My company CarGurus has been named "Online Auto Shopping Brand of the Year" in the 29th Annual Harris Poll EquiTrend Study, unseating our longterm rivals. And they asked me to plug it on Social Media so here we are.
It really is a pretty sweet company, and a great place to buy a car, especially used. Techies should definitely hit me up if they see something on our jobs listing that seems like a fit.
"Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part / that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of"
--They Might Be Giants, "Where Your Eyes Don't Go"
Serendipity brought me to Cormac McCarthy on The KekulĂ© Problem - (the title comes from the premier example of "the answer came to me in a dream / flash" ) and thoughts on what the heck this unconscious is. This directly ties in with what I wrote about Saturday and have been a little obsessed with for a week or two.
(McCarthy calls it the unconscious; I think of it as the subconscious, a subtle but possibly important distinction.)
McCarthy concludes wraps up saying
The unconscious seems to know a great deal. What does it know about itself? Does it know that it's going to die? What does it think about that? It appears to represent a gathering of talents rather than just one. It seems unlikely that the itch department is also in charge of math. Can it work on a number of problems at once? Does it only know what we tell it? Or--more plausibly--has it direct access to the outer world? Some of the dreams which it is at pains to assemble for us are no doubt deeply reflective and yet some are quite frivolous. And the fact that it appears to be less than insistent upon our remembering every dream suggests that sometimes it may be working on itself. And is it really so good at solving problems or is it just that it keeps its own counsel about the failures? How does it have this understanding which we might well envy? How might we make inquiries of it? Are you sure?
I'm not as convinced as McCarthy that dreams are always so deliberate and purposeful from the subconscious; I accept they can be a communication pathway from the unconscious to our rational selves, but sometimes it's a bit more random and chaotic than that. (And I am always shocked at how whatever part of brain that says "this can't be real" is so much more asleep than the rest of us.) And man, now I really am wondering about whether the unconscious knows that it will someday die and how it feels about that!
I feel like I'm gathering more instances of the subconscious as having its own personality and- all too often- separate agenda. I've started thinking of it as my "inner toddler", but I'm a little wary of thinking of it in such disparaging terms - like it might grow to resent me, and that would be pretty bad for my overall mental wellbeing. Still, there's a stubborn petulance there. Like, it's bad enough that I eat my desk at work, but there's even less dignity when I start digging in while still walking from the damn kitchen. So yesterday I apply some willpower and hold off chowing down 'til I'm safely seated. Great! And then today... I don't even make it out of the kitchen. My inner toddler sees the taco in my hand, recognizes it as delicious, and I've had a bite or two before my rational self is fully aware of what's going on. I've witness that "backslide/backlash" factor before. (I also wonder if my inner eater is just a more well behaved version of the inner demons that are so destructive in the life of
McCarthy writes "the fact that the unconscious prefers avoiding verbal instructions pretty much altogether--even where they would appear to be quite useful--suggests rather strongly that it doesnt much like language and even that it doesnt trust it." My first instinct says that it's not a matter of disdain, but it lacks language as a toolset. I can't tell my inner toddler to "use your words" because it doesn't have any! Of course, this seems to contradict my earlier theory that this subconscious was my "fast reading/skimming brain". But perhaps words can come in, but they can't come out, and the "jist" that my fast reader is so good at providing my rational self is more based on images and feelings than I realize. No wait - I got started last Saturday by trying to explain the subconscious process that was making my typos, especially my oddly-phonetic-almost-dyslexic swap of "m" and "b". So words go in and words go out, but they aren't its native language. (So to speak.)
And so it might be a mistake to think there's only one subconscious entity. Or it might be hard to understand in general. Especially right now, I feel like I might be back to conflating my "self", my consciousness, with my "inner voice" process using words. (To quote Emo Phillips, "I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.")
I wonder if I'm on to something here. It is very odd to think of an internal part of oneself as some kind of (at times, childish!) companion rather than... well, than as ourselves, but I think it suggests a whole new set of promising approaches for self-therapy. I think every successful weight-loss I've had has had to cope with this inner toddler, for instance! (And again, I wonder if I'm risking further resentment by calling him that...)
Of course sometimes it's like this Id/subconscious self is the only part of me that knows how to enjoy anything! Sometimes I think the only pleasure my ego/rational self gets in life is...well... ego stroking...
(and btw, it's so sad that googling topics of communicating with your inner child are so often about coping with buried past trauma and backgrounds of abuse and neglect.)
I do wonder - is it like this for everyone? Are McCarthy and I outliers? Are he and I and some others somehow less coherent and unified people than most? Why aren't people talking about this more? Is it different for them, or is it just to painful to admit we're not as singularly in control as our rational selves would like to be?
I've seen many rube goldbergs but nothing with this kind of narrative! Lovely! "Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency." is alarming to me. I know I make a good salary; but given that I'm not all that extravagant on rent or car and don't have a kid, I do have a bit of "where the hell DOES the money go?" I have some answers, but maybe I should double down and renew studying went Mint.com is trying to tell me.
Sometimes I feel swamped by a kind of innumeracy: On the one hand, I'm ok with numbers, but on the other hand, I don't know how anything works. How do people get by without $400 ready money? How does any company make money? How does anyone buy a house? I think some of the thing is, it's really hard to get an intuition for how things scale, especially over time. 365 is a lot of days; 52 is a lot of weeks. Expenses can be death by 1000 paper cuts over that time, but if you set up things well, the money can come in (or, more typically, some weird gas-law-like equilibrium seems to set in.)
Sometimes I think I should go dig up that old "Lemonade Stand" game and play it 'til I "get it".
Admittedly I sent in the link myself, but it was nice to see "So, you're going to die" getting a nice write up http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/04/19/an-atheists-guide-to-mortality/
Now... how to catch Boingboing's eye...
"THE NEW 10 COMMANDMENTS 1 Laugh. 2 Read. 3 Say please. 4 Floss. 5 Doubt. 6 Exercise. 7 Learn. 8 Don't hate. 9 Cut the bullshit. 10 Chill."
A new look and feel for the front page of my oldest domain, alienbill.com:
I commissioned that alien bill image from harveyjames a while back -- it was cool to have some fun with stretching the image and using space in a different way than most webpages do. You can compare it with the old version here...
Copley Sq Borders is closed. I remember when Amazon just sold books and I was pro-no-Internet-sales-tax 'cause I wanted the online to thrive... I was worried.
Of course now I might be pro-no-Internet-sales-tax because it's such a pain to calculate correctly- really byzantine...
Seriously, you'd need each customer to have a GPS to calculate tax just right... in many ways it makes no sense.
They say to win a game of "chicken", rip off your steering wheel, throw out window- A how strong ARE you? Do you have to pre-loosen the wheel? B Better have a car with good alignment- otherwise you just drift and lose.
Silly metaphor. Stupid game!
Something so lovely in watching poured cream curl into iced coffee in a clear sided glass or cup. I mean it works on so many levels...
Is this just the contrarian nostalgic in me talking or was Bomberman 64 multiplayer (open arena, round explosions) better than classic? Kinda like that Playstation multitap game "Poy Poy".
4:20 on 4/20... time to make a marijuana joke! Remember, if you can't be funny, be meta. (3 comments)
--from this page on Cracked.com
"There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting."
http://www.familyradio.com/ - end of the world is May 21, 2011. I marked my calendar. No time given, guess it's an "All Day Event".
"The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice..."
http://lifehacker.com/5520657/do-you-snooze So "snooze button" sleep is inferior sleep (but you enjoy it more...maybe it's a wash)
I feel ever short of spare time, yet confident I could add in, say, a weekly class. How could time be so squishy? I think it's all the time thinking of what todo next... (6 comments)
via b3ta - man I wish there was an archive of all their frontpage stuff
http://www.slate.com/id/2216124/ - the surprisingly hot sex life of slugs (see also http://kirkjerk.com/2004/01/12/ )
"We live in the most probable of all possible worlds." --Stephen Hawking (currently in hospital - http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/04/20/hawking.health/index.html )
As a programmer, you should probably endeavor to NOT have people use your name as a shorthand for a programming style... "Oh yeah, that's just Fred Code" is rarely a good thing.
11 years ago today I wrote: "I don't particularly like challenges- is that a character flaw?" Hell, now for me it's a lifestyle!
basho - source - built with processing
A software toy (as in I screwed up and couldn't get an actual game done) in honor of the famous Haiku poet Matsu Basho. As he wrote:
a frog jumps
the sound of water
A frog jumps in,
bashes the three sticky frogs
flies fly overhead
skill rusty from lack of use
...make an API!
I thought I always preferred using larger headphones with an iPod, but, it turns out, not while walking. They're a bit too isolating, while I appreciate the music I don't like being quite that removed from my environment. (And for what it's worth, I feel like I'm being less of a hermit while reading on the subway as opposed to iPodding up.)
The Minuteman Bikeway is long and very straight, at least between my place and the subway stop. I kind of end up wishing for these novelty sunglasses I had when I was younger, "spy" glasses that had the extended outer edge of each lens mirrored so you could see behind you. That way I could keep an eye out for bikes coming up on me.
Predictions of the Moment
Aerial War-Ships and Forts on Wheels. Giant guns will shoot twenty-five miles or more, and will hurl anywhere within such a radius shells exploding and destroying whole cities. Such guns will be armed by aid of compasses when used on land or sea, and telescopes when directed from great heights. Fleets of air-ships, hiding themselves with dense, smoky mists, thrown off by themselves as they move, will float over cities, fortifications, camps or fleets. They will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts. These aerial war-ships will necessitate bomb-proof forts, protected by great steel plates over their tops as well as at their sides. Huge forts on wheels will dash across open spaces at the speed of express trains of to-day. They will make what are now known as cavalry charges. Great automobile plows will dig deep entrenchments as fast as soldiers can occupy them. Rifles will use silent cartridges. Submarine boats submerged for days will be capable of wiping a whole navy off the face of the deep. Balloons and flying machines will carry telescopes of one-hundred-mile vision with camera attachments, photographing an enemy within that radius. These photographs as distinct and large as if taken from across the street, will be lowered to the commanding officer in charge of troops below.
--from 1900's Predictions for the year 2000. I love the steampunk / War of the Worlds feel of that one.
Coinage of the Moment
For some reason the eagle on the back of a quarter caught my eye, and I wondered what it had in its talons... on a worn coin, it looks like something architectural, but this page on its design didn't say. But now I can tell that it's a bundle of arrows. Duhhr. (Conservative stoner hippy: "Have you ever really looked at a quarter? I mean, really looked at it?" And don't get him started on the back of a dollar.) (6 comments)
We're here to invite you to an unprecedented investment opportunity, You'll not only be in a position to get an excellent return on investment, you'll be helping to support the arts. And not just any arts, but innovative performance art; automotive music on a scale never imagined previously. The Beep Orchestra will stand as a unique series of events in the histories of both Autocology and Art.
It's an audacious undertaking, but we have an ace in the hole; the entire affair will be led by the world famous drunken mechanic Ivan Ivanov. The musical might of the mechanical maestro, this marvelous maven of music, his engineering expertise and explosive euphonious enthusiasm as seen in his excellent engines and exceedingly engaging edits is known around the world, along with his well-neigh superhuman abilities to consume alcohol in quantities so vast that his bar tab has been compared to the budget of some small nations, Ivanov has been heralded around the world and is cherished and beloved by millions of fans across the planet. His admirers range from bitter music school dropouts who are moved to tears by his ability to construct a harmony so beautiful it can only be played by an electronic musician (any human musician is moved to tears before the melody's haunting conclusion) to crusty old mechanics who have heard the tales of how he retrofitted a classic VW bug with a New York City transit bus' mighty diesel engine, from children who forever remember the Christmas saved by the surprise gift of a solar powered music box, to housewives who have been utterly charmed by his gruff manner and manly good looks.
We're proposing a travelling road show, a core of 500 drivers and their vehicles going across the country, joined by another 500 local artistic visionaries at each performance location. Concerts will be in local sports arenas, with no venue seating less than 30,000 being considered.
Recruiting will be intense. Posters in mechanic's shops will be key; we're going to offer free repairs for people whose vehicles are failing in ways that have certain desired acoustic properties. (The mechanics, many of whom were apprentices to Ivanov, others who have taken his online correspondence course, will receive special instruction in recognizing candidate vehicles, and then in how to persuade their owners to join in the magnificent caravan we are here proposing.) Also, Gas Stations and Junk Yards will sport magnificent banners in brilliant colors, proudly informing people of the mechanical musical mandate that compels us to this tremendous, unprecedented work of performance art.
Perhaps a quick review of the five sections of the Beep Orchestra's Symphony is in order, to take our vision from dry abstraction to visceral imagination, before we push forward and make it historic reality:
FUGUE FOR CAR HORNS:
Ivanov will find the inner beauty of the horn of every vehicle, from the tiniest tinbox import to the mightiest hulking semitruck. He will make tuning adjustments when needed, and then group every vehicle into large harmonic groups. Ivanov was in a drunken snooze when we went to find out exactly how many groups, but we've heard estimates of between 20 and 30. It's been estimated that Mozart in his prime could have written for about 16 modern car horns, and that calculating the fifth or sixth level harmonics would leave the world's fastest and largest supercomputers as smoldering, hulking wrecks.... and yet this is exactly what Ivanov will do. We're already preparing the requisite crates of schnapps and cranberry flavored vodka he has ordered for the final time of composition.
DIRGE OF THE DIESEL ENGINE
Here, the mighty trucks will reflect the existential sorrow of an irrational world! Ivanov has already completed a melody of exceeding sadness and soul-stirring beauty. He will configure a bevy of giant semitrucks (and possibly the engine of a freight train, depending on the arrangements available at the local arena) to perform this work....moving in both the literal and figurative senses. Specially constructed megaphones will allow the precise asynchronicity of the engines to generate the saddest song the audience will have ever heard. Ivanov will direct the precision drivers in the revving of their awesome engines to produce this unprecedented emotional event.
ARIA OF SQUEALING BRAKES (ACCOMPANIED BY FLOPPING WIPERS)
After the sadness of the previous movement, the Symphony will move into an spiritually uplifting Aria. Unlike the previous movements, this work will be all about cars in motion and emotion, driving in a tremendous asphalt oval, especially engineered to be reassembled at each arena (carried to the location by the same trucks that featured so prominently in the previous movement) Through a diabolically clever series of stoplights and lane merging signs, a gloriously joyful song will emerge, with heavily miked windshield wipers providing a flowing percussive undercurrent. At every moment, cars will be on the verge of colliding, turning into fireballs of metal and steel, but the ability of these drivers and their cars to survive and prosper will be a testament to the strength of the human spirit under trying conditions.
RONDO OF THE UNTUNED RADIO
Only Ivanov would be able to draw out the beauty and music that lies between the stations on an average car radio. An entire series of car radios will be wired into a specially modified keyboard where Ivanov will take direct control over the happenings. In preparation, Ivanov will have both consumed no less than 3 gallons of the local microbrewed beer as well as listened to at least 5 hours of the local radio spectrum, absorbing the local flavor and plotting a unique piece that will be electric for the audience, in a literal and figurative sense.
THE BACKFIRE CHORUS
The triumphant conclusion to the evening's mechanomusical events...these vehicles will generally be old cars and trucks, each badly in need of a tuneup. Ivanov will carefully adjust and modify each engine to backfire in a precisely choreographed way. Similar in form to the Dirge that preceded it, but utterly different in the sense of mood and spirit, the Backfire Chorus will bring the audience to its feet, women throwing babies up in the air, men cheering until their throats are raw like beef tartare. Never again in the history of music or engines will there be a moment of such intensity... the audience will pass the tale of this experience onto their children, and future generations will speak of the legendary Beep Orchestra led by the demigod known as Ivanov.
Obviously an endeavor such as this will be a tremendous challenge....the logistics of engineering, importation of fine liqueurs, securing the appropriate insurance, and publicizing and training the artists to a sufficient degree is enough to make Hercules think about going and finding a nice corner to sit and weep for a bit. But we don't have Hercules...we have Ivanov, and thus the success of this adventure is guaranteed.
We need funding. Already major oil companies are lining up for sponsorship, and every major auto manufacturer, foreign and domestic, are jousting to be more prominently represented in the assembly of cars. With these organizations, as well as other interested investors such as yourself, we will be able to get the financing the Beep Symphony will require. The pre-order tickets have already accounted for half of the necessary total; investors are projected to get four or five times their money back.
Be part of the Beep Symphony. Be part of the mechanomusical history of mankind.
--For an artschool project, Ksenia asked me to whip up some raw text for an idea she had. She's supposed to make up various promotional media for a hypothetical event Unfortunately, this kind of text wasn't the more mundane planning material the teacher was looking for, but I had fun with it anyway. The artwork is hers.
So they got a new pope. I'd be a little happier if he didn't choose a name that kind of chimed in with the prophecy of the popes, before his selection I had read how the next pope is supposed to be the "glory of the olive", which some predicted might mean he's a Benedictines (since Benedictines are known as Olivetans), though of course at this point it might be a self-fufilling prophecy, since the new guy knows about it.
You know, for the gullible or easily spooked (I'm probably in the latter category) there are way too many things that hint that the world kind of ends in 2012. I think the Mayan calendar is the one that really gets on my nerves.
Quote of the Moment
The whole shooter craze never did much for me, but a tequila shot done in the classic style--salt, tequila, lime, involuntary neck spasm--is more than a shooter. It's a brief drama, a tragic opera of spirits that fits in the palm of your hand. Pain and passion, sweetness and tears, citrus and sodium and fermented cactus juice. B+
--Lore Sjöberg, "The Book of Ratings"
New Site "Feature" of the Moment
It hit me that since I don't get notified when comments are added to the site, I might miss it when someone adds a comment to an entry that is no longer on the front page. So I've come up with a delayed comment review tool. You can specify how many days past the original posting date as a filter.
What I found out was this month my comments have been discovered by some spam programs...online casinos for the most part. a few things for medicine. The posts were idiosyncratic...my new tool for viewing has a "show counts" only option because for some reason they spam came in floods on various, and very poorly chosen, days...looking for days with more than 10 posts posted after the entry had left the front page made 'em easy to find.
I'll keep an eye out and decide if I need to put some kind of filter up on the add comments feature. It might end up that you're not allowed to use the phrase "online" and "casino" or "casino" and "http://" in a single entry. Or I might try my hand at some trickery that makes it harder to automate fake posts.
Stupid spammers. Its really their tendency to flood days and also put up about 30 links sometimes that draws attention to themselves...if they would be smarter, they might go unnoticed, and people might not care as much.
Saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 last night. Excellent film. It really put Vol. 1 in a new context, and managed to turn a chop sockey homage into something more, but without losing the fun of the genre it so loves...
Link of the Moment
"Vintage Electronics Have Soul is the motto of the Pocket Calculator Show, and with in-depth historical views of Nerd Watches, Boomboxes, Walkmen, and of course Calculators, they live up to that slogan. The Magical Gadget page is pretty cool, and very easy to skim if you're in a hurry. (And if you're really in hurry and want a giggle, check out the Sexum Adult Digital Watch. WARNING: about as explicit as you'd expect an LCD watch from the 80s would be.)
Gripe of the Moment
In the same way they've stopped making simple, thin, money-clip type wallets (at least ones where your cards won't slide right out) I'm having a lot of trouble finding a decent men's sport-ish sandal. In general, the trend is to make them WAY to big and padded; basically, like full-on sneakers with a few extra ventilation points. That sucks, because what you might gain in support you lose in having sweaty feet. I used to like the bare-bones Tevas, but now they seem kind of chafe-y. Three years ago Old Navy had a terrific compromise, with just enough padding to be comfortable, (just not very durable...) then the next year they made it big and puffier, then the next year even more side material, and this year they only have flipflops. Who the hell is buying so many flipflops? Am I the only guy who thinks it's kind of nice to have open footwear where you don't have to clench your toes to keep 'em on your feet?
--Mo found this little fella when were out removing foreign material from the garden bed.
Science of the Moment
Question/Title: How do worms dig without hands?
Purpose: To find out how worms dig.
Hypothesis: I think worms need hands.
Materials: I used dirt, worms, a container and dead leaves.
1. I got my materials.
2. I put the worms in the container.
3. I looked to see what had happened every other day.
Results/Observations: On day one worms were on the top of the dirt. On day three they were halfway through. On day five they were on the bottom of the container.
Conclusion: Worms don't need hands. My hypothesis was incorrect. They eat their way through the ground.
--An experiment by benjamin. Actually, many of the other fourth grade Science Fair '99 entries are way too cute, like "airplanes", and others have a base of good science, like "solids and liquids" and "erosion".
Article of the Moment
Slashdot linked to this set of pages about the United State's prop-planes they would loft a nuclear weapon onto its target. Brave guys in those...actually, the parent site of that page has a lot of cool stuff about military aviators. (2 comments)
According to some, today is 4/20: time to smoke pot
Google Oddness of the Moment
In a similar vein, Ranjit pointed out this fun with Google, which kind of makes it look like the search engine is on drugs.
Link of the Moment
Brooke recently posted this amazing and scary Sad Story. (6 comments)
A few months ago I wanted an alarm clock-radio that had digital tuning, so it would stay locked onto my favorite NPR station without drifting. The Radio Shack model I found tunes well enough and looks attractive, but is actively user hostile in design. Alarm clocks should be usable by sleepy people in the dark. Setting this clock’s alarm and making sure it’s on is a chore even in the daylight. Here’s the control panel:
Strike Two: I could not figure out how to set the alarm. It’s as if they worked to make the button labels as unhelpful as possible...not only that, but it’s easier to set the time than the alarm. The rocker switch on the front is labeled both tune up/down and hours/minutes, so obviously it has something to do with it. But none of the other button labels said ‘set’ or ‘alarm’. Now, hitting ‘MODE’ seemed promising, because on the front panel it started flashing ‘SET ON’. Hitting the hour/minutes button did nothing though. This is when I had to download a PDF copy of the manual. It turns out to set the alarm you have to also hold MEMORY/TIME down. Now, since that button on the front does double duty for tuning and time setting, it makes sense that you have to hold down another button or the clock has to be in ‘set mode’. But both? Why is that? A little experimenting reveals the answer—if you hold MEMORY/TIME down and press the front button when not in 'set mode', you change the time. Not the alarm, the time. That means it’s about twice as easy to change the time than to change the alarm. Now, which one do you think people do more often?
My college roomie Brian used to add or subtract hours to the time setting of his alarm clock rather than change the alarm time itself. For years I assumed he did it because of a sense of surreal-ness it added to everything. Now I’m wondering if he had a clock as user hostile as mine.
Strike Three: If there’s one thing an alarm clock should do, it’s wake you up on time. This clock has a little icon on the front panel. When you hit the [ALARM] ON/OFF button, this icon goes on and off. One might assume that this means the alarm is on, or that the alarm is off, accordingly. No. Because, see, if that switch on the left is on [RADIO] OFF, your alarm clock will not wake you up for love nor money. It might display its little alarm icon, lulling you into a false sense of security, but next morning that radio will not play. The stupidity of this design overwhelms me. I can see the half-assed logic (wanting to separate turning the alarm off in the morning from just hitting snooze) but… jeez. Your clock shouldn’t lie to you.
For the exact same manufacturing costs, I could’ve designed a better UI than this. Just making labels less misleading would be a start. (I still don't know what '+5' does.) Changing a few behaviors (making it easier to change the alarm than the time setting, not showing the alarm icon if the alarm is turned off because of the switch) would be even better. Changing a few more electronic readouts could actually make it intuitive!
I hate to sound like a curmudgeon about this thing, but it really is bad. I'll try to justify my rant with this next quote:
Quote of the Moment
"If people were going to use computers all day, everyday, the design of such machines was not solely a technical problem-- it was also an aesthetic one. A lousy interface would mean a lousy life."
News of the Moment
Salon article: Judge rules no webcast of McVeigh's execution. Now I'm against the death penalty. But if you're going to go for it, you should really go for it. Don't try to pretend there's some kind of dignity here. Go full tilt for the bread and circuses. If the people demand revenge in cold blood, give it to them! In full color! And Dolby Stereo! On national tv! Really get that "deterence" message out there!