Archive for November, 2009

Davydenko Wins 2009 Tennis YEC

13:10 30 Nov 2009. Updated: 16:26 28 Dec 2009

Nikolay Davydenko won the 2009 ATP Finals yesterday with a surprise 6–3, 6–4 win over Juan Martin Del Potro. While Davydenko was seeded 6, just one behind Del Potro at 5, this was a significant upset. Del Potro looked very strong after his initial round-robin loss to Andy Murray, and won the last Grand Slam of the season, the US Open.

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NaNoWriMo 2009 Fourth Check-In

23:24 29 Nov 2009

I hope that you readers don’t hate reading these weekly notifications of zero progress as much as I hate writing them. It’s been a bad month, and I’ve been almost completely unable to get anything at all done with the fantasy novel. I’ll keep trying to get somewhere for at least a couple more weeks, but I’m starting to have some serious doubts.

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Tennis YEC: Swiss Better than Round-Robin?

23:52 27 Nov 2009. Updated: 16:25 28 Dec 2009

The 2009 ATP year-end championships have finished the first, round-robin, stage, where the field of eight is split into two groups of four, and each group plays round-robin to winnow it down to the two who go to the single-elimination rounds (semifinals and final). There have been some interesting effects of running the tournament this way, and I wonder whether a different setup would be superior.

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Open Source Thanks

23:54 26 Nov 2009. Updated: 03:56 27 Nov 2009

It’s traditional on Thanksgiving to list things you’re thankful for. It struck me today that I should be extremely thankful for the existence of free software, and the contributions of thousands and thousands of programmers who have made their work freely available for others to use.

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The “Christian Side Hug”

23:52 24 Nov 2009. Updated: 01:24 25 Nov 2009

So now straightforward hugs are wrong? I can’t tell if this is parody. An insistence on “side hugs” to avoid any possibility of contact between crotches is pretty insane. In particular, it seems so obvious that such a restriction could only be necessary for people who are completely obsessed with sexual (and/or sexualized) contact, and that its adoption or promulgation is more indicative of serious problems than a hug could possibly be.

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Show Trials

18:58 23 Nov 2009

Glenn Greenwald points out some inconsistencies in the government’s stance, which is certainly interesting, but I think the more important critique comes from Arthur Silber. He highlights the key point, which is this:

Other Justice Department officials have said that even if Mr. Mohammed is acquitted, the Obama administration will keep him locked up forever as a “combatant” under the laws of war.

So even if he’s found not guilty, he stays in jail “forever”. If that doesn’t make it a show trial, I don’t know what does.

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NaNoWriMo 2009 Third Check-In

23:35 22 Nov 2009. Updated: 00:37 23 Nov 2009

It is both a bug and a feature of self-imposed arbitrary deadlines that you can arbitrarily move them yourself. Right now, I’m choosing to regard it as a feature, and am extending my deadline to 14 December. Thus I am now participating in what could be more accurately titled along the lines of “NaNoWriMo-and-a-half”.

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Friday Comedy: Stewart Lee on “Political Correctness”

17:29 20 Nov 2009

I wasn’t previously familiar with Stewart Lee before, but I found this clip (via Lenin’s Tomb) right on the mark:

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Another Reason to Exercise

16:41 19 Nov 2009

According to this article, rats’ brains produce neurons when they exercise that are functionally different from those produced by non-exercising rats, and the identified functional difference is that the neurons have less of a response to stress.

It’s not a huge leap to think that this applies to other animals as well, including ourselves. So at an even more fundamental level than previously thought, exercise can help prevent stress.

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addons.mozilla.org Moving from CakePHP to Django

20:43 17 Nov 2009

This post details why they’re making the move. I find this of interest partly because it’s a move from a very popular web language (PHP) to one that’s become vastly more popular in the last couple of years (Python), and also because Django is the one major Python framework I haven’t tried out yet. Because of my liking for Python, I have a personal bias that makes me happy to see a prominent project such as this one move to the language.

I find it odd that they’re going from Subversion to git instead of to Mercurial, but I like the fact that they’re moving their documentation to the reStructuredText-based Sphinx.

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How Do Magic Weapons Work?

15:37 16 Nov 2009. Updated: 22:39 25 Jan 2011

This is mainly referring to weapons in Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplaying games, but also fantasy literature given that magic weapons are staples of the genre.

In my Fantasy World Sketch, I suggested that magic would have altered human development significantly, primarily in the realm of food production. I didn’t go down the route of completely reimagining how societies would have developed, in part because I wanted to end up with something that resembled a “classic” fantasy milieu, but it seems clear to me that since food production is a priority for most species, magic would be used to improve it. Historically speaking, war is another important societal endeavor, and its import is clear in most fantasy realms—that is, the impact of magic on warfare is discussed at length and covered in the rules.

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NaNoWriMo 2009 Second Check-In

23:46 15 Nov 2009. Updated: 00:49 16 Nov 2009

It’s still not going well.

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Doomsday Book Review

23:53 13 Nov 2009. Updated: 02:03 14 Nov 2009

Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book won the Nebula award in 1992 and the Hugo and Locus awards in 1993. I would describe it as a time travel plague thriller academic farce, and of all the triple crown winners it is my least favorite. Some of its ideas were good, and some of its passages powerful, but overall I found it disjointed and less than gripping.

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Polls and Dubious Correlations

23:12 12 Nov 2009. Updated: 01:15 13 Nov 2009

Specifically, “How Food Preferences Vary by Political Ideology”—a poll that correlates self-reported political leanings and self-reported food habits. And verifies a whole pile of preconceptions you might have had… althought the polling organization itself does point out that e.g. much of the variance may be due to geographical rather than political differences.

Even allowing for those, though, the fact that “liberals” are much more interested in eating healthily than “conservatives” is interesting.

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HTML Past and Future

16:04 10 Nov 2009

Mark Pilgrim, author of the excellent Dive Into Python, is working on Dive Into HTML5, and his draft chapter on HTML5 semantics is an excellent introduction to the advantages of the new HTML standard. It’s unfortunately quite far from becoming a real standard, but as a web developer, I’d like to see it happen as soon as possible.

I came across a contrasting Mark Pilgrim article that’s also worth reading: “Why do we have an IMG element?”, which goes over the history of that element in HTML, the objections raised at the time, and how it won out over alternatives.

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Health Care “Reform”

23:30 09 Nov 2009

Arthur Silber has a typically to-the-point entry about the recent bill passed by the House:

[T]he bill’s primary purpose has absolutely nothing to do with providing "affordable health care." The purpose is to extract as much money as possible from "ordinary" Americans … and shovel it directly to already-engorged insurance companies.

—Arthur Silber. “The Fuck You Act”. Once Upon a Time…, 08 Nov 2009.


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NaNoWriMo 2009: First Check-In

22:34 08 Nov 2009

Unfortunately, this attempt to write my fantasy novel in a month isn’t going well. In my experience, there are two critical things that you have to do in order to produce written material at a good rate:

  • Start.
  • Write even when it’s not flowing.


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The Adventures of Lil’ Cthulhu

14:27 06 Nov 2009

Via my friends Jeff and Gordon, a short animated clip that’s just too good not to share:

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Yankees Champions for 27th Time

11:27 05 Nov 2009. Updated: 20:19 05 Nov 2009

They beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games, finishing it last night with a stellar performance from Hideki Matsui, a solid outing by Andy Pettitte, and the usual lethal efficiency from Mariano Rivera. 27 titles is by far the most in baseball, and is also the most in the “big four” US sports of baseball, football, basketball, and ice hockey (the Montreal Canadiens have 24).

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State Bandits

13:07 03 Nov 2009

No, not tax collectors. At least, in democracies, there’s a notion that collected taxes are disbursed according to the wishes of some significant portion of the populace. Here, I’m talking about the trend of the last few decades for police departments (and other law enforcement agencies) to confiscate property (and cash)—and then use it to fund themselves. Financial Cryptography discusses this issue, outlining its history in measure meant to crack down on money laundering. The Economist also has an article on the issue, and this line should make clear how dubious the whole thing is:

The 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act expanded these powers greatly, allowing courts to seize more or less anything owned by a convict deemed to have a “criminal lifestyle”, and introducing a power of civil recovery, whereby assets may be confiscated through the civil courts even if their owner has not been convicted of a crime.


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Brussels Sprouts Black Swan

23:55 02 Nov 2009. Updated: 01:06 03 Nov 2009

I’ve always detested Brussels sprouts. In the past people have repeatedly made the claim that this was because I hadn’t have them cooked right, that my previus bad experiences were due to poor preparation (usually overcooking was cited), and that these would be different. At which point I would try the ones on hand, and gag. It isn’t mere dislike, but a strong negative reaction to them that makes it difficult to eat them at all.

This pattern held, invariant, for more than a decade. Until tonight. Tonight’s Brussels sprouts, made by my friend Joke, were actually palatable, and I voluntarily had more than one. I said I felt that some award should mark the event, she suggested a blog post, and here we are.

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NaNoWriMo 2009

18:00 01 Nov 2009

I’m planning to write a fantasy novel this month, using NaNoWriMo as a kind of inspiration. I don’t plan to actually register, and what I’m doing isn’t quite the same—I’ve got the bulk of a plan written already, and I’m aiming for sixty thousand words, two thousand words per day, instead of fifty thousand words. The novel I’m writing is one whose first chapter came to me in a dream, and which I’ve been trying to wrangle into a novel for a while. I won’t post daily progress updates—those would be pretty boring—but will probably do them weekly. Hopefully this will be an easier process than editing the second draft of my science fiction novel, which I did in November 2007 and which was one of the most difficult things I’ve done.

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