May 27, 2013

Finally, for some real Hagiography

(St. Josaphat, by a pupil of Hans Schilling of Hagenau, Getty Center) 

Allow me to introduce you to Josaphat, (Greek: Ioasaph, Georgian: Iodasaph, Arabic: Yudasaf, Persian: Bodisav, Sanskrit: Bodhisattva), formerly known as St. Josaphat (day of feast Nov 29th, but kicked out of the Martyrologium Romanum in 2004), also more commonly known as (The) Buddha. 

The story of his life and deeds seems to have entered the Christian sphere around the 10th century, and apparently became quite popular in the middle ages, inspiring many descendant works. Shakespeare borrowed a scene involving three caskets for his Merchant of Venice.

Naturally the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat bears only vague resemblance to the canonical sutras: Josaphat converts to Christianism, becomes a king, then lives in the desert etc. etc. Nevertheless it is suprising that until a few years ago, a devout Catholic could light a candle to Buddha. Marco Polo already commented on the parallel Buddha/Josaphat in his travelogue, as did seafarer Diego do Conto when he was visiting Japan in the 17th century.   

Buddha may be the oddest Christian Saint, but he's in good company, with saints such as St. TronSt. Adrian, the patron saint of arms dealers, or St Bibiana, the patron saint of hangovers

Apr 30, 2013

The World's Oldest Web Page (And Space Jam)

For the web's 20th birthday (you guessed - today) CERN has restored the world's oldest website at Take a look at it, and see what the web was like in those days (all of it, actually.)

Only three years younger is Warner Bothers' promo website for the 1996 movie Space Jam at (hat tip to Telepolis magazine) Amazingly, this is not restored or anything, the site simply never went away in the first place. Take a look at this one, and get eye cancer.

Mar 30, 2013

Happy Easter

My hometown decided to have some Easter decoration this year, sponsored by the city council. Gets you into the spirit, doesn't it ?

Here's some more:

Mar 27, 2013

Updated Draft of Paper on Newcomblike Problems


This article discusses the family of Newcomblike problems in the context of reinforcement learning. This reframes the problem of rational decision making as one of obtaining maximal rewards in a wide range of environments. Newcomblike problems are characterized by correlations between agent and environment policies. Such correlations are likely if the environment contains other agents with similar architectures, which is a realistic assumption in practice. An optimal policy, taking into account these correlations, is given for known environments. 


Jan 1, 2013

Back Again

Happy new year!