Google Reader Shared Items 2011-03-31

  • I Love These Hand-Dryers

    Maybe Dyson should be making smartphones too, eh? They are so much fun to use that I wonder if people will be more likely to wash their hands in airport restrooms

  • Confession #100: Buried Under an Avalanche of Options

    Looking back on it now, the first time I truly felt the need for a note-taking app was when I started researching note-taking apps. I was just looking for a simple tool to save ideas about upcoming articles or jot down an occasional to-do list.

    Stop. Do not send me your pick for best note-taking app.

    I can’t take any more options. I’ve already spent weeks comparing sets of features I’m pretty sure I’ll never need. I tried out at least fifteen applications on my desktop, phone and on the web. I was completely overwhelmed by choices. The process began to take over my life. I spent hours in front of my laptop, I’d demo various features for my wife and kids, and my quest quickly became the only topic I could focus on when interacting with friends.

    They say failure is not an option. But everything else is.

    Before long, I was sucked from the relatively simple playing field of note-taking apps into the deep and horrible vortex of productivity tools. There are nearly two thousand personal productivity apps for the iPhone alone. I found myself digging deeper into my research, comparing features, downloading free trials, and even inventing new behaviors to match the feature sets of the tools I encountered.

    I didn’t even have a personal productivity problem. But I do now.

    These options are everywhere. Amazon just launched a Cloud Drive for storing and streaming music. Please, not another potential way for me to interact with my music. I spend so much time trying to decide where to download, store and stream my music collection that I don’t have any time left to listen to it. I’d be better off hiring a cover band to follow me around and take requests.

    A few years ago, the only lesson I had to learn about music storage was to keep my records away from the back of a car on a hot day.

    Last week, Firefox came out with a newer, faster, better browser. Oh god no. After months of switching back and forth among browsers I had finally settled on Chrome. And now the speed and new features offered by Firefox have ripped open that wound.

    Goodbye browsing. Hello deciding.

    I have been reading The New York Times for decades. But now I have to figure out the new paywall. I can access a certain number of articles for free, I can pay for more, or I can get the Sunday paper and be given free access, or maybe I should subscribe to the Kindle edition and then download the apps for my other devices. Come on. Who has time for the articles anymore? Let’s make this simple. How about if I just give you my wallet, my checking account number, my social security number and my first born child and you just let me sit down and read?

    Remember when there was a really simple answer to the question, “Do you want to watch a movie?”

    Yes, I want to watch a movie. I just can’t decide whether to watch it via Netflix, AppleTV, Pay-Per-View, Amazon, Blu-ray, Boxee, Vudu, Roku, or whether I should watch it on my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, my desktop or my TV. If I want, I can even download the movie to my iPhone and then stream it to my AppleTV. I was confused enough when I had to choose between Betamax and VHS. What’s next, a hundred and eleven flavors of popcorn?

    Want to read a book? Just decide if you want it in hardcover, paperback, or digital format, and if digital, which device, which app, which font size and which background. It’s that simple. Within a few hours, you’ll be happily reading.

    Need a new television set? No problem, I can recommend an excellent six-week course on which factors and features to consider. The only problem is that almost all of them will be obsolete by the time you complete the course.

    What happened to the old television learning curve when the most complex factors had to do with rabbit ear positioning?

    Technology has inundated us with great tools and given us access to heaps of information. But it’s also burying us under an avalanche of options.

    For certain products, I can take the easy way out. My friend Isaac is one of those rare people who loves doing the research. If I need a new camera, I just call him. But even then, it’s a challenge to get a simple answer without being confronted with a list of possible features.

    Isaac:  One key factor is the number of megapixels.

    Me:  Just tell me which camera to buy.

    Isaac:  Is battery life or video quality more critical?

    Me:  Stop. Which one?

    Isaac:  I tend to focus on white balance, iso and lens brightness.

    Me:  I’ll give you ten grand if you just hand me a camera and never mention white balance again.

    Of course, picking a camera is easy compared to choosing a way to share your photos. My parents always complain that I never let them see photos of their grandchildren. Believe me, I want to. I just can’t decide how.

    I hate these choices and I hate doing the research. I’m not even sure how I became an early adopter in the first place. This isn’t me. In other parts of my life I never consider the options and I never change. I’ve poured the same salad dressing and wiped my counter with the same paper towels for more than twenty years.

    When it comes to technology, I’m lucky if I can be satisfied with the same tool for twenty minutes.

    Maybe what I really need to do is come up with a perfect app that enables people to quickly make decisions about all of their other apps. I should write that idea down somewhere.

    Anyone have a pencil?

    Related Confessions:

    1. Why I Stopped Shooting Televisions
    2. I Can’t Keep It In My Pants
    3. What Happens in Facebook…

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-03-31

  • The fallacy of mood affiliation

    Shared by DanielDeboer

    This is very much true of eschatology.

    Recently I wrote:

    It seems to me that people are first choosing a mood or attitude, and then finding the disparate views which match to that mood and, to themselves, justifying those views by the mood.  I call this the “fallacy of mood affiliation,” and it is one of the most underreported fallacies in human reasoning.  (In the context of economic growth debates, the underlying mood is often “optimism” or “pessimism” per se and then a bunch of ought-to-be-independent views fall out from the chosen mood.)

    Here are some further examples:

    1. People who strongly desire to refute those who predicted the world would run out of innovations in 1899 and thus who associate proponents of a growth slowdown with that far more extreme view.  There’s simply an urgent feeling that any “pessimistic” view needs to be countered.

    2. People who see a lot of net environmental progress (air and water are cleaner, for instance) and thus dismiss or downgrade well-grounded accounts of particular environmental problems.  There’s simply an urgent feeling that any “pessimistic” view needs to be countered.

    3. People who see a political war against the interests of the poor and thus who are reluctant to present or digest analyses which blame some of the problems of the poor on…the poor themselves. (Try bringing up “predatory borrowing” in any discussion of “predatory lending” and see what happens.)   There’s simply an urgent feeling that any negative or pessimistic or undeserving view of the poor needs to be countered.

    4. People who see raising or lowering the relative status of Republicans (or some other group) as the main purpose of analysis, and thus who judge the dispassionate analysis of others, or for that matter the partisan analysis of others, by this standard.  There’s simply an urgent feeling that any positive or optimistic or deserving view of the Republicans needs to be countered.

    In the blogosphere, the fallacy of mood affiliation is common.

  • 03.31.2011
    Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic

    Copy this into your blog, MySpace, etc.

    <a href=""><img alt="Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic" src="" border=0></a><br />Cyanide & Happiness @ <a href=""></a>

    …or into a forum

    Cyanide & Happiness @ [URL=""][/URL]


Choosing Your Views To Fit Your Biases

Tyler Cowen makes a good point about bias:

People who believe that ethics is objective and intuitive are often quite keen to make a lot of detailed pronouncements about the content of those ethics. The agnostics tend to be relativists or subjectivists. It seems to me that people are first choosing a mood or attitude, and then finding the disparate views which match to that mood and, to themselves, justifying those views by the mood. I call this the “fallacy of mood affiliation,” and it is one of the most underreported fallacies in human reasoning. (In the context of economic growth debates, the underlying mood is often “optimism” or “pessimism” per se and then a bunch of ought-to-be-independent views fall out from the chosen mood.)

I think this is fairly robust. But not just in economics or picking what you think is common sense, but also in things like Calvinism vs Arminianism, choosing between different types of eschatological viewpoints, adult or infant baptism, etc.

I wonder how often we choose our views based on our existing biases. Am I the type of person who is inclined to believe in free will? Excellent, Arminian I am. Am I the sort of person who likes an ordered universe with no loose ends? Calvinist all the way.

Mind you, I’m not saying that no-one comes by their views honestly. That very well may happen. What I’m saying is this: No one thinks they arrived at their views dishonestly, because everyone has this inherent mental bias that prevents them from seeing their own motivations.

After all, no one operates under the assumption that they’re wrong. Even if they say they do. They don’t. And no-one operates under the assumption that they stumbled lazily into their philosophy.

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-03-31

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-03-30

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-03-29

  • Whatever



    Tomorrow night, I’ll choose one more mug winner from those who have added images to the Your Chickens Flickr group. To enter, take a photo of any of the book activities in use, or create your own version of this cartoon. Then submit your work to the Flickr group. It’s that easy!

  • March 29, 2011

    Slightly scared of putting myself in a comic, but hopefully it was worth it for the last panel.

    Also, I’ve gotten a few complaints about noisy ads. If you hear one, please do the following: get a screencap, the source code, and the URL to which it links. Send me this info, and I’ll fix it. Sorry about the problem – all my ad companies are told not to do this, but now and then one manages to slip through the cracks.

Perhaps To Die

Hetan sits astride his horse. Herds of durkhan span the horizon, many small knots of the animals, knots that will form into a massive migration as cooler seasons arrive.

He is the tallest of his tribe, his horse the tallest of its tribe. Three heads or so above all the others, he is the eyes of the hunt. When they approach the durkhan, he spots the vulnerable, the young, the outliers. His word is law to the others. To disobey is death, if not by a foaming durkhan, then later, by the tribe.

They are riding upwind, a leisurely approach to the herds, designed to spook as few animals as possible. Each has a bone knife and a hunting spear. The older among the hunt wear hard leather overcoats, made to deflect a durkhan tusk or a wayward spear.

Hetan alone wears a metal sword. A gift. It will not be useful in the hunt, at least not often, but he never rides without it. He has named it Caution, for many reasons, but mainly because a great weapon deserves a sublime name.

They move slowly, deliberately through the tall plain grasses, the horses picking their way around scrub brush. This is the calm that comes before.

There is something odd about this calm, though, something unnatural. The herds should be sensing something, should be massing together to protect the young. Instead the herds are simply grazing, heads down, tails flicking back and forth.

Then Hetan sees it. A man, perhaps. Walking in the midst of the durkhan. Simply walking.

Hetan holds up a hand and the hunt stops. “I see,” he says, his voice low, “something.”
“Something?” one of his hunters repeats.
“A man by appearance,” Hetan says. “Walking through the herds.”
“Then no man by nature,” says Yemid, one of the oldest among them. “The herds would panic.”
Hetan nods. “Yet…” his voice trails off. “I know this man, whatever he is.”
“I do not know. But I will ride to meet him.”
“You are our eyes,” Yemid says. He will not tell Hetan what to do, but he will remind him of his place.
“Nevertheless,” Hetan says.

He breaks from the hunt and rides, alone, toward the figure, towards the herds. He is as naked as a hunter can be, stripped of his companions, vulnerable on the plain. Hetan can see the man now, dark-skinned, tall, and dressed in chain mail. Of all the useless things to be wearing on the plains. Chain mail. Hetan snorts involuntarily. Foolish. But the herds do not hear him. The man, however does.

“I was clothed in these when I died,” he says. And though he is still far away, his words are clear, as if he is riding right beside Hetan. “It amuses me to wear them, sometimes.”
“You have the Tongue,” Hetan says.
“Yes, and the Ears, as it turns out,” says the man. “And you have the Eyes.”
“It was a gift.”
“Yes,” the man says, standing still, facing the rider, still some distance away. “I gave it to you.”
“Then you are…”
“Again. Yes. Demeg Amalen, as your fathers might say. Tip of the Spear. Or Chaelder, in the language of the Frelish. The Helm. And quite a few more, some even I dare not speak.”

Hetan is approaching the man, and realises what he already knew. This is not a man. Not of any kind he has ever met. This is a god. For his tribe, for his nation, this is the god. Amelen, the Spear. God of war.

He dismounts, drops the reins. Kneels at the feet of his god. Who kicks him in the head.

“That’s not really needed,” Amalen says. “Stand up. I have a message.”

Hetan rubs his head. No blood. Good. But still, undignified.

“I’m not much for all the pleasantries of godhood,” Amalen says. “I’ve come to tell you something.”
“To tell me something?” Hetan knows this will be considered a great honor, but with a sore head and a distinct sense of his lack of dignity, he is more annoyed than anything.
“Yes. These herds. Get away from them as quickly as possible.”
Hetan shakes his head. “The tribe must eat.”
Amalen rolls his eyes. “Stubborn. Great. Eat something else. Something small, something that won’t be noticed, something very, very far away from here.”
“And why must we starve?” Hetan asks, indignant now. “What great sin have we done that we are cast out of our lands?”
“Listen to me, barbarian. You have spilled much blood in my name, supposedly for me, and I’m here to answer the prayers you have yet to pray. The prayers that you assuredly will pray if you stay in this place. That herd you are going to prey on? It is no herd. It has never been. Every year this herd disappears, did you ever notice that? Did you follow its tracks to see them diminish until they were nothing but a pair of human footprint?”
“In the winter months we eat from the salted stores or set traps,” Hetan says. “There is no need to follow the herd. It would be a senseless slaughter.”
“And he knows that. Oh yes, he’s willing to sacrifice a bit of himself, those young or deformed, anything you can catch. He know you won’t kill all of him, he know you are almost alone among the people of the world who won’t kill all of him, and so he comes here. Do you know why? He comes here to hide. From us. He hides from the gods!”
Hetan is confused. “He? Who is he?”
“One of the first heroes, Hetan. One of the Great Ones. A power so immense he might even seek to dethrone the gods. He is a man, but he is also the durkhan. Many lifetimes ago he found a way in, he found a way to meld himself to the herds, to become so many animals at will. The ritual… ah, that ritual scoured this plain clean. Did you know this delightful meadow was a range of mountains? He moved the mountains. Do you understand now?”
“We have been devouring the flesh of a man?” Hetan steps back, horrified.
“The flesh of man, the flesh of a beast, is it so different? No matter. We have found him now. We have found him and we are going to chain him to the heart of the mountain that still beats under this plain. And when we do that, we may indeed find a range of mountain here again.”
“I begin to understand, then,” Hetan says. “You seek to warn us.”
“You will probably die,” the god replies. “You will probably all die in this chaining. But it must be done. He must be… put down.”
“Because he challenges you?” Hetan says, beginning to think the gods are as selfish as their legends tell. “You fear the durkhan?”
“Because he challenges everything. He has been melded, his soul has been joined to the soul of an animal for many thousands of years. How sane do you think he might be? Every year his flesh bursts forth into a thousand, a hundred thousand durkhan. Incredible, mindless pain. Did he know how much agony he would see, century after century? If so, can you imagine how desperate a creature he must have been? To forge such a profane ritual. Insanity. Or if not, can you imagine how desperate he is to escape? His power grows with each year. The herds grow. Even I can feel it now, and I am not among the most… receptive of the gods. And where do you think he’ll go to escape his torment? Not to the halls of the dead, no, anywhere but there. He’ll go up. And you know what’s directly above him? Me.”
Ah, Hetan thinks. “This is about position. You chain him to the earth so that you may rest on your ass in whatever realm you call home while my people leave their lands, perhaps to die?”
“You have no idea!” Amelen roars. “No idea what will happen if a beast ascends the throne of war! Everything will be lost. Everything. He… it will lay waste to the dreams of every man. He will not lose his torment, no, not at all.” The god lifts up his chain mail, revealing a gash across his torso. It oozes blood and fluids. It looks… raw. “I have lived with the pain of this wound for every single one of what passes for days in my realm. Every single one. It’s a wonder I’m sane. Perhaps,” he says, “I’m not.”
There is a moment of silence. Hetan does not know what to say to this.
“There is no time left for choices, barbarian. No more time to take stock and make decisions. The gods are as one. We will chain them all. Every single Great One. All the champions. All the heroes. All the swords. We will chain them as far down as we can push their miserable, undying corpses, and we’ll throw away the key.”
“And then you’ll turn away,” Hetan says. It has been revealed. He knows the ending to this story. The great warleader conquers every foe and goes home to die. But gods do not die. Or perhaps they do, but first they turn away.
Amalen’s eyes widen. “You have discovered the plot, then,” he says. “Yes. We will turn away. You will be better without us. No blessings, but no curses. You will, I think, become your own gods of war. Congratulations. None of you prayed for this. But you are given it anyways. It is done. Now, leave. I will protect you on your way back to your tribe.”

With that, Demeg Amalen, the Tip of the Spear, is gone. Not so much as a rustle in his wake.

The herds still haven’t sniffed Hetan out. They can’t hear his footsteps, he realises. They don’t know what is about to happen. To them.

He looks at one grazing, picking at choice bits of green. Its tusks can tear a man open, leave him empty and dying on the plain. He looks into the durkhan’s eyes, but can’t see anything. The dull eyes of a beast.

Before long, he is riding away. Back to the tribe, to convince them to leave the plains that had once been mountains. To convince them that they would be mountains again. To convince them, and perhaps to die.

2011-03-27: Tweet Beat

  • This is cool: Everything You Know About Weight Loss is Wrong: Shared by DanielDeboer

    Interestin… #reader #

  • This is cool: Selling synthetic fabrics with sex: Shared by DanielDeboer

    Advertising was so str… #reader #

  • Working on some tools for the 3500 B-Head intake. Not sure which vehicle that is. #
  • This morning I detected radiation in my breakfast banana. I COULD DIE ANY MINUTE! #
  • RT @stuffihatetoday: BLISTER PACKAGES. If you didn't want me to open the packaging, why did you sell it to me? It's so passive-aggressive! #
  • I prefer to think of Rebecca Black's front seat/back seat conundrum as her wanting to know how to treat the old vs new testaments. #
  • Audio: A little remix I started last night. #
  • It's amazing how long a certain portion of music can be when you're working on it, and how short it can be just a day later. AUGH. #
  • Holy shit, that's the phattest bass I've EVER heard! #
  • Also, an experiment in cooking beef kidney has resulted in our entire house smelling like Jabba the Hutt's ballsack. #
  • Just got invited to an auto show in Basra, Iraq. I… don't think I'll be going. #
  • This is cool: Introverts in the Church: I’ve been doing a slow-and-steady re-read of Adam McHugh’s… #reader #
  • This is cool: In Ten Years: Shared by DanielDeboer

    It's not as impressive if you compare it to … #reader #

  • RT @stuffihatetoday: THE LAST MINUTE. "There's no time to make changes, but I want you to change some things. Specifically, everything." #
  • It's official. I'm selling tools to Research In Motion. #
  • Staples has a lot of problems processing a simple order. #
  • It feels weird to use Bittorrent to download something legally. #
  • Swearing at your computer doesn't make anything better, and it makes you look like an idiot. #
  • Building a new computer from all the latest parts does my heart good. #
  • Crap, I have to take a look at the RMFO member list. I can't even think of who to fit in half these spaces. #
  • How hard can it be to find a picture of Jeff Holland's face? It turns out… rather hard. #
  • Alright, it's up. I did my best. #
  • #
  • I think I have to add more attributes to enable me to add more people. Perhaps a spinning, 3d alignment chart? Who wants to code that? #
  • Audio: #
  • Those who can do. Those who can't teach. Those who can't do either… they litigate. #
  • Jean-Francois St-Jacques is a fantastic name. I think he will be my alter-ego. #
  • RT @sechastain Dear Microsoft. Please send a system update that uninstalls your web browser everywhere. #IEOnlyBug #FML #
  • I wish Twitter messages were integrated into the Twitter stream via a "private tweets" mechanism. #
  • I want this for my birthday: #
  • Also this: #
  • Risky Catan: This is awesome. #
  • Audio: #
  • For Android, there's an app called Better Settlers, which generates fairer board setups (distos of numbers, ports, and resources). #awesome #
  • Also want this: #
  • Someone needs to make a die that goes inside a clear plastic cube so we don't wreck Settlers' layouts whilst rolling. #
  • There's an email no-one's going to read or comment on. I don't much like my friends sometimes. #
  • I also want to take a look at Empire Builder, Power Grid, & Caylus. #birthdayboardgames #
  • #birthdayboardgames #
  • Thanks for pre-selecting Bulgarian as my language, Microsoft. That was helpful. #
  • "From a high of 16% in 4th q 07 to just $9,000 in the 4th q 2010. Going down at a rate of 34W per day. Down to 18 acres by the end of 2011." #
  • 20 million download? Way to go #Firefox Also, the Mozilla website it one of the best I've seen. #
  • Douglas Wilson praising a book by Sarah Palin. OWE DEER LOWERED. #
  • "But for now, let me just say that Palin is a wise woman and a real Christian." Bizarro Wilson is throwing me for a loop. #
  • Going home. #
  • 16gb of ram, 64 bit. Let's see this thing run out of resources. Also it has more ram than any our servers. Which is kind of sad actually. #
  • Photo: #
  • I don't understand why everyone's suddenly obsessed with brackets. Curly braces are better. #
  • Obama is like a bucket of ice cream. The first few spoons are good, but the whole package doesn't sit well. #
  • #
  • If you say "intelligent solutions" you've said NOTHING. No-one offers "retarded problems", after all. #
  • Just finished playing Dominion with Laura. We seriously need some friends to play games with. #
  • Why is Google reader giving me so many Roman Catholic suggestions? #
  • Photo: #

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-03-27

  • BMX race start fail –
  • Beware the estate of James Joyce

    Shared by DanielDeboer

    I really hate all these litigious estates. This is one of the reasons that after an artists has died (or at least a reasonable length of time after he or she has died) the works should enter the public domain. This way a scientific homage (the highest form of honour afaic) won’t be targeted by the pampered descendants, none of who has an artistic bone in their body or produces anything of worth.

    J. Craig Venter and his fellow scientists managed to replace the genetic code of a bacterium with a synthetic code they made on a computer. Which is how they got sued by the estate of James Joyce.

    In order to distinguish their synthetic DNA from that naturally present in the bacterium, Venter’s team coded several famous quotes into their DNA, including one from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”

    After announcing their work, Venter explained, his team received a cease and desist letter from Joyce’s estate, saying that he’d used the Irish writer’s work without permission. ”We thought it fell under fair use,” said Venter.

    That is from Jessica Crispin.

  • March 26, 2011

    Kapow! Since I haven’t reminded everyone in a while, don’t forget you can navigate the comics using z, x, and c. Also, there’s a SECRET CODE.