Archive for May, 2010

Original Draft of The Empire Strikes Back

23:27 31 May 2010. Updated: 00:30 01 Jun 2010

Here’s a review of the original draft. It’s my favorite of the films, and finding out it was the least successful one made me sad. The original is interesting, although probably inferior to the final film—for example, giving Han a father (or any family) would have weakened his character.

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French Open 2010 Midpoint Notes

13:05 30 May 2010

So far, it’s been an uneventful tournament on the men’s side. Roddick’s departure was shocking only because he lost to a qualifier. Steve Tignor wrote an excellent piece on that loss and the part environmental conditions played. Apart from that the biggest story was Murray’s win against Gasquet, coming back from two sets down. I recommend what Tignor wrote about that too.

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Some Futurist Speculation on Screen Interfaces

23:52 28 May 2010

The current interface upheaval is centered on touchscreens. I think this is an important step, and one which may allow for some significantly different interaction paradigms to emerge. I wonder how long touchscreens will remain dominant, however, even though the interfaces they help spawn may stick around for a long time.

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1 in 6 Shocked by Cellphone Bill

23:51 27 May 2010

Ars Technica reports on a new FCC survey [PDF] which found that about 30 million Americans have experienced unpleasant surprise at unexpected jumps in their cellphone bills. I’ll take this opportunity to complain about AT&T, who recently decided to simply tack a data plan (at $30/month) onto my bill when I switched my SIM card into my new Nexus One—and this wasn’t a request, they just did it and informed me by text message. I was able to get them to credit my account with the amount, which works since I’ve left them for T-Mobile, but that was extremely irritating.

In addition, the amount they charge for text messages is simply ludicrous, all the more so given that I had to pay not merely to send but also to receive them. Finally, I hate the fact that they concentrate on “minutes” so much while refusing to make talk minutes fungible—other services should be expressed in minute cost, e.g. one text message should deduct one minute of voice from your account. I realize they have every incentive not to do this, but it’s still extremely irritating. So far T-Mobile seem better; it looks like my T-Mobile bill will be around the same as, or maybe slightly more than, my AT&T bill, but now I have an unlimited data plan as part of that charge.

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Nobody Scores Returns

23:21 25 May 2010

The webcomic Nobody Scores is back. Its return is accompanied by some nice anti-iPad snark, too. I’m glad it’s back, even though I don’t think the new strip itself is that great.

I used to read it, but had entirely forgotten about it until MetaFilter reminded me of its existence.

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Your Online Life Might be an Open Book

23:09 24 May 2010

My friends Will Moffat and James Home, and their friend Peter Burns, created a site to highlight just how exposed your Facebook updates are: Openbook. It’s an interface to Facebook’s public search API, and the first thing you should probably do with it is search for a phrase from one of your recent status updates. If it shows up, change your privacy settings!

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iPad First Impressions: Consumption Machine

18:52 23 May 2010

I got an iPad for work on Friday, and have been playing around with it. I would not have bought one for myself, and have grave misgivings about the device, primarily due to its highly proprietary, locked-down, walled-garden approach.

That being said, I think it’s an extremely slick, well-designed device, and may represent the first steps towards a new phase in accessing computer and/or internet artifacts.

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The City and Sim City

22:37 21 May 2010

I’m impressed and fascinated by this interview with Vincent Ocasla, who essentially “beat” Sim City 3000 as an art piece commenting on modern life, economics, and social engineering.

(I do think this counts as an art piece. While I think that video games can be art, no matter what Roger Ebert says, I also wonder about whether it means anything that they can be used to create art in this manner.)

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Predatory Lending Infographic

23:58 20 May 2010. Updated: 00:59 21 May 2010

The Consumerist has a really good one. Hopefully you weren’t planning to use any of those services anyway, but if you were—don’t.

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Money, Motivation, and Social Organization

22:37 18 May 2010

This animated excerpt from a lecture by Dan Pink on the nature of motivation is absolutely worth watching:


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Starting at Snaptic

22:38 17 May 2010

My new job is software engineering (shocking, I know) at Snaptic, a small startup in downtown SF doing mobile application and platform development. It has a web component, which is what I’m starting out on; there are also some opportunities for semantic data work that I’m hoping to take advantage of.

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23:36 16 May 2010

After a highly enjoyable, productive, and extended period, it’s time for me to return to the world of paid work.

I’m quite happy with the things I’ve done during my time off. Many of them are important only to me, but then, it’s been my time off.

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What’s Really Happening in Greece

23:55 14 May 2010. Updated: 01:17 15 May 2010

The primary narrative I see represented is that the Greeks spend “too much” on their social programs (and to pay their civil servants) and that they’ve been profligate generally and need to cut back, where this means slashing social spending. There may be a little truth to this tale, but there’s a lot more going on, which Michael Hudson exposes.

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Rather Better Than a Cover Letter

18:55 13 May 2010

It might sound like a cheesy stunt, but I have a hard time coming up with a more fitting way to land a job at an advertising agency.

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The Wire’s Greatest Lines

14:20 11 May 2010

Dammit, now I feel like I have to watch the whole thing again.

(Spoilers, so you probably shouldn’t play these unless you’ve seen all five seasons.)

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If You Have One Handy

23:43 10 May 2010

If You Have One Handy

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10 Motivation Boosters from Lifehacker

23:52 09 May 2010. Updated: 01:25 10 May 2010

The ideas aren’t new to me, but all of them together in one list is a good resource: Top 10 Motivation Boosters and Procrastination Killers.

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“I’m a Mac—and I only date other Macs”

23:53 07 May 2010

A dating site for Apple fans only. I don’t think we need much more evidence that buying Apple products is status signalling much of the time. Maybe not always, but clearly it’s a big part of it. And I say this as someone who likes, and has, Apple laptops.

The thought of basing dating pools on brand allegiance makes me queasy. If it doesn’t make you queasy, I suspect that either you’re already way more cynical than I am, or you’re unaware of the degree to which you’ve been manipulated by advertising.

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Arizona and Ethnic Studies

19:57 06 May 2010

In addition to the immigration law that Arizona recently passed, there’s another gem, an apparent attempt to outlaw ethnic studies.

My personal favorite quotation on this subject is from Representative Steve Montenegro: “They shouldn’t be taught they’re oppressed”. He presumably means that nobody in the US should be taught that they’re being oppressed since he’s sure there’s no oppression—rather than being against actually teaching the oppressed about their oppression, but one never knows. He also says “We’re trying to prevent the promotion of victimology”, which might seem reasonable unless you think that exploitation and prejudice based on ethnicity are prevalent, in which case it again sounds more like “we don’t want the exploited to learn that they’re exploited”.

Apart from the specifics, the bill also reflects a struggle over political control of public education; the individual school district presumably has a political makeup that supports the ethnic studies program, while the state as a whole does not, and so the state as a whole is trying to enforce orthodoxy on the topic.

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Building the Bubble

23:30 04 May 2010. Updated: 01:32 05 May 2010

Was there a conspiracy to build doomed-to-fail speculative bubbles on dubious mortgages? Very likely, but not necessarily in the classic meetings-in-smoky-rooms fashion. Mike Whitney’s article “The Subprime Conspiracy” summarizes what was going on, and who knew about it. It also provides a good description of how the common idea of “conspiracy” can be quite naive, and that matching incentives are all that’s really required.

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Death Wish Deaths

15:18 03 May 2010. Updated: 21:34 20 Sep 2013

I’ve always hated the Death Wish movies, partly because they’re terrible but more because of my suspicion that a significant section of American thinks that it was an accurate portrayal of 1970s and 1980s American cities.

Despite this, I was amused by Charles Bronson Death Wish Bodycount, which is just what it sounds like—a compilation of all the killing Paul Kersey does in the series.

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Snooker and Bribery

23:18 02 May 2010

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I’ve been able to catch pieces of the World Snooker Championships. The final is currently quite close, with Neil Robertson leading Graeme Dott 9–7 after the first day.

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