January 31st, 2014
The Super Bowl, in which the machine bleeds to death:
Over the course of the season, I've discovered lots of different ways to hack Madden NFL 25 into a thing that no longer resembles football as we know it. I've played around with rules, injury settings, all manner of player ratings, player dimensions, and anything else the game's developers have made available to us.
This time is special, though, because I'm pulling out every single one of the stops at the same time. No other scenario I've built in Madden has been so abjectly cruel or unfair; no other scenario has even been close. […]
The GIFs, the GIFs…
January 30th, 2014
I'm fairly sure the Infinity Augmented Reality Concept Video is a spoiler operation, secretly backed by Microsoft or Apple or some other Google rival to turn the public against the very idea of augmented reality. I mean, Infinity AR can't seriously believe that this is an appealing vision of the world five years from now, can they?
January 27th, 2014
I'm pretty sure I read Justin Erik Halldór Smith's Thomas Friedman Clogged My Toilet a couple of years ago, but as far as I can tell I didn't post about it. It's long past time that I rectified that omission:
It is not for nothing that some years ago I sought out a home with a semi-secret 1/2-bath in the basement, for who has not at some point been at a social gathering, and preferred to reabsorb rank toxins through the intestinal walls, rather than to risk, by the emanation of one's own stench even through a closed bathroom door, being found out as a defecator? This, I've long believed, has been the key to my reputation as a host.
[Via homunculus, commenting at MetaFilter]
January 27th, 2014
What a brand knows…
The question is, would your privacy fare much better if you were logging in to Google+ or Twitter instead? And if so, would that be because those networks were being less intrusive on a point of principle, or just because they haven't yet persuaded you to hand over quite as much information about yourself?
[Via Extenuating Circumstances]
January 25th, 2014
Photographer Victoria Will shot some old-style tintype portraits of some of the actors attending this year's Sundance festival. Some people look like they'd fit right in to the mid-19th century:
My other favourites in the Esquire-hosted slideshow are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe with Rachel McAdams, and Anne Hathaway. Also Nick Cave.
Victoria Will's own site has some more of her Sundance tintypes.
January 22nd, 2014
Dresden Codak artist Aaron Diaz has a new side project, designing the characters for a (sadly nonexistent) cartoon adaptation of The Silmarillion. If you're partial to his style (as I am) this is pure eye candy.
Take, for example, this illustration of Melkor and Ungoliant looking down on Telperion and Laurelin, the Two Trees that lit the Land of the Valar:
Silmarillion Chapter 8: Of The Darkening of Valinor
But now on the mountain-top dark Ungoliant lay; and she made a ladder of woven ropes and cast it down, and Melkor climbed upon it and came to that high place, and stood beside her, looking down upon the Guarded Realm.
…Then Melkor laughed aloud, and leapt swiftly, and leapt swiftly down the western slopes; and Ungoliant was at his side, and her darkness covered them.
Lovely work, best viewed full size at the the author's site.
January 19th, 2014
From the bash.org Quote Database:
<Aoi-chan> everyone's first vi session.
[Via Ivan Fyodorovich, commenting at MetaFilter]
January 15th, 2014
The Time Travel Mart in Echo Park caters for travellers from all eras:
There's even an online store to cater for the needs of those of us not able to get to LA.
[Via fuck yeah, science fiction!]
January 12th, 2014
January 12th, 2014
Theodore Ross is sceptical about the benefits Google Glass promises to bring us one day:
Sergey Brin put forth this rationale last February in a TED conference presentation during which he compared Glass to a smartphone and suggested that the head-lowered gaze was somehow emasculating. "We all use these touch phones, which you can't even feel," he said. (Not sure what he meant by that, but hey, who's the visionary? Not me.) "Is this what you were meant to do with your body?" Brin claimed that they had tried "to make something that frees your hands [and] frees your eyes" – the ocular freedom being achieved by putting "the display up high, you know, out of your line of sight."
When you hear Brin speaking in these terms, best check your wallet. Likewise, when Genevieve Bell, Intel's in-house anthropologist (known as their Director of Interaction and Experience), goes on NPR to describe a future smartphone that will direct her past the coffee shop she's gone looking for and into a museum to view a "piece of art…like nothing [she's] ever seen before," I resist. I don't see that future as a totalitarian vision so much as one built on the exploitation of laziness and busyness, the fatigue of work and children, the stress of bills. It doesn't harm so much as transform, devolving us into a pack of boring stooges who can't decide whether we want a coffee or an epiphany-generating aesthetic experience.
In all fairness, it's entirely possible that by the time Google Glass is a reasonably-priced piece of hardware rather than a really, really expensive beta product Google, Intel and their competitors will have worked out what ordinary people really want to use wearable technology for. I'm pretty sure that being deluged with ads isn't it.
January 12th, 2014
January 9th, 2014
James Bridle on How Britain exported next-generation surveillance. Good, but depressing.
As is often the case when it comes to governments and surveillance technologies, the problem isn't so much the technology itself as it is a reluctance on the part of officials to explain how the data gathered is being used, beyond a bland assertion that all relevant laws and guidelines are being followed. Plus, of course, mission creep on every possible front.
January 6th, 2014
Today's Guardian commemorated the passing of their parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart by reprinting some of his finer moments. I always liked Hoggart best when he turned his attention to some of the less consequential figures From the back benches:
"Does Sir Peter Tapsell actually exist? I ask the question following his own question – nay, speech – on Wednesday, which was magnificent. It could have been a pastiche of the perfect Tapsell address.
I imagined his words being carved into tablets of polished black basalt, mounted in the British Museum, etched dee
p so that even the partially sighted can feel their way to his eternal wisdom.
Possibly Sir Peter is a mass thought form, created by Tory MPs, for whom he recalls their party as it used to be, and Labour MPs, who wish that it still was. Certainly it is true that the whole House looks forward keenly, yearningly, to his every word.
When the Father of the House arose in the middle of prime minister's questions, a great throb of excitement ran along all benches, rather like the moment in a Victorian seance when the eerie manifestation of a dead Red Indian appeared above the fireplace. This moment of glee was followed, as it always is, by a hushed and expectant silence."
- 14 September 2011
January 5th, 2014
Los Angeles Times reporter David Lazarus, prompted by a tip-off from a reader, tried registering with a UPS service that offered more control over parcel delivery schedules and found that UPS already knew quite a bit about him and his family:
In my case, UPS wanted me to name the city I'd formerly lived in. San Francisco, where I resided before moving back to Los Angeles, was on the list.
The next one was a trick question. It asked me to name the street I'd once lived on or "none of the above." The answer was "none of the above."
The third question asked me to name the city I'd never lived in. The list included three Connecticut cities I'd never visited and the one where I was born. Since you could pick only one answer, I picked "all of the above."
The UPS site then said it would need more information to verify my identity and asked for my birth date. Maybe this was just a glitch. Or maybe it was a sneaky way to get me to cough up this most important of data points.
I provided my birth date and was presented with a trio of much more specific questions. The first asked the month that my wife was born, and it included both the correct month and her full name.
The second one again identified San Francisco as my former home. The third question included the street in San Francisco that I lived on.
Like Miller, I was completely creeped out.
I'm not sure what's creepier about this: the notion that data mining lets companies know this much about potential customers, or the idea that they might have gathered incorrect information and there's no practical way for me to correct it because I don't know where they got it from.
[Via RISKS Digest Vol. 27, Iss. 65]
January 5th, 2014
I can't remember where I found a link to this, but the Columbia Journalism Review's profile of my favourite internet sceptic, Evgeny vs. the internet Is well worth a read:
Evgeny Morozov wants to convince us that digital technology can't save the world, and he's willing to burn every bridge from Cambridge to Silicon Valley to do it.
January 5th, 2014
Adam Gopnik puts doom-laden talk of parallels between 1914 and 2014 in perspective by reflecting upon the impossibility of knowing whether we're travelling on board the Olympic or the Titanic.
January 4th, 2014
Paper Pong is a very strange, yet oddly appealing idea – a Choose Your Own Adventure-style implementation, on paper, of a very old video game. It almost seems like cheating to play a version of the book online…
As Sarah Werner observes in her musings on the alleged "death" of the "book":
I spent a lot of time as a kid playing Pong at home, so perhaps that's why I enjoy this book so much. But I love it, too, for its ridiculousness. It's a paper replication of a video game! Why would you do that? Why write lines of code to create a game of Pong that you then remediate in paper form? I don't know that there's a good reason to do that, other than you can. And, actually, that's a decent reason, one that drives more than a few novels.
December 31st, 2013