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Saturday, January 12, 2013

1MM #6: Finding Maps

[Pretty damn slick google maps trick. -egg]

1MM #6: Finding Maps:
Sometimes you want to find a business or a particular thing in the real world.  That's what Google Maps is for... go to and run your query in the Map.

But SOMETIMES you want to find a Map.... that is, a collection of things of a particular kind.  

By using site: you can search for just Maps.

Here's a quick 1MM (1-Minute-Morceau) for you to illustrate the reason why you sometimes want to search on regular Google and sometimes you want to search on 

Search on! 

Talking porcupine knows how to party: corn, champagne, unintelligible grunting

Talking porcupine knows how to party: corn, champagne, unintelligible grunting:

"I think Teddy's had a happy new year," observes his handler. More about "Teddy Bear," Zooniversity's talking porcupine, in's YouTube channel. (Thanks, Dean Putney!)

Hunter Thompson's daily routine

Hunter Thompson's daily routine:

I hope those onion rings weren't fried in transfat! From Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson, by E. Jean Carroll.

(Via World's Best Ever)

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Improbable is the New Normal

[Kevin Kelly:]
The Improbable is the New Normal:
Cops, emergency room doctors, and insurance actuarists all know it. They realize how many crazy impossible things happen all the time. A burglar gets stuck in a chimney, a truck driver in a head on collision is thrown out the front window and lands on his feet, walks away; a wild antelope knocks a man off his bike; a candle at a wedding sets the bride's hair on fire; someone fishing off a backyard dock catches a huge man-size shark. In former times these unlikely events would be private, known only as rumors, stories a friend of a friend told, easily doubted and not really believed.

But today they are on YouTube, and they fill our vision. You can see them yourself. Each of these weird freakish events just mentioned can be found on YouTube, seen by millions.

The improbable consists of more than just accidents. The internets are also brimming with improbable feats of performance -- someone who can run up a side of a building, or slide down suburban roof tops, or stack up cups faster than you can blink. Not just humans, but pets open doors, ride scooters, and paint pictures. The improbable also includes extraordinary levels of super human achievements: people doing astonishing memory tasks, or imitating all the accents of the world. In these extreme feats we see the super in humans.

Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we'll see or hear about today. The internet is like a lens which focuses the extraordinary into a beam, and that beam has become our illumination. It compresses the unlikely into a small viewable band of everyday-ness. As long as we are online - which is almost all day many days -- we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.

That light of super-ness changes us. We no longer want mere presentations, we want the best, greatest, the most extraordinary presenters alive, as in TED. We don't want to watch people playing games, we want to watch the highlights of the highlights, the most amazing moves, catches, runs, shots, and kicks, each one more remarkable and improbable than the other.

We are also exposed to the greatest range of human experience, the heaviest person, shortest midgets, longest mustache -- the entire universe of superlatives! Superlatives were once rare -- by definition -- but now we see multiple videos of superlatives all day long, and they seem normal. Humans have always treasured drawings and photos of the weird extremes of humanity (early National Geographics), but there is an intimacy about watching these extremities on video on our phones while we wait at the dentist. They are now much realer, and they fill our heads.

I see no end to this dynamic. Cameras are becoming ubiquitous, so as our collective recorded life expands, we'll accumulate thousands of videos showing people being struck by lightening. When we all wear tiny cameras all the time, then the most improbable accident, the most superlative achievement, the most extreme actions of anyone alive will be recorded and shared around the world in real time. Soon only the most extraordinary moments of our 6 billion citizens will fill our streams. So henceforth rather than be surrounded by ordinariness we'll float in extraordinariness.


It's one thing to hear a story about someone getting struck by lightening, but it feels different seeing a video of it. I have a hunch that seeing "facts" on video makes them seem realer to us than either reading, hearing, or seeing stills about them. And then there are always more than one. That's the thing, you can start with the most unlikely event or achievement, and then watch a series of this unlikeliness for hours. Over time this extremism accumulates. When the improbable dominates the archive to the point that it seems as if the library contains ONLY the impossible, then these improbabilities don't feel as improbable.

I think there is already evidence that this ocean of extraordinariness is inspiring, galvanizing, prompting, daring ordinary folks to try something extraordinary. At the same time, superlative epic failures are foremost as well. We are confronted by the stupidest people in the world as well, doing the dumbest things imaginable. So we see the extremes. In some respects this is making us a world of Ripley-Believe-it-or-Not-ers, or it may place us in a universe of nothing more than tiny, petty, obscure Guinness World Record holders. Everyone is a world record something for 15 minutes. In every life there is probably at least one moment that is freakish.

To the uninformed, the increased prevalence of improbable events will make it easier to believe in impossible things. A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences, right? But to the informed, a slew of improbably events make it clear that the unlikely sequence, the outlier, the black swan event, must be part of the story. After all, in 100 flips of the penny you are just as likely to get 100 heads in a row as any other sequence. But in both cases, when improbable events dominate our view -- when we see an internet river streaming nothing but 100 heads in a row -- it makes the improbable more intimate, nearer.

I am unsure of what this intimacy with the improbable does to us. What happens if we spend all day exposed to the extremes of life, to a steady stream of the most improbable events, and try to run ordinary lives in a background hum of superlatives? What happens when the extraordinary becomes ordinary?

The good news may be that it cultivates in us an expanded sense of what is possible for humans, and for human life, and so expand us. The bad news may be that this insatiable appetite for supe-superlatives leads to dissatisfaction with anything ordinary.

I don't know, but if anyone is aware of research on this effect, I'd like to know about it.

Clay Shirky argues that the least creative act is making a LOL-cat, but that even making a LOL-cat is better than making nothing, and so the internet of LOL_cats is a net good compared to say a world of make-nothing consumption. One could make a similar argument that the least distinctive human achievement is a bad accident captured on YouTube, but that moment of uniqueness is better than no uniqueness at all, and so a world of YouTube extremities, improbabilities and superlatives is a net good.

Extreme Weather Grows in Frequency and Intensity Around World -

[Dear climate change denialists: how's that working out for you? Nice job preventing action on carbon emissions. -egg]

U.S. Flu Deaths Reach Epidemic Levels, but May Be Peaking -

Building a Better Democracy by Putting an End to Gerrymandering : The New Yorker

Thursday, January 10, 2013

#900; In which the Wind gives me Points

#900; In which the Wind gives me Points:
george still thinks ''football'' is a type of shoe
Apparently fantasy weather games have actually been done before?

Tapeworm Logic

Tapeworm Logic:
What use is a human being — to a tapeworm?

A mature tapeworm has a very simple lifestyle. It lives in the gut of a host animal, anchoring itself to the wall of the intestine with its scolex (or head), from which trails a long string of segments (proglottids) that contain reproductive structures. The tapeworm absorbs nutrients through its skin and gradually extrudes more proglottids, from the head down; as they reach the end of the tape they mature into a sac of fertilized eggs and break off.
The adult tapeworm has no knowledge of what happens to its egg sacs after they detach; nor does it know where it came from. It simply finds itself attached to a warm, pulsing wall, surrounded by a rich nutrient flow. Its experience of the human being is limited to this: that the human surrounds it and provides it with a constant stream of nutrients and energy. A hypothetical intelligent tapeworm might well consider itself blessed to have such a warm and comforting environment, that gives it all the food it needs and takes away anything that it excretes. And if it were of a philosophical bent, it might speculate: what is the extent of my environment? Is it infinite, or are there physical limits to it? And, eventually, are there other tapeworms out there? And finally, the brilliant polymath-level Enrico Fermi of tapeworms might ask, if there are other tapeworms, why aren't they here?

Our tapeworm-philosopher gets its teeth into the subject. Given that the human is so clearly designed to be hospitable to tapeworm-kind, then it follows that if there are more humans, other humans out there beyond the anus, then they, too, must be hospitable to tapeworm-kind. Tapeworm-kind has become aware of itself existing in the human; it is logical to assume that if other humans exist then there must be other tapeworms, and if travel between humans is possible—and we infer that it might be, from the disappearance of our egg sacs through the anus of the human—then sooner or later humans interacting in the broader universe might exchange eggs from these hypothetical alien tapeworms, in which case, visitors! Because the human was already here before we became self-aware, it clearly existed for a long time before us. So if there are many humans, there has been a lot of time for the alien tapeworm-visitors to reach us. So where are they?

Welcome to the Fermi paradox, mired in shit. Shall we itemize the errors that the tapeworm is making in its analysis?

The first and most grievous offense our tapeworm logician has committed is that of anthropocentrism (or rather, of cestodacentrism); it thinks everything revolves around tapeworms. In reality, the human is unaware of the existence of the tapeworm. This would be a good thing, from the worm's point of view, if it had any grasp of the broader context of its existence: it ought by rights to be doing the wormy equivalent of hiding under the bed covers, gibbering in fear.

It has inferred the existence of other humans, but it doesn't know about cooking, or the other arcane processes by which food makes its way into the gut for the tapeworm to absorb. Or about the sanitary facilities that kill tapeworm eggs before they get to another, intermediate host. There are vast, ancient, alien intellects in the macrocosm beyond the well-known human, and they are unsympathetic to tapeworms. Intrepid tapeworm cosmonauts seeking to make their way beyond the anus and across the universe to colonize other humans are in for a rough ride indeed, for they are intimately evolved to thrive in one particular environment, and that environment (the mammalian gut) is sparsely distributed throughout the universe. Much of the cosmos is inherently hostile to tapeworms. This is why tapeworms have not, in fact, colonized the universe and converted all available biomass into a constantly spawning Gordian knot of Platyhelminthic life, contra the prognostications of some teleologically-inclined tapeworm-philosophers of yore.

The human does not owe the tapeworm a living, or even a comfortable home. The tapeworm's existence is contingent on it not damaging its human, resulting in an undesirable human/tapeworm interaction with fatal consequences for the tapeworm. Some of the tapeworm's descendants might be able to find another new human to claim as their home, but the same constraints will apply. Only if the tapeworm transcends its tapewormanity and grows legs, lungs, and other organs that essentially turn it into something other than a tapeworm will it be able to make itself at home outside the human.

(Note: I picked tapeworms, rather than the bacterial gut fauna, because nobody much cares what happens to an E. coli. Tapeworms, on the other hand, are multicellular eukaryotic organisms with differentiates tissues, have nervous systems and genitalia, and are probably much closer to us—practically kissing-cousins to our form of vertebrate life—than anything we might discover on other planets. Perhaps the biggest weakness in this metaphor is its reliance on humans. While we may attribute intentionality to many natural phenomena—the supernatural stance—those of us tapeworms who are hard-headed materialists must surely concede that the human Earth is not a sentient being, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fiction aside. On the other hand, if you want to traffic with the ghost-infested depths of the simulation hypothesis, then anything is possible. Even tapeworm-cosmonauts flying out of my arse ...)

Remix: "Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered"

Remix: "Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered":
The 2012 pop hit "Call Me Maybe," layered 147 times in its acapella form by Dan Deacon. It's a much more interesting song as a blast of free-form noise. (HT Sam Humphries)

Programming in the 21st Century

[This is a programming blog I really enjoyed this year. Here's his blog post linking to popular and favorite posts from 2012. -Egg]

Popular articles from 2012
A Programming Idiom You've Never Heard Of

Recovering From a Computer Science Education

Don't Fall in Love With Your Technology

A Complete Understanding is No Longer Possible

Solving the Wrong Problem

This is Why You Spent All that Time Learning to Program

We Who Value Simplicity Have Built Incomprehensible Machines

The Pace of Technology is Slower than You Think

Your Coding Philosophies are Irrelevant

Things to Optimize Besides Speed and Memory

Hopefully More Controversial Programming Opinions

Do You Really Want to be Doing This When You're 50?

OOP Isn't a Fundamental Particle of Computing

Others from 2012 that I personally like

Turning Your Code Inside Out

The Most Important Decisions are Non-Technical

You, Too, Can Be on the Cutting Edge of Functional Programming Research

The Silent Majority of Experts

All that Stand Between You and a Successful Project are 500 Experiments

Dangling by a Trivial Feature

(Here's last year's retrospective.)

Flu Widespread, Leading a Range of Winter’s Ills -

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why the Massive Wealth of the 1% Could Ruin the Economy - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

[Here's the third (well, second) part of this thought-provoking three-part series. -egg]

Why the Massive Wealth of the 1% Could Ruin the Economy - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

(via Instapaper)

Where Human Workers Can Still Beat Robots (at Least for Now) - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

Where Human Workers Can Still Beat Robots (at Least for Now) - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

(via Instapaper)

Where Human Workers Can Still Beat Robots (at Least for Now) - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

Where Human Workers Can Still Beat Robots (at Least for Now) - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

(via Instapaper)

Why Workers Are Losing the War Against Machines - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

[interesting stuff. -egg]

Why Workers Are Losing the War Against Machines - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee - The Atlantic

(via Instapaper)

Antivirus Makers Work on Software to Catch Malware More Effectively -

Cyber and Drone Attacks May Change Warfare More Than the Machine Gun - Atlantic Mobile

Cyber and Drone Attacks May Change Warfare More Than the Machine Gun - Atlantic Mobile

(via Instapaper)

Change or Die | Fast Company

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"London-based Zaha Hadid, widely regarded as one of the leading lights in the constellation of..."

[The future is not going to get less weird any time soon. -egg]

"London-based Zaha Hadid, widely regarded as one of the leading lights in the constellation of...": “
London-based Zaha Hadid, widely regarded as one of the leading lights in the constellation of avant-garde architecture, has likewise become a superstar in China, where her latest designs radiate out through architecture schools and studios across the country. On a recent trip to Beijing, 15,000 artists, architects and other fans swarmed to a talk she gave for the opening of the futuristic Galaxy SOHO complex — just one of 11 projects she is designing across the country.

But the appeal of the Prtizker Prize winner’s experimental architecture, especially since the unveiling of her glowing, crystalline Guangzhou Opera House two years ago, has expanded so explosively that a contingent of pirate architects and construction teams in southern China is now building a carbon copy of one of Hadid’s Beijing projects.

What’s worse, Hadid said in an interview, she is now being forced to race these pirates to complete her original project first.

- Pirated Copy of Design by Star Architect Hadid Being Built in China - SPIEGEL ONLINE