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There's a superb introductory-level article about code at Bloomberg. Here, it's very, very, very long. 38,000 words to be more precise, so don't embark upon it lightly, but if you ever were curious about how programming works or what those overpaid idiots in my profession actually deal with, this is probably the best introduction I've ever seen, including textbooks on the subject.

It's also a good way to waste a couple of hours, even if you know something about the subject already.
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It will surprise nobody who reads this journal to realize that I keep up a lot on current events, mostly those involving conflict.

In the aftermath of 9/11 one of the first questions America asked itself was "Why do they hate us?" A lot of answers came fast and furious, because of past events, because of religion, because of fundamentalism, but they were mostly wrong because this is the wrong question. As people became aware that the entire world was involved in a great clash that transcended a religious divide, a political divide, and even geographic divides. The world was, in its entirety, in struggle.

It is human nature to draw narrative out of a great panorama. A number of narratives have been drawn out of this one. One of my personal favorites is the idea that what you see throughout the world is a grand reaction to global inter-connection. On one side is a world where people communicate across the world at the drop of a hat via Skype and SMS and Twitter, where you can order something from a shop in China for delivery in Uganda; a place with a huge culture made up of common threads that pokes its sharp, pointy elbows into every available spot. On the other side lies a world of our fathers and grandfathers, or traditionalists and ancient cultures and a cycle of years that passes back centuries (nostalgic centuries of course, history is rarely so kind as to be comfortingly static).

It's hard to explain human nature, but that's never stopped me from pontificating before )
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The existence of DashCon reminds me that, no matter how the internet ages, a part of it never really grows up. The unending cycle of idea -> poorly executed disaster -> complete internet overreaction -> attempting to bring everything back under control has happened now so many times that the various causes people will attempt to ride the blowback for is almost completely predictable. By now the rational people involved are probably deploying for damage control - on both sides of the argument - but it's probably going to have to burn itself out.

I'd grumble about the internet needing to grow up, but it's not like they've done it yet, and I really don't see it happening anytime soon.
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Went back to LJ's homepage for the first time in a while. I note the new look, and I've got to admit it looks better than it once did, but it doesn't seem to be doing much in the way of improving the content on the site. The problem with LJ was never really the appearance, it was that everyone on it just sort of left for a whole host of reasons. The way it looks and acts only papers over the fact that most of the non-ONTD communities are sort of dead.

Well, I guess of those two there's only one problem you can really fix. Who knows?
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There are some good things about Amazon. One of them is the reviews. Especially the reviews that are clearly there for comedic effect. Over the years Amazon has created quite a list of things they offer for sale that have been reviewed by far more people than have probably actually bought the product, which is why you get ridiculous products with thousands of reviews.

But don't take my word for it. Have a look at a handful of the most enthusiastically reviewed products on Amazon:

Examples )

So what interesting products have you found?
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Also, in things that make me grumpy, here I am being grumpy.

Surfing over to Amazon today, one can't help but notice that they have a number of Black Friday specials. And, because Amazon knows how to create a browsable web site, they've split those deals up by category. Some of which, honestly, I'm not too fond of:

Because Amazon Hates Us... )
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For those of you not paying attention to tech news this week, fabled internet and computer software veteran Winamp if finally bowing out of the stage. Once the MP3 and desktop music player of choice, Winamp aged over the years, overtaken by competition and destroyed by management (as described in this Ars Technica piece), what was once the world's best and most recognizable music player is now less than a month from going the way of the dodo. Owner and operator AOL has decided at last to pull the plug.

Yes, much to the surprise of most who remember Winamp, AOL is actually still around (I drive by their Silicon Valley office occasionally). The owner of the Huffington Post Media Group, AOL has somewhat rebranded itself into a media company, one that makes actual money (somehow), partially by selling off the remaining products and patents they accumulated during their years of actual relevancy. But one storied internet giant has decided not to postpone the demise of another, and so Winamp exits, stage left.

Well, eventually. Should you be overcome by nostalgia you still have until December 20th to download the last build.


Dec. 18th, 2012 10:10 pm
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Most ads are exercises in name recognition or quick self-promotion. Amidst the ton of ads featuring flashy product shots and actors explaining to you why exactly this product is worth your time, some companies try to create a more memorable experience.

One way to do this is by trying to portray the world as a great place, an inspiring place, and imply that somehow this company is involved in making it that way. Sports apparel ads are famous for this kind of thing. So are beer ads. Usually it's sappy and overbearing and annoying.

Sometimes it does okay.

Since this is the Christmas season, the season where we are supposed to interpret crass commercialism as heart-warming affirmation of our moral virtues, here is this year's attempt by Google:

Google Zeitgeist )
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For those of you who haven't been keeping track, John McAfee has finally been arrested in Guatemala, after sneaking over the border and applying for political asylum.

It's not really clear what a man who claimed that he hung around in order to investigate the scene and find the real murderer (through such detective tricks as blackening his teeth and speaking German) was doing applying for asylum in Guatemala. After all the effort he went through to make it seem like he was going to fight it out in Belize, running to Guatemala seems like, well, running away.

It's also not clear what Guatemala can do with him besides arrest him for illegal immigration. Belize hasn't even bothered to put out an arrest warrant, McAfee is just a "person of interest", they've got bigger fish to fry these days.

And, of course, the irony of all this is that while McAfee has consistently said that he is being pursued because he tried to stand up to the corrupt local police force, Belize has one of the most trusted police forces in Latin America. Guatemala ... not so much. If Belize is feeling really nasty they may just leave him there.
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When I Google "What am I doing with my life", the fourth answer is a blog by someone talking about advice they found by Googling "What am I doing with my life".

Recursion is a powerful CS technique. As a method for solving life's dilemmas though it seems to lead you in circles.
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I've been thinking about internet handles and email addresses, and what the future holds.

If you know someone with a fairly common name who has a gmail account, then you can sort of tell how tech aware they were in the early 2000s by looking at their address. JohnDoe and John.Doe were probably pretty early adapters, JohnDoe65 and JohnDoeDenver were probably a little late. And JohnDoeLovesBacon01 and ExtermiRat2265 were a bit behind the curve. If you have a relative now who you're trying to get a gmail account you probably already know that any combination of initials and names is already taken, that you have to add in locations, numbers, or something that might still give them some uniqueness.

Forums have the same thing. The "good" or "common" names often fill up fast. Pretty soon there's a Dark and a Dork, a Sara111 and a Sara666, a Falcon and a Falchion. Userpics are necessary to distinguish participants on sites like LJ, or large forums, simply because too many names can look alike. One sign, to me, of potential forum explosion is that there are simply so many people that name generation begins to become slightly bizarre.

Google, like most sensible internet sites, gives you your email address forever. Even if you delete your account, the name remains inaccessible to prevent someone from stealing your identity by just taking the account after you delete it. This means that the person who is currently JohnDoe at gmail will always be JohnDoe at gmail, even after he's dead. An entire generation of John Does will grow up without ever having a chance to be JohnDoe, or John.Doe, or JohnDoe09 or anything because those are already taken. In a few years, I wonder how many other names will be taken, how many other nicknames.

I can still remember when you could go out and pick up an email address that was basically either your name or a favorite internet nickname. Now it can be hard to do either. I wonder how long it will be before that makes me an anachronism. And I wonder how the internet will look then.
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As you've no doubt noticed, the internet is currently down.

Expect normal service to resume once Congress gets its head out of its ass.

Thank you,
-The Management
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Every once in a while I worry that I'll lose my job, and that I won't have the skills to manage to get another one. After all, the world is full of talented and experienced people, many of whom seem to be in my field.

Then I visit LJ. Honestly, if people are getting paid to roll out changes like that, then I've got no worries at all, do I?


Nov. 7th, 2011 01:13 pm
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Looking at the new Google Reader (actually, I've been looking at it for about a week or two), I've come to realize what it is that I don't like about the new Google look.

I think it's that Google, being rich as sin, must buy all their developers giant new monitors, monitors that are so giant that the fact that there is enough white space on the page that you could fit the entire works of Shakespeare in it doesn't bother them. For the rest of us, the crushing post-modern blankness means that the only actual information on the page has to fit into a space that is increasingly tighter and tighter, making it more and more difficult to read. Because some of us still use things like Google Reader for, well, you know, reading.

The problem with the Googleplex seems to be that the more time you spend there, the less likely you are to remember that your products are used by people outside of the bubble...
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So we're all used to getting those emails from people purporting to be our bank (or some other bank that we might be a member of) telling us that we need to confirm our online account IDs, or install their security software. It's the laziest type of phishing scam, but I can see how some people might, conceivably, still fall for it. After all, we're used to getting random mail from our banks that doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Today I received an email from a new bank: the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States of America.

I don't know what's more depressing, the idea that someone actually thought that people would believe that they had an account at the Federal Reserve, or the fact that it implies that some people, somewhere, are foolish enough to actually believe that they have a Fed account. Either way I'm not starting this morning too optimistic about humanity.
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Want to learn more about the economic theory of recessions and depressions? Want to watch rap videos made by old, dead, white guys? Want to seriously raise your geek rating through the roof? Well now, thanks to this, you can do all three. Just watch this video and you will have it stuck in your head all goddamned day be enlightened.

I don't know why I think this is awesome, but I do, and I don't even like the Austrians.
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I just came back from a trip to Fermilab (to give a talk at the Collaboration meeting), and I noticed, on the plane from Phoenix, that the woman next to me was reading a book.

Now, I, like most readers, have the ability to judge the genre of a book based on the cover. Sometimes it's obvious, like spaceships, and pirates, and kilt-wearing Scotsmen with their shirts unbuttoned, but sometimes, it's more subtle. It's in the way the words are written, the expressions that are allowed on the face, even the way that the author's name appears in conjunction with the title. This set off a bit of the romance warning for me, but also another sensation that I rarely experience in regular life. The cover illustration was simply drawn, there was no information on the binding, or on the cover other than the title and the author; only the bareness of the book's cover testified to its uniqueness.

Although it is always bad to judge a book by its cover, this one was screaming Vanity Press.

I don't see Vanity Press work on a day to day basis, so this aroused my curiosity. I caught a peak of the back as she was getting off the plane, and discovered that she was reading Pride and Prejudice fanfic. This Pride and Prejudice fanfic to be precise. Once my access to the internet was restored, I quickly discovered that this author has already produced other various works of P&P fanfic. And furthermore, there seems to be a whole industry devoted to the concept.

Now, I shouldn't find this very odd, considering that my choice of literature has never exactly been accused of good taste (in fact, Pride and Prejudice fanfic may be considerably closer to true literature by virtue of association), and furthermore I try not to malign other people's choices, but does anybody besides me find this vaguely disturbing? As if a piece of the internet, where I normally find fanfiction, had intruded on real life?

I don't know why this bothers me. Perhaps it's just because all those times when I was telling people to try making their pseudo-fanfic into an original work, I was apparently giving them the wrong advice.
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So I've been surfing through the web off and on at work for a bit, and I've been getting annoyed about something. It started more or less as an annoyance, a minor itch, but it's been growing on me for a bit, like a fungus, until it's actually slightly uncomfortable. So, in the hopes of making such a spectacle of myself that someone feels compelled to lavish attention on me by telling me to STFU, I'm going to rant about something.

Namely, a lot of condemnation I've seen recently against "Nice Guys".

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you might want to skip this one.

A Completely Pointless Rant )

And no, I still don't know why this annoys me.

GAFF back

Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:10 pm
danalwyn: (Default)

GAFF is back. Sort of quiet perhaps, but back. I have posted a review of an old Kingdom Hearts fic here just to stay in practice.

I should really be doing work though.




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