July 26th, 2014
Excellent piece from Evgeny Morozov on the downside to governments' infatuation with the notion that they can 'nudge' citizens into doing the right thing (whatever that is) without any of that messy politics getting in the way:
[…] consider a May 2014 report from 2020health, another thinktank, proposing to extend tax rebates to Britons who give up smoking, stay slim or drink less. "We propose 'payment by results', a financial reward for people who become active partners in their health, whereby if you, for example, keep your blood sugar levels down, quit smoking, keep weight off, [or] take on more self-care, there will be a tax rebate or an end-of-year bonus," they state. Smart gadgets are the natural allies of such schemes: they document the results and can even help achieve them – by constantly nagging us to do what's expected.
The unstated assumption of most such reports is that the unhealthy are not only a burden to society but that they deserve to be punished (fiscally for now) for failing to be responsible. For what else could possibly explain their health problems but their personal failings? It's certainly not the power of food companies or class-based differences or various political and economic injustices. One can wear a dozen powerful sensors, own a smart mattress and even do a close daily reading of one's poop – as some self-tracking aficionados are wont to do – but those injustices would still be nowhere to be seen, for they are not the kind of stuff that can be measured with a sensor. The devil doesn't wear data. Social injustices are much harder to track than the everyday lives of the individuals whose lives they affect.
July 26th, 2014
July 23rd, 2014
By some margin my favourite response to the whole Thor-is-being-replaced-by-a-woman fuss:
[Via Bruce Munro, commenting at More Words, Deeper Hole]
July 22nd, 2014
The Fasinatng … Frustrating … Fascinating History of Autocorrect chronicles the work of Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch, who implemented AutoCorrect back in Microsoft Word 6:
It wasn't long before the team realized that autocorrect could also be used toward less productive – but more delightful – ends. One day Hachamovitch went into his boss's machine and changed the autocorrect dictionary so that any time he typed Dean it was automatically changed to the name of his coworker Mike, and vice versa. (His boss kept both his computer and office locked after that.) Children were even quicker to grasp the comedic ramifications of the new tool. After Hachamovitch went to speak to his daughter's third-grade class, he got emails from parents that read along the lines of "Thank you for coming to talk to my daughter's class, but whenever I try to type her name I find it automatically transforms itself into 'The pretty princess.'"
July 21st, 2014
Michael Lopp remembers how playing Mtrek set him on the path that led to his becoming a software engineer:
Mtrek is a real-time multiplayer space combat game loosely set in the Star Trek Universe. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Check out a screen shot.
Designed and written by Tim Wisseman and Chuck L. Peterson in the late 80s at University of California, Santa Cruz, Mtrek is completely text-based. To understand where an enemy ship was, you had to visualize the direction via the onscreen data. If this wasn't enough mental load, it was absolutely required to develop a set of macros on top of the game's byzantine keyboard commands in order to master a particular ship. Furthermore, if you weren't intimately familiar with the performance characteristics of your particular ship, you'd get quickly clobbered.
After months of playing, I learned that one of the the game's creators, Chuck L. Peterson ("clp") was a frequent player. After one particularly successful evening with my Romulan Bird of Prey, I mailed clp and asked if there was anything, however small, I could do to help with the game. Without as much a signal question to vet my qualifications, he gave me a project. […]
By way of contrast, consider Robin Sloan's piece, posted earlier today, on The secret of Minecraft. Twenty years from now, will we see a generation of coders inspired by Minecraft?
July 20th, 2014
Another item for the list of artworks that I'd really like to see some day: The Monolith at the Vigeland Sculpture park in Oslo.
On the highest point of the park, on the Monolith Plateau, rise circular stairs towards the Monolith. The figural part, with 121 figures, is 14.12 m and the total height, including the plinth, is 17.3 m high. The Monolith was carved from one single granite block, hence the name (mono: one, litho: stone). Whereas the melancholy theme in the fountain is the eternal life cycle, the column gives room to a totally different interpretation: Man's longing and yearning for the spiritual and divine. Is the column to be understood as man's resurrection? The people are drawn towards heaven, not only characterised by sadness and controlled despair, but also delight and hope, next to a feeling of togetherness, carefully holding one another tight in this strange sense of salvation.
Not just for the Monolith itself, but for the surrounding figures.
July 17th, 2014
It's good to get a sense of perspective about the size of the human race's footprint in our home galaxy. One day we're going to have to apologise to the rest of the Milky Way's residents for inflicting Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Baywatch on them, but by the time anyone else notices the chances are there'll be nobody left on this planet who even knows who those people were.
July 16th, 2014
July 16th, 2014
Monument Valley is the prettiest computer game I've seen in quite some time: lovely Escher-style visuals and attractive animation. It's a puzzle game, albeit not a hugely difficult one.
Playing Monument Valley on an iPad has been a thoroughly engrossing experience. I hope it gets some extra levels, because ten just isn't enough.
July 14th, 2014
Guillermo del Toro has some bad news for those of us hoping to see another live-action Hellboy film one day. In a Reddit AMA he responded to a question about the film's prospects:
It is a question that I myself ask of the world many times, but we have gone through basically every studio and asked for financing, and they are not interested. I think that the first movie made its budget back, and a little bit of profit, but then it was very very big on video and DVD. The story repeated itself with the second already, it made its money back at the box office, but a small margin of profit in the release of the theatrical print, but was very very big on DVD and video. Sadly now from a business point of view all the studios know is that you don't have that safety net of the DVD and video, so they view the project as dangerous.
Creatively, I would love to make it. Creatively. But it is proven almost impossible to finance. Not from MY side, but from the studio side. If I was a multimillionaire, I would finance it myself, but I spend all my money on rubber monsters.
That's a very del Toro way to wrap up that explanation.
[Via The Dissolve]
July 13th, 2014
Susan Doll's piece about the tag lines employed on movie posters The Power of a Well-Placed Exclamation Point, or Would You See a Movie Based on This Tag Line? is well worth a read, not least for this little gem:
The poster for the b-movie Canon City (1948) is trying convey that the film is based on a true story, while still titillating audiences. Instead, the tagline merely mixes its metaphor: "Filmed with the naked fury of fact!"
[Via The Dissolve]
July 11th, 2014
I'm indebted to Chris Williams for bringing to everyone's attention that today is the feast day for Saint Olga of Kiev:
Princess Olga was the wife of Igor of Kiev, who was killed by the Drevlians. At the time of her husband's death, their son Svyatoslav was three years old, making Olga the official ruler of Kievan Rus until he reached adulthood. The Drevlians wanted Olga to marry their Prince Mal, making him the ruler of Kievan Rus, but Olga was determined to remain in power and preserve it for her son.
The Drevlians sent twenty of their best men to persuade Olga to marry their Prince Mal and give up her rule of Kievan Rus. She had them buried alive. Then she sent word to Prince Mal that she accepted the proposal, but required their most distinguished men to accompany her on the journey in order for her people to accept the offer of marriage. The Drevlians sent their best men who governed their land. Upon their arrival, she offered them a warm welcome and an invitation to clean up after their long journey in a bathhouse. After they entered, she locked the doors and set fire to the building, burning them alive.
With the best and wisest men out of the way, she planned to destroy the remaining Drevlians. […]
Basically, it's A Game of Thrones without the dragons.
[Via Chris Williams, commenting in a thread on diplomacy at Blood & Treasure]
July 10th, 2014
You've disrupted the world. Now it's time to disrupt your outfit.
You're a rich white man.
You're used to being listened to. But while you're jabbering away, all anyone can see is your garbage shirt that you bought for twenty bucks and have been wearing all year, shoved nastily into your shiny off-the-rack suit. Why would you do this to your brand?
We're opinionated homosexuals.
Your days are busy. In the morning you're going to a sympathetic tech blog to defend yourself from charges of sexual assault; in the afternoon you're explaining to your board why it's fine that you're dating a direct report in your organization. Well, you should stop doing all that, but at least you should stop doing that while looking like a fucking putz. That's where we come in. We're the gays of Shirterate. And we're the first startup with a target audience of rich straight men. (Haha, JK, we're not the first, we're just the first to say it.) […]
[Via The Awl]
July 9th, 2014
Calvin has one last talk with Hobbes. I'm not going to quote a single line from this: if you know who "Calvin" and "Hobbes" are then you want to read this in full.
The only improvement I could possibly desire would be to have Bill Watterson draw the story, but then I'm not sure I could bear to read that story with Watterson's art.
[Via Extenuating Circumstances]
July 2nd, 2014
xkcd: Surface Area
Space Without the Space
The Solar System's solid surfaces stitched together
July 2nd, 2014
Craig Mod answers the question – especially relevant in the light of yesterday's post – How are apps made?
The first pass should be ugly, the ugliest. Any brain cycle spent on pretty is self deception. If pretty is the point then please stop. Do not, I repeat, do not spent three months on the radial menu, impressive as it may be. It will not save your company. There is a time for that. That time is not now. Instead, make grand gestures. General gestures. Most importantly, innumerate the unknowns. Make a list. Making known the unknowns you now know will surface the other unknowns, the important unknowns, the truly devastating unknowns – you can't scrape our content! you can't monkey park here! a tiny antennae is not for rent! You want to unearth answers as quickly as possible. Nothing else matters if your question marks irrecoverably break you. Do not procrastinate in their excavation.
July 1st, 2014
App: The Human Story is seeking funding via Kickstarter:
App creation has become the new art form for our generation. This is the story of the cultural phenomenon that touches all our lives. […]
I've backed it, even though I'm slightly wary of the possibility that the whole thing could turn into a happy-clappy paean to the wonderful world Steve Jobs gifted to us all with the release of iOS 2.0 back in 2008. I'm hoping that impression is just the effect of their cramming so many brief interview snippets into their teaser; in the full film, with more space to expand on their subject, here's hoping we'll get a more nuanced prespective on the story so far. We'll see.
June 30th, 2014
You might have thought that the Internet Movie Database had cornered the market in film-related data. You'd be wrong. Sometimes the Trivia section of the IMDB just isn't up to the job, and there's nothing for it but to consult the Internet Movie Cars Database. Seriously, this exists and seems to be ridiculously thorough.
For sentimental reasons I asked it for appearances in film and TV by the Vauxhall Chevette and it brought up two pages of results, with screencaps, confirming that between the mid-1970s and the 1980s you couldn't walk up a streets anywhere in the United Kingdom without seeing a Chevette parked. It even had a starring role in an episode of The Likely Lads and a bit part in Christopher Eccleston's season on Doctor Who.
Seriously, I know most of us don't need to use a resource like the Internet Movie Cars Database on a daily basis, but it's good to know that it's out there, being maintained by people who care about making this sort of information freely available to the rest of us.
[Via Matt Patches, talking in the Fighting In The War Room podcast at the 15:36 mark while reviewing David Michod's The Rover. (Not talking about the Vauxhall Chevette specifically, mind, just about the existence of the IMCDb itself.)]