Archive for May, 2011

Favorite Books of 2009

22:53 31 May 2011

I read 55 books in 2009; my reading rate seems to be dipping towards about one book per week.

A dozen books stand out for me from that year.

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Learn Pool in 10 Minutes

16:06 30 May 2011

This has been a public service announcement.

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French Open 2011 Midpoint Notes

23:54 29 May 2011

On the men’s side, the main stories remain what they were before the tournament: Djokovic’s win streak, whether Nadal can retain his title, and (to a lesser extent), Federer’s attempt to break the consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal streak.

On the women’s side, however, many of the storylines have been disrupted—or resolved, depending on how you look at it.

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Physics-Checking My Little Pony

22:16 27 May 2011

I think this is great:

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Musings on Women’s Sports

19:58 26 May 2011

Over the last week I guest-blogged at CrossFit KMSF, providing some wordiness to go with the workouts (which I didn’t create) while Kat was away. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, but this time I decided to follow a theme for my posts, which was “athletes I admire”. The list was:

That list is fine, and while it’s hardly exhaustive, definitely covers some athletes I consider important. However, when coming up with who to put on it, I realized that I had a lot of trouble with female candidates who weren’t tennis players.

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Vaporware No More (Allegedly): Duke Nukem Forever Goes Gold

23:45 24 May 2011

A year-and-a-half ago I wrote that Duke, the character, was “an ultimately invincible final boss”, one whose reputation prevented the publication of any less-than-perfect—therefore any—sequel. But I appear to have spoken too soon: Gearbox Software have announced that it’s gone gold.

I have no idea whether or not it’s any good. Is it possible for it to be good, now? Is it in any way possible for it to live up to expectations? Or has the presumption that it’s eternal vaporware made it a success regardless of how good it actually is?

I don’t know. It’s like some strange cultural artifact that at one time was possessed of great power and was then lost, for an age (10+ years in internet terms is “an age”, yes), and has now resurfaced. But has its power waned, like that of an old, half-forgotten god? Or has it merely been waiting until now, when the stars are right?

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4 Philosophical Questions Examined in Light of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

23:45 23 May 2011. Updated: 15:05 12 Mar 2012

Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s explorations of scale led me to ponder questions of meaning and meaninglessness, and reminded me of this excellent article by Julia Galef over at 3 Quarks Daily. The answer, of course, must be 42; the questions Galef addresses are:

  1. What’s the point of anything if we’re all going to be dead someday?
  2. What’s the purpose of our existence?
  3. How can any of our lives matter in the grand scheme of things?
  4. Things seem to happen without rhyme or reason.

(Presumably the last one should have been “why do things seem to happen without rhyme or reason?”)

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Scale

19:36 22 May 2011

By “scale” here I mean: how far does space that humans have explored extend? How far is it feasible for humans to travel within the civilization? How many systems make up that civilization?

“Space opera” implies a large setting, but in real terms “large” is fairly meaningless, and allows for rather a lot of variance.

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The Scary Thing is, it Must Work Some of the Time

23:56 20 May 2011. Updated: 01:09 21 May 2011

Personally, I don’t think Turing would have been too impressed; also, could your thinking the bot is human in a case like this be considered a test failure on your part? That brings up one of my favorite rhetorical questions: “what do we do with humans who fail the Turing Test?”.

(This reminds me of my less-funny-but-possibly-still-amusing Dialogue with Eliza.)

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A Mix for the End

23:58 19 May 2011

With the end of the world apparently approaching fast, here’s a mashup of disaster scenarios:

Eclectic Method – The Apocamix from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

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Amazing Graduation Speech

23:54 17 May 2011

Via the last psychiatrist, here’s the fantastic speech that Patton Oswalt gave to graduating seniors at his old high school. I think the beginning is funny, but the beginning isn’t really the point, as you’ll see when you read it.

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Djokovic on a Tear

23:27 16 May 2011

Novak Djokovic, currently ranked #2 in the world, long considered a distant third behind the Federer/Nadal duo, is playing astonishingly good tennis. How good?

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CrossFit Open 2011 Criticisms

19:56 15 May 2011

Through the seven weeks of the CrossFit Open, plus an additional week or so to allow for the system to settle on a reliable ranking for me, I’ve been focused on my own performance and hitting my goals. But it was impossible not to be very aware of the significant mess that CrossFit HQ made of the event, and the problems in the community this exposed.

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Friday HTML5 Game: Angry Birds

19:20 13 May 2011

That’s right, the famous originally-iOS game is now available online for in-browser play, free. I think I prefer it in the browser, since I played through more of it last night at my desk than I have in the months of having it on my phone. The quality is good, and I’m impressed with how it runs. And it’s almost pure HTML5…

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Nadal Channels Federer?

23:50 12 May 2011. Updated: 01:07 13 May 2011

I was watching this when Nadal hit it and was rather stunned:

Absolutely amazing shot. Nadal still lost the match, however; Djokovic is playing unbelievably good and consistent tennis, and is closing on McEnroe’s record of 42 consecutive match wins to start the year.

(I do have to wonder whether Novak brings this out in his opponents.)

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Visualizing Information Spread on Twitter

23:42 10 May 2011

“Breaking Bin Laden: visualizing the power of a single tweet” is an interesting analysis of how news (or rumor) of bin Laden’s death travelled across Twitter. Twitter certainly works phenomenally well at transmitting information of that kind; I wonder if they’ll be able to translate that advantage over other services directly into money somehow.

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Me Versus “Sally”

19:42 09 May 2011

“Sally” isn’t one of the official CrossFit workouts, meaning that it wasn’t created by CrossFit HQ and posted on crossfit.com. My gym got it from CrossFit One World, who apparently got it from CrossFit Hardcore. It’s very similar to “Nancy”, which is an official workout. “Sally” is five rounds of a 400-meter run and 15 hang power snatches at 95/65 pounds, and as soon as I saw it last night I knew I’d be doing it rather than today’s CrossFit Football workout.

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CrossFit Open 2011 Overall Results

19:19 08 May 2011

Bottom line: I achieved my goal. There were 947 male entrants in the Northern California region, and my final rank is 387, putting me in the top 40.65%. I’m pretty happy with this, even though I felt that most of my individual performances could have been better.

I would also have liked to have finished in the top 50% of those who did all six workouts, but that’s not the goal I set in January, and in any case I didn’t know in advance if I’d be able to make it through all six. Overall a success, and one I’m proud of—last year I finished 244/256, or in the “top” 95.31%, and an improvement of just under 55% in my placement is no small thing.

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Friday JavaScript Game: A to B

16:43 06 May 2011

A to B is a simple physics/puzzle game built in processing.js. It’s not bad, and I’m happy to see games like this being made in JavaScript rather than Flash.

Note that you really have to read the instructions in order to beat level four.

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The Playground, Evolved?

21:56 05 May 2011

This looks amazing. I want this to be really successful so that one opens near San Francisco. Yes, this is partly because I’m a little risk-averse for typical freerange parkour/freerunning; yes, I also know that the whole point of parkour is to reclaim urban spaces by traversing them in unorthodox ways and that hence doing them in specialized spaces is missing the point—but somewhere safe to train still seems like a good idea.

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Hanna: The Elevator Pitch

23:54 03 May 2011. Updated: 00:55 04 May 2011

A Bourne Identity fairy tale, with the moral, “always wear sensible shoes”.

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On the Death of Osama bin Laden

23:30 02 May 2011

I was surprised when I heard the news—via SMS from Twitter from my brother—that US forces had apparently killed bin Laden. Surprised, but not particularly affected. No glee, no sadness, no sense that as an event it was important in itself (rather than for its symbolic value).

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CrossFit Open 2011 Workout 6

23:24 01 May 2011

Last workout of the CrossFit Open. And for me, the worst. Not as gruelling as last week’s 20 minute grinder, but more dispiriting: rising couplets of sets of three of 100-pounds thrusters and chest-to-bar pullups.

I did it twice, and they were demoralizing in different ways.

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