Category Archives: web

Monster of the Week

Cel of Monster of the WeekI’m sure you’ve noticed that my X Files viewing note-taking has been spamming my own blog and rss feed recently.  If you missed the start, I’m re-watching the whole series on Hulu commercial free.

David Herrold recently brought to my attention someone who’s doing a similar thing, but much better.  Shaenon K. Garrity has a weekly comic review of an episode.  She’s 11 episodes in and it’s titled Monster of the Week.

Shaenon noted (or someone in the comments to Season 1 Episode 11 did) that this will take her 4 years to complete.  It’s definitely got a new place in my RSS reader!

Embeds – WordPress 3.4

I noticed that the new WordPress update automatically creates embedded content for several sites.  It actually started in 2.9, but Twitter was added with this version.  All you have to do is include the link by itself on a line.

Bill Coin

It will make it much easier to steal Jay Lee’s content.  (Actually, i’m sure it links back to the original, which is all he wishes for in a non-commercial setting.)

Also, you can include hyperbolic tweets and make fun of them while nicely formatted:

Make Your Code Better: Delete It

Across my twitter stream recently came the following casual missive:

Facebook almost seem to make a point of making their app worse & worse with each “update”. – curlydena

Just a regular user of Facebook (I assume) making a very relevant observation.  I don’t follow curlydena (but i think i’d like to drink with her); it was retweeted by Damian, an iOS developer I met over beers and pool at WWDC 2009.  I’m sure it resonated deeply with him as it does with me.

It’s a truism in software that the more time and incremental development goes into a project the more fragile and ill-designed it becomes.  There comes a point that it’s worth it to dump the entire code base (or the majority of it, if you have well defined, implemented, and maintained abstractions).  Use the current project as a functional prototype and redesign/implement the product from scratch.

It’s hard to get middle and upper management to understand this.  The further away they are from being computer scientists the worse the problem is.

Apple is the only major software vendor that seems to appreciate this truism.  Time and time again they’ve reimplemented stuff from scratch and we are the beneficiaries of that.

It’s a lesson we can all benefit by remembering.  And perhaps Facebook should find a few good iOS developers (within or without) and reimplement their app from scratch.  (And ritually burn Three20 while they’re at it.)

The Eyes Have It

Box Jellyfish

art by fisher

I was listing to one of my regular podcasts on Saturday: 60-Second Science from Scientific American. [iTunes]  This particular snippet of science in the news was titled Box Jellyfish Eyes Aim at the Trees.  It seems that box jellyfish have 24 eyes, and four of them point above the water’s surface.  They use those four exclusively to navigate.  They live in mangrove swamps and use the tree limbs as navigation markers.

Box jellyfish, and most jellyfish, have minimal brains.  The multiple visual sensors allows less central processing by a brain able to pull out the variety of signals, redirect sensors to different targets when desired, and perhaps screen peripheral information to change task of a particular sensing organ.


For years, human language recognition tried to model language the way linguists understand it.  There were large breakthroughs in the area when massive computation became more available and we started treating it more like an engineering problem.  Solving the problem the way we thought we solved it seemed a good direction.  Early AI research has many similarities to this.

There have been a lot of robotic devices that have had one or two cameras for “eyes”, and we have done some work on image recognition from these.  Feeding this information (perhaps with other information from infrared or pressure sensors) to a central programming location.  Maybe an attempt to decentralize robot computation, and increase the number of sensors might lead to some interesting uses and solutions.

Just a thought.

Is This Disaster Natural Enough For You?

Last Friday I read an innocent enough tweet from @Slate:

Tornado outbreak now the worst US natural disaster since Katrina: 29 2011

My first reaction was “wow, those tornados were nasty.”  Which is, i’m sure, how it was intended. Then I thought “worst? what are they using to determine badness?”  Of course, this was somewhat of a second-level headline.  The main headline said it was the “deadliest US natural disaster”.  So the manager of the twitter account had taken the step from death = worst (i tweeted a response), which the author (Josh Voorhees) of the article likely didn’t mean to imply.

I’m sure the economic impact of Hurricane Ike was much greater than that of the recent tornados.  Tornados are pinpoint, one block can be toothpicks the next unharmed.  Hurricanes paint with big brushes, but thankfully we get advanced warning which mitigates deaths.  I’m would guess that Ike left more homeless as well.  (Death tolls: Katrina ~1800, Ike ~200, recent tornadoes ~300+)

Not wanting to figure a calculus for death vs. destruction, I soon focused in on “natural disaster”.  Hurricane Katrina, like Hurricane Ike, was itself a weather event, and caused a natural disaster.  But the Flooding of New Orleans was not a natural disaster.  It was caused by the breaching of a human-made levee, a combination of engineering and bureaucratic failure.  I would certainly not attribute all those deaths to “natural disaster”.

Was the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis a natural disaster?  Certainly the elements caused it to deteriorate, but I think all of us would answer “no”.

The recent earthquake-tsunami combination in Japan was certainly a natural disaster.  Was the subsequent Chernobyl-sized welt-down and the economic and possible death toll?  I would certainly say “no”.

So, I ask again, was the Flooding of New Orleans a natural disaster?  The only answer can be no!

Slate Culture Gabfest Endorsements

Slate Daily Podcast includes a variety of weekly podcasts on different subjects.  I think i prefer the Culture Gabfest (FB) infinitesimally more than the Political Gabfest (FB), which is to say it teeters back and forth as to which I prefer each week.

One thing they do is have each gabfest participant “endorse” some cultural item each week.  Movie, television show, book, music, it can be almost anything, usually in the entertainment genre.

I often remember weeks later “there was that /insert item here/ that they mentioned” and I just can’t remember it.  My Google Foo is relatively good, but finding a list of them is not easy.  So, I’m going to see if writing them down myself will help.  I highly recommend making this podcast regular listening.

Feb 16, 2011; No. 126; ”Church of High Modernism And Puppies Edition

Dana’s pick: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, and writer Callie Khouri’s commentary track on the new 20th-anniversary Blu-ray edition of Thelma & Louise.
Julia’s pick: The 1940 romantic comedy The Shop Around the Corner.
John’s pick: Thomas Mann’s essay “Herr und Hund” (“A Man and His Dog“).
Steve’s pick: Montreal bar Bily Kun (French).