March 6th, 2014
Philip Sandifer's meditation on what The Day of the Doctor tells us about the differing ways Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat see the Doctor is quite fascinating:
As with many fan debates on Tumblr, the immediate fallout of The Day of the Doctor had no shortage of straw men, with people angrily reacting against points that never actually got made. (See also the "legions" of fans who aren't going to watch Peter Capaldi because he's old and unattractive.) Still, there's an interesting fault line that opens up in the question of just how much of a retcon The Day of the Doctor is – one that is revealing in terms of the sorts of details that each argument prioritizes.
Once I've caught up on the comments on his post, I'm going to have to rewatch TDOTD at least one more time and have a think about all this. Good stuff.
[Via The Great Escapism]
March 4th, 2014
Coffee, now with added DRM for extra flavour:
The single coffee cup craze has been rolling now for several years in both the United States and Canada, with Keurig, Tassimo, and Nespresso all battling it out to lock down the market. […] Keurig has faced the "problem" in recent years of third-party pod refills that often retail for 5-25% less than what Keurig charges. As people look to cut costs, there has also been a growing market for reusable pods that generally run anywhere from five to fifteen dollars.
Keurig's solution to this problem? In a lawsuit (pdf) filed against Keurig by TreeHouse Foods, they claim Keurig has been busy striking exclusionary agreements with suppliers and distributors to lock competing products out of the market. What's more, TreeHouse points out that Keurig is now developing a new version of their coffee maker that will incorporate the java-bean equivalent of DRM — so that only Keurig's own coffee pods can be used in it […]
[Via The RISKS Digest, Volume 27, Issue 78 ]
March 2nd, 2014
Surely this is satire:
Break Up Riots From Within
Tiltor is a novel reward system used by businesses and law enforcement agencies around the world to undermine, diffuse, and disrupt rioting behavior.
A New Kind of Reward
Rewards are good for many types of problems.
But a reward to stop a riot? That doesn't even sound possible! How can you tell what they did? Who gets the reward? Do you have to check EVERYONE'S contribution??
Clearly a traditional reward isn't going to squash a riot. Thankfully, Tiltor has developed a new kind of reward system specifically designed for rioting conditions. [...]
[Via Extenuating Circumstances]
March 2nd, 2014
NASA's Earth Observatory site has before and after images of a landslide in Southeastern Alaska that took place just a couple of weeks ago:
Using imagery from the Landsat 8 satellite, scientists have confirmed that a large landslide occurred in southeastern Alaska on February 16, 2014. A preliminary estimate suggests the landslide on the flanks of Mount La Perouse involved 68 million metric tons (75 million short tons) of material, which potentially makes it the largest known natural landslide on Earth since 2010.
The photos weren't worth embedding here in cropped form: you should follow that link and see what a 75,000,000 ton landslide looks like.
February 28th, 2014
Maciej Ceglowski's Webstock presentation on Our Comrade The Electron draws lessons for modern technologists from the life of Lev Sergeyevich Termen, the inventor of – among other things – the theremin:
Termen was just what Lenin needed: a Soviet inventor with an electrical gizmo that would dazzle and amaze the masses, and help sell the suspicious countryside on electrification. He gave Termen a permanent rail pass, encouraging him to take his show on the road all over the Soviet Union.
When Lenin died a few years later, Termen sent urgent word that Lenin's body be immediately frozen. He had an idea for how to bring him back to life, but it required putting the body on ice. He was devastated to learn that Lenin's brain had already been taken out and pickled in alcohol, and his body embalmed for public viewing.
Given Termen's track record of technical achievement, it's probably a good thing he didn't get a chance at making zombie Lenin.
February 27th, 2014
My first instinct upon reading about BERG's Cloudwash prototype was to scoff at the idea of an internet-connected washing machine.
Cloudwash is a prototype washing machine. We created Cloudwash to explore how connectivity will change the appliances in our homes… and to figure out what new features will be possible.
I'm still not persuaded that the ability to schedule and reschedule washing jobs remotely is going to be on the feature list when next I'm looking to buy a washing machine. However, I'll concede that more localised uses of connectivity – like the ability to receive an alert via the net when a cycle is about to end and I'm going to need to go and unload the machine – would be worth having.
I did like BERG's approach of putting as much of the intelligence as possible in the app you run on your connected device, where it's easy to update and enhance the functionality on offer without finding that your washing machine only has ROM version 1.3.234 and you need version 1.4.112 or better to allow you to store more than 3 favourite job configurations. It's perfectly logical, but you can bet that as manufacturers start doing internet-enabled production models we'll see all sorts of flashy touchscreen interfaces using a custom OS (which will probably be a heavily-customised Android or Linux variant under the skin) that will be scrapped or revised within six months.
February 26th, 2014
Turns out that the latest change to Dropbox's Terms of Service merits a second look:
If you're a Dropbox user, you probably got an email in the last few days about an update to their TOS that basically puts all disputes into arbitration rather than litigation.
If you're like me, you probably glossed over this update because gah, legalese.
Allow me to summarize what it means when a company wants to handle all disputes in arbitration [...]
Basically, if you'd prefer not to have Dropbox choose who gets to decide whether they did something wrong, you have a limited amount of time to opt out of their new TOS. You may think this is no big deal but it's still good to be aware of your options, especially when they're time-limited.
Kudos to Tiffany Bridge and Khoi Vinh for bringing this to their readers' attention.
February 25th, 2014
Judging by the first full trailer, this year's take on Godzilla looks bigger, meaner and a whole lot scarier than the version who chased Matthew Broderick around New York back in 1998:
They're gonna need a bigger Jaeger.
February 24th, 2014
Roentgen Objects are genuinely remarkable pieces of furniture:
The furniture is a process – an event – a seemingly endless sequence of new spatial conditions and states expanding outward into the room around it.
Each piece is a controlled explosion of carpentry with no real purpose other than to test the limits of volumetric self-demonstration, offering little in the way of useful storage space and simply showing off, performing, a spatial Olympics of shelves within shelves and spaces hiding spaces.
February 22nd, 2014
Candid superhero moments by Phil Noto:
Nothing shows off Phil Noto's ability to place characters in the decade of his choosing better than his candid Marvel sketches. Emulating vintage color pallettes and film stock, each moment is infused with a small slice of Americana. [...]
Some gorgeous work on that page. My favourite has to be the last:
[Via zombieflanders, commenting at MetaFilter]
February 22nd, 2014
I'm indebted to Stu for reminding me of this perfect epilogue to Spaced, which I believe can be found on the DVD boxset:
[Via feeling listless]
February 21st, 2014
According to the New York Times the center of the world isn't where you'd have expected to find it:
The town [of Felicity, California], established in 1986, consists of the Istels’ home and a half-dozen other buildings that the couple built on 2,600 acres in the middle of the desert near Yuma, Ariz., just off Interstate 8. At the north end, up an imposing staircase, sits the Church on the Hill at Felicity – inspired by a little white chapel in Brittany – that Istel built in 2007. The church is gorgeous and serene and looks eerily out of place, though less out of place than the 21-foot-tall stone-and-glass pyramid on the opposite end of town. The pyramid is there to mark the exact center of the world.
The founder of the town of Felicity, Jacques-André Istel, has led a really interesting, not to say distinctly eccentric, life.
February 18th, 2014
Why Jerusalem renters are wary of the Messiah's arrival:
In apartment contracts around the city, there are clauses stipulating what will happen to the apartment if or when the Jewish Messiah, or mashiach, comes. The owners, generally religious Jews living abroad, are concerned that he will arrive, build a third temple, and turn Israel into paradise – and they will be stuck waiting for their apartment tenants' contracts to run out before they can move back.
February 17th, 2014
I bookmarked Mike Hoye's Citation Needed weeks ago but never got round to posting a link here. Unfortunately I've forgotten where I came across the link to this piece in the first place, but I can't let that stop me. If this is the sort of thing you like, you'll enjoy this a lot:
"Should array indices start at 0 or 1? My compromise of 0.5 was rejected without, I thought, proper consideration." – Stan Kelly-Bootle
Sometimes somebody says something to me, like a whisper of a hint of an echo of something half-forgotten, and it lands on me like an invocation. The mania sets in, and it isn't enough to believe; I have to know.
I've spent far more effort than is sensible this month crawling down a rabbit hole disguised, as they often are, as a straightforward question: why do programmers start counting at zero?
Now: stop right there. By now your peripheral vision should have convinced you that this is a long article, and I'm not here to waste your time. But if you're gearing up to tell me about efficient pointer arithmetic or binary addition or something, you're wrong. You don't think you're wrong and that's part of a much larger problem, but you're still wrong. [...]
February 15th, 2014
I can't help but think that the Lockitron is a solution in search of a problem:
Lockitron is the first device that lets you lock and unlock your door from anywhere in the world using any phone, all while installing on your door in under a minute. With Lockitron you can instantly share access with your family and friends, on a temporary or permanent basis. Lockitron will even send you alerts when a loved one comes home or someone knocks at the door.
If I want to "share access" to my house with family and friends I'm not sure that using the internet to do it is inherently superior to handing them a spare key or, you know, inviting them to ring the doorbell so I can let them in.
[Via bb-blog, via swissmiss]
February 14th, 2014
Regenerative Candle Forms New Ones As It Melts:
Candles lend themselves extremely well to recycling, but the only problem is that it often requires some effort on your part, and the potential to make a mess. The Rekindle candlestick holder from Benjamin Shine on the other hand, takes care of all the hard work for you, and only requires that you insert a new wick every time your candle is “reborn.”
Neat. Literally and figuratively speaking.
[Via The Morning News]
February 13th, 2014
More weather, this time a collection of Stormscapes:
At several points during that video I was fully expecting the clouds to part as a Spielbergesque spaceship descended.
February 13th, 2014
Michael Shainblum's image of the Burj Khalifa being struck by lightning doesn't deserve to be embedded here in scaled-down form: follow that link and see it properly. It's worth it.
(I do hope there was a mad scientist at the top of the tower, cackling maniacally as he tried to tap the power of the lightning storm to breathe life into his creation. Seems like such a waste of a good lightning bolt, otherwise…)
[Via Bad Astronomy]
February 12th, 2014
From the [pen|keyboard] of The Yorkshire Ranter: Dave from PR in the French Revolution…
Being a Salmagundi from the Talking-Pointes of the late Sieur Davide du Camerone, Gentleman of the Privy and Counsellier upon the Fourth Estate to his most Catholic Majesty, the late King Louis XVI
An unexpectedly large forecast error in the Budget leads Finance Minister Necker to call an emergency Estates-General:
We’re all in this together. Only a balanced parliament reflecting the national consensus to deal with the debt can keep us from ending up like Spain. M. Colbert didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, but His Majesty is determined to get our finances in surplus by 1792. That’s on a rolling five-year cash basis excluding interventions in North America and royal mistresses.