Updates from July, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Hober Short 5:06 pm on 27 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but I really wonder if The Cold War played in to this graph, included in an Economist piece about unbelievable prison populations:

  • Pat 12:44 pm on 26 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    F. Paul Wilson’s short story “Lipidleggin’ “ is over three decades old, but it couldn’t be more timely. I suggest that you guys read it while it’s still fiction.

    UPDATE: While I’m recommending stories, I should also urge you to read Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, if you haven’t already.

  • Hober Short 10:00 am on 23 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Apparently the recession has hit the Empire pretty hard:

    Impotent Rebel Alliance security forces tell Newsday that [Dark Lord of the Sith, Apprentice to Emperor Palpatine Darth] Vader marched into a Chase bank in Setauket around 11:30 a.m. today. Brandishing a completely unnecessary handgun—as he had the power to choke the oxygen out every teller’s throat—the fallen Jedi demanded cash.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 10:00 am on 20 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    As you guys have probably heard, Amazon has reported spectacular growth of its Kindle business. Sales of Kindle hardware tripled after the recent price drop to $189, suggesting that a genuine tipping point has been reached.

    More interesting, though, is the fact that e-book sales have now overtaken hardcover book sales, at least on Amazon. I can’t help thinking back to the early days of the CD format: CDs started to become widely available around the mid-1980s, and officially overtook vinyl LP sales in 1988. No one expected the LP to be eclipsed that rapidly; and now we may be seeing the same thing happen to print.

    If the analogy holds true, within a few years we’ll see the emergence of a vocal contingent of bibliophiles who refuse to make the digital transition. They’ll insist that dead-tree books have an “analog warmth” that e-books lack, and if we were only sophisticated enough we’d be able to sense it too.

    And besides, e-books just fill your head with numbers, and that can’t be good for you.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 9:57 am on 15 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Best lead paragraph of the day:

    Animal-control officers, called to a house on Phebe Street Wednesday afternoon for a report of pet hoarding, witnessed a waterfall of dachshunds and Chihuahuas come spilling down the stairs from the second floor.

    Normally news writers don’t go in much for metaphor, but in this case the imagery is irresistible.

    BTW, the dogs are all fine.

  • Hober Short 9:12 am on 15 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Alright, time for another round of Good News, Bad News. First, the Good News: the Technician reports that NC State, in addition to having iPads and Kindles for checkout, now has a Microsoft Surface students can play with. (I’m sure we’ll have to try before the school year starts, because otherwise it’ll be swamped.)

    Now, the Bad News: they sent a reporter who knows nothing about programming to cover the story:

    Students can develop applications for the Microsoft Surface through Application Programming Interface, or API.

    Oh well.

    • bxojr 9:54 am on 15 July 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Cool. I’ve heard about API. It seems to be pretty popular.

  • Hober Short 1:16 pm on 14 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Tucked in a memo from the IPCC with tips about dealing with reporters sniffing around for an explosive story is a list of scientific or statistical jargon that “mean one thing to scientists and something else entirely to the public and reporters”. The list is pretty interesting, including words like uncertainty, literature, risk, bias, exotic, and disruptive.

    Reading the list, I can just imagine the story for each one where some budding Woodward or Bernstein would twist a scientist’s words about a “significant trend” or some such to mean we’re all going to die.

  • Hober Short 9:49 am on 14 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Things got pretty heated on campus last semester when the NC General Assembly passed a measure saying that all UNC system schools had to tack on a $200 tuition hike and pass that $200 straight up the food chain to the state government’s General Fund. In short, tax students to pay for budget shortfalls.

    As an aside, I can only assume that they went this way because they thought that all students were either a) going to school on financial aid, and would just take out additional loans to cover it or b) independently wealthy 19-year-olds who would just peel off a little extra cabbage from the wad their daddies gave them to go to school. Well, I’m in the former group, and my financial aid need has already been calculated for the year, and it didn’t include this.

    Nor will it include the additional measure announced last night to hike tuition by $750 more to cover budget shortfalls within the UNC system.

    I am not, however, particularly angry about this hike, because I take solace in the economic concept of consumer surplus. In short, it’s the idea that the consumer benefits when he pays less than the maximum he was willing to pay for a good; if the market price (how much the market is willing to pay for something) is above the asking price (how much firms want for the something), consumers get what they perceive to be the full value, while paying less than full price.

    See, my college tuition has long been underpriced: that’s why I go to a public university. Quoting from “NC State University At A Glance“:

    Financials and Private Support
    • Total budget: $1.1 billion (44% from state appropriations and 16% from tuition)

    For the last three years, I’ve paid a small fraction of the actual cost of my schooling, and will continue to do so despite this hike. (For perspective, adding $950 to my $5564 annual tuition+fees is “only” a 17% increase. It may not be a trivial sum, but it also isn’t enough to say that I’m now paying for even a majority of my educational costs.)

    So, no, I’m not pissed about having to pay this, because I realize that it’s actually a strange sort of market correction. Instead, I just remain glad that I got three years of radically underpriced education, and will be finishing up with a year of merely moderately underpriced schooling.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 4:07 pm on 13 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Google has announced a new development environment for Android called App Inventor; supposedly, it will enable anyone to create Android apps, without writing any code.

    What I find particularly interesting is that App Inventor is based in part on technology derived from the Scratch environment, which Ben and I discussed a while back as something Laura could use to get her feet wet with programming.

  • Hober Short 9:31 am on 8 July 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    I had long assumed that Nerf made cartoonish and exaggerated weapons like the Big Bad Bow because they wanted to avoid any appearance of producing anything remotely cosmetically similar to an actual gun.

    I first really started paying attention to Nerf when Penny Arcade alerted me to their new product:

    Oh, and also – this is the sight that greeted me as I entered the workplace:

    I guess Nerf makes a sniper rifle now? That’s Fantastic.

    Then came various other frightening guns, culminating at what is perhaps the pinnacle of scary Nerf gun design, the Nerf Vulcan, the Nerf light machine gun.

    But now they are introducing the simply-named “Nerf N-Strike Tactical Vest“. I’ve long wondered exactly how much Nerf embraces its older fans (like myself and the modders at NerfHaven). Whether or not this vest comes in “Big Kids” sizes should tell us a lot.

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