Posts concerning culture

A Century in Beeps

18:24 25 Aug 2013

This is all I have for you this week:

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Gaming Nostalgia Mashup: ROM Check Fail

23:11 02 Jun 2013

I’ve failed in my duty to produce written words in sufficient quantity and quality for your edification and entertainment this week, and instead can only offer a link to the recent Flash version of ROM Check Fail, a retro-gaming mashup.

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Dropping the San Francisco Chronicle

23:54 19 May 2013

I’ve been a subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle for almost 13 years, the entire time I’ve lived in the city. I started that subscription because I was used to living in a household where newspapers were a daily staple, and because I wanted to support local journalism. I also felt that major cities should have newspapers and I should thus support the city paper.

And now I’m ending my subscription.

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First Experience with the Oculus Rift

18:37 05 May 2013

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset, with one screen per eye and covering that blocks other vision.

It’s not available yet, but a co-worker has one of the development kits and brought that into the office this week for us to play with.

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A Joke Explained

19:06 23 Dec 2012

Sometimes, jokes need explanation; TV Tropes says you’re not supposed to explain the punchline, just the context, but in the case of this joke the two aren’t really separable. Furthermore, this one requires a great deal of broad knowledge in order to make sense; more breadth of knowledge than any other joke I’ve encountered so far. This became clear to me in my relating it to American friends; I didn’t notice the amount you need to know for it while I was living in Ireland[1].

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Books, Ebooks, and What to Keep

20:49 03 Jun 2012

In the time since I bought a Kindle, I’ve been extremely happy with it. But the rise of the ebook has brought with it questions about my relationship with books, specifically about book ownership and the notion of a personal library. I’m still trying to cut down on the physical books in my possession—the limited physical space that partly prompted acquiring a Kindle in the first place is still the same—and am finding it difficult to do so.

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Marriage, Same-Sex and Other

23:17 13 May 2012

Same-sex marriage has been a major news topic this week, because of the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One and Barack Obama’s statement that he thinks same-sex couples should be able to marry. A good time, then, to explore the subject.

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Too Few Good Men?

00:03 19 Mar 2012

I don’t usually comment on vapid “lifestyle” articles, particularly when they’re also year-old Wall Street Journal op-ed pieces, but Kay Hymowitz’s “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” has recently been shared by at least two friends and appears to need refutation.

Unfortunately, while it annoyed me greatly on first reading, further readings exposed a lot of difficulty in discerning what arguments it was making—mostly it’s composed of cultural buzzwords, snobbery, socially conservative hankering for the mores of yore, and the anecdata-driven slandering of an entire generation of males.

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Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix”, Part 4

21:55 19 Feb 2012. Updated: 23:44 02 Mar 2012

I mentioned this on Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s important enough to also write a post about.

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Steve Jobs

23:47 09 Oct 2011

I wasn’t a big Steve Jobs fan; despite my working almost exclusively on Mac hardware for the last several years, I disagreed strongly with the direction I thought he was moving computing in. I was surprised to find myself feeling very sad at the news of his passing.

I’m not entirely sure what drove the extent of that sadness.

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23:51 04 Sep 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Last week there was a significant amount of internet outcry over a post by Alyssa Bereznak about two dates she went on with Jon Finkel, a former Magic: The Gathering world champion. Bereznak called him out by name, and made clear that she had no interest in dating him because he was a former MTG world champion who still played the game. She also did more than that, and it’s the more that I’m looking at in this post—that, and how a defense of Bereznak by Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown misses the point and perpetuates the core problem with the original post.

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Expression, Pseudonymity, Google+

23:06 21 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important.

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Beauty in the Machine

23:49 29 Jul 2011. Updated: 02:20 30 Jul 2011

Dead End Thrills is a site collecting beautiful scenes from video games, mostly but not exclusively first-person shooters. They’ve had the HUDs stripped, so that nothing but the game world is visible; some of them have been viewed with custom textures or other modifications also—but, to my understanding, they’re not photoshopped or otherwise treated after being captured.

Some of my favorites:

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Amsterdam and Bicycles

23:59 17 Jul 2011. Updated: 17:35 23 Jul 2011

I didn’t get to cycle in Amsterdam, but in three days of wandering around I got a reasonably good sense of the city from a transport standpoint.

That sense tells me that despite lots of pedestrians, cars, trains, ferries, trams, and scooters/motorbikes, the dominant mode of transportation in Amsterdam is the bicycle.

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Some Bribery Statistics

11:40 05 Jul 2011

Using data culled from secret police records, John McMillan and Pablo Zoldo examined bribes made (by the secret police) to various figures in Peru during the 1990s: legislators, judges, and… the media. It was the television stations that commanded the most in bribes, about ten times as much per month as the other groups combined. The article explores why the media were worth more than the politicians and judges, and has some interesting hypotheses on how the incentives worked.

Also, it has data tables about bribes, something you don’t come across too often.

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Out to Get Him After All

19:38 04 Jul 2011

I find this really sad and infuriating.

Being kept under surveillance would itself be deeply disturbing, but perhaps most sad about it is its contribution to Hemingway’s feeling that he can’t trust his friends because they might be spying on him for the government; if the FBI is actually spying on you, is that really a paranoid view?

Incidentally, what appears to be the website for the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation has the Hoover line “Justice is incidental to law and order” on its front page, and I can’t figure out whether it’s earnest and really scary or just a phenomenally good parody.

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Will AI “Selves” Work One Day?

22:55 30 Jun 2011

This afternoon, a conversation at work centered on the fact that it’s possible to “teach” text analysis software with a corpus of a user’s instant messages such that when presented with a new message, the software can identify which of the user’s contacts sent that message—without any other data, just the body of the message. Which is interesting, but I was more interested in whether or not the software could learn what the user’s responses to the individual contacts were like, and from that point learn to effectively feign being the user. Essentially, whether one could successfully train a bot to conduct IM conversations in your stead.

So I was quite intrigued to see this post from JWZ tonight discussion more or less that same idea, although apparently without some of the learning aspects. Apparently the implementation isn’t too good, but it’s definitely an interesting concept, and I wonder if we’ll eventually get to the point where bots (or “smart agents”) handle this kind of thing for some significant number of people.

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Google Tries Again: Google+

23:36 28 Jun 2011

Before, there were Orkut, Wave, and Buzz; now, there’s Google+, Google’s latest foray into social networking. I don’t have an account (if any of my Googly friends want to help me out there, I’d be happy to try it out), and most of my info comes from the intro, the announcement, and Stephen Levy’s piece.

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Kirby on Remixes, Part 3

23:55 24 Jun 2011

Everything is a Remix Part 3. Definitely worth watching, particularly because the ideas discussed are presented effectively, and because the concepts of “originality” that govern our ethics and laws are definitely in need of major revision (a subject that will apparently be tackled in Part 3…)

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The Videotex Revolution

23:49 23 Jun 2011. Updated: 01:30 24 Jun 2011

In June 1982, the Institute for the Future published a report, “Teletext and Videotex in the United States”, which discussed the likely impact of teletext and videotex services on American homes, jobs, and lifestyles; an article summarizing the report was published in the New York Times. While in many ways it was utterly wrong, in the sense that those technologies never succeeded in the US, in perhaps more important ways it was almost prescient, describing quite well how the Internet has changed things.

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Telehack Interview

23:54 16 Jun 2011

Most of you who need to know about Telehack doubtless already do, but you might have missed this interesting interview with its author by Andy Baio.

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Clearly it’s not Dead Yet

23:54 10 Jun 2011. Updated: 01:25 11 Jun 2011

This has been out a while, but is awesome and worth watching. Background: Newsweek listed Grand Rapids, Michigan, as one of America’s “top 10 dying cities”, and Grand Rapids made this in response:

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Nothing on Facebook is Then

22:56 09 Jun 2011

This is an excellent post/rant about Facebook from Jason Scott; one of the key aspects of being a proprietary walled garden is that it’s very easy to be an information black hole, with the attendant ill effects on historical archiving.

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