footpaths between a variety of pools of different size and shape. I wouldn't mind doing that again.

The spa treatments were pretty sub-par, but how can I complain? This is how: massages should be done in rooms, not in curtained off areas where you can hear people gabbing on at the reception desk. In all fairness, they were starting to remodel to make individual treatment rooms, but it's still pretty screwed up to not at least have a quiet space for a massage. Rant over.

We went to lunch at this fantastic place with great pasta and the first and only 10 out of 10 hot chocolate, as rated by Clodagh. Apparently, they put a lot of LOWV in this here hot chocolate. Maybe she can help me out with the name of this place. Oddly enough, I no longer remember where I had lunch somewhere around the 8th of June. We sat in the sun for a long time, pondering whether to go quad biking or hit the road, drinking warm beverages, and then headed over to a gift shop to buy wrapping paper for the birthday present I bought in Christchurch for one of my nieces. We decided to skip the quad biking in favor of getting a head start on Kaikoura.

So we drove to Kaikoura! I think this was my favorite drive of the trip. We raced a train, and stopped to make movies of sheep, and hit the east coast for a drive along the water (which feels a lot like driving down the 1 in California) before arriving at our palacial temporary home at The Dusky Lodge. We checked in and I started looking for a place to get some of this crayfish that the east coast is so famous before. We ended up a lovely place called Sonic on the Rocks, right across from the beach. The crayfish was tough and chewy, and for the first time in my life, I had to send a dish back. The kumara pizza which replaced it was absolutely amazing. I am enjoying the memory right now, back when cooked food was a thing people ate. Oh, and the only photo I took on day four was of a painting in the restaurant which contains a recipe for preparing duck. Someone please prepare this and tell me how it turns out:
On our walk back to the hostel, Clodagh and I stopped at a gas station to pick up some provisions. Against all logic, we attempted to make our own hot chocolate in one of the TWO hostel kitchens. Bad idea. It seems you can't really make hot chocolate with Cadbury bars and skim milk. WHO KNEW?!

Next time: Day Five, the day of the DOLPHINS. Aw, you thought THIS was going to be dolphin day, didn't you? SUCKER.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Guy Fawkes Day

posted by Kris Ardent @ 10:03 PM

Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes Day, but there will be fireworks tonight! We're making up some raw snacks and heading over to Clodapher's place to watch and say OOOOOH, AAAAAH, etc.

Say it with me: "Oooooooh....Aaaaaaah...."

More about Sydney and film making and TV tomorrow or something.

Oh, It's ON!

posted by Kris Ardent @ 1:58 AM

"ok then, i challege you to blog everyday! mwahahahahaha."
Posted by Taisuke to Ardents (and Friends) En Zed at 11/03/2006 08:54:35 PM

This counts as a post, right?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Challenge Me!

posted by Kris Ardent @ 9:55 PM

To anything, really. I'm totally ready for it. Gimme what you got. So far, here are my current challenges. See if you can come up with anything else I should be doing in November:

1. 30-day raw food challenge: started yesterday. We've got nuts and seeds and avocados and fresh produce and a recipe book (Living On Live Food by Alyssa Cohen). My biggest fear is that I'll do just fine for a few days, and then SNAP. There's a drive-thru McDonald's in Newtown, and I'm pretty sure that's were my breakdown will occur. Joe and I have a blood oath not to eat any fast food while we're in New Zealand, and so far I think we're doing pretty well. This might just be my downfall. But for now, it's mock salmon pate and avocado salad, banana coconut cream pie, flax crackers and dried pineapple. It's actually been pretty tasty, and I feel like what I imagine crack to be like, in the best way.

2. Start a small business: Brenda and I are signing a lease on Monday for a commercial kitchen space. We're going to ramp up production on her current raw food product line (crackers, truffles, other dried raw things), invent new things people MUST have in their bellies, and we've already got our first raw food catering gig lined up for December 8th. Can you say CHALLENGE?! How about abject TERROR?

3. 30-day yoga challenge: Now, this is the one that's doomed to fail. My chiropractor gave me a "look" today and tried to talk me out of it. But if she saw how pathetically I earned credit for my first day of the challenge yesterday, she would not fear. Any ounce of pain in my back, or general discomfort of any sort, and I stop, and just stand there. They say you get credit just for showing up, so I'm holding them to that. (They being The Yoga People, who are in charge of defining these sorts of things.)

So what else is there? Bring it on.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

To Tide Me Over

posted by Kris Ardent @ 6:50 PM

I was going through Sydney photos today, thinking about posting here. It's going to take me forever to get through South Island, and then Sydney. So here's the best picture from Sydney:

Joe was really hungry, so he ate the whole thing. Now Australia is MAD. We won't be invited back.