2013 November❮❮prevnext❯❯

one second every day


Slate tackles something I've wondered about: When did young folks start using both backpack straps?

october 2013 playlist

No 4-stars last month. You should see An Interpretive Dance For My Boss Set To Kanye West's Gone if you haven't already.

November 3, 2013

Heh.. a friend of mine is taking a beginner's programming class in Processing. She wanted to make a "spotlight" effect where everything that the player's flashlight wasn't on was hidden in the dark. She knew in Flash it would be easy, just use a mask. There is no "draw everything but a circle" function in Processing, and masks are possible but difficult in it, and so last night I could only come up with lame half-solutions but this morning I GOT IT: an empty, giant circle drawn with an almost as giant heavy black border... the border effectively blocks out everything except what the spotlight is pointing at.

Sometimes you gotta think outside the box. Or, think inside the super-heavy bordered circle.
from Atari Force #2:

'twas halloween(ish)

Saturday Miller and I hosted a late Halloween party Saturday w/ mutual friends. Costume wise, clockwise from left it's Swedish Chef, Vyvyan from "The Young Ones", Boston Sox Fan / Hypnotoad Minion, Carlos Danger, Two Hoodeh Figures from the podcast "Welcome to Night Vale", a Mormon, a Steampunk Researcher and his feline companion, and Space Sex Cop Kirk.

Jack O' Lantern wise, it's a spider, alien bill, cyclopsian monster, Jason Voorhees, Big Grin, Picasso-ish (people get really concerned when you slice your pumpkin all the way around so the two halves separate like a cocount), kitty.

Most important lesson learned: the special Halloween Kit Kats (orange tinged white chocolate, really) are the most divisive candy: people love 'em or hate 'em.
Chess 2: The Sequel - How a street fightin' man fixed the world's most famous game Even if you dislike Sirlin, you have to admit Chess 2 is pretty interesting...
Ever since Ronald Reagan, in his first inaugural, pronounced government to be the problem, elected Republicans have been doing everything possible to make it true.
George Packer

Raising a child is like taking care of someone who's on way too many shrooms, while you yourself are on a moderate amount of shrooms. I am not confident in my decisions, but I know you should not be eating a mousepad.
Ron Funches

November 5, 2013

While some [human predeccesor] bands interacted peacefully with each other, on average about one in eight men died in conflicts between bands, compared to one in a hundred men who died due to warfare in the twentieth century.
Rick Hanson in "Hardwiring Happiness".
That's quite a remarkable idea when you think about it.
One reason that mediated boredom is so hard to notice is that it cloaks itself in the rhetoric of nowness and newness. To recognize oneself as bored, one must know how to differentiate between moments--if only to see that they are essentially the same.
Evgeny Morozov

November 6, 2013

Art come to life in a funny but sometimes offensive way...

You are almost guaranteed to win at the craps table.
Hunter Gaylor

November 7, 2013

Man, 600-calorie "fasting" days are more manageable when you realize big yellow peppers are around 40-50 calories each and there's a stand that has them at 3 for a buck around the corner.
I'm the only person in my company's new office space today! It's dark, rainy, and a little lonely.


this is just to say
i have 99 problems
one of them is
i only know one poem
and another is
i only know one song

A Dead Pixel In The Sky #SixWordSciFi

November 8, 2013

Two from art class last night. The second one I did on my iPad; the instructor is encouraging experimenting in general. He and the class liked the iPad one, but to me it seemed gimmicky and weirdly-70s-ish and in general it's harder to finesse things.

"Uh . . . nooo . . . I don't think so . . . shots and me . . . heh heh . . . not a good idea."
I gave him a phony smile and inwardly sighed. Of course they're not a good idea. Shots are never a good idea--THAT'S THE POINT."
Ophira Eisenberg, "Screw Everyone"

November 9, 2013

The aggregate amount of time I spend undoing stupid fonts and formatting that piggybacked on text I copy and pasted into emails. Months?

November 10, 2013

It appears whereas '#bitchboss' is clearly an indication of her frustration, '#bossbitch' is a term of endearment. Isn't language fun? It's like racquetball! ...for your mouth.
Chris Traeger, Parks and Recreation

November 11, 2013

(1 comment)
JP Honk @ Figment, Boston 2013

November 12, 2013

(1 comment)
Comedy, or anything, is so good when it reframes something mundane and points out its essential weirdness:


North America in 11 Nations - I was kind of proud this came from Tufts alumni magazine; I think the subnation breakdown is a useful way of understanding the deep demographic divides of this place.

calvinism and personal growth

(1 comment)
I just realized that a bit of philosophical and personal growth I'm trying to muscle through is recapitulating the whole Calvinism movement in the Protestant tradition. (No relationship, or not much, to Calvin + Hobbes)

The short version is this: I have trouble subconsciously accepting the idea that I will always have intrinsic value as a human -- it's a classic thing for smart kids (I think i need to read Carol Dweck's "Mindset" about fixed vs growth mindsets- http://qedfoundation.org/fixed-vs-growth-mindsets/ ) where you think the important thing is Being Smart, or Being Good, and if you don't throw off enough signs that your smart or good, you risk being cast out or rejected somehow.

There's a weird parallel with (pardoning my oversimplifications here) Calvinism: a Calvinist believes there are the Elect, who are predestined to be saved, and everyone else, who won't be. This stands in contrast to (again, pardon oversimplifying) a Catholic way of being, where people's works and deeds are pretty important to directing one to heaven or hell, and getting forgiveness for the inevitable straying is very important.

You might think the Calvinists would then have a free and hedonic life style: either I'm saved or not, the die has already been cast, might as well party it up, and the Catholics would be prim and proper and on the straight and narrow, when in reality the opposite is more true... it feels like Calvinists are wanting to demonstrate their gratitude at being one of the elect (or maybe demonstrate they they are indeed in that number) by being uptight. Similarly, while Catholics have their own special blend of fear and guilt, they are often more comfortable with pleasures of this world, including drinking, gambling, and other visceral pleasures.

If the Calvinist veers from the straight and narrow, it might be them displaying they are irredeemably beyond saving. The Catholic point of view has a lot more room for making things right -- and there's a core there that's worth fighting for.

So I think somehow I internalized a Calvinist view, even as I don't hold with its supernatural origins, and actually find philosophically disagreeable. But I think now I'm finally reaching the point where I can think I have value as a person that will be there even when the telltales of Good Deeds and Smart Actions aren't there; the Deeds and Actions are the traffic, not the road signs.

November 14, 2013

If you put a Cheeto on a big white plate in a formal restaurant and serve it with chopsticks and say something like "It is a cornmeal quenelle, extruded at a high speed, and so the extrusion heats the cornmeal 'polenta' and flash-cooks it, trapping air and giving it a crispy texture with a striking lightness. It is then dusted with an 'umami powder' glutamate and evaporated-dairy-solids blend." People would go just nuts for that. I mean even a Coca-Cola is a pretty crazy taste.
Jeb Boniakowski, via

November 15, 2013

Art Class last night. I spent a bit more time with the iPad... sometimes it seems like cheating but it also feels like the most likely tool for me to make stuff people will find worthwhile. Though last night the opposite was true; people liked the angry charcoal work I did (I used a dark background in part to hide the fact I was using the flip side of the pad and there were some smudges from a pervious work on the paper.)

What was interesting about the iPad work is that it got about 5 times better when I zoomed in, the first thing didn't fill the space very well.

Also, the red lines I originally meant as just guidance, but they turned out to be some of my favorite lines of the class. Though my instructor REALLY hates my tendency to use and show multiple marks on the same space... I'm not sure I agree.

old joke

One of my dad's favorite jokes, one of us would ask and the other answer:
Did you hear the one about the constipated mathematician?

He worked it out with a pencil!

November 17, 2013

How clever of IKEA to hide the instructions between the giant wooden shelves of the EXPEDIT unit, where it can better hide unsullied by the various bits of hardware and tools in the end container.

November 18, 2013

Starscapes over the Jersey Seashore:

Awesome rant, John Stewart vs Chicago "Pizza" (at 3:26)
also here's a summary
http://www.footballasfootball.com/ American Football Teams logos redone as International futbol Team logos... I love design work like that, like there was a real history of being a football club.
Watching the Patriots game. Slightly irritated with myself for getting so emotionally involved, rejoicing at the good stuff, cussing at the bad. I mean it's a natural enough thing to do, but it seems like a good time to practice Buddhist-like detachment... I mean what could matter less? Plus, it's so brutal on the player's bodies. And for everything I get psyched and jonesed about there's some fan for the other side feeling the opposite... a karmic zero sum game.

whoops there goes another rubber tree plant

Do you know the Sinatra song "High Hopes"? I thought maybe I'd grab it to go along with my general efforts of admiring persistence and mental stamina over relying on "innate talent". But-- and I'm only 1/3 joking here-- in a post-9-11 world, this song is TERRIBLE.

Everyone knows about the single ant persevering to take out a (innocuous, and presumably useful) rubber tree plant, seemingly out of sheer personal bloody-mindedness, not even to help support its colony or anything...

But the really bad part is the lesser known second verse: instead of being set in a forest or plantation that can weather the loss of a few trees, the scale is a "billion killowatt dam", demolished by the persistent, tireless effort of a small group -- in this case a seemingly unstoppable solitary ram. Besides the possible human toll of the likely resulting deluge, the impact to the regional electrical infrastructure must be incalculable!

This song carries lessons we should not be sharing with our children-- or maybe as a cautionary tale about the dangers posed by small, determined, destructive groups who "just want to see the world burn", no matter how much co-operation and toil went into constructing something of value. Certainly it's a mistake to treat it as a jovial tune of encouragement. To quote Marge Simpson: "I guess one person can make a difference. But most of the time, they probably shouldn't."
Nightmarish photonegative and soundwarped version of Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball:

November 20, 2013

Holy Video Compilations...

What you don't realize is that the abyss gazes into you even when you're not looking.

Becoming is better than being.
Carol Dweck

"Herodotus, writing in the fifth century B.C., reported that the ancient Persians used a version of Sloan's techniques [of breaking overnight for reconsideration if consensus was reach easily] to prevent groupthink. Whenever a group reached a decision while sober, they later reconsidered it while intoxicated."
Carol Dweck, "Midset: The New Psychology of Success"
I had heard this fact in college but had forgotten who it was about.
Current favorite lifehack: open a recalcitrant pistachio by insert the edge of another shell as a wedge, and twisting. (Note: the lottery ticket store on the corner sells 100 calorie packs of pistachios.)

on Fixed vs Growth "MindSet"

tl;dr: Challenge for its own sake *is* probably pointless; but challenge for the sake of getting better at meeting challenges is good, because life is challenging.

I just read Carol Dweck's "MindSet"... in all the books I've reading during this self-help kick, I think its identification of Fixed Mindsets vs Growth Mindsets is the most useful concept.

Precocious kids are prone to developed a Fixed Mindset, feeling that their intelligence and abilities are intrinsic, critical to why they are special, maybe even why they are loved. While that's not a sure recipe for unaccomplished lives, the tendency to seek only those activities that will validate their self-image, and also to lash out with anger at the external "causes" of their failures, is painful and ultimately self-limiting.

Describing the core of the Growth Mindset is trickier... and I don't think that's just because it's not my native outlook (for most things, anyway) -- its a more nuanced belief. It holds that the value of life is in the process, that abilities and intelligence are plastic and that constant growth and striving are the hallmarks of a life well-lived. In some ways, it's the opposite of a "goal-oriented" outlook; rather than apply a cost/benefit ratio like I always do, favoring low-hanging fruit, a person with a good Growth Mindset will reject things that are too easy as unworthy of their time and attention; much better to get a good challenge that can teach, even if the "good" results are less assured.

(One of the implications of a Growth Mindset is that maybe a bit of masochism is a good thing! And I can certainly see traces of my own Fixed Mindset in stuff like exercise... huffing and puffing during an activity that someone more fit would find easy is humiliating, and that's what I would focus on, rather than believing in a capacity for physical development.)

For a long time, I thought Challenge for Its Own Sake was borderline psychotic. But now I can see that challenge for the sake of being better at rising up to meet future challenges is probably crucial, because LIFE IS CHALLENGING. No matter where we are with intrinsic or developed abilities, whatever accomplishments dot our portfolios, the world can provide interesting challenges that we shouldn't shirk from for the sake of our precious egos.

So, changing my mindset is going to be... a challenge, Meta-ly enough. But I might be well placed; I've always disliked "trusting my gut instinct", and learning that my gut-instinct fear of having my ego bruised is masquerading behind an intellectual mask of "cost/benefit ratio" is empowering.

It's also a mindset I'd like to help instill in the brains of my friends' kids. Most of my friends are pretty smart, and their kids have lots of potential, and are probably already ahead of their peers in a lot of ways. Instilling the love of the struggle is tough; it isn't as easy to admire a struggle as it is to just say "you're smart!" and "you're so talented!" but I think the end result would be worth it.
Why I make Terrible Decisions; or, Poverty Thoughts Simply and clearly written and eye-opening. (Cracked.com actually has some similar pieces, thoughtful but in a more juvenile style: http://bit.ly/1cHLl0U ) I've got friends going through the muck of this and I don't know how to help them find an exit.
'Embarrassment is ignorance leaving your body.'

November 22, 2013

"Livin' the dream, kid, cup after cup."
"Dr. Donuts", at the register of the Alewife Dunkin Donuts
(he asked me how things were going, and I returned the question. The guy always seems like Belushi if you tried to replace the cocaine with Dunkies Decaf)

November 23, 2013

I'm worried how much this memory foam mattress already knows.

The more intelligent, the more faithful men tend to be.

Terrifying cellphone video from inside a home being demolished by a tornado. This video is TREMENDOUSLY scary but worthwhile, but hopefully in terms of finding empathy, and not just a "disaster porn" kind of way. Surviving is one thing; coping with your home absolutely gutted by a force of nature and a sudden realization that life in the short- to medium- term at least will be much, much harder is another.

I can recognize some of the feeling her through dreams I'll get on rare (or at least, rare that I remember) occasions, the ones where my dreamself looks out the window and sees the mushroom cloud in the distance, or block after city block being consumed by some great elemental force. I guess that kind of thing is not uncommon, but I hope it doesn't end up being rehearsal for responding to some future event!
the 10,000-foot view from the trenches of software development A friend of a friend was interested in a lateral move into software development, so I'm trying to make this guide... feedback from pros and newbies welcome!

November 24, 2013

@ alewife:

November 25, 2013

http://imgur.com/a/LprrK?gallery -- super satisfying GIFs (via Ian Bogost)
Bad language, but I love the gravitas a youtube comments war gets when read by pompous-sounding british men with ominous music:

November 26, 2013

Some territory I've seen explored, but not in such a nice audio-centric and dynamic way:

November 27, 2013

In the end, everything is a gag.
Charlie Chaplin

happy thanksgivukkah!

Happy Thanksgivukkah! Or Chanksgiving. I was totally blown away about how the convergence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah won't recur for 70,000 years. (or ever?) It got me curious about the patterns of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah vs. the secular calendar, so I spent an hour or two this morning hacking out a little table. Thanksgiving is in brown, Hanukkah is in blue, Christmas in green, January 1 in red.

I was pleased to get a better feel for the patterns, the 4th Thursday's little day slide (with bumps on leap years), and Hanukkah's larger lunar moves. Still, looking at this 100 years of data, I would never have guessed that today is such a rare event...

in the land of the naked

WARNING: Naked, Angry Townspeople

November 30, 2013

Three logicians walk into a bar. Bartender: 'Does everyone want beer?' First: 'I don't know.' Second: 'I don't know.' Third: 'Yes.'

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