Friday, August 22, 2008

On Hiatus

'Mosquito' morphs into adult-proof ringtones

The street finds its own uses for things.

A sonic device originally intended to repel teenagers is now being used to create kid-only ring tones.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

If You Only Knew The Power

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Archaeopteryx: Videos From The Ruby Hoedown

I'm not a negative person, so I prefer to think of the Ruby Hoedown as a Ruby Pimpup, but whether you see the hoe as half down or the pimp as half up, I had a great time, thanks to the excellent hospitality of both Jeremy McAnally and Rick Bradley of Og Consulting.

Shay Arnett and Coby Randquist of Confreaks - and the LA Ruby user group, which meets tomorrow night - also made my day: Shay did a lightning talk demonstrating how to set up Archaeopteryx without spending $500 or more on prosumer music software, and Coby (along with Confreaks cohort Carl Youngblood) both recorded it and made it linkable in and of itself, not just as part of a big lump of lightning talks.

Shay uses Archaeopteryx with GarageBand, which is fucking awesome, because it means anybody with a Mac can generate music with Archaeopteryx. Evan Light also recorded an awesome screencast showing the same approach, very nearly at the same time.

Here's my presentation on Archaeopteryx; here's Shay's followup; here's Evan's screencast. Thanks to Shay, Coby, and Evan, it's really easy for any Mac dev who's curious about Archaeopteryx to start playing with it.

Another great part was the flip-flop with built-in bottleopener.

Photo © 2008 Obie Fernandez

Storing Procs In A Database

I started recently at ENTP.

The [hiring] decision was only reinforced when Giles sent me an email from a break between conference talks: “Why don’t you consider storing Ruby procs in the database?”.

In case anyone's wondering how you would accomplish this, it's actually easy, for certain procs. Somebody busted me once when I said it was totally easy - I think it was Ryan Davis - but I recovered from the bustedness because you kind of have to write the proc referring to variables outside the proc for it to be a real problem. So although there's a caveat it's a pretty avoidable caveat.

The method: You just store the procs as strings and eval the strings when retrieving them from the DB. I actually tested this in Rails for no very good reason once, and people have solved challenging problems in Lisp using a similar method.

Best Thing On Whole Internet

(found on twitter)

Idea: GPS-Enabled Accident Prevention

This idea - both the problem and the solution - literally just came to me in a dream.

You hook up a car with a computer, a GPS, always-on Internet, and a touchscreen. You have a database of dangerous spots - areas where accidents are more statistically likely. In such areas, your car alerts you. So you have the equivalent of the normal warning signs you see when driving, except these are linked to real information about what can kill you, instead of the preferred behavior lawmakers, locals, and law enforcement want from you.

Sometimes that behavior is completely abritrary and meaningless; sometimes they want you to drive slow when you'd get away with driving fast. Frequently people assume those signs are only for bad drivers, and exempt themselves from the category (inaccurately). Consequently lots of people disregard warning signs on the roads as noise. However, if you're entering an area where lethal crashes are in reality much more frequent than average, this is news you can use. Especially since there are also plenty of areas with inadequate or inaccurate signage due to incompetent local governments.

Reality-based context-sensitive in-car signage solves this problem. For version 2.0, you wire the computer into your car's built-in computer, obtain MPH, MPG, all available data, and upload it - along with times and places of any accidents you have. You can then run all kinds of sophisticated statistical analyses on the data to obtain much more accurate crash prediction and correspondingly much more useful warnings.

Probably all road data will operate this way in the distant, shiny, jetpack-filled future, with physical road and parking signs becoming a thing of the past, but it's pretty cool to be able to do it here and now in real life. The only missing piece is the database; everything else on the list is already possible. Damien Stolarz made consumer in-car computers with touchscreens a commodity, monitoring your car's internals in real-time is trivial in most cases, always-on Internet is solved for major metropolitian areas, and you can buy a USB GPS unit for less than $100.

Basically, in the same way that Wikipedia matches Encyclopedia Brittanica in quality but beats it in cost, timeliness, and range of subjects, leveraging cheap commodity hardware, open-source software, and the magic third ingredient - self-organizing groups of people - allows us to provide a digital alternative to road signs which is more accurate, more relevant, more up-to-date, and less polluted with beauraucratic foolishness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Archaeopteryx: Variable Tempo

This is the hack; when I get back from Burning Man I'll fix the code and get rid of the global variable.

Where To Find Me At Burning Man

I'll be at Burning Man next week. I'm camping with Entheon Village, located at 3:30 and Allanté. (Which will, incidentally, have an awesome speaker schedule. In the past their lecture series has included Sasha Shulgin.)

Archaeopteryx will be generating ambient music continually in the Unity space of the Pantheogenesis Temple inside Entheon Village, and additionally I'm going to use it for a (laptop DJ / live AI drumming) set in the Temple's music yurt on Friday night.

Is Pole Dancing An Art?

The argument for:

The argument against:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lightbulb Joke: Java

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why I Work From Home

Anecdotal evidence, neurological research, and practical experiments measuring lines of code produced, and bugs per line, all very strongly indicate that cubicles hurt your productivity and even your intelligence.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

John Medina's Brain Rules: Dude, Get A Clue

This book is brilliant.

But page 214 says something crazy:

There is no question that multiple cues, dished up via different senses, enhance learning. They speed up responses, increase accuracy, improve stimulation detection, and enrich encoding at the moment of learning. Yet we still aren't harnessing these benefits on a regular basis in our classrooms and boardrooms.

Here's the ranting, direct from Twitter:

john medina's book is lots of brilliant mixed up with tons of scientist being obtuse. he says multimedia makes strongest memory impact.

then he goes on like "blah blah blah school should teach lessons using multimedia." what a stupid fucking thing to say.

if he was living in reality rather than his own head he'd say "and this is why people remember movies and music better than school."

or even "and this is why the people who deliver their messages via multimedia become stars."

this fucking idiot really thinks art has no purpose, and the artist's use of multimedia trumping school's use of repetition is COINCIDENCE.

artists use multimedia because of this memory effect. because art is more important than the bullshit they feed you in school. DUH.

John Medina isn't really an idiot - I was just pissed off. But he's definitely perpetrating a classic, geeky mistake here, so dumb and literal it boggles the mind. It's absurd to say that nobody out there is leveraging the powerful effect that multisensory experiences have on memory. I can show you a counterexample:

Yes? This is obvious? Two senses, vision and sound. At a concert, the sweat and smoke makes it three, adding odor - the strongest sense when it comes to memory, according to the research Medina covers in his book.

It is also obvious, I hope, that if an entertainer gets you to remember their song, they make money? Have you noticed how many bad 80s songs you have on your iPod? Are they there purely for their musical content, or is there a nostalgia thing going on?

Medina's brilliant, and there's nothing to prevent you from applying his ideas in the classroom or the boardroom. My presentation style is based on his ideas, and I have to tell you, it works a charm, although people say my presentations aren't presentations at all, but performances.

But, speaking as an artist and a programmer, the compartmentalizing people do frequently amazes me. I see this kind of madness all the time. I'm going to talk about the powerful effect multisensory experience has on memory and specifically emphasize that smell trumps all other senses. Then I'm going to ask, "how can we use this?" as if nobody was already using it.

You'd think noticing the obvious was difficult.

Honestly, what does this nimrod think we're going to do?

From the bottom of this same demented page, #214:

We saw that touch and smell are capable of making powerful contributions to the learning process. What if we began to think seriously about how to adopt them into the classroom, perhaps in combination with more traditional learning presentations? Would we capture their boosting effects, too?


1) Artists do not exist.

2) The world needs scratch-and-sniff history textbooks.

I don't think so!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lightbulb Joke: Lisp

French Singer Disses French Rapper

Cuizinier is a French rapper who the French singer Yelle doesn't like. This song was originally called "Short Dick Cuizi."

The video:

The translation:

Cuizinier, with your little sex surrounded by red curls
I can’t believe you can think that you are wanted
I can’t understand it even in the dark,
even if you keep your PJs tight
Even if you guard your bathrobe, tight as a tailored T-shirt
Keep your nightgown, it’ll limit the bastard acts

I want to see you
In a porno film
In action with your cock
Shape potatoes or fries
To find out
About your anatomy
About your cousin Teki
And your fetish gear

Cuizi, what is
Your favourite position?
Your Olympic performances
But you do nothing orgasmic
You are naked
Under your apron
Ready to draw your sword
But tough luck

You dream of a neon Hummer
Designed by Akroe
But you have no license
You always take the metro

Superstar for a night, your life’ll return to normal
No need for sunglasses to hide yourself
You wait for your green card
This is not lip service
I’ve managed to make you
One with my scanner
Entrance is free tonight
It’s the only way to come
Then we girls wandered
Yeah, we’re going to chippendales
We had not planned to spend a night with the jokers
We wanted to see their pecs, guys hung like bulls

Your posters of Lil’ Jon cover those of Magic Johnson
You’re too crunk to slam dunk

Cuiziner, it’s you who I want to see
Who I want to see tonight
Be ridiculed by a girl who raps better than you
I only have 10 fingers
not enough to count all of them in the room
All these hairdressers like me who know you’re only worth a hair

Friday, August 8, 2008

Now Available In OMGWTFBBQ Flavor


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lightbulb Joke: Zed Shaw

Jet Lag Experiment: No Food

I'm headed to the East Coast later today, and experimenting with fasting to see if it can defeat jet lag. Experiments with mice suggest that it can, but details about the research are very thin on the ground.

My Google search rewarded me with hundreds of idiotic news sites which were all very obviously parroting the same press release. They all used the exact same quotes, the exact same details (if any), and the exact same background info (if any), with some obvious cut and paste going on in the sentences. With so many people out there whose jobs appear to consist solely of clicking "Copy" and then "Paste", it's no wonder blogs are killing newspapers.

Anyway, the long and the short of it appears to be don't eat for a long time, then eat on the meal schedule of your new destination. I'm skeptical. One problem is the effect appears to take 16 hours to kick in - which means that if I want to be jet-lag-free on my return Sunday morning, I'm probably going to need to skip dinner Saturday as well as breakfast and lunch today. Another snag: a few months ago I experimented with skipping lunch some days, spurred by other uncorroborated research, and discovered skipping meals makes me irritable almost to the point of random violence.

We'll see how it goes.

Update: epic fail. I lasted only until 9am (which is technically lunchtime in the time zone I'm headed to).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Craken: Manage And Install Rake-Centric Cron Jobs

Doug McInnes, who survived the experience when Hurricane Giles passed through his workplace, created an excellent plugin and finally open-sourced it.

Here’s the deal: with many web applications comes the need to do recurring tasks on the servers the application runs on. These sorts of tasks can range from running backups, clearing caches, emailing notices and other such maintenance-y things.

Who manages these tasks? Ideally the task code as well as configuration and timing should be kept with the source code of the application itself and not as part of some further set of scripts that reside in a dubious location in your source control. This is what Craken does.

The tasks are defined as rake tasks within the application. Craken itself is a rake task that sets up a crontab for defined tasks based on your current application configuration. The plugin also includes a Capistrano recipe that runs the Craken rake task on remote servers, making deployment a breeze.

Very handy, and, if I remember what Doug told me correctly, a nice practical example of code generation.

Here's the blog post; here's the repo on github.

Lightbulb Joke: Bad Ruby Programmers

Metabloggers Deluxe: Tucker Max Movie

Fair warning: I don't really have a point here. I'm thinking out loud.

Tucker Max is a male Julia Allison, basically; he got famous by polarizing people. People hate Julia Allison for loving the camera and making herself a sex object to get attention. People hate Tucker Max for the abusive way he treats women (or, more accurately, the abusive way he claims to treat women). Both these people owe a great deal to the people who hate them - in Julia Allison's case, she probably owes more to the people who hate her than to her fans.

A Hollywood scriptreader came across the script for Tucker Max's upcoming movie. The movie's listed as filming on IMDB, so that means it's really happening. The scriptreader criticizes the script, and says it's bad. Others agree. This set off an absolute deluge of comments. Many are attacks from Tucker fanboys. Many are attacks against Tucker fanboys. Many claim to come from women who love or hate Tucker. I think some of those are real, and some of them were written by Tucker fanboys.

The real story here: Tucker fanboys.

Buried way down deep in the comment sludge is a comment from a reality TV producer. From my point of view it's the only comment worth reading. I can't link to it, and I don't doubt that even more comment sludge is going to get piled on top of it, so I'm making with the cut and the paste:

DeeplyShallow on August 5th, 2008 5:18 pm

I can’t believe how much work I just avoided to read all those comments. That is a staggering amount of dedication to inertia on my part. I’ve taken away a lot. For the record, I believe the script reader of this blog is probably semi successful in her craft (and neither as ugly as her detractors have been slamming or as wonderful and talented as her boosters have been promoting). And I DO think she took a slightly moralizing, patronizing, and dismissive tone. Taking it out would have sold me more on her take on the script. Luckily, the pages are out there so I could read it independent of that tone. That said, here in the comments, it’s been a field day. But since I have read it all, I now feel qualified to comment objectively on what I’ve read from both sides.


1) The TuckerMax franchise is, in its own limited way, a successful one. Disparage it all you like for a point of view you don’t agree with and the decidely moronic clientele it plays to. But just as pro-wrestling makes its nut each week by playing to the PBR and tank top crowd, Tucker does the same by playing to the men in their late 20’s desperately trying to hold onto the good times of college. The fact that he does it in spite of his proven track record of personal mismanagement and brand self destruction (see Opie and Anthony interview) is only testament to how strong a brand it is. It lives on with an immature douche directing said franchise by throwing darts at the wall.

2) The script pages posted, if they are from the actual script, are not that great. But they’re not horrible either. They’re just average. A great actor could make them above average and bad actors could make them a filmic abortion. But they are not that much worse than most of the mediocre films currently on the market.

3) If you don’t believe point 2, see Hancock. It made 62 million its opening weekend and it’s three crap movies that someone blended together at random.

4) If all tuckermax fans who bought the book then paid to see the movie and it made 4 million in the opening weekend, then the film would eventually be profitable. Because the comedy central rebroadcast rights would be worth another half a mil. And the overseas would be worth another half. And the DVD sales would put it over the top. To say nothing of the merchandising involved. Which, no argument, would likely suck in all the ways that people have argued of the movie, but to which his devoted fans would flock nonetheless.

That said, contrary to the pontifications of the backwards baseball cap wearing masses of the Tuckerdom, this movie, all in, will be profitable. And, at the very most, an incredibly modest success. And nowhere near the definitive cinematic donkey punch they’ve spent nights in wood paneled basements dreaming of.

But profitable nonetheless.

5) Which brings us to the scary part for some of you. God forbid that even HALF of his booksales fanbase shows up, then in spite of personally mismanaging his brand by being the douche he is, Hollywood would throw money at him for something else. Why? Among all the demos that have gone down for TV viewing in the last ten years, the biggest flight has been from men 18-34. They’re all off watching youtube, or playing GTA or watching entire seasons of Family Guy back to back on DVD. If Tucker demonstrates the ability to get even 200,000 of them to show up on demand based on no more than a few blog posts, then someone will give him a cable show out of desperation. Or give him a deal to develop content. Or buy his site outright.
Why? Because execs in Hollywood are scared shitless. All the ways they’ve made money in the past are not working they way they used to - from the internet, to reality tv, to video games making more each year than movies - and they have literally no idea how to fix it. So should someone like Tucker deliver even halfway, they’ll point to them, throw money in a public way, and hope it helps them to hold on a little bit longer.

6) For the record, I also believe Tucker would screw that up. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.

So, summing up, there’s a lot of people who are using the pages of what looks to be an admittedly mediocre script to scream righteously and get some shadenfreude in for Tucker being an objectively huge douchebag.

But, being a crap movie doesn’t mean no one will see it. Because in the grand media network of the world, being a douchebag in the right circumstances with the right amount of publicity and promotion, is a MARKETABLE commodity. One that Tucker has proven before and, at a very modest level and with the questionable management of himself involved, already delivered on.

That the above statement is true isn’t a great comment on our society and what we believe in. But since I produce and sell reality TV - often truly horrible TV - I can’t say I’m in much of a position to get all righteous about it.

The Internet is making its own celebrities because people need vocabularies for things. Tucker Max represents, in a very concise way, a very specific dream of the good life, which only a particular group of people share. He's more than a word and less than an archetype. Because he can pull an audience, Hollywood gives him money.

Sometimes Hollywood responds beautifully to the Internet.

But it very often responds with unthinking fear. In fact, most geeks only see the fear, because the innovation happens less visibly. Practically everything is less visible than a $1 billion lawsuit.

I know two companies that are doing interesting work bridging the gap between Hollywood and the Web, and one company (Hulu) that went for the obvious win. I'm not sure how much I can say about these companies - one I worked for, one I am working for, indirectly, and one I talked to pretty seriously. (We even discussed a Creative Director role.)

But change is afoot, and the one thing I never would have predicted is Tucker Max. You think computers, you think shiny, high-tech, educated - you don't think finally the frat boys find their leader.

Or, more accurately, finally the ironic 20-somethings who wish they were still frat boys find their leader. There's a scene in the Tucker Max screenplay where Tucker makes fun of a frat boy for having a name like Reed, or Chance, or Logan. Weird coming from a guy named Tucker. One of the strongest examples of the ever-blurring line between irony and mediocrity.

I encountered some mediocrity when I dealt with some ironic people at a newspaper site not long ago. It's very logical to take an ironic attitude working at a newspaper web site, though, partly because the corporate overhead dooms you to mediocrity, and partly because the Web is destroying newspapers. There's no doubt about that, and we have a clear idea what will replace newspapers. With movies it's less certain. Some people think video games are destroying movies; some people think video games are becoming movies; some people see it all moving to YouTube (and some people see it all happening for free). It's less certain because the organizational overhead for making movies is so much more intense, as Clay Shirky explained a few years back:

This change in the direction of free content is strongest for the work of individual creators, because an individual can produce material on any schedule they like. It is also strongest for publication of words and images, because these are the techniques most easily mastered by individuals. As creative work in groups creates a good deal of organizational hassle and often requires a particular mix of talents, it remains to be seen how strongly the movement towards free content will be for endeavors like music or film.

The connection to music is interesting. Takuro Mizuta Lippit, aka DJ Sniff, of the Dutch electronic music instrument studio Steim, told me in San Francisco last week that in Japan it's normal for all musicians and artists to have some kind of day job. He also told me that as a musician he likes the European and American models better. But this is where many people think music is headed - Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, basically said that since the old business models have disappeared, musicians should just keep making music, but let go of the whole getting paid thing.

It's unlikely Hollywood would accept that with movies; more to the point, it's unlikely they'd ever need to even consider it. Tucker Max can draw fans with cash in hand. And Tucker Max isn't the only one - Diablo Cody went from blogger to Oscar-winner in a very short time. Even though the Web is destroying old business models, it's simultaneously creating new celebrities. New celebrities mean new brands, and new brands mean new money.

One possible future lies ahead. The Rolling Stones made $150.6 million in 2006; 92% from touring. People like the Rolling Stones don't care if you file-share their album, because that's not where they make their money anyway. Simultaneously, Broadway is turning Hollywood movies into stage properties at an epic pace. You could see a future where a movie makes a lot of money on its live theatrical tour. Hard to pull off for Terminator 3, but a no-brainer for Glengarry Glen Ross, and it's already working for Legally Blonde. Certainly, Tucker Max gives his writing away for free, made money on the movie, and could make money turning it into a standup tour if he wanted - as long as he was willing to play small venues, with every audience a sausage fest.

Paris Hilton For President

You've probably seen it, but:

The footnote: opening up offshore drilling would, according to (I think) Harper's Magazine this month, reduce oil prices in America by approximately $.04.

Like most Republican plans, the idea is to sound reasonable while producing no results and selling off public assets for private profit. Republican voters aren't bad people; they're just really bad at spotting con men. That's why their "family values" figureheads are always getting divorced or caught naked with underage boys.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mysteries Of The Supernatural

bash Shortcut For rake

alias rake?="rake -T | g? $1"

(Where g? is an alias for grep, for reasons I don't recall.)

Update: Doh! Jamie tells this functionality's already in rake.

rake -T db gets you exactly the same thing.

But Gavin Stark points out that Jamie missed a subtle difference between the two.

Linkinus > Colloquy

I'm definitely digging the OS X IRC client Linkinus more than Colloquy.

Lightbulb Joke: Perl

Monday, August 4, 2008

More Fameballs Blogging (About Blogging)**2

from Rex Sorgatz

Contains the origin of the term - it compares them to snowballs, growing as they accelerate down mountainsides, because of their self-referential nature. A kickass article, this should be three times as long.

from Emily Gould

Some interesting moments. If you read between the lines, you can see that the Julia Allison "phenomenon" is really a Gawker phenomenon, with Julia Allison being that phenom's major export. But it should really be three or four times as short.

Julia Allison podcast interview

Haven't listened yet.

Bunny Ninja

Friday, August 1, 2008

Don't Be Evil