Archive for December, 2008

December 2008 Reading Report

20:02 30 Dec 2008. Updated: 16:53 28 Jan 2009

I did hit my target of 14 books this month, bringing my total to 75 for the year. Some comments on those follow.

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Federer Highlights 2008

20:48 29 Dec 2008. Updated: 15:20 03 Apr 2009

Because they are glorious:

I still can’t believe the shot at 6:55 in the first one.

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On The Money

10:48 28 Dec 2008. Updated: 16:51 28 Jan 2009

Meaning, that is, on the subject of money, a nice summary of one of the major issues of the year… here’s the first part of Bremner, Bird, and Fortune discussing this year’s financial crisis:

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Public Transport Obsession

09:39 26 Dec 2008. Updated: 16:54 28 Jan 2009

When I lived in Berlin, 1995-1996, I took quite an interest in the rather excellent public transport system there. I recall this as being fairly unremarkable, but friends who visited me at the time have since pointed out that it seemed like I knew all of the timetables inside out and that it was clearly on the other side of obsessive.

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Happy Holidays!

13:31 25 Dec 2008. Updated: 16:55 28 Jan 2009

Covering the solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, Yule, (FSM) Holiday, and any other wintertime around-now holidays that I’ve missed. Wherever you are, I hope you’re having fun and surrounded by people you love.

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Email: The Resurrection

20:32 23 Dec 2008. Updated: 16:55 28 Jan 2009

Dramatic title, I know, but I’ve been operating with greatly-diminished email capabilities since the end of June this year, when a spam burst knocked out my server—that’s what first forced the move to this “temporary” blog, and then in July a much worse burst of it made my mail more or less unmanageable on that server. It’s taken me until today to really recover from that.

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Achievement Unlocked

20:36 22 Dec 2008. Updated: 20:46 06 Oct 2009

A very meta exploration of what the point of a game is: Achievement Unlocked.

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Ridiculous Return Game

08:20 21 Dec 2008. Updated: 15:21 03 Apr 2009

Some time ago I posted one of the classic clips from Roger Federer’s return game, his unbelievable retrieval of a dunk slam by Andy Roddick. That post is on my still-yet-to-be-revived old site, so I can’t link to it, but in any case YouTube now has a clip of that entire return game by Federer, who blows Roddick off the court not just in that point but in all four. As far as I can tell, Roddick is leading 15-0 when the clip begins, and from there on it’s a ludicrous display of tennis from Federer:

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2009 Reading Plan

11:34 19 Dec 2008. Updated: 19:05 23 Jun 2013

To try to hit my year’s reading target, I planned out my December reading, and it seems to have worked well (I’m currently halfway through book 71, The Art of Learning), so I’m going to try planning out my reading for next year.

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17:43 18 Dec 2008. Updated: 16:56 28 Jan 2009

In all my trips to Dublin Airport over the years, this one is the first one where, going through the “nothing to declare” channel, I saw actual Customs staff performing typical Customs duties (no pun intended)—that is, they accosted some people at random and brought them over to have their bags checked.

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Left Behind: The Movie: The Dissection

11:19 16 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:00 28 Jan 2009

slacktivist, author of a colossal serial annotation of the first novel in the Left Behind series (here’s the first entry), has begun a series of comments on the movie.

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$15 Billion in Biometrics

15:20 15 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:01 28 Jan 2009

That’s how much the “fingerprint all foreigners at the border” program costs. Not only is it completely wrong-headed, it’s amazingly wasteful an expensive! Bruce Schneier and Jim Harper weigh in.

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David Foster Wallace’s Unpublished Philosophy Thesis

11:20 14 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:02 28 Jan 2009

I know that the title sounds like a joke, or maybe the intro to a parody piece, but in fact accurately describes the subject of this New York Times article. And really, anything that includes the phrase “demonic attention to detail” has to be worth reading.

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Get Motivated

23:53 12 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:02 28 Jan 2009

(My favorite part: Patton into Any Given Sunday.)

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Textual Graph of ‘The Depressed Person’

23:19 11 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:03 28 Jan 2009

The following is a graph of different text types, or modes, in the David Foster Wallace story “The Depressed Person”, as published in the M. Evans and Company 2005 hardcover edition, with f representing footnotes, or rather a line of footnotes, T representing the title line (that is, the line “The Depressed Person” on the first page of the story, which is on page 31 of this, meaning the 2005 M. Evans & Co. hardcover published in New York, edition), n representing (a line of) the other text, the text that is neither footnote nor title, and whose representative letter here clearly suggests that the author, meaning the author of this post, who is definitely not David Foster Wallace, that this author grants a certain privilege to text arbitrarily placed “above the line” even though this author is very aware that this (i.e., this privilege) is highly questionable, perhaps in general and especially when dealing with the work of David Foster Wallace, but ultimately was simply unwilling to come up with another letter particularly since this letter, n, would provide an opportunity for the kind of metacommentary that the author (again, not David Foster Wallace) feels is apt when dealing with the author (this time actually meaning David Foster Wallace), the dashes signifying the bottom of the graph, and the numbers read vertically indicating the page number.

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Detroit: Hope and Satire

23:07 09 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:05 28 Jan 2009

By “Detroit” I primarily mean the Big Three automakers. The first thing I’m linking to isn’t satire, although it might seem that way. It’s also quite important to register the fact that the headline is not a metaphor. Oh, and look at the pictures in the slideshow.

Once done with that, have a chaser. The chaser is satire. Although it might be closer to actual reality in several respects than the hope piece.

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Putative Handshake Origin

23:51 08 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:06 28 Jan 2009

In The Left Stuff: How the Left-Handed Have Survived and Thrived in a Right-Handed World I came across an account of the origin of the handshake that I’d never encountered before and which I find quite interesting:

The Roman ritual of touching right hands—the precursor to the modern-day handshake—was originally intended to demonstrate that one was weaponless. It was allegedly promoted by the left-handed Julius Caesar, who could use it to conceal a weapon in his dominant hand.
—Roth, Melissa (2005), The Left Stuff, M. Evans and Company, p28.

Obviously too good a story to not be true!

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December Reading List

21:35 07 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:06 28 Jan 2009

I’m trying to read a lot of books this month, because at the start of the year I set myself a target of reading 75 books… and with less than a month left, I’m at 62. Naturally, in the name of reaching this target, I bought/borrowed a bunch of books…

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Fifty Percent Grey

20:57 05 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:06 28 Jan 2009

I really like this short film:

It’s Irish from 2001, but I’d never heard of it before yesterday. Incidentally, it appears that there was a disproportionately high Irish presence in the 2001 Oscar nominees for animated shorts.

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Hummer On the Way Out?

23:35 04 Dec 2008. Updated: 23:58 28 Jan 2009

I think that Katharine Mieszkowski is being overly optimistic predicting the demise of the Hummer, but I’d really love to see that damn thing disappear. Being utterly obnoxious and ugly (which it is) is one thing, but the sheer deliberate wastefulness is simply appalling. I know that’s part of the point for many owners, but that doesn’t make it any better.

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Sometimes Only the Paranoid Resist

23:55 02 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:07 28 Jan 2009

A judge today dismissed indictments against (among others) Gonzales and Cheney, brought by a Texas grand jury last month. That’s not too surprising, sadly. The Associated Press article paints the prosecutor, Juan Angel Guerra, in a rather poor light.

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More Versatile Freebase Views

23:28 01 Dec 2008. Updated: 17:08 28 Jan 2009

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the latest upgrade to freebase.com (which I work on), because it makes much more interesting saved views possible with our UI. Previously, all kinds of interesting queries were possible using our query language, MQL, but to present their output you’d effectively need to write your own application. Now you can make queries using the UI and then have them displayed intelligently on Freebase.

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