2014 February❮❮prevnext❯❯

February 1, 2014

january a second a day...

january playlist

February 2, 2014
New songs added. More "clumped" than some months, with a big row of awesome female vocalist cover and originals.

Soft Covers and Female Vocalists Harsh and/or In Need of Justification Classics of their Time Other
Too early to ask the Carroll vs Belichick thing? #kiddingithink

February 3, 2014

Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.

http://boingboing.net/2014/02/03/stereographic-music-video.html - "magic eye" music video, if you can see the usual magic eye puzzles, and you get the window to be a good size, it works really well!
Love this New Yorker cover:

Anything beautiful is worth getting hurt for.
Prince, on the Super Bowl "New Girl"

February 4, 2014

The 32 NFL Teams reimagined as Star Wars entities. The NFL teams are really a rich mix of graphic design launchpads.

The possibilities are endless, but the probabilities aren't.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveler's_dilemma This seems a bit bogus, like that on where the judge says "you'll be executed one of these weekdays, but the day will be a surprise to you" leading to the prisoner figuring he can never be executed, or the sum of all positive integers equalling "-(1/12)"... proofs that seem to say more about the misapplication of the logic system than the "real world" situation represented.
A few weeks ago I wondered if I should adopt an attitude of assumed belligerence about the world, assuming every minor or major inconvenience was an assault on my person that I have overcome or at least muddled through, and heaping scorn upon the universe's inability to really stop me. (People on Facebook argued that no, this was probably not a particularly pragmatic stance, unpleasant for wielder and witnesses alike.)

Now, I'm wondering about the opposite: the assumption that most things in the world, from software programs to traffic light patterns, are here to help me out, reaching into my fluffy cloud of privilege for my benefit, and that the correct attitude to take on after any given frustration is one of pity for the object, that it's doing the best it can just like everybody does, but was thwarted. (Aww, poor little crashing iPhone app... oh, silly traffic light, programmed for the benefit of me and all people but keeping me waiting here under its blind red eye for the benefit of non-existent pedestrians)

I think the pity springing from assumed Pollyannic Imperfect Pan-Benevolence might be a lot healthier than the triumphal resentment springing from thwarted prevalent Mischievous Belligerence. (I'm also aware both attitudes suffer from a big dose of solipsis, or at least a represent an uncharmingly Kirkocentric view of the universe.) In either case, I am sincere in trying to find an emotion to channel the irrational and unhealthy fury I feel at these events. (To quote Homer Simpson: "Lousy minor setbacks, this world SUCKS!")

February 5, 2014

http://www.asymco.com/2013/10/10/the-five-year-plan/ Kind of a boring article on how Windows PCs are less and less important, proportionately speaking, but what I wonder about is how much they still outsell Macs. Considering I only 100% "switched" last year I guess that might sound rich, but it seems like at least 2/3 of laptops I see on the T and at coffeehouses are Macs. So I'm just wondering if that's more of a Boston-area thing, or a nerd-on-T-and-Coffeehouse thing, or a personal vs business thing (even though Macs are pretty much the standard w/ the hipster companies I'm around these days)
G: Someday I want to go to space
Me: You want to be an astronaut?
G: I'll stay in the spaceship. I want you to hold me when I'm an astronaut
G: But we will have to buy astronaut suits.
Me: That's ok.

February 6, 2014

See you at the barricades, comrade.
Jack Ross in Robert Heinlein's "A Bathroom of Her Own".
I'm trying to find more about the origin of the phrase-- I get the general idea, but unsure of the true context.
Creationism considered Stupid-but-Harmless I think the article is partially right that, by itself, Creationism is misguided by harmless. The real problem is the way it represents bowing to the idea that faith is more important than skepticism, that it's ok to cling to some ideas no matter WHAT the facts are.

Yes, skeptics still tend to have "faith" in the current findings of science, but that's because they know science is a process of finding stuff out, that it holds on to ideas only as tightly as it seems unlikely new facts are going to come along and knock those ideas out. But sometimes those new facts come along, and the body of people who "believe" in science changes its views about the universe accordingly.

Don't trust any system of knowledge that claims to have all the Answers, because the best Answers are the ones that raise new Questions.
I love this set of ASCII-ish graphics from the Sharp MZ-700 computer, via text-mode. Love all the little game possibilities invoked.

February 7, 2014

Maradona has the ball, two mark him, he touches the ball. The genius of world football dashes to the right and leaves the third and is going to pass to Burruchaga. It's still Maradona! Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. Gooooooooooal! Gooooooooooal! I want to cry! Dear God! Long live football! Gooooooooooal! Diegoal! Maradona! It's enough to make you cry, forgive me. Maradona, in an unforgettable run, in the play of all time. Cosmic kite! What planet are you from? Leaving in your wake so many Englishmen, so that the whole country is a clenched fist shouting for Argentina? Argentina 2, England 0. Diegoal, Diegoal, Diego Armando Maradona. Thank you, God, for football, for Maradona, for these tears, for this, Argentina 2, England 0.

"How do you explain a sunset if there is No God?" Dunno, Copper! Maybe--Earth's ORBIT? How do you explain HEMORRHOIDS and BIRTH DEFECTS and RELIGIOUS WARS without GOURD? Did God also make Chex Mix?
For a more measured but less entertaining list of those "Questions by Creationists" making the rounds and some thoughtful responses, see this Slate piece
If the aborigine drafted an IQ test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it.
Stanley Garn

February 8, 2014

This poster was so... what's the term, influential? Not quite, but had a big impact on me when I was a kid... it came with the computer game Elite, and shows the various spaceships in the game. It's an intriguing study in what forms you can make with (I think) strictly-convex simple polygon models

I finally wrote my pseudo-magnum-opus on automated testing, and the skepticism I often have about it. I'd really appreciate any feedback by software folks, because I really need to grow in this area, or get skilled in getting others to agree with me. The link includes this great long passage by Joel Spolsky that I want to include here:
In fact what you'll see is that the hard-core geeks tend to give up on all kinds of useful measures of quality, and basically they get left with the only one they can prove mechanically, which is, does the program behave according to specification. And so we get a very narrow, geeky definition of quality: how closely does the program correspond to the spec. Does it produce the defined outputs given the defined inputs.

The problem, here, is very fundamental. In order to mechanically prove that a program corresponds to some spec, the spec itself needs to be extremely detailed. In fact the spec has to define everything about the program, otherwise, nothing can be proven automatically and mechanically. Now, if the spec does define everything about how the program is going to behave, then, lo and behold, it contains all the information necessary to generate the program! And now certain geeks go off to a very dark place where they start thinking about automatically compiling specs into programs, and they start to think that they've just invented a way to program computers without programming.

Now, this is the software engineering equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. It's one of those things that crackpots keep trying to do, no matter how much you tell them it could never work. If the spec defines precisely what a program will do, with enough detail that it can be used to generate the program itself, this just begs the question: how do you write the spec? Such a complete spec is just as hard to write as the underlying computer program, because just as many details have to be answered by spec writer as the programmer. To use terminology from information theory: the spec needs just as many bits of Shannon entropy as the computer program itself would have. Each bit of entropy is a decision taken by the spec-writer or the programmer.

So, the bottom line is that if there really were a mechanical way to prove things about the correctness of a program, all you'd be able to prove is whether that program is identical to some other program that must contain the same amount of entropy as the first program, otherwise some of the behaviors are going to be undefined, and thus unproven. So now the spec writing is just as hard as writing a program, and all you've done is moved one problem from over here to over there, and accomplished nothing whatsoever.

This seems like a kind of brutal example, but nonetheless, this search for the holy grail of program quality is leading a lot of people to a lot of dead ends.

There is an amusing (and by amusing I mean annoying) bug with iTunes smart playlists... if a song is only on a device because it had a certain rating and so appeared in specific smart playlists, it's difficult if then loses that rating... its ghost still shows up and automagically streams from the cloud, but anything that could carry the metadata is lost, so the thing stays on the list.

February 9, 2014

Boston Eastern Savings Bank has an ad that has what I thought was a chaingang song in the background, something like "Work, work". Turns out it's a US Army running cadence "Hard Work". I kinda dig it.

The true spirit of the Olympics, watching and judging physically glorious men and women, whilst covered in crisps on the sofa.

Weeding out some old laptops. I think the one Windows machine I might keep around is this kind of awesome Thinkpad X41, a decent size screen with a builtin Wacom tablet. (I say decent size to differentiate it from my dinky and ancient netbook-ish tablet, the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D)

One problem is at the moment I can't get it on the Apple Airport wifi. The equally old laptops have no problem; I think the problem might be the "ThinkVantage" crapware that tries to "help" "manage connection profiles". Man, that was such a stupid era of OEM Windows builds... Windows XP was pretty decent at making wifi connections on its own.

Sigh. This circa-2005 windows sysadmin hat barely fits.

Interesting to notice that this is the first time in my life I've fully switched to Mac. Probably a little overdue!
Cleaning out old Windows. laptops. Lordy, forgot how dumb XP was w/ USB drives; let me scan whole thing to "Autoplay" that for you... and to safely stop the drive, I'll put this tiny icon on the task bar to let you "Safely Remove Hardware" after navigating 2 or 3 levels of menus, there.
Frankly I feel all of Shia LaBeouf's antics are just a long game ruse to distract us from his hilarious name. #neverforget

February 10, 2014

It's interesting that babies don't have object permanence but still don't expect things to just pop into existence in front of them... feels like both a little fear and a lot of delight....

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has killed tens of millions of people worldwide, and over 30 million people are currently living with HIV. The number of copies of the virus carried in someone's blood can vary dramatically, but across all the people in the world, there probably exists about a spoonful worth of HIV.
wow. So difficult to grasp the scale of how small some things are.
Been thinking a little bit about "the fear of success" as a way of analyzing my angst about taking on projects. I wonder if some part of that is "fear of success that won't feel like 'enough'".

February 11, 2014

Anyone know of a soft acoustic cover of "I Think We're Alone Now"? I would think it would be a natural way to take it, but everyone from Tiffany to The Killers makes it harsher and uptempo.
Two random news thoughts:
1. Hooray for Michael Sam. Being out in a professional sports league takes guts.
2. Aw, Shirley Temple. What an achiever. Movies, Diplomacy, and a famous drink named after her!
Just enough blacks to show that we care.
Nixon on the goals for the Oval Office calendar

http://www.blastr.com/2014-2-8/happy-birthday-jules-verne-10-verne-creations-inspired-modern-tech Jules Verne was amazing. Hell, he practically invented science fiction [citation needed]
http://www.dorkly.com/article/59234/an-open-letter-from-a-death-star-architect So good.
I just enhanced http://kirk.is/sidebar/ with a new 2D UI (instead of the old single column) and an author filter.

It's funny how twitter and FB stepped up and kind of replaced that kind of thing -- a lot more democratic than the blog/sidebar model, but it had it's charm.

Not sure if Dylan ever quite forgave me for opening it up rather than making it the Just Dylan show...

February 12, 2014

http://twentytwowords.com/cat-tries-to-apologize-but-gets-an-icy-reception/ You need to watch this whole video.
Fun Fact: as much as we roll our eyes at low-cal sodas targeted at Bros, the UK has us beat. Thanks to some gender-focused ad campaigns Diet Coke is like the girliest thing you can drink there, and my Coke Zero-addicted coworkers over from Wales go for the normal, sugar-laden stuff when the main other option in the office is Diet.
A 'butt' was a Medieval unit of measure for wine. Technically, a buttload of wine is about 475 liters, or 126 gallons.

http://everytimezone.com/ is a nice bit of visual display
http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=2574 real life go-back-in-time machine. It works!
Flappy Bird as metaphor for romance: you think the long flights are gonna last forever- then thwack. And overthinking is a quick death.

February 13, 2014

http://www.pointerpointer.com/ -- most excellent.

February 14, 2014

If you're in a clown posse, you don't need to tell us you're insane. We know. Nobody's thinking you're an emotionally stable clown posse.

February 15, 2014

Saw the new "Robocop" today... not bad. I didn't like the new ED-209s much-- they really were a big part of the draw of the original. (Years later I read how they were purposefully over-designed, reflecting a parody of Detroit "looks awesome, runs terrible" thinking... but to a 12-year-old kid, they were just awesome.) Anyway, The Robocop Archive had this kickin' prototype sketch from the first movie:

February 16, 2014

This snippet of a poem, from a postsecret, stopped a 16 year old from attempting suicide.
fuck the poets of the past, my friends.
there are no beautiful suicides
just cold corpses with shit in their pants
& the end of the gifts.

I sold a Macbook Air 11" to a friend-- but I'll miss its stickers:

February 17, 2014

The things that are expressed: emotions, opinions... and anal glands. Look it up. And remember... they are somehow a trio.

I am changing jobs again, with a week between. I'm having a week of "staycation" between gigs, and right now, stronger than the second guessing about deciding to move on from my old job and the usual trepidation of starting at a new place (no matter how cool it looks) is my feeling of anticipatory regret that I am not going to get as much done this week as I'd like, from finishing up the web edition of my comic on mortality, to arranging my birthday, to finishing my a "Flappy Bird Game Jam" game, to scanning a ton of old photos, to finishing shoving some old VHS tapes to DVD, to organizing and consolidating my computer files and getting a backup strategy going, to starting on that timeline application I've been dreaming about--

But I guess I will get a chunk of it done. More so if I stop whining about it here.
Oy. As I remake a version of JoustPong/FlapPing (for http://itch.io/jam/flappyjam ) I look at my developer blog for the Atari 2600 version I made, and realize that was exactly 10 years ago. http://alienbill.com/2600/flapping/
Man, 5:2 Fasting Days go sloooooow when you're at home all day.

(Thank goodness for the (zero cal but high salt) miracle of pickles with mustard.)

But it feels so satisfying to be in bed at the end of that kind of day, having kept on the straight and narrow, and knowing that there will be plenty to eat tomorrow.

February 18, 2014

I don't get people who say they don't use a scale to watch their wait, they just see how their clothes fit-- yeah, if you weigh daily you have to ignore fluctuation, but it seems a lot easier and faster than the qualitative change of clothes (especially given how loose some of mine are already.) Plus just-washed jeans always feel snug.
You're uncountably smelly!

http://www.theawl.com/2012/06/all-the-presidents-menus I guess I knew coffee has been with us for centuries, but still striking to see how modern some of these meals sound. Also, that whole "Zachary Taylor died because of cherries and iced milk" always sounded kind of ridiculous... personally I think http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/05/29/117856/-THE-STRANGE-DEATH-OF-ZACHARY-TAYLOR makes a pretty good case for assassination by a Southern conspiracy. Or at least one that fits my prejudices.

thoughts on binge gaming

February 19, 2014
Some of my thoughts of a super-productive staycation have been thwarted by the arrival of the video game "Earth Defense Force 2025", a solid sequel to my (previous) favorite B-movie game "EDF 2017". I am enjoying the heck out of it, honestly- it mashes together two of my favorite things in video games: gun battles with simple tactical decisions to be made (what the earlier game had in spades) and flying and gliding over a city's landscape. (thanks to the addition of a Valkyrie-like character with a jet pack.) Plus, Spoiler: flame throwing dragons. They're done quite beautifully, often set against a moody twilight time... pity you have to shoot them!

"Binge gaming" seems to be my preferred way of consuming games these days... but it makes me ponder why this type of gaming is so appealing in general- it certainly has its tedious moments! And it's a bit hard to defend as a cerebral exercise. I think it's a combination of two things: a viscerally appealing simulation of exciting things I can't do in the real world (flying, saving the earth from endless hoards of homicidal robots and giant insects) along with an environment were dogged persistence guarantees success, and where it doesn't, these days that's probably a "fault" of the game designer and not the player.

I think overall I'm more relaxed playing the game all Tuesday and Wednesday night than I was coding up my own game all day Monday; no angst eating, almost no ducking over to twitter or Facebook to get away.

I do wish I had a gaming buddy... it has an excellent splitscreen mode. I played the earlier title with my Jonathan and it was a great bonding time... alas he's a family guy now and I am on my own.

February 20, 2014

I bet gravity thinks bench pressing is so cute.

February 21, 2014

I don't read Scripture and cling to no life precepts, except perhaps to Walter Cronkite's rules for old men, which he did not deliver over the air: Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection.
Interesting that it ends talking about still finding companionship via OKC on the like, an unexpected bit of connection between him as author and me as soon-to-be-40 reader.
This bit by Ricky Gervais on "Extras" (@ 2:30 or so) makes me laugh. It's such a human thing to do.

The name of the anti-gay governor of Idaho is Butch Otter. I repeat: The name of the anti-gay governor of Idaho is Butch Otter. #forrealz

FUN THOUGHT EXPERIMENT -- Answer in your head quickly, don't over-think, then check below...
You have a meeting scheduled for Wednesday. The organizer then tells you "We're got to move the meeting forward by two days"
When is the meeting?

I got this from the last few minutes of http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/02/20/time-wrapped-experience -- according to them, the idea is if you say "Monday", you probably conceptualize yourself as fixed, and time and events coming toward you. If you say "Friday", you see time and events are set, and you see as traveling toward them.

I'm a strong "Friday" myself.

The other interesting thing from the episode is how people some people (with a touch of synesthesia, perhaps) visualize a calendar year; apparently other people also see it as an oval or circle, and counter-clockwise is somewhat more common than clockwise. (Again this is from the end of the episode, from 40:50 til the end is really worth listening to)

Anyway, I've always had that mental image of a year as a circle... I always assumed it came from a puzzle or something I had as a kid, but now I wonder...
You know what they say the modern version of Pascal's Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God.

Interesting. Wii U has a "Dr Luigi" game. Still no 4 player mode, though :-(

flapping redux

February 22, 2014

click to play
For the Flappy Jam, in honor and support of the lamented game Flappy Bird I redid a (one player) version of my original Atari 2600 title JoustPong / FlapPing. You can play it online.

Has a tuba version of the original theme song and everything! At first I did a version with the walls of the "Poorlords" variation, but I think I prefer the simplicity with the original, though with Pterodactyl of the 2600 version replaced with an annoying crow.
it's funny how stress builds in layers, and in the end I snap at dumb stuff-- probably there's that baseline of new
job in the back of my head, not getting as much done on my comic as I hoped... it means that ridiculously awful Nintendo Wii U UI and friends accidentally ordering off the menu is irritation amplified beyond what is reasonable.

February 23, 2014

There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.
Jean-Paul Sartre

Enjoying my final "Rhubarb and Custard" hard candy from the UK. Why isn't this flavor combination more known here?? It's awesome.
Can we ever really know what the inside of our nose smells like? Or is that truly the only smell we can ever really know?

February 24, 2014

Let me explain. For some of us, it is hard to hear 'I love you' - because to us, it suggests you don't know us as well as we'd hoped.

http://www.lostinmobile.com/ - heh, I've loved this little UK-based mobile/gadget blog for a while, and they promoted a longish comment I made (on a previous story about who is "more influential", Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates) into a top level story.
here's the comment:
In some ways it seems unfair, because the jury is still out on Gates, but certainly his foundation is out to make some awesome change.

In terms of "computers to the masses"-- the thing is, maybe there's more a feel of inevitability of what he did? IBM decided to make a "Personal" computer, risking their golden goose of big hardware to make sure they didn't get left behind home computers. (Which, come to think of it, was primarily the Apple II) Gates was savvy enough to catch that train with super clever licensing of someone else's DOS... but someone would have done that if he didn't? Similarly, it seems likely some form of Xerox -> Macintosh WIMP interface would have gained traction in the 90s on PCs even in a Gateless world.

So looking at what Gates did, it was that clever licensing where he could make money selling DOS to PC clone manufacturers... that was the world changing bit, perhaps? This was all in the wake of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, which provided a window for Home Computers to really take off. But the Apples and Commodores and Atari 8bits (while running rings around PCs in terms of fun, graphics and sound) lacked the gravitas of IBM for business. So it was a combination of the reputation of IBM, Gates clever licensing, and good ol' free market competition on the hardware that pushed to make computers so ubiquitous.

But Jobs did more at the leading edge of technology -- all with a little (lot of) help from his friends. With Woz, the Apple II made the home computer happen. With Xerox, the Macintosh brought WIMP UI to the peoples. Jump forward 2 decades, and he made the next level of touch screen computing on ubiquitously connected devices occur. Jobs led Gates et al on all these things.

From the first world perspective then, Jobs without a doubt - if Gates hadn't existed, someone would have done most of the same stuff, but Jobs changed things with a personal vision and sense of design. (who knows, maybe a world where IBM clones hadn't strangled the market in the 80s and 90s, with a richer variety of products from Amiga and Atari and others, would have been cooler?) From a global perspective, the Gates Foundation will really help more people, with the focus on medicines and education. So is that "influential"? Maybe. Mostly it was one great idea, licensing the software so the hardware could have competition, that made him a ton of money, and that he then turned into helping people.

(Side note, it's interesting thinking of that summary and, say, the launch of Windows 95, and the INSANE amounts of testing of Win 3.1 software they did, and the hacks they put in place, to ensure that no one would have "well my program doesn't work on the new system" as an excuse not to upgrade. That was a consequence of "Microsoft on All Hardware". It's also important to remember how untouchably powerful Microsoft seemed in the late 90s, that they had enough cash to buy anyone who seemed like a threat. Luckily, they never saw the threat the Internet would be...)

February 25, 2014

Drowsing in bed, about 20 minutes before I had to get up, the phrase "the last days of my 30s" entered my head.

Welp, guess I won't be getting back to sleep.

I feel like I'm going to be more compelled to do that personal timeline software I've been thinking of; charting out where I've lived, who I've loved. There's been a lot of life here in these 4 decades, I don't have too many regrets, but I do wish I could visualize it better, memory can be -- not elusive, but uneven.
http://www.slashfilm.com/the-tobolowsky-files-ep-29-the-classic/ A friend points out hearing Ned Ryerson the Insurance Salesman from Groundhogs Day talk about out Harold Ramis approach to directing that great film is a good way to mark his untimely passing. (I kind of didn't realize he was also Egon from Ghostbusters)
"A pomegranate can be an HTTP resource, but you can't transmit a pomegranate over the Internet."
Leonard Richardson et al, "RESTful Web APIs".
Pleased to be able to name drop the author of the book members of my new team were already deeply into.
Slate on the new Gay Denialism. I think the really insidious thing is the truth that Hannon et al do sport, and how one twist of assumption changes the whole core of the their message. The assumption they make is "gay behavior is wrong". From there, a truth like "most people aren't 100% gay or straight" takes on a completely different meaning, because it's a slippery slope to thinking "so people can easily choose how gay to be and it's about the same choice for everyone".

I do feel that homophobia leads to less intimate same sex friendships, though, which is sad. And it has some roots in "gay as identity" thinking; people are homophobic, and if being gay is all-or-nothing, they will go out of their way to make sure they're on the "right" side of river.

Such a morass of truth and lie, good intentions and bad.
http://annyas.com/screenshots/warner-bros-logo/ Warner Brothers Logos! Dig the design work.

February 26, 2014

I enjoyed this image of a parrot having a nice scratch with a pointy feather

Outlook on Mac is such a hot mess.
Man, OSX Mavericks has a bug where you can't get the Dock to move to a different window if you keep it on the side. I hate UI stupidity.

February 27, 2014

When you spend a chunk of your day reading a book that talks a lot about "hypermedia", the word starts taking on a weird retro-future patina.

February 28, 2014

My T pass informs me I'm valid til 3/31, a little ominous given what a milestone birthday that's gonna be.

I unceremoniously passed the USA male median age (36.8) which means on average I'm seeing more people who are younger than I am, especially in a college town like Boston.

Still the inner-child has free run of the place, so maybe it balances out a bit.

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