7 Quick Takes (12/13/13)

old shirts

--- 1 --- The first time I ran into Google Hangout's facial recognition feature, I had a lot of fun trying to find the limits of what it would recognize as a face.  I grabbed photos, drawings, etc and held them up while ducking below my webcam's sightline and then trying to compete with the faux-face to try to suss out how the algorithm decided.  But Neil Yager has coded up a prototype that wouldn't be fooled.He built a camera/infrared sensor that recognizes faces and then double checks w … [Read more...]

Seven Books of 2013

books, many

As the year winds to a close, and you may be starting to wonder what gifts which books to give friends and family for the holiday, I would, of course, like to remind you of the existence of Arcadia, Gödel Escher Bach, Reflections on the Psalms, and the corpus of Sondheim, for this week's quick takes, I'm sharing my seven favorite books I read for the first time this year.  They are in the order I read them chronologically over the last eleven months.Also, if you would like to do me a mitzv … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (11/22/13)

stained glass

--- 1 --- I recently picked up Leigh Bardugo's two novels Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, both of which I enjoyed.  [Note, the Amazon description of book two includes major spoilers for book one].  I got interested in Bardugo after reading one of her short stories, "The Witch of Duva" on Tor.com.  I definitely recommend checking it out.And if I haven't enticed you enough, the opening sentence of the story is: "There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls." --- 2 --- I like Bar … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (11/15/13)


--- 1 --- I can't decide if I want to roll my eyes at the sheer number of [X] Hall of Fames that exist or to feign approval until the eventual creation of a Hall of Fame Hall of Fame, in which you can see scaled down miniatures and blown up photos of the best niche museums.  I discovered the existence of the Toy Hall of Fame this week, when they inducted two new toys: chess and the rubber duckie.    The news story says that honorees are chosen "on the basis of several factors including ico … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (11/8/13)


--- 1 --- This week, I got to make a donation to Against Malaria in honor of the Unequally Yoked readership.  Back when I got my flu shot, I asked any of you who were contributing to herd immunity to sign the flu shot honor roll, and I'd donate $5 per immunized reader, up to $100.    You guys made quota, and I'm delighted to have made the donation today.  And, if you didn't sign up in round one, but have since gotten your flu shot, I'll donate up to an additional $50 if you brag about your vir … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (11/1/13)

face all red

  Happy Feast of All Saints!   --- 1 --- This week's quick takes theme is transposition, and there are few people as in love with stories and patterns as Douglas Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and his recent work on analogy: Surfaces and Essences.  In a recent interview with The Atlantic, he talked about what he sees as the heart of human intelligence: Cognition is recognition,” he likes to say. He describes “seeing as” as the essential cognitiv … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (10/26/13)

joos crucifixion

--- 1 --- Sorry for the one-day delay in Quick Takes.  Let me make it up to you with something very special: A layperson-ish primer on Elliptic Curves Cryptography!  I really enjoyed this guide by Ars Technica, but I'm a bit suspicious of its accessibility for a crypto novice.  So, let me temper my recommendation thus: give it a try if you think you may be interested, and if you feel baffled, be not ashamed and check Simon Singh's The Code Book out of your local library. --- 2 ---  And now … [Read more...]