Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pokemon Watch

File this under "fun class/side projects." A watch that shows one Pokemon per minute instead of a numerical minute. (no hour hand.)

Memory Palaces are a great way to remember a list of things. Take the rooms in your house, associate each one with an item, and then “walk through” your house to remember all the items. But I only have ~5 rooms, and that’s being generous – what if I want to remember, say, 60 things? It’d be great to have a go-to list of 60 things that I could just pull up whenever and use them as loci for whatever list.

Enter Pokemon. These little critters (there are over 750 now) are unique, distinctive, named, and numbered. Learning the first 60 would give me a pretty universal memory-palace list. Furthermore, they’re chunked into groups of 2-3 (Bulbasaur evolves into Ivysaur evolves into Venusaur), and I still remember some characteristics of them from the Pokemon video game when I was a kid, making for even easier learning. And they’re cute.

download 2:17pm, or 2:Pidgeotto, if you will.
download (1) 2:19 is now 2:Rattata.
More info on some hacking around to fit 60 144x144 images in the watch here. Code’s here. Images are from, for example Code includes uPNG port from Matthew Hungerford:, which is itself derived from LodePNG version 20100808, by Lode Vandevenne and Sean Middleditch.

Monday, January 19, 2015

links dump

I know nobody else reads posts like these but I kind of want to save them/mentally catalogue all these links I've been saving:


1. The Forgotten History of How Automakers Invented "Jaywalking" - this is fascinating, surprising, and frustrating.

Current Things

2. Ok, first things first, Vote More on net neutrality. (by "vote more" I mean "yeah you can only vote once, but email your congressperson to make your voice heard more, and call them for even more.")

3. Also about cities: the world's not urbanizing, it's suburbanizing. This is the sort of thing that galvanizes me towards some kind of life mission: use BIG DATA to make these emerging megacities more like cities, less like megasuburbs (with all their flaws), and just generally overall not terrible.

4. On Charlie Hebdo: the murders were an atrocity; as the magazine does satire, it walks the line of good taste and occasionally crosses over, but was not a racist piece of trash and we should not jump on it as one; we should be allowed to draw pictures of Mohammed, we should avoid doing so because we're nice people but if we do it should not cause a bigger stink than if someone graffitis "Jesus sucks" or "the Dharma is a bunch of poo" on the side of a 7-11; most terrorists are not Muslims, but the ones who are doing so are really strategic and doing a good job of "sharpening the contradictions", and as a result the French should do what the Norwegians did after Breivik: nothing. Mourn the dead and don't overreact. (don't remember the name Breivik? He was that guy who shot ~80 kids on an island a couple years ago. that's right, not a celebrity.)

5. I support voluntary euthanasia/assisted suicide. (what's the best term for this?) Slate Star Codex is a rare blog that I stumbled on that is not particularly about anything, but I think it's really smart, wise, and worth reading it anyway. Here's his article about voluntary euthanasia/assisted suicide.

6. Where should we spend money to Help The World The Most? I always point to Givewell, and yeah, their approach seems pretty good. Another answer I'd accept: fix the US government. One way we can help fix the government is to fix the lobbying system. The wiseguys at Cards Against Humanity sent a bunch of money to try to do that. (and some jokes at politicians' expense; for the record, these clowns are 11/14 Republican, and I hate that we have to pick Republican or Democrat only but stuff like this is why Democrats are usually the lesser of two evils. okay okay some of these are just one-liners of dumb things they said, but some are indicative of deeper issues.)

7. Taxes: wait, we might actually raise taxes on the 1%? This sounds like a great idea. Also, Elizabeth Warren running for president does too.

8. A metapoint about all current events is offered by this great Cowbirds in Love comic. News (including internet news, maybe especially internet) throws us through this tumbler (NPI) of ignorance-rage-ignorance again.

Personal Life

9. Doing a startup, even if it's the successful "work 80 hour weeks but get rich in 5 years" kind, might leave you kind of emotionally and developmentally stunted. Similarly, grad school. So doing grad school as the not-80-hour-weeks way feels like the least likely to make me Einstein/Larry-and-Sergey but more likely to have a better life.

But here's the thing! It's not like I can choose work 80 hours and be Einstein or work 40 hours and be a boring but happy guy. Being Einstein probably happens if you find your niche, enjoy it, get awesome at it, and get lucky too. So don't worry that you're "choosing not to be Einstein." Do you, and hope for the best. At least that's the life philosophy I'm following now.