Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Archive for December, 2009

Code and Beats

I found out yesterday that there’s going to be a rad event called “Code & Beats.” If it turns out to be as fun as it sounds, I’ll probably lobby to bring it to Phoenix.

Here’s the basic premise:

A party celebrating the art of programming through performance. A handful of hardcore coders from the city’s hottest startups will work in the center of a pounding dance floor to a musical journey of electro beats.

Some additional details: it sounds like the “hardcore coders” will be facing the dance floor, with external monitors mirroring their laptops and facing the dance floor. There may also be one or more projectors involved.

I’m going to experiment with some new visual Flash-based stuff, and will try to include the room’s music, a webcam, and/or tweets as inputs!

It should be exciting! Also, I’m probably going to open-source everything I write at the event and post it somewhere like GitHub.

The Glass: Half Empty or Half Full?

Ah, the age-old optimism vs pessimism metaphor. What does a realist say about the glass’s liquid level?

I think a realist would choose one or the other based on observations, and say it’s half empty if it had recently been emptied from a full level or half full if it had just been filled up.

If someone hands you a full beer and you drink half of it, your beer is half empty. Half is the progress you have made so far on emptying the glass of beer.

If someone asks a realist if a glass of beer he or she has never seen before is half empty or half full, the realist would likely take into consideration whether or not is any beer foam residue above the beer level to indicate that it had been partially emptied. “It’s half-empty,” the realist would reply. You could poor half a glass of beer for that same realist, and he or she would likely complain, “Hey! My beer is only half full! WTF?”

Just a random thought.

Couch Surfing

Originally announced here in January, I’m approaching the one-year anniversary of This week, I spent some time getting more profiles posted, and even posted 2 non-profiles. I’ve been meaning to do more non-profiles — writing about the lifestyle, the lessons, and sharing stories.

I added Giannii and Mike M. who each lent me couches in San Francisco. I added Mark and Mascha from New York City, and Mike G. from Chicago. I can think of at least 3 other people I’ve crashed with this year that I still need to post.

Part of why I’m all of the sudden trying to catch up is because I might be going on another couch-surfing spurt. Also, with more profiles out of the way, I can feel more free to post non-profiles. I think I can come up with some cool stuff to share about traveling.

By the way, I watched the movie Up in the Air recently. It is to travelers what Hackers was to geeks. I bring it up because George Clooney’s character did some things I was thinking about doing: share some of the tricks that optimize your airport experience.

Heat Maps in Flash

Two and a half years ago, I rendered a large heat map representing almost 100,000 Digg users and the 300,000 friendships between them. I used PHP/GD2 to render the image and it took quite a while to render. Due to the difficulty of redrawing it, the heat map was never updated. It would have been great if the heat map reflected current information, but instead it got to live on as a snapshot taken in 2007.

Since then, I’ve wondered about ways of rendering heat maps on the fly, ideally using the visitor’s CPU. Finally, in November, I was able to hack together a highly optimized Flash application that produces pretty awesome-looking heat maps (if I do say so myself) within a second or two.

Check it out

I’m afraid I’m going to have to be a bit of a tease for now, and not dive into too much technical detail. This project is part of a series of data visualizations that utilize a specific, lesser-known feature in Flash.

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