Posts concerning culture

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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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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The New Yorker on Waiting for GRRM

23:51 19 Apr 2011

Laura Miller’s “Just Write It” is an overview of fan discontent with George R. R. Martin over the amount of time it’s taking to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. As a longtime (perhaps erstwhile—but I am planning to read the next book) fan, I thought it covered the ground well, and in particular the interesting question over what duty, if any, an author has to finish a story.

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The Generosity of the Federal Reserve

00:20 15 Apr 2011. Updated: 00:22 16 Apr 2011

Matt Taibbi covers the still-astonishing handouts given out by the Federal Reserve as part of its “crisis management” measures over the last few years. Given the amounts of money involved, it is absolutely stunning that this stuff isn’t brought up whenever benefit cuts are discussed. Yes, I know that the whole point of the mainstream media is to prevent mass awareness of just how twisted the situation is, but even so, it’s amazing how effective it seems to be.

To slash public spending while simultaneously showering money on the wealthy—never mind acting pious and responsible while doing so—is nothing less than massive thievery from the poor to the rich; there’s really no other way to describe it.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is busy addressing the key problems facing America today, although some members of Congress and the Senate want a different focus.

The current mantra guiding US actions seems to be “the floggings shall continue until morale improves”.

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Subtract One Panel for Despair

23:47 31 Mar 2011

Don’t believe me? Check out “3eanuts”.

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Cities: Urban Centers or Transfer Points for Capital?

22:33 15 Mar 2011

Cities have always been centers of capital; I don’t think you can have cities without something (in our history, initially agriculture) to produce surpluses of goods that can (must?) be stored (hoarded? selectively distributed?), and the centralization that such storage encourages has always been a fundamental part of why cities exist.

I love cities. I love them for their concentration of people and culture (the modern form of which, it could be argued, arises out of the former), for the intermingling they encourage and for the aspects of cultural and social choice they provide. I’ve always disliked other aspects, however: the concentration of capital and the power dynamics this creates, and the shaping of cities as feeding/breeding grounds for capitalist/consumerist expenditure/exploitation. I don’t care that these dynamics have thus far been prime drivers for the existence of cities; an optimist (yes, really) about human potential, I believe it’s possible for us to reorganize cities to have the good without the bad. In any case, cities have always had this tension (among others) between capital and people, but they’re still understood largely as spaces for inhabitation—that is, as places for people.

This may be changing.

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Facebook “Like” Top 40 News Stories

20:20 10 Mar 2011

An interesting study of Facebook user interest in news stories on major news sites from October 2010 to January 2011.

I’m a little depressed by the number of astrology-related “likes”.

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The Ongoing Torture of Bradley Manning

23:51 07 Mar 2011

Yes, it is torture. Glenn Greenwald, among others, has been bringing into the public eye the suffering inflicted upon him.

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Spam Break

23:21 28 Feb 2011

Since adding reCAPTCHA to my comment forms, the amount of spam comments I’m getting has dropped. Initially it dropped to almost nothing, but now it’s back up to several a day, which is annoying but not unmanageable. Still too high, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t have email on my phone.

Before the current point of manageable spam was reached, however, I had accumulated 15,000 pending comments for my blog.

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Remixes All the Way Down

23:50 17 Feb 2011

I thought this was interesting (I preferred it to part one, perhaps because of my greater interest in film):

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

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The “Dickwolves Thing”

22:43 06 Feb 2011

This is a post about humor, taste, rape, offensiveness/offendedness, and limits on discourse, all centered on a three-panel webcomic about video games.

It’s rather long; I meant it as a tighter, more abstract, discussion of the points above, but got pulled into a lot of the specifics as I went through them.

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My Conveyance is Different and Superior to Yours, Sirs

10:00 19 Dec 2010

My Irish readers are doubtless highly familiar with this; other readers, here is what (fortune willing) may become the Irish Christmas #1 Single:

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Overthinking Star Wars

21:27 14 Dec 2010

In the spirit of the famous Clerks discussion, here’s “Think Tank: What do the Stormtroopers Think of Vader?”. Best excerpts:

Imagine you worked at the Pentagon as a personal attache to Colin Powell or McChrystal, and you hear over the PA “Alert! Alert! There is a Nazi Ninja Master loose in the Pentagon! Your orders are ‘Shoot to kill!’” You get up and walk around the corner, and there’s this 80 year old man with a Hitler moustache in a black outfit, and he and Donald Rumsfeld are circling each other ominously. Both of them have katanas drawn.

Do you shoot?



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“Strong is the New Skinny” Versus Bridalplasty

23:50 09 Dec 2010. Updated: 08:43 10 Dec 2010

I first came across the “Strong is the New Skinny” concept via CrossFit channels a few months back. The first thing I saw was just the original T-shirt image, and I thought it was a great slogan. I got a little carried away and thought it represented a movement coming out of CrossFit that had found a fantastic way to challenge prevailing norms of female beauty.

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Fun and Games in the Land of the Free

23:00 06 Dec 2010

The FBI, one of the most prominent domestic secret police agencies here, habitually kept anti-war activists under surveillance—and remember that this report only covers the incidents that another arm of the state brought into the open. In case you thought this could only happen during the dark days of the Bush administration, give up that fantasy: it’s still happening now.

Ah, but surely the terrorist threat is so grave that any “material support”—that sound you heard was the First Amendment being locked in the trunk of a car—or hint thereof must be investigated without concern for legal niceties? Clearly, which is why they have to resort to trying to create terrorist plots that they can then claim credit for “thwarting”. And on the subject of “terrorist plots”, there’s a strong push to designate WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization”—and that, if it comes to pass, will sound like the trunk opening and the First Amendment being repeatedly shot in the head.

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A Brief WikiLeaks Comment

18:25 05 Dec 2010

I’ve been following the situation with WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables fairly closely, and find it rather interesting as an effective use of the internet to fight government control of information. In that sense, it’s a hopeful sign, a demonstration that a relatively small group of people can still resist the forces of the powerful.

On the other hand, the reaction to the release, particularly in the mainstream press here, has been an appalling if unsurprising demonstration of the servility of our political culture.

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Friday Game Analysis: Pac-Man

22:35 03 Dec 2010

Chad Birch has written a fantastic dive into some of the guts of Pac-Man’s ghost behavior mechanics, and found it highly enjoyable and illuminating, despite not having played Pac-Man in years. Definitely worth reading. I’d previously read Susan Lammers’ interview with Toru Iwatani, which Birch refers to in his post and which I’m happy to see is available online.

If that’s not enough depth about Pac-Man for you, there’s also an entire “dossier”.

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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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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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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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