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  • Hober Short 11:27 pm on 27 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Tales of Reddit, Saturday Edition. Someone posts a link to a picture of a guy in a room full of guns and ammo in front of an American flag, watching Glenn Beck on the TV with the title “AMMURICA”. Clearly, this is what all those people bitterly clinging to runs and religion have in their living rooms.

    Then, someone points out that Glenn Beck was photoshopped in. So, just a guy with a bunch of guns and a flag, watchin’ TV.

    But that doesn’t stop the good people of Reddit from further altering the picture to warp it in to fitting their stereotype of gun owners including a pickup truck with some dogs in the back, a mullet, and changing the flag to the Confederate flag.

    Remember, there’s no other identifiable demographic in the original: just a guy, a flag, a TV, and some guns. Given that I doubt they’re making a statement about televisions or flags, clearly only Glenn Beck-watching racists own guns.

    Gooooo tolerance!

    (It was also pointed out in comments that this image has been posted to reddit periodically, most recently under the headline “Your typical Glenn Beck viewer”.)

  • Hober Short 3:58 pm on 24 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Why is it that when another driver is being an asshole, it’s just someone being an asshole, but if they’re being an asshole while on the phone, it’s a public emergency?

  • Hober Short 5:43 pm on 22 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Via Hacker News, a brief justification for using “Hello” on the telephone.

    You want some extension, say 432. You dial the main number, and the receptionist answers with the usual, “Good morning” or “Columbo Wigmakers, how may I help you?”. You answer, “432.” The receptionist says, “I’m sorry, what extension was that?”

    Anecdotally, I can confirm this. After years of callers that took thirty seconds to figure out they had the wrong number, I decided to just start introducing myself by name when I got a call from an unknown number.

    But I found that being as brief as possible actually ended up being counter-productive: just picking up and saying “Hober Short, here.”* was too brief. It didn’t give enough of a vocal baseline for the person on the other end of the phone to be able to decipher my speech.

    After some experimentation, I’ve settled on “Hello, this is Hober Short.” Almost without exception, that elicits a response of “Oh, I’ve got the wrong number. Sorry. [click]”

    In this case, it actually turns out that by adding a few “baseline” words, I make myself more understandable and get back to whatever I was doing quicker than if I’d left them off.

    *Obviously, I don’t actually answer phone calls like this.

    • bxojr 12:35 pm on 23 February 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Too many people neglect the phenomenon you’ve observed (that a certain amount of auditory data is required to establish that “vocal baseline”).

      Back before caller ID, one of my pet peeves was when someone I knew would call and begin the conversation by saying simply “Hey, it’s me.” I don’t care how well you know someone’s voice; three syllables is not enough data for a definitive identification. At least, not for me. I always found myself saying something neutral like “Hey, how’s it going?” to prompt the caller to say more, so I could figure out whether it was really someone I knew.

  • Hober Short 1:01 pm on 19 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    First, context: Case Dining Hall is one of three dining halls on campus. It’s right next to Reynolds Coliseum, and is open to everyone for breakfast and lunch. Only athletes (who apparently have different meal plans) are allowed to eat dinner there. There’s some grumblings about lifting that rule.

    So, am I the only one who finds today’s editorial cartoon on the topic tasteless and ignorant?

    Haha, get it? The chick from the rifle team is holding a football player at gunpoint! Y’know, because guns make everyone around them into violent criminals?

    I… don’t even know.

  • Hober Short 12:20 pm on 18 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Why? Just…. why?

    More than a social statement than an actual utility for aspiring Colton Harris-Moore* copycats, a new site called Please Rob Me has popped up to expose the potential pratfalls of the geolocation craze: If you’re pushing a “check-in” from Gowalla, Brightkite, or Foursquare to a local restaurant out to your public Twitter stream, you’re broadcasting that you aren’t home. Which could be taken to mean that your home is ripe for burglary.

    Please Rob Me consists exclusively of an aggregation of public Twitter messages that have been pushed through fast-growing location-based networking site Foursquare, one of a handful of services that encourages people to share their whereabouts with their friends. You can filter by geographic location, too.

    Yes, share with your friends. Not every random stranger on the internet.

  • Hober Short 7:05 pm on 17 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Good news: the Facebook group mentioned in today’s XKCD comic is now real:

    Bad news: Facebook users are distressingly bad at constructing tautologies. From the group’s wall:

    Thomas: Half of all people have below-average intellegence.

    Franklin: Not necessarily true. The numbers 1, 2, 3, 100 have an average of 26, but three of them are below the average.

  • Hober Short 4:14 pm on 17 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Malcolm Gladwell’s What The Dog Saw is a book collection of a number of his articles for The New Yorker which includes a piece called “Connecting The Dots” which is all about how obvious disasters are in hindsight. The crux of the article is as follows: (emphasis mine)

    This question–whether we revise our judgment of events after the fact–is something that psychologists have paid a great deal of attention to.

    For example, on the eve of Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, the psychologist Baruch Fischhoff asked a group of people to estimate the probability of a series of possible outcomes of the trip. What were the chances that the trip would lead to permanent diplomatic relations between China and the United States? That Nixon would meet with the leader of China, Mao Tse-tung, at least once? That Nixon would call the trip a success?

    As it turned out, the trip was a diplomatic triumph, and Fischhoff then went back to the same people and asked them to recall what their estimates of the different outcomes of the visit had been. He found that the subjects now, overwhelmingly, “remembered” being more optimistic than they had actually been. If you originally thought that it was unlikely that Nixon would meet with Mao, afterward, when the press was full of accounts of Nixon’s meeting with Mao, you’d “remember” that you had thought the chances of a meeting were pretty good.

    Fischhoff calls this phenomenon “creeping determinism”–the sense that grows on us, in retrospect, that what has happened was actually inevitable–and the chief effect of creeping determinism, he points out, is that it turns unexpected events into expected events. As he writes, “The occurrence of an event increases its reconstructed probability and makes it less surprising than it would have been had the original probability been remembered.”

    Creeping determinism is one of those ideas that lodges itself in your brain and keeps making popping up when you read things like this: “Students complained about prof charged in rampage“:

    Students said they signed a petition and complained to no avail about the classroom conduct of an Alabama professor accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others in a shooting rampage at a faculty meeting.

    The students upset with biology professor Amy Bishop told The Associated Press they went to University of Alabama in Huntsville administrators at least three times a year ago, complaining that she was ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways.

    The students said Bishop never made eye contact during conversations, taught by reading out of a textbook and made frequent references to Harvard University, her beloved alma mater. “We could tell something was off, that she was not like other teachers,” said nursing student Caitlin Phillips.

    Okay, so this this teacher was kind of creepy, and became a crazed gunwoman, but how many professors out there are a little creepy? A little off? And what percent go postal?

    This seeming creeping determinism strikes me as a part of the “disaster ritual” (another Gladwell phrase) that we go through every time something like this happens: identify the shooter, identify the motive, identify the missed warning signs, and find closure.

    Edit (2 hours later): Argh, the article has been rewritten, excising the above quotation and replacing it with

    Students said they had no reason to think she might turn violent. But after Bishop’s arrest Friday on charges of shooting to death three colleagues during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the complaints add to the picture that has emerged of her as a brilliant but erratic figure.

    Okay, fair enough.

    • bxojr 11:23 am on 18 February 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, that sort of thing is a curious form of selective recall. And oddly, it doesn’t really matter *what* people remember. If the guy next door was twitchy and paranoid before he went postal, then it seems obvious what was going to happen. But if he was quiet and kept to himself, people nod and say “Yeah, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.” Once you know what happened, it’s easy to see anything (in retrospect) as a warning sign.

  • Hober Short 1:51 pm on 16 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    The State Employees’ Credit Union across Hillsborough from campus just got robbed by a guy with a handgun.

    I would make some snarky comment about his proximity to campus, which is a Gun Free Zone, except that so is the bank.

    • bxojr 10:34 am on 17 February 2010 Permalink | Reply

      That doesn’t make sense. If the bank is a gun-free zone, how could the robber have had a gun in there? Not possible.

  • Hober Short 5:06 pm on 15 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Last year, a blogger by the name of Paul Lamere used a little bit of Python magic to analyze and plot the regularity of a drummer’s beats in some popular music, to find out if they were drumming to a click track. The post itself is a pretty interesting explanation of the mechanics of click-trackery and how the detection works.

    Now he’s put up a searchable database of all the songs that have been analyzed for tempo deviations. The site itself is so opinionated, contrasting songs with “a thinking, feeling, human” as the drummer to songs “using a cold-hearted, sterile, unfeeling machine to set the tempo”, that it veers a little too far into music snobbery for my tastes: if it sounds good, does it really matter?

    But the graphs are still pretty interesting.

    • bxojr 10:50 am on 16 February 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Snobbery is right. Does this guy really think that metronomes are a recent invention, or that musicians haven’t been using them to keep tempo since, well, forever?

      I can understand people who complain about quantized drum-machine tracks, which really DO sound mechanical. But there’s nothing wrong with a human using a metronome to keep time, and there never has been.

  • Hober Short 5:43 pm on 11 February 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Today’s unfortunate headlines comes via Marko Kloos, who is alarmed by the headline “Washington’s Dulles Airport Reopens; National Still Closed”, wondering when the Fed will re-open the Still and get the National Hooch flowing again.

    • bxojr 10:50 am on 15 February 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think there’s too much to worry about as long as we have the Strategic Moonshine Reserve.

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