Monday, November 27, 2006

Feedback: Positive or Negative?

The major thing we talked about in discussion from the Emergence book by Johnson was about feedback. This is an idea where there are two different styles of reacting to something. There is positive feedback, where one just keeps adding to a story, lets say. Then there is negative feedback and that is more thoroughly analyzed and provides a better story. The best example is the temperature example where there are two different ways to keep a room warm, one would be to keep pumping in warm air until it became much too hot, positive, and the other would be one where you stop and start the air to keep the room at an even temperature.


The main use of feedback was in news stories. The major discussion we had was whether news today was really news and whether feedback was the reason that so much of the news became something out of nothing. The best example I can think of is in sports and Terrell Owens. He is always in the news and yet I don’t think people care any more. When he first became so news worthy it was because he was a great player and was a little weird, but now he is no longer great and yet ESPN still tries to make them news. ESPN is one the worst at sticking on to a subject for way to long and forcing events that happen into news. Their power in the sports news industry then make the story become bigger than it is. They seem to be a big proponent of positive feedback.

And that's all you need to know,

Bryan

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ants, Cities, and The Sims


The book that we read and continue to read is pretty interesting. The book is Emergence by Steven Johnson. It has a lot of different topics all of them, however, show and try to describe emergence. Emergence is a system that Johnson says most people have a hard time grasping. As humans we are unable to understand how anything could form complex systems without the aid of a leader or pacemaker to tell the rest what to do. But that is what emergence is all about. A bottom up formation of a complex system that is more complex as a whole, than the individual pieces that form it (pg, 18).

The main example that he uses are ants and how they develop complex hives, without being terribly complex themselves. They just do what is natural to them and they seem to become better as time goes on, until they are in their last few years and they are very efficient. This is such a hard idea to grasp. How can creatures that don’t have much brain power learn how to do things better. The author doesn’t really explain how that works. He just talks about how the collective group of ants become better at there job by following there pheromones. Cities also grow somewhat the same way. Manchester was the least planned city in the world. There are people that believe that not having something planed will lead to inferior cities or neighborhoods. But people like Jacobs disagree, believing the emergence of a neighborhood is much better for the people. It grows the way people want their city to grow.

The last thing that they use for emergent system is videogames, like Sim City and the Sims. These are games where the developers make the game but have no idea how people will actually play the game. They create the bottom of the system and then the player creates completely unique cities or people. The development of the program grows differently for each player. A simple system creates a complex outcome. These are all emergent systems. Although I’m not sure I would agree with all of what Johnson says. His theory in the cities doesn’t convince me. The emergent theory doesn’t hold for cities in my opinion. There is too much going on for it to be emergence. Generations of people grow up in the same place because it is where they are from, all they know, and until modern times, was very difficult to ever get out of the city. Emergence does not allow for some of these points.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

And that’s all you need to know,

Bryan

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stranger than Fiction

I have no idea what to write about today. I have been writing so mach this past week that I’m all out. With just handing in one 5 pager to my poli sci class and the draft for this class and another 5 pager for history, I’m really sick of writing and completely out of ideas, so I just review a recent movie I saw and talk about the last episode of South Park. There may be spoilers, though I’m pretty sure everything is in the previews that I written about.

I’m sure most people have seen the preview of Will Ferrell’s “Stranger than Fiction.” I saw it over the weekend while I was back home in Chicago visiting the old folks and hoping to go to a Bulls game that never game to fruition. No more tickets, damn! The movie has one of the more strange and original premises that I’ve heard in a while. Will is living his sad, lonely life and one day there a British woman (Emma Thomson) narrating is life with, as Will says, a better vocabulary. He learns that he going to die from the narrator, which as anyone would do worries him.

From here the movie picks up and you get good performances out of everyone, but Ferrell especially shows that he can act. It’s funny, but not that funny. For most of the movie Will works with Dustin Hoffman to find out if his story is a tragedy or comedy. There are some touching moments and some really sad moments as well. There are also a couple of disturbing daydreams that Thomson has in her research for how to kill Will’s character. Over all though it is a good movie that has its moments and has some flaws as well. If you like Will Ferrell movies you may like this one, it's different from most of what he has done, but it still pretty good.

Now, on to South Park, or should I call it The Mighty Ducks 1.5. The whole episode was about Stanley Coaching a peewee hokey team, because he became a down and out paperboy without his bike. Did this remind anyone else of Mighty Ducks? It seemed like the same story, but with the edge South Park usually gives things. It was a funny episode, but it seemed like a lame season finale. It seems like the writers had nothing and just happened to be watching the Mighty Ducks and decided that that would be the last episode of the season. The end was over the top, but funny in a evil sort of way. Who would’ve thought that watching 4 and 5 year olds get crushed by the Detroit Red Wings could be entertaining.

And that's all you need to know,

Bryan

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lost in Japanslation

This past week we watched Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. It is a great movie, that’s funny and poignant at times. It takes place in Tokyo and Murray, really, just plays himself. It deals with some of the ideas that we talked about two weeks ago when we read about Augè and non-places. The two main characters seem to be completely alone when they are surrounded by people and feel most comfortable when they are with each other.

The Augè article dealt with something called non-places and how the world is becoming more a non-place as it is becoming more globalized. He says that a non-place is somewhere people may come in contact with each other, but don’t actually interact with each other. Really they just live their own lives around others doing the same thing.

The movie had some of the ideas that Augè had about the world and non-places. The main characters felt very lonely in a city with 20 million people. A lot if had to do with the fact that they couldn’t speak the language. With Murray’s character it also seemed like his home had become a non-place because he traveled so much that it no longer felt like home. And Johansson also felt out of place when she was with her husbands’ friends. They both felt completely out of place in the hotel.

But the problem is that as the movie goes on the hotel and the city become more of place. The relationship between Scarlett and Bill grows and so through that their stay becomes much better and more fun. The place feels more like home and more comfortable when they are with each other and so the city becomes a place. They even talk about just staying in Tokyo and not going home.

What does this say about his idea of non-places? It seems to say that a non-place can become a place. It doesn’t even take a major change in an area for that to happen, t can take only two people to make a city a place for themselves only. Augè never says anything about a non-place being a place for other people. He describes a shopping center as a non-place, but doesn’t take into account the fact that there could be some people that have a friend that works at the store and go in their to hang out with each other, which makes the place a more comfortable place where these few teens create a place of their own.

This is what Lost in Translation seems to say about non-places, that all it takes is two people, who enjoy their own company, to make a non-place a place.

And that’s all you need to know,

Bryan

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Dreamweaver 2 Training

So I finally went to a training section. I went for Dreamweaver 2 section and there happened to be two people from class, so in a way it was a mini 201 class. My directors were Chou and Alula. We learned some cool things.

We started with the basics, how to start a new page and we looked at the code as well. We then went over some of the some things that we did in class. The trainee than showed us some cool features. For example, how to make the links have different colors as well as how to make them change when you go over them from Dreamweaver. That will save a lot of time because I don’t have to go through Fireworks to do the same thing.

We did a lot of CSS which is a pretty cool feature and can make a website look slick. Through CSS you can change everything from the font and color style and background style.

The overall class was actually pretty good and it was informative. I would say everybody in our class should take this because it will help for the final site.

I also want to add that I was only able to see the end of the Bulls and it pissed me off. They looked like they were playing like crap on D and the O was just not there for anyone except for Hinrich. South Park was OK last night, especially the prank calling part. Cartman calling himself an a-hole was priceless.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Postmodern to Non-places

This week’s articles were quite difficult. I’m not sure how much the readings added to my understanding of what we were doing in class. The Jamison article dealt with postmodernism and how it was different from modernism. To Jamison postmodernism is not so much the next step in the chain of human advancement, but a rebellion from it. We spoke about a singer Ryan brought up in class, John Cage, who is considered a post-modern musician and how all he did was go away from some of the rules of music to create a weird and odd sound. It sort of helped to understand more of what Jamison’s idea was for the paper. Jamison was very much against the elitism that that post-modernism was showing, but he himself was writing a piece that would take a month to dissect and a dictionary to understand only slightly, not the most accessible writing. The last part of the article about the hotel made things slightly clearer than before, but not by much. The hotel reminded me of hypertext on the internet in the way one never knew if a guest would get back to the shop they found in the hotel, the way you may never find your way back to a website that you found through random hypertext searches (41).

The other article, written by Auge, “From Places to Non-Places” dealt with the idea of the US becoming more of a non-place. A non-place is a location that really has no meaning to anybody. A place is a something like a small community where everyone knows each others name and speak and interact with each other on a regular basis (discussion). We talked about how most places are now non-places now. The bus, the airport, they are all places where we go and don’t really interact with anyone. When walking down the street most people listen to their I-Pods and so they tune out the world and are in their own solitary world. When someone talks to them they may get pissed because they are being taken out of their comfortable and solitary world. Like I said in class, the only time that the US seems like a place is when people are drunk are willing to and want to talk to everyone and everything. It seems that this is when the repressed American comes out and acts like the old world used to act, that is open and in a “place” type of way. It sad this is the only time when people actually respond to and acknowledge the existence of the person walking past them.

PS

I have to say how completely pissed I am that the Bears lost to the damn Dolphins and Mr. Bear Killer, Ronnie Brown. I can’t put into words how shocked I am. I can take solace in the fact that I had some friends from Chicago come up here and that I showed them around Madison and didn’t watch the game. For that I am grateful to them.

And that’s all you need to know (not really though),

Bryan

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Big Weekend for Badgers

This is huge weekend for the Badgers, with Penn State coming to Madison. This will be the first good team the Badgers have played since Michigan and the first of two against better teams. The next two weeks may make the biggest difference in what bowl game they will play in. Stacco and Hill have to be on their "A" game and the defense has to play well. I'm worried about this game, not because I think that Penn State is better, but that they are good enough to just squeeze by on a bad day by the Badgers.

The NCAA basketball pre-season is also almost upon us and that means Badger basketball. I'm pretty surprised that the Badgers are ranked 9th nationally. It's great, but I hope it doesn't get to their heads and thay lose a game they shouldn't.

South Park was funny, especially when the teacher was trying to desribe evolution, that was really funnny. Cartman freezing himself so he could play the Nintendo Wii was also funny and him being thawed out 500 years later was crazy. Could some one tell me why it looked like all the future guys were wearing big condoms on their heads. I don't get it.

The Office was funny tonight. The Indian party was funny and Michael asking his girlfriend to marry him in front of everybody was great.

And that's all you need to know,

Bryan