Archive for November, 2010

Positive Reinforcement Versus Stereotypes

19:41 30 Nov 2010

In some settings, at least, it looks like positive reinforcement can win. A Colorado physics lecturer had his students do writing exercises designed to aid their sense of self-worth, and these exercises significantly reduce the performance gap between the genders.

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20 Words Without English Equivalents

19:45 29 Nov 2010

I always find it interesting to encounter words that can’t easily be expressed in English. My favorite from that list is either “jayus”, “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh” in Indonesian, or “proznovit”, Czech for calling a mobile phone and hanging up before the person answers so that they will call back. I’m not sure about “schadenfreude”, though, as at this point it seems to have seen enough use to be a word that English has stolen from German (and it’s in SOWPODS…)

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Federer Wins 2010 YEC

19:43 28 Nov 2010. Updated: 03:33 30 Dec 2010

The men’s tennis YEC is a strange beast. Unlike every other individual tennis competition, it’s not single-elimination throughout. It’s smaller, at eight competitors, than any other significant tournament. It’s definitely not as important as any of the Slams.

On the other hand, it’s more exclusive than any other official tournament: only the top eight players compete. There’s no real chance of avoiding significant opposition in the form of streaking lower-ranked players who performed above their level in the last match—you have to go through the best in the world to win.

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Duelling Carls

12:14 26 Nov 2010

I find this oddly compelling and disturbing:

It reminds me strongly of Jim Woodring’s work.

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Clearly What Smartphones Are For

23:52 25 Nov 2010. Updated: 02:25 26 Nov 2010

SOWPODS lookups. I’ve been playing Bananagrams a lot again recently, and have found myself in need of an easy way to do those lookups. My physical copy of the combined word list is too unwieldy (and I tend to forget it), and oddly online lookups have proven very unreliable. But there’s an Android app for that, it turns out.

SOWPODS is the most inclusive word list, which is why I prefer it; otherwise it gets a little too arbitrary about what’s allowed (e.g. no “da” in OSPD, no “vid” in OSW).

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A Little Early Holiday Cheer

23:11 23 Nov 2010

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“Saeka and the Wraith I”

23:24 22 Nov 2010. Updated: 23:47 22 Jul 2014

Yikoon did not announce his presence, and his skill was sufficient to evade the wards set by the Temple Elders. He hid himself in disused spaces, and waited patiently before moving from one to another. For weeks he used his sorceries to blunt his hunger, and watched. Dedication to his goal kept him silent, observant, and still. Finally he had knowledge and confidence enough, and he made his way into the compound of the Temple’s child sorcerers.

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Buying a Kindle

20:35 21 Nov 2010

Despite my love of books as physical artifacts, and my love of simply having physical books around, this evening I pulled the trigger on buying an ebook[*] reader, and I went with the Kindle on the basis of recommendations from a bunch of people I know who have them.

I was motivated largely by space considerations: I already have too many books for my living space. While I could alter that space to accommodate some more books, it’s ultimately unsustainable. In addition, I’ve been feeling more and more that I need to cut down on the physical objects I have (and/or care about), and that a minimalist approach to “stuff” would be healthier for me.

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Friday Flash Game: …But That Was [Yesterday]

23:55 19 Nov 2010

I found this a surprisingly affecting, if unsubtle, casual game.

It’s not a good sign that despite discerning the correct course of action early on, I had trouble actually doing it—even symbolic letting go is problematic for me, apparently.

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My Kid Self Loves This

23:30 18 Nov 2010

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21:50 16 Nov 2010

This is a pretty amazing collection of photos. They appear to all be from Google Maps Street View. My favorite.

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Sometimes the Disease is Better

23:42 15 Nov 2010

Tired. And there are things to do. Aren’t there always? Tired enough to start thinking about chemical solutions. Like modafinil!

I was hoping that the website for the drug would have some appropriately cheesy lines, but it’s really quite responsible-looking. Damn. Some video footage of highly energetic and perhaps creepily awake people accompanied by soft music and the usual background of muted side effect warnings would have been ideal.

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Machinima: Freeman’s Mind

21:19 14 Nov 2010

Probably a geeks-only taste, this, but I quite enjoy it: a play-through of Half-Life with a narration of Gordon Freeman’s thoughts. Silly, but fun. I think it’s worth going through from the beginning, but the episode I watched first, and which drew me in, was 29:

(The people I was out with today might enjoy Episode 11, too.)

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Jerry Rice: #1 All-Time

23:38 12 Nov 2010. Updated: 01:00 13 Nov 2010

Jerry Rice has been my favorite football player for a long time, and I’m happy to see that the NFL Network has put him in the top spot of their Top 100 all-time players.

Rice was elusive, precise, determined, resilient, and, perhaps above all else, hard-working. His work ethic and habits were legendary in a league full of extraordinary athletes, and he never seemed to ease up.

To understand just how good he was, consider not the numbers themselves, which may be meaningless to people who don’t follow the game quite closely, but rather the numbers expressed in terms of the how the second- and third-place players compare:

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Google Refine 2.0

21:04 11 Nov 2010

This post is actually aimed more at my less technical readers than my programmer friends.

Google Refine, formerly Freebase Gridworks, is a data cleanup and transformation tool. These days, though, it seems as if everyone has to work with messy data. Lists of addresses, employment rosters, film collections, sports stats, and/or any amount of public material. Such data is rarely clean, and that’s precisely what makes a tool like Google Refine so useful.

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“The Walker”

22:50 09 Nov 2010
He walks empty streets
Dead streets.
Unnatural grace
An eerie precision
A killing touch.
No color
Persists once
He has passed.
Distant ringing
All the sound
In his wake.
The cadence
Of that awful stride
Is the end.
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Facebook Risk Reduction

19:55 08 Nov 2010

I’m fascinated by this danah boyd post about teens who take relatively extreme approaches to dealing with their Facebook profiles. In a way I guess I think it’s sad—this kind of thing reminds me of the stereotypical small village, where community opprobrium is a major feature in people’s lives. I generally regard “community” as a positive, but clearly the nature of any community is the critical point.

The question of how various groups and individuals manage their online identities and presences is an interesting one, and I wonder if services will eventually cater explicitly to the various strategies rather than having them manually tacked on by users.

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Classic Movie Animated GIFs

23:31 07 Nov 2010. Updated: 00:36 08 Nov 2010

There’s a calm beauty to these. It’s good to see excellent use of the animated GIF, given how many abominations have been perpetrated with it. My probably-unsurprising favorites:


That shot is just an amazing one, and captures Se7en’s combination of noir and the deeply sinister.

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This Kind of Thing is Why Catch-22 Rings so True to Life

23:20 05 Nov 2010

A New York City police officer blocks a bike lane in order to then issue tickets to cyclists for not using the bike lane.

Lots of food for anarchist thought in that scenario. I doubt many of my readers would try to justify the cop’s actions, but some of you might try to defend the state here, and more of you would likely defend the concept of the state.

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Racist American Pro Sports Team Names

23:58 04 Nov 2010. Updated: 15:53 13 Oct 2013

I’m perennially surprised at the names of the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, which are outrageous and somehow still haven’t changed.

I wondered which of the teams had the more racist name, and whether or not they were the most racist pro sports names in the US.

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Let’s Tell Our Neighbors What to Do

23:56 02 Nov 2010

The failure of Proposition 19, the attempt to legalize marijuana in California, isn’t quite as depressing to me as 2008’s passage of anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8. Mainly because I wasn’t that hopeful that 19 would pass—the sentiments behind the prevailing anti-19 vote are as repugnant as those behind the pro-8 vote.

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San Francisco Beats Lee Again, Wins World Series Four–One

21:07 01 Nov 2010

The Giants baseball franchise technically had five World Series titles before today: 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, and 1954. However, while the franchise retained its name and history when it moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, the truth is that San Francisco has never had a World Series title, as it didn’t have a team before 1958, and since then the team’s history has been one of frustration, especially in 2002, when it looked like the drought was finally over against the Angels in Game Six. No titles.

Until tonight.

Tonight, Tim Lincecum pitched eight innings of one-run, three-hit ball, and the Giants once again got to Cliff Lee, hanging three runs on him off a Renteria home run in the seventh, and Brian Wilson closed out the ninth to bring this city its first ever baseball championship.

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