Updates from December, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Hober Short 2:42 am on 30 December 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Dad, the short story I mentioned the other day about time travel making the timeline as editable as a Wikipedia article is posted over here.

    International Association of Time Travelers: Members’ Forum – Subforum: Europe – Twentieth Century – Second World War
    Page 263

    At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
    Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl’s cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

    At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
    Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

    Everyone should read it.

  • Hober Short 12:16 am on 30 December 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    We just opened comments on the posts from this last week and they’ll be open by default on any further posts.

    So, for everyone reading out there, I pose the question that’s been the writing prompt above our post box here on Long Trance: Is your hovercraft full of eels?

    • Ruth 10:21 am on 30 December 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I vill not buy this record, it is scratched.

  • Hober Short 1:00 am on 23 December 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Mandy listens to a lot of Top 40 radio, because she likes the particular brand of “dance-able” music that tends to come on. You know the type. Being more of a classic rock to metal guy myself, it’s interesting to keep my ear on what is officially “popular”. Most of the time I end up being pretty neutral about the music: some of it is good, some of it isn’t.

    Every once in a while, though, a new song will come on and actually grab me. Almost invariably the songs I perk up at are guitar-based rock, with a notable exception of the occasional synthpop single. A few of these bands are fronted by guys, but most are fronted by girls. This seeming preference even goes so far as to include a few bands that I’d typically think were a little too “hard rock” for the Britney Spears, T-Pain crowd.

    Last week, this happened again when I was grabbed by Orianthi’s “According to You“. At first it seemed like another solid girl-and-guitar pop-rock song. But the song kept going and it kept getting… old school: squealing, bent-string notes all over and hammer-ons and pull-offs galore. Only then did the guitar solo actually hit, opening with a very familiar rock lick (around 2:12 in the video).

    It bugged me for a while until today, I finally sat down and figured out where I knew it from. With the help of YouTube, I realized that it’s just a little 5-note snap from the beginning of the guitar solo on “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (at 2:50 in that video). Not enough of the song to be a ripoff or a derivative, but just enough for the guitarist (who is, as it turns out, the titular Orianthi and frontwoman of the band) to say “Yeah, this is playing on Top 40, but I have serious rock credibility.”

    Just enough to make classic rock fans and metalheads alike stop and say “Hmmm.”

  • Pat 2:47 pm on 22 December 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Within a short period of time, the size of the team more than doubled, from 18 to about 35.

    What is this, the New Math? That is less that doubled. Two times 18 equals 36.

    Your point about adding manpower is certainly valid, but it seems to me that the project was already doomed long before that point. In addition to not having read Brooks, George Broussard also seems to be ignorant of Voltaire’s maxim: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” See also Last Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison (projected publication date: never).

  • Hober Short 12:02 pm on 22 December 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    We gamers are still reeling from Duke Nukem Forever being cancelled back in May of this year. When something is in development for as long as you can remember, it’s hard to let it go. But Wired has picked up the pieces and put together the story of the project, which essentially seems to amount to the unwillingness on the part of George Broussard, DNF‘s lead producer/designer, to ship with anything but the newest technology.

    But the most glaring fail should have been obvious:

    To mount a final push to get Duke Nukem Forever out the door, Broussard went on a hiring spree. “Need more help. Must go faster. Scotty, we need more powah!” Broussard wrote in a discussion-board posting advertising the new design jobs. Within a short period of time, the size of the team more than doubled, from 18 to about 35.

    Fred Brooks figured out that didn’t work in 1975:

    Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

    Actually, it seems like Broussard could have used a copy of Brooks’ book.

  • Pat 12:04 am on 18 December 2009 Permalink  

    The SurfaceScapes team at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University have been developing a user interface for playing D&D on Microsoft Surface. Even though the technology is still a work in progress, the results are amazing. Check out this demo.

  • Hober Short 12:22 pm on 17 December 2009 Permalink  

    At the recent JMP 2009 Discovery & Innovators Summit, Malcolm Gladwell gave a talk that was based on the concepts of traditional problems versus modern problems. Traditional problems are all about finding information that is being hidden, like Watergate. Modern problems are all about sifting through data for the key valuable information that is in plain sight, like Enron (apparently, careful reading of their 3 million page SEC filings tells the whole story).

    In modern problems, the core of the problem isn’t too little information, it’s a low signal-to-noise ratio. In modern problems, more raw information is not always better.

    This all brings us to Wake County Public Schools, who are trying to fix what seems like a traditional problem: parents knowing what grades their kids are getting. The current solution is to send home interim reports every 2-4 weeks with a listing of the student’s current grade and their grade on each and every assignment so far. These are required to be signed by parents and returned in a day or two.

    The new solution is to have what amount to digital copies of those interim reports online, viewable only by the teacher, the student, and the parent. Ok, neat. But it really seems to me that any parent who wants to know how their student is doing is already more than capable of finding out. The problem isn’t that parents can’t get this information, through a rapport with either their kid or the kid’s teacher.

    The problem is that some parents don’t care.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 11:09 am on 11 December 2009 Permalink  

    Advance reviews of Avatar are starting to appear, and I must admit that I’m surprised to see how universally positive they are.

    That’s not meant as a criticism of James Cameron, of course: I’m a big fan. But in the post-Titanic world, Cameron-bashing is fashionable, so I wasn’t sure how this new film would be received. And frankly, I have to admit that the trailers for Avatar, while visually impressive, have done little to engage my interest; my ambivalence was only compounded by my general suspicion of 3D films.

    Still, though, I had faith in a couple of axioms:

    • Cameron is a master of filmmaking technology. If anybody can raise visual effects to a new level, he can.
    • Despite their stunning look and huge budgets, Cameron’s films are never about the visual effects. They’re about the characters.

    I’m pleased to see that, if the early reviews are to be believed, Cameron hasn’t let me down. This review seems typical:

    This is motion capture brought to a new high where every detail of the actors’ performances gets preserved in the final CG character as they appear on the screen. Yes, those eyes are no longer dead holes but big and expressive, almost dominating the wide and long alien faces.

    In other words, it appears that Cameron has solved the “uncanny valley” problem thought to be inherent in motion capture. Are we surprised?

    Even more reassuring:

    But let’s cut to the chase: A fully believable, flesh-and-blood (albeit not human flesh and blood) romance is the beating heart of “Avatar.” Cameron has never made a movie just to show off visual pyrotechnics: Every bit of technology in “Avatar” serves the greater purpose of a deeply felt love story….

    The reviews are all predicting financial success for Avatar, and at least one critic is predicting a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

    Yep, it sounds like Cameron is back.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 12:26 pm on 9 December 2009 Permalink  

    What a bunch of idiots.

  • Hober Short 11:57 am on 8 December 2009 Permalink  

    Our dear Transportation Security Administration decided to release important security policies to the internet, but redacted the really juicy bits by just putting little black boxes over the text in the PDF and not actually removing the text itself.

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