Archive for February, 2010

Kate Harding Talks Sense on “Hook-up Culture”

23:55 28 Feb 2010

Articles bewailing “these kids today” (or especially “these girls today”) seem disturbingly frequent at the moment, and it’s not clear to me whether there’s a real problem of some kind or it’s just pundits waxing wroth about the next generation Doing It All Wrong. I suspect it’s both: the sexual culture out there is problematic, although not necessarily for the reasons you hear about, and most of the pundits are really talking not to the next generation but to the next generation’s parents. This article by Rachel Simmons is an earnest but fairly typical example; this response by Kate Harding is worth reading. I don’t think Harding says anything revolutionary—she just says a lot of things that seem like common sense to me but which often get lost in the noise.

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The Future of Tabletop Games? D&D on the Microsoft Surface

18:15 26 Feb 2010

Microsoft Surface is an advanced touchscreen display built into a table, backed by a fairly advanced suite of software for gesture recognition. I hadn’t seen many compelling uses for this technology… until SurfaceScapes, a group at the Carnegie-Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, released demos of Surfaces customized to hangle playing miniature-based D&D on them.

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A Little More Functional Programming

23:55 25 Feb 2010. Updated: 01:41 26 Feb 2010

After reading Dhananjay Nene’s comment on my post about a functional style approach to the “find longest repeater” problem, I decided to follow the line from that comment and divide the program into functions for finding the longest contiguous block and then for comparing the blocks. Naturally, I wanted to do this without using any variables…

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Minor Foray into Functional Programming

15:56 23 Feb 2010

Last night a friend asked me what functional programming was, and as part of my answer I decided to rewrite a trivial program in the functional style to see what it was like. I did this in Python without using the functional module.

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:imap jj <Esc> and :Bclose in Vim

13:24 22 Feb 2010. Updated: 03:56 30 Dec 2010

I remain rather happy with Vim, and it’s already been worth the effort of switching over to it. I’ve encountered some annoyances along the way; here are a couple of them and some solutions.

The first is that I quickly found myself wanting to exit Insert mode very frequently and not liking the stretch from my typical hand position to the Esc key. I know that some people insist that the only way to deal with this is to remap CapsLock to Esc, while others remap CapsLock to Ctrl and use Ctrl-C instead of Esc to get to Normal mode. Neither of these approaches appealed to me. Seth reminded me about another approach, one I thought would be too awkward: mapping jj to Esc within Vim.

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Poisoned by the Feds

15:36 21 Feb 2010

No, not by accident. Not as part of a war effort. Not as part of a biological weapons test. Rather, on purpose, as part of Prohibition enforcement efforts:

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

Horrific. At least, as the article points out, when they tried poisoning marijuana crops in the 1970s, there was enough outcry to stop it.

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Evan Mather’s Films

15:59 19 Feb 2010. Updated: 17:09 19 Feb 2010

While reading over some of my morning pages from about ten years ago, I encountered a reference to Evan Mather’s short films, and had no idea who he was, what the films were, or why I might have liked them. It turns out that I was referring to his Kenner action figure Star Wars shorts, which he has up, along with other interesting things, on www.evanmather.com. Godzilla Versus Disco Lando is still just as bizarre as it was back then…

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Scenes from an Assassination

10:42 18 Feb 2010

Dubai has released surveillance footage of people allegedly responsible for the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas leader who was killed in Dubai last month. Threat Level has a good article including the footage and discussion.

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Some Vim Script Implementation, Testing, and Hackery

23:50 16 Feb 2010. Updated: 00:57 17 Feb 2010

As a result of my porting over jEdit (Jython) macros to Vim, I now have a fair amount of (Python) Vim scripts, and have learned some things about how to set up those scripts. I’ll go through some of that below, and hopefully other people writing Python scripts for Vim will find it useful.

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The Unfeasibly Tall GBBMCSMB

11:50 15 Feb 2010

I’ve always had a soft spot for good genre parody, regardless of genre, and The Unfeasibly Tall Greek Billionaire’s Blackmailed Martyr-Complex Secretary Mistress Bride is pretty damn hilarious. You can read the first chapter in HTML, or the whole thing at Scribd.

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First Post With Vim

20:05 14 Feb 2010

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been hacking away on scripts to customize Vim, replicating the scripts I made for jEdit. I’m more or less done, and this blog post is being written in MacVim. This hopefully means that when I’m done with it I’ll be able to publish it from within Vim, the same as with jEdit.

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“Salsa, the serve looks like salsa”

23:56 12 Feb 2010

I know I’m something of a Federer partisan, but wow, does this commentator take it to a ridiculous level (note that the translation may not be entirely accurate). There’s some excellent tennis in there too, but the commentary really is amazing.

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Internet Illiteracy

12:40 11 Feb 2010

Rather widespread, apparently. When a ReadWriteWeb article on Facebook’s collaboration with AOL became a highly-ranked Google search result for “facebook login”, hundreds of Facebook users descended on that article and used the Facebook Connect button on that screen—which ReadWriteWeb provides so that people can leave comments using their Facebook account—and then became extremely confused, not understanding why they weren’t being brought to their usual Facebook home screen.

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Boredom Kills

10:57 09 Feb 2010

According to a University College London study which monitored the boredom levels of civil servants in the late eighties and then checked in on them last year:

Those who reported feeling a great deal of boredom were 37 per cent more likely to have died by the end of the study, the researchers found.

—Asian News International. “Boredom can kill you”. Yahoo! News India, 8 February 2010.

So boredom isn’t just a waste of time, it can be lethal. I’m not sure what advice is appropriate here, other than: find things you’re into and do them!

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The Super Bowl by Auteurs

14:38 08 Feb 2010

Slate V came up with this clever clip about what the Super Bowl might look like if famous filmmakers directed it:

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2010 CrossFit Sectionals

13:52 07 Feb 2010

I just registered for the 2010 Northern California CrossFit Sectional competition. I’m doing it for the experience, as I know that my chances of qualifying for Regionals are zero. Despite that, it should help my motivation for training and (just as important) for eating properly. It’s 27/28 March, seven weeks out—we’ll see how fit I can get by then.

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“Easy Equals True”

17:40 05 Feb 2010

Or so our brains are trained to believe, apparently:

[S]tudies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process—even totally nonsubstantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it—can alter people’s judgment of the truth of the statement, along with their evaluation of the intelligence of the statement’s author and their confidence in their own judgments and abilities.

If it’s easier to read and easier to remember, we think it’s more likely to be true.

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The Python Challenge

15:18 04 Feb 2010

The Python Challenge seems like a good way to have fun with Python through puzzle-solving. As with all riddles, it’s important to read the questions carefully…

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Karl Heinz Kurras was a Stasi Agent

15:36 02 Feb 2010

This is probably old news to people who follow German politics closely, but I just found out about it (via MetaFilter).

Karl Heinz Kurras was the West German police officer who killed student demonstrator Benno Ohnesborg in June 1967 during a protest against the Shah of Iran’s visit to Germany. This was one of the major radicalizing events of the period for the German left, and hugely influential.

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Confidence, Status, and Women Undermining Women

23:20 01 Feb 2010. Updated: 23:31 03 Nov 2010

Recently Clay Shirky wrote “A Rant About Women”, a piece essentially claiming that women needed to act more confidently, even or especially in situations where confidence would be unwarranted, in order to be more successful. There’s more to it than that, but that was what I took as the core message. I think there are some valid points in there, but I also think that Shirky radically underestimates the ways in which women are frequently punished for acting confident, and that he appears to assume that a system which promotes self-aggrandizers is something that we all (not just women) should accept as the natural way of things.

I might write up a longer response to “A Rant About Women” at some point, but right now I want to bring some attention to a piece that’s probably more important than my response.

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