Favorite Gershwin song performances

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

These are a few performances of Gershwin songs I discovered these past few years, which I think are exceptional.  The streaming music links are done through TinySong (a way to share GrooveShark links) or YouTube.

Embraceable You – Kiri Te Kanawa Dame Kiri brings the sauciness and confidence this song deserves.

Bidin’ my Time – Nat King Cole The best song ever to make you feel good about wasting – ehm – biding your time.

Our Love is Here to Stay – Glad This tight a cappella group did a whole Gerswhin album which includes a superb Embraceable You.

Fascinating Rhythm – Ella Fitzgerald Mellifluous and magnificent.

Nook box recycled into cover

When I unpacked my new Nook e-book reader last summer, I fell in love with the design of its stylish cardboard packaging – white on the outside, colored stripes on the inside. I decided to recycle the box into a cover by turning it inside out, with help from this youtube video, my sewing machine, some micro-suede fabric, thin foam sheets and a small piece of velcro. While it didn’t turn out quite as neat as I intended, I think the colorful design looks like high-end gift wrap, indicating the potential of finding newly downloaded books whenever you open it.

Record methuselah pattern found in Conway’s Game of Life

It happened right here, in the East Wing of our Useful Dreams Laboratories ! Using Nathaniel Johnston’s Online Life-Like CA Soup Search Python scripts, and the previously featured superbly versatile cellular automata program Golly, one of our carefully overclocked PCs stumbled upon the pattern below, which has a life span of 31,192 generations.  Such patterns are generally called Methuselahs, because it takes an unexpectedly large number of iterations of chaotic development before they settle down into more predictable remnants.

Co-named for both Methuselah’s (apocryphal) wife Edna, and the famous Australian housewife-and-Megastar Dame Edna, we are proud to present the pattern itself:


Edna in all her glory

CATHY – a great free file catalog program

For years I’ve been looking for a fast program to index my growing collection of external drives and backup optical discs.  All that most people need for this is filename-searching and explorer-style browsing the off-line drives and DVD/CD-roms – no fancy content- or thumbnail-indexing  or mp3-embedded information searches, just a list of folders and filenames, sizes and dates. Programs like Google Desktop Search and Windows’ own indexing searchers fail because they are slow and not designed to work with removable drives.

The best solution IMHO is to use CATHY, written by Robert Vasicek.  It is an ultra-simple freeware program which is lean and fast – searches are nearly instant, and indexing rarely takes more than thirty seconds even for terabytes of files – and it indexes any volume or folder you want, digesting it into a separate, small .caf catalog file which you can move to any folder, put a copy of “cathy.exe”  along with it, and everything just works, no install process required. The interface is simple and can seem a little quirky at first glance, but believe me it’s a trade-off worth making.

It can be found via the Author’s website http://www.mtg.sk/rva/

Rapid Environment Editor

If you are doing any kind of serious software development on any flavor of Windows, you will have several SDKs and libraries installed, the installers (or manual installation instructions) of which typically add a bunch of paths and other essentials to Window’s permanent environment variables.  To sort these all out, the freeware utility Rapid Environment Editor makes things much, much easier. It even checks and highlights all broken paths instantly.

REE logo

Crystal Nights

I’m a big fan of science fiction writer Greg Egan. His stories often feature evolving artificial life forms, which start out in computers but usually find a way to transcend their world. His latest story Crystal Nights can be read for free online or downloaded as a pdf file, and an audio version is also available.

Crystal Nights at Interzone

Crystal Nights .pdf file (direct link)

Crystal Nights audio at Transmissions From Beyond

Crystal Nights and other stories – book on Amazon.com ( to be released September 30, 2009 )

Crystal Nights thumbnail

Hullabalooza III

Some cool folks we met at a local music festival this weekend had this design on a T-shirt. They may have been the ones that actually started the meme as they mentioned scanning it from a book.

How to resuscitate a lizard

The Game Of Life


If you like playing with cellular automata as much as I do, check out this magnificent Open Source project named Golly at http://golly.sourceforge.net/
And consider joining me in nominating it for a SourceForge’s 2009 Community Choice Award:

Pond Life

Just as we tried to shoot the frog, a giant dragonfly decided to upstage it.


Python 3.1

As a VTune jockey with firm roots in assembly programming, I’m naturally skeptical about relatively slow, interpreted high-level languages, yet I’ve been warming to Python. There are many cases where the savings in time and frustration from being able to clearly express complicated algorithms are worth the trade-off in clock cycles.  And I have great hopes for its speed in the near future, as the Python versions after 3.0 are supposed to concentrate on optimization.  Check out version 3.1 currently in second alpha release, available at http://www.python.org/download/releases/3.1/