Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

End music torture

It sounds like a Creed joke, but unfortunately its very real.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't use Google with IE

Just logging into Gmail anywhere using IE means that your password is saved on that computer in a way that can be instantly retrieved.  A simple program can be downloaded and run to find your password.  Test it for yourself.  If you're forced to use IE to check a Google account, make sure you go through the process of clearing all browser information.

This is not an issue on Firefox, but its not entirely IE's fault as Google could disable this and many other Google applications store their password in a totally insecure way.  Firefox users should not save their password and, if they do, should set a master password.

Related: IE usage drops below 50% in the US.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't use Microsoft Word

...or if you do, avoid the .doc or .docx format.  Save to RTF or HTML.


Thought of the week

If your beliefs are always purely emotional, its difficult to convince
anyone else.

If your beliefs are always purely rational, you won't convince yourself.

Recent text message: Resident Evil in 3D

Whatever you do, do not see Resident Evil 3D. It is the shittiest movie since I Know What You Did The Other Day With That Boring Guy and Holy Shit Was It Boring.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arnold Vader

Truly a missed opportunity in the history of cinema.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazing sci-fi concept art

Some really amazing and inspiring images from three great artists at cghub.
... especially this one by Daniel Ljunggren

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rally for moderates

Hopefully an anecdote to the loud, stupid, and frequently meaningless speech popular now, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert present a very novel idea, emphasizing a move against radical polarization.  Its probably a good idea.


A favorite bit from a favorite show (Northern Exposure), as well as some awesome wedding vows.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lessons from the Quran burning fiasco

CNN lists quite a few thinkers, but I was most impressed by Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar.  (His entry is a little more thank halfway down.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too much soap, too much oil

Clothes and dishwasher soap and changing your car's oil.  You should probably be using less.

"High Fructose Corn Syrup" now "Corn Sugar"

Although it would be nice if they would fundamentally change the process to something more healthy, backers of the product have solved the problem by just changing the name.  Although the NYTimes article doesn't suggest that HFCS is any worse for you than regular sugar , its a totally dishonest way to ameliorate bad press.  Calling something bad for you by a different name to confuse consumers is dishonest and it will invariably make worse problems of obesity and those at high risk for diabetes.

Note that this hasn't gone through yet with the USDA yet but the article seems optimistic it will.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Experimental music: Briokids

Briokids, an outstanding, experimental-electroclash-idm-breakbeat-noise music group is still around and has posted much of their music up on Youtube.

One of the best and most unattended concerts I ever went to, the producers are named for the toxic waste neighborhood where they presumably spent some of their childhood.  As such, the music is frequently disillusioned, anarchistic, and harsh, and reminds me very much of how punk music must have first sounded to people in the 70s. I was ecstatic to find out they were still around.

"Sharpshooter" fallacy

A professor friend noted that its always better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.  The person in the first scenario can laugh about it later, the second cannot.

The problem comes in when people make decisions based on patterns that are not present, such as the assumption that there were German spies in the non-bombed neighborhood during WWII.  The rush to caution is therefore seems to be a good idea, the rush to judgment does not.

(Note: "Sharpshooter" is also known as the Ontological Fallacy.)

(thanks Mark)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Broken on purpose

An outstanding talk about what is broken and why, and another strong reminder of Douglass Adam's Somebody Else's Problem Feild.  One of the difficulties of increasing complexity is the potential for irrational as well as counter-productive policies, behaviors, and products.  A reminder that designers must ask who their audience is and spend a little time thinking about what could go wrong.

Most revolutionary about the talk is the notion of when breaking something on purpose may be exactly what's necessary; its not new that the pursuit of perfection is a bad idea but sometimes doing something "wrong" makes all the difference, or perhaps the right thing in reverse.

Fire vs. tornado

You would think that a -- oh i dunno -- a @#$%ing huge tornado would BLOW OUT A @#$% WILD FIRE.


Here's a smaller one but obviously something they could get closer to and, you know, not die.

(Care of a slashdot article.)

Iran's president tells a joke

He might be a leader of a foreign nation helping to destabilize his region, but in reference to the doof in Florida who wants to burn the Quran, its still a pretty good zinger:

"I like to retaliate by burning a book that you Americans hold dear, but the only book you care about is Facebook." (twitter)

You win this round, Ahmadinejad.

(Thanks W)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Building an anti-monument

A fascinating architectural and historical achievement, trying to mark something terrible with zero fanfare.

Recent Mac finds

  • MenuMeters - I was upset when a similar program went payware until I found a free, open, and just as good alternative.
  • Keka - Finally a high compression opener and creator for Mac.  Now if they would only integrate a file manager.
  • Miro Video Converter - Send files into formats that will work with your devices.  Simple, clean, and pretty.
  • Mplayer OSX Extended - Finally broad format support like SMplayer for Windows.
Updates on stuff posted here before:
  • Perian - broader format support for Mac's own Quicktime player.  Primarily use it to play Windows Media format files.
  • Growl - notification system for OS X that Windows would do well to mimic.  I've probably talked about it before but oh well.
  • Burn - really got to test out this program out recently and wow did it perform.  Great stuff.
  • Audacity Beta - leaps and bounds above the non-beta version.  Remember auto recording based on noise detection (like if you talk?).  Its in there.

Don't censor Craigslist

The recent move to kill "adult services" on Craigslist isn't helping or so says an article by a source experienced on the matter.  Its not a first amendment issue, instead its transparency and the idea of less-bad in a world of very-bad.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Authenticity in politics

A recent article on Sarah Palin brings to mind Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker" set from a few years back about people who just love to not know under the guise of "keeping it real."  As if being ignorant is another way to be authentic (as authenticity is a big goal of hip-hop).

Another comparison is the "unfrozen caveman lawyer" bit that Phil Hartman (pictured above) used to do on SNL.  After going down a long list of things that he doesn't know (flying airplanes, answering machines, a solar eclipse) he mysteriously jumps ahead to a complex and difficult decision easily.  Usually that his client was "entitled to several million dollars or more in both compensatory and punitive damages for an injury." (wikipedia)

"He was portrayed as a selfish, well-dressed attorney who repeatedly claimed to be a simple-minded caveman, and would employ simple folk wisdom to win his cases."

This introduces a strange double-standard: in medicine, we all demand someone who's gone through an enormous amount of training before we will let them so something relatively simple like set a broken bone or stitch up a wound, but someone who can run the country can be an everyman / everywoman?

NYReviewOfBooks site sums it up well:

Commonsense Conservatism hinges on the not-so-tacit assumption that the average, hardworking churchgoer, like the ladies at the booth, equipped with the fundamental, God-given ability to distinguish right from wrong, is in a better position to judge, on "principle," the merits of an economic policy or the deployment of American troops abroad than "the 'experts'"—a term here unfailingly placed between derisive quotation marks. Desiccated expertise, of the kind possessed by economists, environmental scientists, and overinformed reporters from the lamestream media, clouds good judgment; Palin's life, by contrast, is presented as one of passion, sincerity, and principle. Going Rogue, in other words, is a four-hundred-page paean to virtuous ignorance. [source]

(Thanks Silver)