Monday, February 15, 2010



My notes tell me that I have seen
a thousand geese this fall. Every one of these
in the course of their epic journey from
the arctic to the gulf has on one occasion or
another probably served man in some equivalent
of paid entertainment.
One flock perhaps has thrilled a score of
schoolboys, and sent them scurrying home
with tales of high adventure.
Another, passing overhead of a dark night,
has serenaded a whole city with goose music,
and awakened who knows what questionings
and memories and hopes.
A third perhaps has given pause to
some farmer at his plow, and brought new
thoughts of far lands and journeyings and peoples,
where before was only drudgery, barren
of any thought at all.
I am sure those thousand geese are paying
human dividends on a dollar value.
Worth in dollars is only an exchange value,
like the sale value of a painting or the
copyright of a poem.
What about the replacement value?
Supposing there were no longer any painting,
or poetry, or goose music?
It is a black thought to dwell upon,
but it must be answered.
In dire necessity somebody might write
another Illiad, or paint an "Angelus,"
but fashion a goose?
"I, the Lord, will answer them.
The hand of the Lord hath done this,
and the Holy One of Israel created it."
Aldo Leopold
Sand County Almanac

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I would rather have eyes that cannot see;
ears that cannot hear; lips that cannot speak,
than a heart that cannot love.
Robert Tizon
The greatest treasures are those invisible
to the eye, but found by the heart.
Author Unknown
One of the hardest things in life is having
words in your heart that you can't utter.
James Earl Jones
The heart has reasons that reason
does not understand.
Jacques Benigne Bossuel
There are many things in life that will
catch your eye, but only a few will catch
your heart....pursue those.
Michael Nolan
What is uttered from the heart alone,
Will win the hearts of others to your own.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

Friday, February 12, 2010



Part IV, 144, 5
states that Christ taught the
apostles a number of prayers besides
The Our Father, but interestingly enough
the ones that are included in the book all have
some similarities to The Lord's Prayer - some perhaps
expressing a more enlightened, less materialistic
form of prayer - at least according to the standards
espoused in the book. It does not seem surprising
that the book claims that many of these additional
prayers were from other inhabited planets,
a fact Christ did not reveal to the apostles.
Here's one of the prayers - we'll have more
of them up in the future.
Our perfect and righteous heavenly Father,
This day guide and direct our journey.
Sanctify our steps and coordinate our thoughts.
Ever lead us in the ways of eternal progress.
Fill us with wisdom to the fullness of power
And vitalize us with your infinite energy.
Inspire us with the divine consciousness of
The presence and guidance of the seraphic hosts.
Guide us ever upward in the pathway of light;
Justify us fully in the day of the great judgement.
Make us like yourself in eternal glory
And receive us into your endless service on high.

Thursday, February 11, 2010



The picture posted on the web site is of a man is in his 20s, with a dozen tufts of brown hair dotting his mostly shaved head. He is smiling, standing sideways to the camera in what looks like a dorm room.

The site asks whether, at the end of dinner, this anonymous person would:

a. Pay for the check

b. Split the check with you

c. Wait for you to pay

d. Put a roach in the leftovers and demand the meal for free.

Knowing no more than what you see, you click on an answer. Most respondents say he would pay the check.

This is, a two-month-old web site created by Yuri Ostrovsky, currently a graduate student of Pawan Sinha, assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Timothy Nichols, who was a student of Sinha's when both were at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Besides being a fun site where you can upload your photo, answer questions about strangers or maybe find a date, Sinha says the site is a large-scale experiment in face perception. And the questions, while sometimes funny, are scientifically designed to pertain to different personality traits.

What information can be gleaned from a face? Ostrovsky and Nichols plan to statistically analyze the responses to assess consistency and variance across observers. As statistics accumulate, they will use them to conduct searches for faces that share similar trait profiles.

Thus, a user may be able to say, "Show me people who are trustworthy, amusing and sincere," and the site will supply them with appropriate individuals. This, Ostrovsky says, is fairly straightforward. A more intriguing question is whether individuals with matching trait profiles will also match visually. If so, users will be able to say, "Show me people who look like this person" and the site will be able to find them.

Finding similar-looking people is an ill-defined problem in computer vision. Computers cannot easily fathom what it means for two people to look like each other.

"The hope is that this new method may be more useful for certain types of face-search problems," Ostrovsky said. "This would be a significant departure from conventional face-search schemes where visual searches are based solely on image structure."

"There are two basic questions this experiment is designed to address," said Sinha, scientific advisor to "Can aspects of an individual's traits (other than identity, age and gender) be reliably assessed just from their facial appearance (and how valid are these assessments)? Conversely, do a collection of such assessments constrain the appearance of a face? If so, can we devise new strategies for searching large databases of faces?"

The web is an ideal medium for the experiment because it provides a very large and diverse collection of faces and a large group of respondents, Ostrovsky said. While most people have preferred to post their pictures than to answer questions, and the site has not been advertised in any way, there are a few hundred members and the numbers are increasing daily.

"It's not a controlled experiment as it would be in a lab, but it's a more realistic experience. There's no experimenter bias where the very design of the experiment coaxes the subject to answer in a particular way, or the subject answers in a way he thinks will please the experimenter," Ostrovsky said.

Accompanying a black-and-white picture of a vampiress-like woman with large upcast eyes and long straight black hair is a question about how she might act in relationships. Most respondents decided that after her last relationship, she was the "psycho girlfriend." Can you really tell from someone's face whether she is a reasonable person or if he would wait 45 minutes for a table in a restaurant? "This is an ongoing project," Ostrovsky said. "We've let it take on a life of its own."

Ostrovsky's thesis is on how people process information to recognize three-dimensional objects. While this includes faces, he says is mostly for fun. The real challenge will lie in phase two of the site, in which he will try to come up with a way to use the lists of traits - and no visual cues - to search the face database.

"People may say that a person has an 'honest face' or 'looks aggressive,'" Sinha said. "These inferences may be incorrect, but it is interesting to examine what they are and which facial attributes they correspond to. How consistent are these judgments across different observers and how valid, compared to other independent measures of these traits? These are largely unexplored questions and the answers can turn out to have far-reaching implications."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 4, 2002.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
Robert Frost

Monday, February 8, 2010



And then I wander some more among the trees.
There is a thought repeating itself in my mind:
This is a great Work, this is a great Work.
It occurs to me that my head has gone
to talking religion, that it is going ahead
more or less on its own,
assenting to the Creation,
finding it good, in the spirit of the
first chapters of Genesis.
For no matter the age or the hour,
I am celebrating the morning of the
seventh day, I assent to my mind's assent.
It is a great Work.
It is a great Work - begun in the beginning,
carried on until now, to be carried on,
not by such processes as men make or
understand, but by "the kind of intelligence
that enables grass seed to grow grass;
the cherry stone to make cherries."
Wendell Berry, b. 1934
Southern Poet, Novelist, Critic, Lawyer

Sunday, February 7, 2010



Certain thoughts are prayers.
There are moments when,
whatever be the attitude of the body,
the soul is on its knees.
Victor Hugo