Genius of Love

August 3rd, 2014

Sadie Stein contemplates the state of the modern Genius:

Somewhere in the world there exists a clip of Hugh Hefner on one talk show or another. I can neither remember what the show was nor the exact wording of the exchange, but the following paraphrase has become legendary in my family:

INTERVIEWER: Do you consider yourself a genius?

HEFNER: Genius is a difficult word to define. But by any definition, I am one.

Hef may be a law unto himself, but genius, a word that used to be the sole domain of the upper reaches of the IQ scale, is now thrown around like grass seed. Maybe it's the effect of language evolution or intelligence inflation – after all, only recently has it became compulsory for one's child to be intellectually gifted – but it can't be denied that genius no longer packs the awe-inspiring punch it once did. […]

(And yes, her essay does involve a trip to an Apple Store at one point.)

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Let's hope these guys are wearing their brown pants…

August 1st, 2014

If Marvel ever decide that they want to atone for the terrible job they did of depicting Deadpool in the first Wolverine solo movie, they're welcome to do so by giving the world 90 minutes of this version of the "Merc' with a Mouth" instead:

Now that's more like it.

[Via MetaFilter]

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This American Lear

July 28th, 2014

In the wake of This American Life host Ira Glass commenting that he found Shakespeare's plays difficult to relate to, loisbeckett brings us This American Lear:

Bravo! Author! More! More!

[Via kottke.org]

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The devil doesn't wear data

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.

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Will it…?

July 26th, 2014

WILL IT BEARD? Good question.

[Via Pocket Lint #17]

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Woman? Frog? Korbinite? What's the difference?

July 23rd, 2014

By some margin my favourite response to the whole Thor-is-being-replaced-by-a-woman fuss:

Iron Man and Thor

[Via Bruce Munro, commenting at More Words, Deeper Hole]

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A little bit of creativity and a whole lot of scutwork

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.'"

[Via Longform]

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Mtrek

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.

Mtrek screenshot

OoooOooh yeaaaaaaaah.

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?

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The Monolith

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.

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'Space,' it says, 'is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space, listen…'

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.1

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

  1. Alternatively, by the time the alien fleet arrives to demand reparations EarthGov West is presided over by Emperor North West, XXIIrd of His Name, of the House of Kardashian and his Empress Lourdes Chelsea Bush. In which case, we'll deserve everything we're about to get.

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This Makes Me Uncomfortable

July 16th, 2014

This Makes Me Uncomfortable.

No kidding!1

[Via MetaFilter]

  1. Arguably NSFW.

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Monument Valley

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.

[Via swissmiss]

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Oh, Hell(boy 3)

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]

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Would You See a Movie Based on This Tag Line?

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!"

Yes, really:

Canon City poster

[Via The Dissolve]

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Olga Targaryen?

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]

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Neckbeard on top. Party on the bottom.

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]

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*Sob*!

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.1

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

  1. I got quite emotional enough just reading it in prose form, thanks.

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Pretty pictures

July 6th, 2014

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Time Travel Lover

July 6th, 2014

Time Travel Lover:

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Space Without the Space

July 2nd, 2014

xkcd: Surface Area

Space Without the Space

The Solar System's solid surfaces stitched together

Surface Area

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