Get well soon, Amit

Amit and the rest of the House 2.0 crew at Amit's goodbye party in August 2007.

I just found out (through Stellar of all places) that Photojojo founder and all-around super nice guy Amit Gupta was recently diagnosed with leukemia. I don’t remember how I first met Amit, but I do know he was the first person I knew in NYC. When I was making my move to the city, he invited me to stay at House 2.0 during my scouting trips, despite the fact we had never met in person. It was there that I spent my first month in the city, where I was first exposed to Jelly, met Tony, and became a part of the NYC tech community. Thanks to his kindness, a city with a reupation for being cold and lonely quickly became my home. Get well soon buddy.

Update: Postagram will let you send a free postcard to Amit from your iPhone or Android.

Update 2: Amit needs a bone marrow transplant, but because of the small number of South Asians in the donor registry, his chances of finding a good match are very slim. If you or someone you know is of South Asian descent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, or Sri Lanka), it’s easy and free to get tested. If you’re in NYC, come to the Brown Bones Benefit Party next Friday and join the donor registry there.

CNS 2011

My trip to San Francisco was possible largely thanks to the hospitality of my best friend Rupe, who has an incredible view from his balcony.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend the Cognitive Neuroscience Society 2011 Annual Meeting in beautiful San Francisco, where my lab presented some of our recent research.

Sylvia, Dr. Mangels, & Belèn with our poster: "Task goals and achievement mindset influence attention to feedback and learning success in a challenging memory task"

This was my first time at a big academic conference, and I really had an incredible time. Few things make me happier than interesting ideas and intelligent people, and CNS provided 40 solid hours of learning and conversation which left me smiling like an idiot by the time I got on the plane back to New York. Aside from filling 25 pages of my Moleskine with notes (which I’m in the process of transcribing and putting online), the chance to talk with many of the names I’ve been reading for years was really exciting, and possible in no small part thanks to the fact that my advisor turned out to be friends with (or have worked with) almost everyone I wanted to meet. It was particularly great to chat with Roberto Cabeza, whose Attention to Memory model inspired my insight research. On a more practical level, it was really valuable to be able to talk with current graduate students in programs and labs I’m considering applying to for my PHD, and learned some important things for when it comes time to make my decision.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed the conference had I gone on my own, but it was great to be there with 5 other members of my lab. Though I met a bunch of great people at the Student Society dinner, it was really nice to always have someone I knew to grab lunch with or chat to during coffee breaks.

Equally important to having people to talk to is having people to watch your things while you collapse between sessions.

The conference went from 8am to 7pm every day, so I didn’t get much of a chance to see friends in the city, but I did experience my first authentic Mission burrito during our Lab dinner at Pancho Villa Taqueria. The foursquare tips said to get my burrito mojado (wet, thus the sauce and cheese), and it was definitely the right decision.

The horchata was also excellent.

I also rode the cable car for the first time, which I had somehow neglected to try despite all the time I’ve spent in San Francisco. I couldn’t help feeling like a monkey as I hung off the side (thanks Eddie Izzard), but it was preferable to having to walk back up Nob hill to where I was staying.

I’ll post a note with a link when I get my notes up online, but for now, I leave you with nightmare EEG baby courtesy of the EGI booth.

EEG baby knows your darkest secrets.

P.S: Tal Yarkoni, currently a post-doc at CU Boulder, is not just a talented researcher and blogger, but also a very funny man. Check out his CNS timeline for a good laugh.

How-To: Add Your Baruch Email to Gmail

For whatever reason, the higher ups at BCTC decided a few years ago that instead of using a traditional email solution, they would outsource the email accounts for all Baruch faculty, staff, and students to the horrible, terrible, awful Windows Live Mail service. So bad is the current email situation that the vast majority of students and staff don’t even use their school addresses, which can be a problem when most official Baruch communication goes to that account. Furthermore, there is no way to set the Live account to automatically forward new messages to a different address (a option which appears to have been intentionally removed by the Baruch admins).

The good news is that there’s an easy way to integrate your Baruch email into your existing Gmail account. Messages sent to your Baruch address will automatically show up in your Gmail inbox, and you’ll be able to send messages from your school address without having to log into your Baruch account.

Because not everyone feels comfortable with all this newfangled interweb stuff, I’ve outlined the steps below.

1. Log into your Gmail and click on Settings in the top-right corner.

2. Click on the Accounts and Import tab in Settings.

3. Under Check mail using POP3, click Add POP3 email account.

4. Enter your full Baruch email address. (e.g. [email protected])

5. Gmail will automatically fill in your username and select the email server settings. Enter your Baruch password.

Optional: If you want to continue accessing your Baruch email the traditional way, enable Leave a copy of retrieved messages on the server, otherwise each message will be deleted from your Baruch account once it has been downloaded to Gmail.

These are the only steps necessary if all you want is for messages sent to your Baruch address to appear in Gmail. If you also want to be able to send messages from your Baruch address from within Gmail, follow these few extra steps.

6. Also on the Accounts and Import tab of Settings, under Send mail as, click Send mail from another address.

7. Enter your Baruch email address.

8. An email with a confirmation code will be sent to your Baruch address (and should now show up in Gmail). Click the link in the email or copy the code into the set-up dialog.

8. Select Send through Gmail (The only difference between this setting and sending through the Baruch server is that some old versions of Outlook will display messages from your Baruch address sent through Gmail as “From [email protected] on behalf of [email protected]” The reasons for this have to do with the way spam filters work.)

And there you have it. No more dealing with the painful Baruch email interface, and no more missing important school emails. This process also works for other email accounts as well, not just Baruch (but obviously some of the settings would be different).

Through the Wash

A few months ago, my buddy Chris and I were “shootin’ the shit,” as one is want to do, and he mentioned that he just found a jump-drive that he had accidentally sent through the washing machine. Unsurprisingly for those of us who know their way around electronic circuits, after drying the thing out, it worked. Despite this, we thought it might be fun to see what else could survive a trip to the laundromat, and decided to build Through the Wash.

With video reviews featuring the comedy talent of the Geek Comedy Tour 3000 team, we think Through the Wash has the potential to be a hit– but we need your help, so check it out and spread the word!

Denver Trip, ROFLcon, and LOLcat Book

While its great living in the big city, it’s certainly nice to get out of town every now and then– away from all the hustle and bustle. As such, I’m spending the last full week of April relaxing back home in Denver. It would be great to see the Denver geek crowd again, so hit me up if you’d like to catch-up.

More importantly however, I’ll be making a slight detour to Cambridge for ROFLcon before heading back to NYC. ROFLcon, if you haven’t heard, is a gathering of everything awesome and fantastic about the internets. Tron guy, Group X, and Leeroy Jenkins are just a few of the internet celebrities attending, and panels will include “Pwning for the Good of Mankind” and “Incubating the Mind Virus.”

Silliness aside, this looks like its going to be an amazing gathering of minds to discuss just what makes the internet such a special place.

Finally, Gotham Books has contacted Kevin and I about having Shcrodinger’s LOLcat included in the upcoming I Can Haz Cheezburger book. More details as soon as we get them.

This is my brain in Love

A few months ago, Radio Lab– one of my very favorite public radio shows– aired an episode about the neuroscience of Love. The show, in two acts, served as an informative and entertaining primer to a mind-bogglingly complex subject, and did so with all the flair, panache, and quirky musical bumpers that make shows like Radio Lab the easily stereotyped gems they are.

While I found the piece interesting enough, I wasn’t moved to do much more than contemplate the subject a bit and put it on my ever-growing list of things to research. Mostly unmoved, that is, until this weekend, when I met a girl who really turned my head upside-down.

After the waves of intrusive thinking and tummy-knotting anxiety which exemplify Limerence wore off, I came to a now unsurprising realization: Love isn’t mere emotion, it’s a fundamental change in the way we think; a change we have almost no control over. A temporary all-controlling animalistic psychosis that effects us all at one time or anther, driven by three simple, seemingly innocent enough, neurotransmitters. To take a page from the Radio Lab show, lets take a quick look at them:

Dopamine – Real true deeply passionate Love. That amazing ecstatic feeling that comes from seeing and interacting with that special someone. You get the same rush of Dopamine from crack cocaine that you do from Love.

Norepinephrine – Intense infatuation. Norepinephrine focuses the good feelings of dopamine on that one object of your desire.

Oxytocin – Peace and happy contentment that comes with long-term commitment.

The problem here is that Dopamine and Norepinephrine create such powerful emotion that if we were to keep getting squirts of them over a long period of time, we’d literally go insane. It has long been accepted that excessive levels of Dopamine play a large role in Schizophrenia, and anyone who’s ever had a crush can understand why.

As I’m stuck here with too much Norepinephrine floating around the folds of meat inside my skull, I’ll end our quick overview of the subject here, but if you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend you check out the bit of audio magic that inspired this post, which I linked to in the first paragraph. In addition to a recorded podcast of the show, Radio Lab has provided a number of interesting articles and links on the subject for your further nerdy perusal.

Long Time No See

Almost two months without a real post? I know, I’m a horrible person. I don’t really even have an excuse, other than that I’ve been taking most aspects of my life pretty easy for the past few months– sleeping in, working late, and zonking out in front of the TV. I figure this is the last time I’ll really be able to live such a laid-back existence– at least until I retire. In a little under two weeks, I’ll be packing up my things and moving out into the ‘real world’ to continue my studies in New York City. If you know anyone in the city looking for a roommate, let me know.

I recently started writing regularly for one of my very favorite blogs, UNEASYsilence. I’m super excited to be on the team with Dan and Derek, and I’m really enjoying the increased freedom I have in terms of what topics I can post on relative to at Weblogs, Inc. That being said, I have decided that from now on, Geek Friendly will be reserved for niche topics, and that things of general geeky interest will be posted on UES.

Not that I promise to update more often– I’d just be kidding myself.

Behind the LOLcat: Schrodinger’s LOLcat

Schrodinger’s LOLcat

A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast lecture on the basics of quantum cryptography when I got into a discussion about the nitty-gritty of the subject with my friend Justin.

dantekgeek: exponential on a regular computer, but reasonable time on a quantum computer, right?
justinwick: Right right
justinwick: assuming ur in ur quantum computerz, giving them enuff qbitz
dantekgeek: hahahaha
justinwick: 🙂
justinwick: schrodinger’s lolcat

I quickly searched flickr for a suitable image, and came across Kevin Steele’s fantastic “a box for every cat.” Some quick work in Skitch, and Schrodinger’s lolcat was born.

I figured my circle of friends would get a kick out of it, and that maybe it would be picked up by BoingBoing, but could never have predicted the amount of exposure my little creation has received.

Others had the idea long before I came across it, but for whatever reason, it was my LOLcat which gets all the glory. This puts me in kind of a weird position; On one hand, I don’t want to be seen as taking credit for an idea that was already floating in the ether, but the fact remains that we did create this thing without knowledge of prior-art, and I think that should count for something.

I want to make clear that I couldn’t have made this thing on my own, and it was only through the spirit of the meme, my conversation with Justin, and Kevin’s photo that this thing came to fruition. I am but one small robot on the LOLcat assembly line.

I’m in talks with Justin and Kevin about possibly printing up some t-shirts, but nothing is guaranteed– we might choose to just let this thing stay online, where it was born, and where it belongs.

Free Download: 2007 Skylines Calendar

Skylines Calendar

In celebration of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, I have decided to make public the work of which I am most proud, a 2007 calendar featuring the skylines of 6 beautiful international cities.

About IPSTD:

On this day, everyone who wants to should give away professional quality work online. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a story or a poem, it doesn’t matter if it’s already been published or if it hasn’t, the point is it should be disseminated online to celebrate our technopeasanthood.

The calendar is a 9″x15″ PDF, but it should scale pretty well to 11″x17″, and really should be printed in full color on good paper to get the most out of the work.

Download it here. (Now a ZIP archive of JPG images.)