Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Guardian Unlimited Life: One side can be wrong

Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne on Intelligent Design: “One side is required to produce evidence, every step of the way. The other side is never required to produce one iota of evidence, but is deemed to have won automatically, the moment the first side encounters a difficulty—the sort of difficulty that all sciences encounter every day, and go to work to solve, with relish. […] You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.”

New Scientist: Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive

Parasitic worm chemically influences its host’s brain. Fascinating, albeit with a high “ick” factor: “mature hairworms are three to four times longer than their hosts when extended”.

Making Light: Why everyone didn't leave

“It’s hard to avoid wondering why the heroic measures couldn’t have been taken before the storm, rather than after. Oh, wait, I know! If we’d had a plan to evacuate the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents who didn’t own cars, someone might have gotten something for free that they didn’t deserve. Which, in questions of American public policy, is always and forever the most important concern.”

wicked_wish: Disjointed thoughts on the socio-economics of disaster

Cherie Priest rebuts “tsk-tsk” reporting and states the obvious: many stayed in New Orleans because they could not afford to leave. “The evacuation was little more than a vague order to get the hell out—under your own power and at your own expense. If you have, at your immediate disposal, reliable transportation, money for gas, and either distant family or money for shelter, then this isn’t a big deal. Of course you leave. You pack up everything you can and you head for higher ground. But it is somewhat less easy to do if you are lacking any one of these things.”

Workbench: I own a Linksys WRT54G

Short. Funny. Go read.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New York Times: Show Me the Science

The NYT on the Intelligent Design playbook: “‘Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat,’ you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: ‘See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms.’” (via

Monday, August 29, 2005

Blogspot: More Spam Than Anything Else

Philipp Lenssen surveys 50 BlogSpot blogs; finds that 30 are spam blogs. “If we extrapolate the number, we might estimate Google is hosting 4 million spam pages.”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

BBC News: Wal-Mart calls for Tesco inquiry

Oh sweet irony: Wal-Mart is ringing the anti-competitive bell?

OmniNerd: How Much Does iTunes Like My Five-Star Songs?

Some experimentation with the iTunes Party Shuffle algorithm, aiming at determining the weight given to each star weighting. It would have been more interesting, though, to capture the actual play order rather than simply the play counts, and to check that repeats and runs actually do occur in statistically-expected proportions… (via Slashdot)

Burningbird: We are not the Red Cross

Shelley Powers sounds a rational note of caution for well-meaning hurricane bloggers: let the professionals do their job. “There’s a fine line between providing effective help, and being a busybody nuisance.” (And donating blood is always a good idea: if only the Red Cross would take mine…)

National Weather Service: Urgent Weather Message for Orleans, LA


Saturday, August 27, 2005

New Scientist: Power lines may provide a haven for bees

“Millions of acres of land-strips beneath power lines represent an untapped conservation resource for bees and other threatened creatures.”

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cats In Sinks

“It’s about cats. And kittens. Who like sinks. And basins. And that’s it.” (via Pete Ashton)

Larry King Live: Jack Hanna Animal Adventures

While I’m on the subject of Larry King, Melinda reminds me of this nice bit of fumbling from the 4th of July animal special: “Is he a male or female?” NewsLinks: Health Officials Issue Cat Plague Warning

Cats in eleven California counties may be carrying bubonic plague, typically transmitted from infected rodents; “not uncommon”, apparently. “We routinely put out a plague advisory—it is endemic here in California and in areas with wild rodent populations.”

Pharyngula: Moonbat anti-evolutionist: Deepak Chopra

PZ Meyers demolishes Deepak Chopra’s list of “issues” with evolution; a joy to read. (via Bonus link: Larry King Live’s astonishingly one-sided discussion of intelligent design. “If evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?” (transcript) Why is King still viewed as a national icon? To this outsider, he comes across as a bumbling fool.

Tea Leaves: Lights, Action, Camera

A “leisurely detour” that ends up at a telling truth: “The hard part of software development is not, it turns out, writing code. The hard part is deciding in advance how the product is going to behave.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New York Times: Relax, Bill Gates; It's Google’s Turn as the Villain

The NYT explores the Google backlash.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wired 13.09: Reinventing Television

A surprisingly limp interview with Jon Stewart, who doesn’t seem to have many thoughts on the future of TV. And isn’the ratio of goodness to crapola remains the same“ simply a restatement of Sturgeon’s Law? (Which, according to Wikipedia, should more accutately be known as Sturgeon’s Principle; I never knew.)

phil ringnalda dot com: O’Reilly joins the search engine spam parade

Phil Ringnalda calls out link-spamming adverts on O’Reilly sites; Tim O’Reilly’s measured response. > east bay > software jobs > Software Developer

The last question they ask [Update, as the posting is now expired: “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”] screams “Look, data warehousing can be fun! Work for us; we're wacky!” (I never wanted to be a database admin; I wanted to be… a lion tamer!)

Monday, August 22, 2005 Terrorists May Case Scene As Homeless

“The government is warning that terrorists may pose as vagrants.” Like the homeless aren’t persecuted enough already?

Ask MetaFilter: What book can’t you put down?

Some excellent recommendations here. I’d already recently read The Time Traveller’s Wife (excellent) and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (very good). Based on these recommendations, I’ve read so far Cloud Atlas (gimmicky but good) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (good), English Passengers (good) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (excellent). And there’s plenty enough more left to fill my reading list for the next few months… [Update: The Eight, however, is pure proto-Da-Vinci-Code hokum.]

Pete Ashton: How to say “Blog”

Pete lobbies for British pronunciation. Personally, I think his American examples are all very Southern. But I really like his followup comment: “The word should sound like the satisfying clunk of a new car door closing.”

Saturday, August 20, 2005 Norwegians welcome ski jump

Gloriously nutty: plans to build a temporary ski jump, using 200 tons of snow, on a San Francisco street. (via jwz) [Update: cancelled. Boo.]

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Burningbird: Monarchs

Shelley Powers’ photography is always amazing; these butterflies are no exception.

Freakonomics Blog: Soda Makers for Sainthood?

Stephen Dubner suggests that the American Beverage Association’s recommendation to remove soda from elementary school vending machines may not be entirely altruistic: “Bottled water is the fastest growing major beverage category, and much of that growth has come at the expense of soda. […] It may well be the ABA’s decision to pull soda from elementary schools is a perfect one-two punch: a p.r. coup and a savvy shift from a mature, besieged product to a booming one.”

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tapatio Hot Sauce

Melinda and I are both partial to this sauce; on sale at Safeway until October. And I love the charming amateurishness of their website: very much in the mid-90s Geocities mould…

Saturday, August 13, 2005 :: Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

An awful movie; an unexceptional review; but stick with it, the final paragraph’s a corker. (via MetaFilter)

Thing in a Jar

I want one of these. (via MAKE:Blog)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How to Write More Clearly, Think More Clearly, and Learn Complex Material More Easily

Excellent, and pragmatic, advice on writing. I particularly like this example of revision: “One of the best things you can do for yourself tTo improve your writing, is to learn how to cut out unnecessary words that are not necessary.” (via Jeremy Zawodny’s linkblog, albeit a while ago)

101 Cookbooks: Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte

Oh boy: I’ve got to take the Scharffen Berger tour. I’ve got to make this cake. And I’ve got to get this book out from the library.

Experimental Gameplay Project

Over for this semester, but some good, stylish, and weird mini games came out of it; I hope it continues.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés

So true, so true. “Golden Chocobo Principle: There will be at least one supremely ultimate improvement for your weapon or some way to make your trusted steed capable of going anywhere and doing anything, requiring hours and hours of hard work to acquire. Once you do achieve this, you will use it once, and it will be completely useless for the rest of the game. ” (via IndieGameDev)

Typotheque: Microtypography, Designing the new Collins dictionaries by Mark Thomson

A strangely fascinating discussion of dictionary typography and design. Particularly interesting: the 80s feature war between publishers: “The purpose of all of this was to gain some competitive advantage as well as improving the dictionary’s usefulness… but the result was that the dictionary publishers ended up looking at each other as much as at the reader.” (via Joe Clark)

The Old New Thing: That's about the size of it

Raymond Chen on news reporters’ fondness for unnecessary size comparisons: “as thick as a 1½-inch cable.”

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Google Blog: Guest Bloggers: those Freakonomics Guys

Levitt & Dubner visit Google. “The best question of the day was, ‘What would you do with our data if we could give it to you?’ We’ve thought about that quite a bit ever since.” (Google already publishes some shallow mining on their data: Google Zeitgeist.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Daring Fireball: Trusted

John Gruber’s measured response to Cory Doctorow’s the-sky-is-falling rant on Apple’s possible future use of Trusted Computing. I particularly like this line, in response to Doctorow’s claim that “some [...] people give me grief over the fact that I use Mac OS X instead of GNU/Linux on my Powerbook, because the MacOS is proprietary”: “There is a word for these people. That word is asshole. No, wait, zealot. OK, there are two words for these people.” (via links)

Friday, August 05, 2005 All hail “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the absolute monarchs of horrid

The Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle on fine form: “…in stiff competition for the lamest thing ever put on celluloid. Of course, that makes it, by default, the worst film so far of the 21st century, but to say that does little to acknowledge the ambition behind this project. Make no mistake, director Jay Chandrasekhar was swinging for the fences with this one. He was shooting for the millennium.” After the crash

Mark Lawson’s take on Lost, which is about to begin its UK run: “Lost, in other words, is a fantasy in which Americans (and, by extension, America) survive a terrible aeroplane incident but the society that results is more savage, suspicious and selfish than what existed before. To sneak so tough and thoughtful a theme into a mainstream drama series that was created by crossing reality TV with a disaster movie must be regarded as a major achievement.”

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Downtown Jazz in Walnut Creek

Free jazz, Thursday nights in downtown Walnut Creek.

Cal State East Bay: Concert in the Hills Series

Free Saturday concerts in Concord.

Popular Science: Can This Fruit Be Saved?

Bananas under threat: the Cavendish banana is ubiquitious, but has no genetic diversity, making it threatened by fungal and bacterial disease. (via

Coudal Partners: Whose Fish?

I rather doubt the claim that this logic puzzle was written by Einstein, but it is tricky. Hint 4 is vague—does “on the left of” mean the precise “left neighbour of” or the looser, and tougher, “somewhere to the left of”? I suspect the former; there are multiple consistent solutions to the version with the looser constraint. (via Signal vs. Noise)

Monday, August 01, 2005

KFRC Big Dipper Outdoor Cinema Series

Free outdoor movies in Concord and San Ramon. I’m most tempted by Jaws. (Also: two more Movies Under The Stars in Walnut Creek.)