Archive for October, 2010

Zombie Science, Ethics, and Miscellany

21:25 31 Oct 2010

I’m not a huge zombie fan, but it is Halloween, so covering the undead seems appropriate. Discover’s Science Not Fiction blog has a pretty good series on a fairly realistic approach to them, including some discussion of ethical concerns: Intro, Biology, Zombie “Death”, and Questions.

Bonus #1: “ 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly)”, which I happen to think is accurate in its overall message.

Bonus #2: “The Running of the Dead“, a long but worthwhile political and cultural examination of the difference between “slow zombie” and “fast zombie” movies.

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Friday Flash Game: Corporate Climber

23:35 29 Oct 2010

This is a pretty cool platformer from PixelJam. It’s fairly brief, and while it’s no Dino Run, it’s still quite fun:

Corporate Climber

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Caprica Cancelled… And Few Notice

23:58 28 Oct 2010. Updated: 01:20 29 Oct 2010

Battlestar Galactica seemed to me to be a rather successful series. This is probably because know a lot of people who watched it, but it did survive through four seasons and has been hailed as the most successful science fiction series in years. It also generated a fair amount of discussion, and I had conversations about it with a lot of friends. But no-one I know said anything to me about Caprica, and I think this is because no-one I know was watching it. And now it’s dead.

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Inov-8 F-Lite 195s

23:47 26 Oct 2010

I mentioned these last week, and Zappos did eventually come through with them, although not without one annoying blunder. And I still haven’t been able to return the wrongly-received shoes to them, due to a blunder that wasn’t their fault. However, I do have the pair of F-Lite 195 trail running shoes, and like them quite a lot so far.

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300-Pound Deadlift

21:01 25 Oct 2010

One of my goals for the year, and on Saturday I got it while doing CrossFit Total.

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San Francisco Four Philadelphia Two: Giants Back to World Series

23:31 24 Oct 2010

As everyone in San Francisco already knows, the Giants clinched their first World Series berth since 2002 last night, winning another squeaker over the Phillies, three–two. I couldn’t watch most of the game, but saw the last few pitches, huddled with other fans around a dodgy internet stream. The Giants of course made it “interesting”, allowing runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth; closer Brian Wilson went to a full count against Ryan Howard with two outs before making a fantastic final pitch to end it, a slider that just clipped the bottom of the strike zone.

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Rangers Defeat Yankees Four–Two, Advance to 2010 World Series

20:22 22 Oct 2010

Ugh. Painful. It wasn’t even a close game. The Rangers broke it open in the fifth, scoring four runs, and the Yankees got a single measly run—and even that was the result of an umpiring error.

The Yankee offense, which led the majors in scoring 859 runs this season, was mostly absent in their four losses, in which they scored two, zero, three, and one. The only close game was the first one, which the Yankees won with a terrific comeback, six–five, and which suggested that maybe they’d continue as they ended that game. Nope.

A shame. If it’d been a Giants–Yankees World Series, I would have been very tempted to get tickets. I’ll be rooting for the Giants, as I have been throughout, but it’s not the same.

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The Federal Everything Clause

23:28 21 Oct 2010

The US government has never been willing to let mere technicalities impede its actions, as has been evident since at least the reign of Andrew Jackson. Judges are both aware of this and unlikely in any case to fight too hard against the system that has put this in place, and so at the higher levels their job description is something like “convincingly rationalize why the government can do as it pleases”—as can be seen in this article on how much the “Federal Commerce Clause” covers.

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Zappos Service

23:55 19 Oct 2010

I’ve ordered shoes a few times from Zappos, and I’ve been quite happy with them. Everything has worked well, and I’ve had no complaints. Today, when I picked up my Zappos package expecting to see my brand new pair of Inov-8 F-Lite 195s (yes, apparently CrossFit trends get to me too), I instead opened up a pair of women’s shoes intended for someone in Seattle.

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Minor Achievements

20:36 18 Oct 2010

Sometimes it’s the little things that make life better, the small victories in ongoing daily battles.

I recently did an overhead squat at 185 pounds (or about 84 kilos, or 13 stone 3); I weigh a little under 180 (that day, 178 pounds) and so that was a bodyweight overhead squat. It actually represents two achievements, because in order to get the bar into the overhead position, I had to push jerk it from behind my neck to locked out above my head, which counts as my best push jerk ever, albeit an unorthodox one. From the overhead locked out position, it’s down into a deep squat and back up; the harder part for me was going down, as once I was at the bottom it wasn’t hard to keep my balance coming back up.

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Mariano Rivera’s Pitch Locations

20:37 17 Oct 2010

This will only be of interest to baseball fans: heatmaps of Rivera’s pitches. The control on display is quite phenomenal.

I’m less impressed by the comparison between Rivera and the league than by the comparison between Rivera and the other AL closers. The number of pitches thrown by the entire league over a season is almost guaranteed to result in a distribution like the one shown. To see how Rivera works the edges in comparison to Feliz, Soria, and Soriano, however, is extremely telling. Greatest closer of all time. (Oh yeah: his postseason ERA is 0.72.)

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Banksy Starts The Simpsons

23:50 15 Oct 2010

You’ve probably seen this already, as it’s gotten a fair amount of publicity, but just in case:

I love the closing shot, and the overall idea is pretty good, but… there’s something unnerving about it. I know it’s The Simpsons, but still, they go so over the top with it that it undermines serious critique. Is that the point? Is it supposed to undermine that critique? Or is it supposed to power it? Should we be happy because it got on television, or sad because it’s unlikely to make any difference whatsoever? Happier because this particular apparent scathing attack on global capitalism was brought to me by the United Mileage Visa Signature card?

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Vis 360 Bike Helmet Light

23:03 14 Oct 2010

I just ordered some new bike lights. I’ve been considering helmet-mounted lights for a while, and randomly stumbled across this product, which looks pretty good to me. I like that they’ve focused on weight, and that they’ve clearly put some thought into the design. I am skeptical about their idea that the amber side-lighting allows for jogging the head from side to side to easily make turn signals to drivers—I just wouldn’t trust drivers to correctly interpret those signals—but apart from that I like their approach.

I love the fact that the batteries for the lights are recharged via Micro USB. That detail is what pushed me from considering to buying.

This isn’t a review; I don’t have them yet and it’s possible I’ll be disappointed, although I suspect otherwise. I’ll review them after using them for a while.

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Conditionally Adding dict Keys in Python

20:18 12 Oct 2010. Updated: 03:35 30 Dec 2010

I frequently run across the need to add key/value pairs to a dict subject to some condition. The “traditional” version of that pattern looks something like this:

if condition:
    my_dict[key] = value

Because of my stylistic preferences, I don’t like that, and want to do this:

my_dict[key] = value if condition

That doesn’t work, though, because then key will be set to None in the dict, which is an unwanted side effect.

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Giants Win Error-Strewn NLDS

23:09 11 Oct 2010. Updated: 03:36 30 Dec 2010

San Francisco won the series tonight behind a strong pitching performance from Madison Bumgarner (clearly a starter for the NL’s all-name team), and the Giants advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2002. It was an extremely tense series, and while I’m glad the Giants won it, I wasn’t spectacularly impressed by the quality of the baseball. Or umpiring.

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Tough Mudder NorCal October 2010 Report

14:25 10 Oct 2010

It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it. I did it with the CrossFit KMSF crew, Team Ciso. We had beautiful weather for it, which definitely made it easier and more pleasant (although I did get rather sunburnt).

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NorCal Tough Mudder 2010 Tomorrow

22:13 08 Oct 2010. Updated: 23:40 15 Oct 2010

Why am I doing this? Somehow my previous post on the matter isn’t particularly inspiring right now. Neither is the fact that I should be asleep… since I have to get up at a ridiculously early hour tomorrow, having not managed my travel arrangements too well.

So. Get up at 04:00, travel for four hours or so, run an insane obstacle course over seven miles at altitude… who doesn’t like to do that kind of thing on their days off?

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Some Tidbits from my .vimrc

21:44 07 Oct 2010. Updated: 03:54 30 Dec 2010

These aren’t anything particularly major, just some things I’ve found to improve my editing experience.

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The Desire to Believe

23:56 05 Oct 2010

Apparently quite a few people believed last year that the Obama administration really was going to seriously try to get a public option included in the health care bill—and, further, continued to believe that they had tried to do so even after no such option appeared. It is now quite clear that this was, so say the least, naive.

What about the desire to believe, though? In the linked article, Glenn Greenwald notes that the column he wrote at the time about Obama’s lack of commitment to the public option generated vast amounts of intense hate mail. Clearly there were many people who really wanted to believe, and who objected strenuously to Greenwald’s attempt to puncture their bubble.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: FTL Travel

23:37 04 Oct 2010. Updated: 00:47 05 Oct 2010

I recently had a chunk of inspiration hit me, and am considering a fairly large-scale science fiction project. It’s in a far-future, large-scale, “big SF” vein, also known as “space opera” (although that genre is rather loosely defined). I don’t think it’s in the same universe as my science fiction novel, although I might change my mind on that. In any case, I do want to go over the major factors that I think define a setting of that kind. The first one of these is the presence/absence/nature of faster-than-light travel.

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Giants Win 2010 NL West; Yankees Slump to Wild Card

19:43 03 Oct 2010

After giving up the first two games of the series to the Padres, and hence extending the pennant race to the very last day of the season, the San Francisco Giants finally got a strong start behind Jonathan Sanchez and won 3–0. That win plus the Braves’ win today not only wins the division but eliminates the Padres—definitely good for San Francisco, whose record against San Diego was 6–12 this season.

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Dance Fortress 2

18:18 01 Oct 2010

I played Team Fortress 2 for a while and had a lot of fun with it, which may be why I really like this video:

It’s way too short, but there’s quite a lot going on—it’s worth going through a few times paying attention to each character.

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