How to use a rooted Android phone to export your Facebook address book.
Best of 2012
It’s been a great year. Here’s a list of the best books, movies, albums, and websites I discovered in 2012.
I came across The Society of Mind when I was doing research for a philosophy paper earlier this year. In the book, Marvin Minsky theorizes that the mind is an emergent phenomenon arising from the interactions of mindless “agents”.
My takeaway was that the mind is like a giant tree (the hierarchical data structure), with the leaf nodes being simple capabilities like movement, a desire for food and water, balance, etc., and more complex behaviors farther up the tree, each arising from its child behaviors/capabilities. Then the root node of the tree would be consciousness as we perceive it.
Prometheus Rising, by the infamous Robert Anton Wilson, was a very interesting read. It’s basically RAW’s attempt to synthesize Leary’s eight-circuit model of consciousness, general semantics, yoga, quantum physics, and plenty of other weird stuff into an “owner’s manual for the human brain”. Despite being somewhat new-age at times, the book changed the way I see the world.
Snow Crash is a sci-fi classic. It’s got alternate reality, samurai swords, Mafia-controlled pizza delivery, privately-owned police, Sumerian myth, linguistics, and all kinds of other stuff.
There were some cool ideas in there and things like the Metaverse don’t seem too far off, especially with the Oculus Rift on the horizon.
Mulholland Drive is a film that won’t make sense the first time you watch it. It wasn’t until I read HULK VS. THE GENIUS OF MULHOLLAND DRIVE that I understood what had actually happened in the film. Watch the film and then read that article — I haven’t seen anything else that comes close to this.
A great movie about three young Germans that break into wealthy Berliners’ homes, rearrange the furniture, and leave notes like Die fetten jahre sind vorbei (the years of gluttony are over).
Back when the staff picked interesting, under-seeded films for staff recommendations, we got this gem. I continue to come back to this film many times. It is fantastic on all fronts and imperfect in just the right ways. — Sergey @ PTP
This year I listened to a ton of electronic music.
This album is an outstanding example of the genre known as psychedelic chillout.
I listened to a lot of psytrance this year, and this album stands out as my favorite.
A great dub album by Ashtech.
You can’t go wrong when you combine two of the greatest things in music: J.S. Bach and the Moog synthesizer.
The coolest WebGL demo I’ve seen so far: a shader-based terrain sculptor/simulator/renderer.
A site with lots of machine-learning competitions.
Stripe CTF was one of the most fun programming competitions I’ve participated in. There were 8 levels in total, each consisting of a different web app that you had to exploit in order to proceed. I got a sweet free t-shirt for being one of the first to finish.
A WebGL-based shader programming sandbox. This is like Studio Sketchpad on steroids. A really fun way to render Mandelbrot sets and other fractals on the GPU in realtime.
I started using Trello in January. It’s a great organizational tool for projects.
After hearing a lot about it, I finally decided to lay down $9 for a Pinboard account. I use it to organize all of my bookmarks and also to maintain a reading list. Pinboard has a great API that I’ve used to read articles on my Kindle and also to archive every link I consider important.
Usually I’m not a big fan of reading long API specifications, but the Web Audio API’s specification is worth the read. Building synthesizers inside of a web browser is just unbelievably fun.
Access a remote music collection seamlessly with user-space filesystems.
An extension of the A* algorithm to support pathfinding from many starting points to many goal points in a single pass.
I spent the final week of my trip exploring Iceland.
A brief visit to Copenhagen.
A great time in Berlin, especially in Kreuzberg.
Vienna is now among my favorite European cities.
Pictures and stories from Prague.