l33tminion: (L33t)
Links post! Been far too long since I did one of those. Some very select stuff from the past few months:

Side Effected: A short-story film by my cousin Lev, now making the film festival circuit. Good stuff.

Daylight Savings Time is Terrible: A proposal to eliminate daylight savings time and move the continental US to two time-zones. It would certainly make working on the east coast for a west coast based company a bit more convenient.

The Turning Point in Freestyle Chess: Chess computers play at grandmaster level, but for now humans plus computers are the ultimate chess-playing team. But will that stay the case?

Barcelona as Airport Suburb: Housing prices have become so high in London that it might be cheaper to live in Barcelona and commute via Ryanair four days a week. Crazy stuff, though I wouldn't want the economic viability of my living arrangement to be dependent on the exact pricing model of a single discount airline.

The 120 Hour Workweek: An interesting experiment in productivity and self-quantification.

More Guests, Empty Houses: An article on the effect of AirBnB on housing prices in Marfa, Texas.

21 Amazing Hotels: Pretty pictures!
l33tminion: (AMERICA!)
At the bus stop yesterday, I was approached by a drunk who asked me to call him an ambulance. There was nothing obviously wrong with him (aside from being a drunk), and he says this in a tone that doesn't indicate he's alarmed in the slightest. So I ask him, why's he need an ambulance? And he tells me I should call him an ambulance because "[he] can't get where [he's] going". So I say, "It's not a taxi service!" which prompts a tirade of slurred and extremely boring insults. (Though, again, not insults that try to convince me in any way that this guy is in some sort of legitimate distress.) I wonder what that guy's scheme was. If getting me to call an ambulance was really his objective, he could have told me any number of plausible-but-unverifiable things that would have had me calling an ambulance immediately (even something as non-descript as "I'm having a medical emergency" might do in a pinch).

The VP debates last night were much more interesting than the first round or Presidential Debates. Martha Raddatz did great as moderator, I thought (though this counter-point by Glenn Greenwald is worth a read). Full debate is here, fact-checking can be found here.
l33tminion: (QED)
Sure has been a while since I did one of these, but here are a few recent tidbits.

Teach A Kid to Argue: On why teaching kids good argument skills is a better idea than you might think.

The Upside of Ugly: On plastic surgery and technological solutions to social problems.

Jay-Z’s "99 Problems," Verse 2: A Close Reading With Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps: Musical "life lessons for cops and robbers".

The Problem with Witness Testimony: One thing people should keep in mind, especially if they ever serve on a jury in a criminal trial.

The Toothbrush That Saved the ISS: Low-tech solutions in a high-tech setting.

Six Thoughts on the Case of the Breast Feeding Professor: The discussion prompted by this story is way more interesting than the story itself. Also, this.

Why Greece's Neo-Nazis Are So Popular: Not so different from other historical occurences.

Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S.: Dimitri Orlov saw this coming.

The Spiritual Crisis of Zionism: A fascinating essay in response to Beinart's The Crisis of Zionism.
l33tminion: (Default)
Friday: Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross book talk at Brookline Booksmith (there doesn't seem to be video of that, but here's an earlier version of the talk/reading). They were talking about their as-weird-as-possible novel collaboration, The Rapture of the Nerds, and how the ideas behind the modern version of "the singularity" date back (at least) to a late-19th-century rocket scientist and theologian.

Saturday: Belgian Beer Fest, featuring quite a variety of local brewers and imports. The highlight for me was Night Shift Brewing, a local gem I was previously unaware of. Also went to the Greek Music and Food Festival, which featured traditional dance in elaborate costume.

Sunday: Union Square hosted a music festival entitled Help! Our Bands are On Fire to assist members of The Columbia House, a local artists' household destroyed by a house-fire.

Unfortunately, I must also mention another piece of sad news: ITAer and famed Lisp hacker Dan Weinreb died last Friday.

Nice Specs

Jun. 29th, 2012 02:24 pm
l33tminion: (Yay!)
The Google Glass demo from Google I/O is without a doubt the most spectacular tech demo I've ever seen. Bit of behind-the-scenes footage for the demo here, part of the keynote about Glass here.

ETA: The TechCrunch writeup is also pretty good.
l33tminion: (Climbing)
For DFW fans, The Decemberists Play Eschaton.

The real message of the Susan G. Komen / Planned Parenthood controversy.

An essay urging Americans to Raise the Crime Rate.

A 60-minutes interview with free-climber Alex Honnold.
l33tminion: (Keepon)
The dancing robot Keepon is awesome, and now you can buy one for about $40. (Hope the mass produced version has the charm of the original!)

Never has this icon been so appropriate.
l33tminion: (L33t)
Programming: Here's an article on binary math in C. For more practical stuff (in you're a Python programmer), read this bit on the fileinput library in Python (very useful, but I hadn't heard of it previously).

Essays: Ever play Monopoly and wonder why the game (as you were taught) is so slow? That's because you were taught wrong.

Douglas Hofstatder makes a point about language by analogy.

A piece on the book and television series Game of Thrones and how it relates to the aesthetic of fascism.

Economics and Society: Foxconn (major Chinese electronics manufacturer) to replace workers with robots. But of course the increased automation will lead to new opportunities for those workers, once freed of the drudgery of such boring jobs?

Meanwhile, there's this HuffPo article about women increasingly turning to prostitution (called by other names) in order to pay tuition or student loans.

A Bit of History: A story about a computer virus that DDOSed the entire internet in 2003. (The Akami tech featured in the article is a friend of mine, he currently spends his time making the mathematical art published here.)

A story about the short and violent life of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, gang member, murderer, and murder victim before he was killed in 1994 at the age of 11.

Misc: A talk on organizing an art show featuring 100 different artists, who are all the same artist.

An article on the challenges involved in Arabic-language localization for film.

A short story titled Nanolaw with Daughter.
l33tminion: (Default)
Anime: Japanator's top 50 for the decade. An interesting selection. I've watched all of 22 of those and touched on 6 more.

Clothes: Ties! Also, the other kind of ties! umbrellas! Blue shoes! Double monks!

It occurs to me that I've gone from two pairs of shoes (running shoes, black oxford dress shoes; three if you include beach sandals) to seven (running shoes (which I still wear at least 95% of the time), black oxford dress shoes, cheap old wingtips, moar better wingtips, thrifted fringe loafer, cheap blue canvas sneakers (CVOs), casual slip-ons (I like the idea of using those as beach shoes much, much more than sandals, which I hate)). Basically, if I ever win the lottery I'm in danger of becoming this guy. (Not really. I hope.)

Education: Here's a method of learning phonetic alphabets (like Japanese kana): transliterate random things.

An interview with the Olin College president. I find the answers both interesting and disappointingly moderate.

A Wellesley student discusses Wellesley's admissions office's discrimination against transgendered students. Yet another "the writing is on the wall for Wellesley as women-only" story, there were several others during my Olin days. A good example of how overt, allegedly acceptable discrimination leads to covert, obviously shady discrimination.

An MIT researcher turns his house into a (self-directed) panopticon, with interesting results. I discussed this at length on my other blog.

A discussion of the World Peace Game, an educational game of global politics played by fourth graders.

Random Interesting: Broken lottery scratch-off games and their relation to security, math, and crime.'

Overthinking It analyzes Rebecca Black's "Friday", which must be the most successful vanity video of all time.

Playing video games while blind.

A bit of randomly interesting math: What is the highest value of n for which the decimal representation of 2^n has no 0s?

An article on a handbook for overthrowing dictators, which has evidently been quite influential this year.

An article on the psychology of (media) overabundance.

Better libertarian rhetoric with regard to "anti-privilege" liberals. Good stuff.

Dinosaur Comic's take on polyamory. Read the extra title text. I love that brand of subtle snark.
l33tminion: (Slacker Revolt)
Education: An essay on why going to any non-top-tier law school is a one-way ticket to penury. Ditto (most of the time) for getting a PhD. An article on the overuse of homework in elementary school.

Music: A love note sent indirectly, a twist on the multitrack music video, an OverthinkingIt essay on the song Like a G6.

The Internets Attack: An article on memetic epidemiology in the Cooks Source plagiarism scandal (more background on that), and a hypothetical story of a flash mob gone wrong.

Clowns Attack: Clowns versus clowns, an anarchist army of rebel clowns.

Politics: Why the health care bill won't be repealed (basically all of it is popular), an article on the downside of diversity, an article on the reaction to deadly airline terrorism before 9/11, an article on pilot unions and airlines.

Food: Making porchetta, omelets inside the egg.

Clothes: A post from the author of Dresden Codak on costume and character, a talk about fashion and free culture, more than you ever wanted to know about men's dress shoes.

Other Interesting: Augmented reality for the colorblind, The World's Greatest Drunk, a psychological history of David Foster Wallace, translating early modern philosophy texts from English to English, a video asking "what do sex workers want their significant others to know?" (produced by Scarlet Alliance, a sex workers' rights organization in Australia).

Finally: Denki Groove's latest video, Fake It!
l33tminion: (Error)
Open Source Software:

Went to the Olin Etherpad FAD this last weekend. (Etherpad being a popular piece of open-source collaborative document-editing software, FAD being a "Fedora Activity Day", a hackathon.) Was good, and I can increase the number of open-source projects I've added useful work to by one. Etherpad's code is a mess, though.

Ubuntu 10.10 ("Maverick Meerkat") was released on 10/10. Upgraded my home computer with no problems, upgrading my work machine now.

OpenOffice developers, not willing to take Oracle's (mis)management of the project have forked it, taking the source code and founding LibreOffice. While the process is not quite complete, I think I'll be recommending that over the old OpenOffice.org in the near future.

Open-source Facebook competitor Diaspora put out their first alpha release, demonstrating that when it comes to security, they're completely unprepared.

Finally, here's a brief post on why some of the most successful Linux-based operating systems don't mention Linux in their marketing copy.

Toxic Mudslide in Hungary:

On October 4, a reservoir containing ~700,000 cubic meters of toxic alumina sludge burst in Hungary, killing eight, injuring 123, destroying towns, and threatening local waterways. Photos here. On October 7, the sludge reached the Danube river.

A Bit of Politics:

President Obama vetoed an act requiring state and federal courts to accept notarizations done outside of their jurisdiction, due to concerns that this would facilitate foreclosures based on fraudulent mortgage papers. Several major banks have halted foreclosures in the 23 states that require some judicial process for foreclosures. Last Friday, Bank of America halted all foreclosures, they have since been joined by Goldman Sachs.

Worth watching: Stephen Colbert's in-character testimony to a congressional committee on immigrant labor. Colbert was asked to testify because he was one of the few people to participate in the United Farm Workers "Take Our Jobs" campaign.

Here's a post on the amount of corporate money being spent in the 2010 election in the wake of the Citizen's United case. I still don't think we'll see the whole impact of that case until 2012,

Finally, a post pointing out that the Republican opposition to healthcare reform basically advocates the same thing as the bill that was actually passed.


Why Groupon may be a terrible deal for small-business owners.

Two videos: Out of Sight (an animated short) and a dance from Genki Sudo (they're odd).

A list of the best Sunday brunch places near Boston, according to followers of BostonTweet.
l33tminion: (Slacker Revolt)
The ITA acquisition has entered the "second request" phase, which means the DOJ is asking for more documents for their investigation of the likely effects of the merger on the competitive environment.

Here's a short talk about how happiness works. Among other things, having the option to go back on a past choice consistently makes people less happy.

Victorian BMX. Death on a bicycle!

An essay on Omelas.

The National Inflation Association defends their predictions against the question of Japan. Why did Japan not face hyperinflation in the face of a huge debt-to-GDP ratio and ultra-low-interest loans?

An Overthinking It post on Old Spice ads, Norse gods, and the end of the world. Especially awesome because it discusses one of the better bits of futurism from Infinite Jest, about the end of television advertising.

Speaking of futurism, it's pretty amazing how much Arthur C. Clark got right, he pretty much called the rise of satellite television, GPS, and global cell-phone networks in a letter written in 1956.

Here's one on a summer camp based on Greek mythology as told by Rick Riordan. I was going to say I posted this for Melissa, but I realized I'd emailed it to her ages ago.

Philosophical Zombies: The Movie.

A video on racism and rhetoric.

Finally, to clear your brain, a few bonuses: A visualization of my foursquare checkins. And this mashup.
l33tminion: (Default)
(Home sick today, and consequently awake now because I was asleep most of the day. Will try to sleep again in a bit, but first, some links.)

Amazon vs. Macmillan: Last week, Amazon briefly stopped stocking Macmillan books when the publisher demanded the ability to set the retail price on their ebooks. Previously, Amazon paid Macmillan a fixed price for each ebook sold (same as physical books, one-half recommended retail price) and then charged customers whatever price they wanted. Amazon was selling ebooks at little to no profit (presumably as a loss leader to push Kindle sales). Macmillan was presumably worried that low ebook prices would reduce customer expectations about what books should cost. Eventually, Amazon capitulated. I think [livejournal.com profile] bradhicks is right on this one, Amazon was in the right, the retail price of books being set by a few publishers instead of lots of retailers is bad for customers, probably bad for authors, and certainly a dangerous trend for retailers. However, none of the authors whose blogs I read seemed to view it that way, though none of the posts in question conveyed a clear understanding of why Amazon was so panicked. Failure to communicate with authors was a large part of why the situation was a PR disaster for Amazon. But they were in a losing position either way. If they just capitulated it was likely (and even now it's possible) that other publishers would also demand to control ebook retail prices, taking a firing squad to Amazon's iPod-esque business model for the Kindle.

Obama vs. the Republicans: Did you guys see Obama's post-SOTU speech and Q+A at the Republican Retreat in Baltimore? Was pretty amazing. Wish the guy had been playing politics like this a year ago. Will he actually be able to push some Republicans into negotiating in good faith on significant policy disagreements instead of opposing everything? We'll see.

Google vs. China: How the heck did I miss talking about that one? Basically, the Chinese government's corporate espionage against Google prompted Google to reverse their earlier stance that it's better to work within the law in China than not to work within China at all. This is evidently part of a long-running internal conflict within Google. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. It's sort of interesting that large corporations now need their own foreign policy. Ultimately, I think that one was the right choice, better to take the losses now than be faced with an even worse moral dilemma later. The more entrenched Google got, the more leverage the Chinese government would have.

Bonus Videos: The best educational video on economics I've seen to date, a demonstration of the fundamentals of modern newscasting, one on traffic signals, one on B-roll, one that was the result of crazy car review show Top Gear being asked to review something practical, one on the dangers of hitchhiking.

Finally: If You Are Sleepless
l33tminion: (Default)
l33tminion: (Mad Scientist)
Media: Seems there have been an awful lot of discussions on LJ lately that start with one author or another saying something mind-bogglingly dumb and/or offensive. The short context here: GLADD published a report on the presentation of homosexual characters on various TV channels, of those channels, only SyFy said, "Our bad, we'll try to do better in the future," [livejournal.com profile] johncwright flipped out, expressing rage the SyFy was cowardly submitting to pressure from a lobby that subscribes to the mantra "evil is our good" (he claimed sarcasm on that last characterization, but in a later post decried the "antinomian* agenda" of the Left). The rest was a pretty typical homophobic screed, but the responses it prompted were interesting: [livejournal.com profile] autopope provides a bit of context here, Hal Duncan has a dramatic and detailed response, Kip Manley has a more pointed response that hits the "antinomian" bit specifically and also has some more general commentary on the relationship between the author's views and their work, Ampersand answers a specific point of Wright's post ("What argument can be given to outlaw incest that cannot be given with even more logic to outlaw homosexuality?").

* Presumably, with "tolerance" or some-such substituted for Jesus. He was suggesting that liberals think that homosexuality is evil / perverted / wrong, but that wrong things are okay if you're a liberal. This is worth some attention, especially given that there are significant groups with an antinomian agenda in the US (the salvation by faith in salvation by faith alone types).

Politics and Economics: The White House blog has a post on how income disparity is way up (almost to its previous, just-before-the-Great-Depression high) and how "this trend must reverse". Kind of surprising to see the White House saying such things so directly. Meanwhile, the second commenter on an article saying much the same thing puts it more succinctly. There's also an interesting op-ed suggesting that a second Great Depression was averted through the power of Big Government. Kind of annoying that there will never, ever be an objective perspective on whether that's true or not, economics is way too political.

Healthcare: Nate Silver explains exactly why and how much the public option is in trouble. According to that, the key is Senate Finance committee members, because anti-public-option senators would be willing to filibuster a pro-public-option amendment, but not the whole bill. Also an interesting bit about how the GOP in 2003 supported adding the sort of care to Medicare that they're now characterizing as "death panels". Er...

Business, Airlines, Music: United has horrible customer service, which produces entertaining results.
l33tminion: (Caffeine)
Back from Cleveland and, since I was at work late and unable to resist the sweet allure of late-night iced coffee, up late. As usual, there are lots of things I want to blog about, but so little time, so mini-stories with links, GO!

Here's a video about expected value, why people are bad at estimating it and therefore bad at making rational economic decisions. But the guy misses something big when discussing the lottery, namely the Kelly Criterion, highlighted in the article Do Not Play the Lottery Unless You Are a Millionaire. Basically, if you're gambling with a good expected value (say a coin flip where you win twice your bet when you win and lose your bet when you lose), you shouldn't invest too much of your money. Obviously, if you bet 100% of your bankroll, you're flat out of luck the first time you lose. When applied to the lottery, it means that the answer to "when you should play the lottery" is not when prize times odds is more than the cost of a ticket, it really is never unless you're already exceptionally rich.

Two very different musical YouTube links: One on a young piano virtuoso (next Mozart is probably overblown, but it is awesome) and one... well, just watch it.

About GM, now a subsidiary of USCo, evidently (which is giving the Republicans a stroke): It seems that this crazy variant of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is going to be heinously expensive and probably just a stalling measure... but possibly a more effective stalling measure than Chapter 11, which could be good, a rapid collapse of GM would really ripple through the economy in a bad way. More interesting is the question of what the reorg means for (more) fuel-efficient cars (summary: it's decidedly mixed). But that may be missing the point a bit, are Americans going to be really gung-ho about buying new cars en masse anytime soon, Congress's proposal to throw more massive amounts of money at the problem aside? (I'm not sure whether to be horrified at that one or hopeful because at least some dramatic options are being considered, although there's no chance in hell the government will use it's influence to convert that spare industrial capacity to making windmills or trains or something crazy like that.)

Magic: The Gathering is doing a major rules rewrite for Magic 2010 (their major core set change, core sets now get new cards, are treated as full sets, and are numbered by year). It's actually a pretty great example of game design. Interesting Only If You're Familiar With the Game )

Slacktivist has a long-running series deconstructing the Left Behind books, and this post is particularly good, because it gets at the curious subtype of the belief in "salvation by faith alone" (a sort of "salvation by faith in salvation by faith alone") that some American evangelicals seem to hold. Be very suspicious of anyone who quotes Ephesians 2:8-9 but not 10.

If you have more time to burn after reading the above, I suggest this game, it's good.
l33tminion: (Yay!)
There's been a lot of buzz around the gamer community lately about all the stuff coming out of E3. But the coolest thing, tech demo wise, seems to be Microsoft's announcement of Project Natal (like the city in Brazil), which takes the concept pioneered by the Nintendo Wii to an extreme conclusion, ditching the controller entirely in favor of advanced image processing and motion capture. (Evidently, Microsoft hired this guy as a developer, which explains a lot. Nintendo really missed an opportunity there.) Of course, I'm going to remain a bit skeptical until I see it live, since plenty of promising demos don't work out so well in real life.

While we're on that topic, here's the best review of Duke Nukem Forever I've seen yet, an excellent take on a game that revolutionized the genre and was totally worth the wait.

In more concrete matters, here's a tech demo for the system created by Kiva Systems, where Ginneh works.

Finally, in case all of the above is just too new for you, here's someone demonstrating a modem from 1964, using it to dial into a remote terminal. Surprisingly, it still works... they really don't make 'em like they used to.
l33tminion: (Chaos)
l33tminion: (Default)
  • I've been reading a lot of essays by [livejournal.com profile] bradhicks lately. A while ago, I posted an essay of his about brining back the WPA, but since then I've been directed his-journal-wards several times and decided I should pay closer attention to what this brilliant essayist has to say:
    • Here's his classic Christains in the Hands of an Angry God which answers a very interesting question: Why are American fundamentalist Christians so in bed with the Republican party when the economic values of the Republican party are antithetical to those expressed by Jesus of Nazareth, and when the biblical justifications for Republican positions regarding homosexuality, abortion, etc. are so very based on cherry picking and outright mistranslation?
    • He also gives one of the most intelligent looks at the Israel / Hamas conflict in When Will There Be Peace in Gaza: As soon as Hamas makes one crucial realization that they very much don't want to make.
    • He also has an interesting and very pessimistic take on the current economic situation, a catastrophe that could perhaps be mitigated if the FDIC decided to actually do their job... but their decision to not enforce the law was years ago.
    • His take on the church shooting committed by David Atkisson late last year is very interesting (and disturbing) in the context of current right-wing talk-media rhetoric.
  • Matt Taibi talks about the contortions of current right-wing political protest, which must oppose Obama administration bailouts and progressive anti-bailout protesters.
  • Linux Journal has a post about a recent investigation in Boston over a completely trivial matter that has yet again put this city at the forefront of "The War on the Unexpected". Specifically, police are suggesting (in the justification for the search warrant in question) that using a command-line interface is suspicious behavior.
  • Here's an essay on how one of Disney's most famous movies ripped of an earlier Japanese work wholesale. Evidently was a "just claim we never heard of it" response to not being able to get the remake rights. Speaking of Disney, there's also an amusing take on Disney's favorite target for plagiarism, themselves.
  • There's been a lot of talk on the gaming internet about OnLive, a new service business that applies the cloud computing model to gaming. The idea is to put the controller on your end and the processing all on the server, with streaming video in between. The tech community reaction has been skeptical, even if you solve all the streaming video problems, it seems like there would be some issues with latency. But maybe that's not a problem.
  • A few videos:


l33tminion: (Default)Sam

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