Friday, November 21, 2008

See the world with Google Street View!

I always wondered what Australia looks like!
And now I know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Speculation on what a modern depression would look like

I hesitate to link to this article due to evil popups from (to DirectBuy of all things [shudder]), and also because I don't think there's a lot of value in worrying about how awful things could get, but I thought this speculation was interesting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More thoughts on the article about genius. It's so mind-blowing to think that gaining world-class skills in something is not only attainable for people, but even predictable. 4,000 hours works out to about 2 years of 40-hour weeks, and 10,000 hours works out to 5 years.

Of course, that assumes you can tolerate it for that long. I like to say that there are four important, independent considerations in picking a career:

  1. how much you like it,
  2. how quickly you can learn it,
  3. how long you can do it without getting sick of it, and
  4. whether you can make a living at it.

I found that I really liked musical conducting, and I could learn it quickly, but in the long run, couldn't do it for more than about an hour a month without getting burned out. And even though I don't like computers as much as some other things, I can do it all week long (although I still have to watch out for burnout).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quantum of Solace review (no spoilers)

So, I have movie hookups, and got to see the new James Bond flick tonight. Somebody was taking feedback after the movie, and I forgot to mention my strongest reaction to the movie:

I really hate seeing torture and extraordinary rendition in modern films: I think filmmakers forget how much life imitates art. And more fundamentally, they're subtly changing how we see it without admitting it:

"I hate to disappoint you," said Joel Surnow, an executive producer, "but we don't work that way. We construct our stories based on what's happening to the characters in a particular episode, and how they respond to the demands of their own personal challenges."

At worst, having action heroes endorse it is a deliberate attempt to manipulate our perceptions, and at best they just don't appreciate how much influence they have. Either way, I hope they'll think hard about the influence they have and whether they're improving the world with it.

Actually, no, I wish they'd stay out of it entirely. Action movies, particularly Bond flicks, are about heroic yet unrealistic adventures. Stuff blows up! People "die", but not really. Lately filmmakers realized that the choreography of it is what we like the most, and so we get films with lots of rockin' fight scenes and virtually no depiction of realistic suffering. I personally love that.

So I don't think action movies are a good medium to express the subtle, life-shattering horrors that actual cruelty inflicts. As a society, we need to make hard decisions about actual cruelty, and avoid the temptation to use movies and TV as a mental model for it.

Okay, enough of that rant. The movie is actually pretty good.

I like the new, grittier bond. I hate the shaky-cam at the beginning, but fortunately they ditch that quickly. They struck a good balance between keeping a complex grand scheme moving without losing those who can't keep track of the details.

There's also an over-the-top bad guy who's anviliciously evil (more than one, actually). I guess that's standard for Bond, but I found these obnoxious and tiresome.

So, worth the time to watch, decent action flick. Not earth shatteringly amazing, but one of the better Bond movies.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Freeing the airwaves one wave at a time

The FCC vote passed! Hooray for Free The Airwaves.