Archive for December, 2010

Nuts and Flakes: The Economic Argument

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

This is a silly presentation (often the best kind), but he’s absolutely right – for any “it”, if it worked, somebody would be making money with it (and not just by selling plans on the internet.)

The Economic Argument

Nerd comics, with a slight holiday theme

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Happy day!  This FoxTrot strip, added to some others I have bookmarked make a small collection worthy of a small post.  Some are Christmasy and geeky and some are just geeky.


Next up is a guest post on xkcd by FoxTrot’s Bill Amend.

(Hover over the xkcd strips for additional comments – “Guest comic by Bill Amend of FoxTrot, an inspiration to all us nerdy-physics-majors-turned-cartoonists, of which there are an oddly large number.”)

Guest comic by Bill Amend of FoxTrot, an inspiration to all us nerdy-physics-majors-turned-cartoonists, of which there are an oddly large number.

Ok.  That was mostly just geeky, but it’s a great segue to these.

Not only is that terrible in general, but you just KNOW Billy's going to open the root present first, and then everyone will have to wait while the heap is rebuilt.

This one mentions Santa:

This is a fun explanation to prepare your kids for; it's common and totally wrong. Good lines include 'why does the air have to travel on both sides at the same time?' and 'I saw the Wright brothers plane and those wings were curved the same on the top and bottom!'

This one is just funny (since my dad has a GPS…)

Yes, I understand that the turn is half a mile past the big field, but my GPS knows that, too.  This would be easier if you weren't about to ask me to repeat it all back to you.

And finally, for my son, who always wants to know the difference between “geek” and “nerd”.

The definitions I grew up with were that a geek is someone unusually into something (so you could have computer geeks, baseball geeks, theater geeks, etc) and nerds are (often awkward) science, math, or computer geeks. But definitions vary.

Drums Not Bad

Friday, December 17th, 2010

An anthropologist went to study a far-flung tropical island.  He found a guide with a canoe to take him upriver to the remote site where he would make his observations.  About noon on the second day of travel up the river they began to hear drums. The anthropologist asked his guide, “What are those drums?”

The guide turned to him and said, “Drums okay, but VERY BAD when they stop.”

As they traveled the drums grew louder and louder.  The anthropologist was nervous, but the guide merely repeated, “Drums okay. Drums not bad.  When drums stop, then very bad!”

Then the drums suddenly stopped.  Terrified, the anthropologist yelled to the guide: “The drums stopped!  What now?”

The guide crouched down, covered his head with his hands and said, “Guitar solo.”

via Mikey’s Funnies

Close the Washington Monument

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Bruce Schneier is an “internationally renowned security technologist and author.”  I started reading him because of his work in cryptography and computer security, but he also has a lot to say about security in general, and about airport security and the TSA in specific.  He may have coined the term “security theater.”

This recent piece is really thought provoking.  I agree 100% about the toll terrorism is causing us to inflict on ourselves and the complicity of our leaders.

Schneier on Security: Close the Washington Monument
Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.

An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They’re afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism — or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity — they will be branded as “soft on terror.” And they’re afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they’re right, but what has happened to leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our lawmakers’ inability to take that kind of stand — and their inability to truly lead.

<there’s more>

Go read the whole article.  Then fish around for some other interesting articles in his archives.


Information Overload

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Another good post from Seth Godin: The inevitable decline due to clutter.

Seth’s posts are often so short that it’s difficult to extract a snippet or teaser without grabbing the whole thing, but here goes:

Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.

I think he makes a great point.  The more junk information we are forced to endure, the better we have to be a fending it off.  It’s not worth wading through the um, trough, to find the occasional gem any more.

Here’s my amusing and illustrative anecdote:

Last summer, my church was going to have a picnic.  I knew the details were supposed to be in the  bulletin one Sunday, but I couldn’t find it.  I looked through the whole thing multiple times.

After the service, I took it up to the pastor and asked why there was no announcement.  He gently pointed out that 1/3 of the second page was a full color announcement with all the details. You see, I don’t see advertising any more.  I subconsciously filter it out.  I have learned that Full Color bits in a black and white medium == advertisement, and advertisements are to be filtered out.

tregonsee.jpgThere is an old (1950’s) sci-fi series I’ve always enjoyed for the illustrations it gives me – The Lensmen, by E.E. Doc Smith.  One of the human characters (Kimball Kinnison?) has a device that allows him to communicate with his partner (Tregonsee?), who is of a race of blind but telepathic and clairvoyant aliens (Rigellians?).  As they are driving thorough an alien city, in a car with no windows, he is able to see his surroundings because of his telepathic link — except for some mysterious dark ovoids.  It turns out that these are the clairvoyant alien equivalent of our highway billboards — and they are simply filtered out by the experienced clairvoyant.

How do you see advertising?