General posts about art and culture topics.

The Many Misspellings Of Obama

Barrack Hussein Obama... quite an unusual name... and remarkably sucky when it comes to winning over the red states in an election...

Also, virtually all spell checkers think its a misspelling! Every time I write his name in a new application, I get that damn squiggly red line, and I keep second guessing that I might have spelled it wrong. Here is what they think I meant to write:

  • Apple Spell Checker (TextMate, Mail.app, NeoOffice): ABeam, ABM, IBM
  • Firefox 3: Obadiah, Obadias, Bamako, Alabama
  • TextPad: Baa, Bam, Badman, Bagman, Barman, Batman, Bema, Bamako, Brahma, Banal, Bwana, Banta

hehehe... Batman...

Oddly enough... Microsoft Office 2003 does the correct thing by accepting the spelling. So a 5-year old application know more about the proper spelling of Obama than Firefox 3... which came out 2 months ago.

What other apps think "Obama" is a misspelling? What corrections do they offer?

Never gonna give up hope...

Looks like MSNBC got Rick Rolled at the VP debates last night... Mathews shouldn't have been sleeping on the job.

Boosh.

Are You An Idiot?

Ryan Curtis just sent me a quick email saying that the Idiot Test 6 will soon be released... Once its around, I'll create a walk through just like I did for the other Idiot Tests... so the people who get stumped won't have to feel like idiots ;-)

I gotta say... Hosting the cheat sheets for the Idiot Test is kind of a double edged sword... On the plus side, I get a few more hits and links to my blog... On the negative side, a lot of my page views come from people Googling the word "idiot"!

Seriously! As of August 11, if you Google idiot, I'm number 389 out of 75 million sites. Not the top 100, but still rather remarkable. Also, idiot is the #2 keyword that people use to find my site from Google! Ten of the top 50 keywords people use to find my site use some permutation of the word "idiot"... its right up there with "stellent", "bex huff", "electric cars," "empathy," and "why does vista suck."

Good for page views... but man its tough on the ego...

UPDATE: great... as of August 25th, I'm now up to 287 out of 75.9 million. I wonder what it would take to hit the top 100?

RIP: Randy "Last Lecture" Pausch

You may have been one of the 2 million people who viewed Dr. Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" on You Tube... its about happiness and achieving your childhood dreams. He put it together a month after he found out he only had 6 months to live, and its one of the best lectures I've ever seen:

Sadly, he just passed away today. Rest in peace, big guy... the world is genuinely better because of you.

China Cracks Down On Terrorists... With Tiny Tiny Guns

I got these via a Boston.com article on the Olympics. Apparently, the Chinese military is doing all kinds of anti-terror drills prior to the Olympics. Not a bad idea, but a lot of critics claim its an unnecessary show-of-force just to intimidate those non-violent Tibetans, and make them stop walking around and asking for their country back. Some really good photos there, but this one is my favorite:

Clamped knees, elbow pads, and tiny, tiny guns.

dude... what's the goal here? Make the battle-hardened monks laugh hysterically until you run them over on your Segway? You had better hope that they don't thwart your plans by stepping up on a curb or something... The only thing more absurd would be backing up your police force with scary, autonomous, Anime robots.

whoops... spoke too soon...

Where The Hell Is Matt?

The third installment of Where The Hell Is Matt is available on YouTube... and its the best one yet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY

I first heard about this from April, who works at Google with Matt's girlfriend. This guy Matt has a dorky little "annoying dance" that he would use form time to time. One day, he quit his job, and traveled around the world with some friends. At the request of a buddy, he did his annoying dance on the streets in Vietnam, and he filmed it.

Then he kept doing it... all... over... the... world...

He put his first video up on YouTube, and it slowly became a huge hit. The Stride Gum offered to pay for his plane tickets, and let him make a second video. I especially like the outtakes. As you can see, he took a slightly different approach for the third one... I liked India and Korea the best.

It has to be said...


(Hat Tip: GraphJam)

Yarp. Larry Elison is Iron Man


I first heard that Larry Ellison was the inspiration for Iron Man from fake Steve... apparently Robert Downey Jr. studied video tapes of Larry in order to develop his billionaire persona... complete with goatee, mussed hair, Jesus hands, and everything! Skeptical? You can view video evidence yourself.

Well... it now seems that Oracle is getting in on this reality blur as well...

In my mailbox today, I got the Oracle partner newsletter about a cross-promotional campaign with Marvel. They are promoting the new Marvel Trilogy, starring Iron Man. The tagline is Hardware by Marvel, Software by Oracle.

Since Marvel did the graphics, the advert looks pretty nifty. Its a nice deviation from the standard Oracle marketing material: red, white, and boring... but this is just gonna make conspiracy nuts suspicious.

So what do you think Larry really does in his spare time?

I wouldn't be surprised if he had his own flying suit... but I'd be pretty shocked if it turned out he used it to battle warlords in Afghanistan...

Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World...

I first heard this haunting song in Donnie Darko:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N3N1MlvVc4

Painfully melancholy, but powerful... enjoy.

Does Art Have A Process?

I recently came across the article We Don't Know How We Program. It was a discussion about the gaps between what developers and non-developers think about the process of writing code. It begins:

I was talking to a colleague from another part of the company a couple of weeks ago, and I mentioned the famous ten-to-one productivity variation between the best and worst programmers. He was surprised, so I sketched some graphs and added a few anecdotes. He then proposed a simple solution: "Obviously the programmers at the bottom end are using the wrong process, so send them on a course to teach them the right process." My immediate response, I freely admit, was to open and shut my mouth a couple of times while trying to think of response more diplomatic than "How could anyone be so dumb as to suggest that?"

hehehe... the central premise to the article is that programming is a creative endeavor, which doesn't lend itself well to process... The unfortunate developers subjected to process will only achieve mediocrity... additionally any process that stifles creativity will expunge or crush exceptional programmers, because they need creative space to be ten times as productive.

Does that mean that good programming cannot have a process? Of course not... although as others have noted, things like CMMi should be avoided like the plague. A process needs to be able to empower creativity, but also reign it in when necessary. Programmers -- like artists -- think big, and do wild things that are cool but don't satisfy the needs of the end users. The product doesn't sell, the users rebel, everything goes to hell... the developers know full well of the "failure," so to nurse their bruised egos, they blame the users for being dumb, or the specification for being incomplete. Then they curl up into a ball and call themselves misunderstood.

Yep. Just like Van Gogh.

To reign this in, you need a peer- and customer- driven process to help keep the project down-to-earth... however, done in such a way to not bruise egos or go anywhere near arbitrary rules. The process needs to evolve with the code. You also need something that encourages developers to think of the code as a community project, to reduce a sense of ownership, and thus keep egos intact. Agile focuses a lot on those kinds of processes... although Agile needs some tweaking for very large projects.

In addition, you also need processes that get the creative juices flowing... this doesn't mean brainstorming sessions or hyper expensive collaboration tools. This usually means simple things like physical proximity. Some teams even had great success with an enforced MESSY DESK policy. That's right... clean desks are evil! Messy desks and physical proximity encourage the "drop in, say hi, notice notes strewn about, and comment on them" process... which more than anything else inspires collaboration and fresh ideas.

My gut feeling? Unless you have artists designing your code process, your organization will never create exceptional code.

So keep a close eye on that process weenie with the stopwatch... he's clearly up to no good.

Viral Goating

I was a tad behind on my web memes... so it took me a while to respond to John Mancini's viral goating. It was an attempt to raise awareness of the charity Heifer International, and their goals of giving goats to desperately poor people around the world.

Its a charity I really believe in -- Michelle and I give them a few hundred every year. However, we purchase llamas, not goats.

What I like about the charity is that they try to solve the ENTIRE problem of poverty. Its not enough to give somebody food... its likewise not enough to just give them a goat. Its also not enough to train them how to farm properly... the goal is to end the culture of poverty by teaching cooperation.

In order to get a free goat (or llama, or cow) from this charity, you have to promise to give away the first two offspring to another needy person. This teaches people the most important lesson that separates poor cultures from wealthy cultures: if we all work together, we can do more than if we work alone. Its a difficult lesson to learn -- and many wealthy countries occasionally forget. However, in this modern world, open / co-operative cultures are happier AND wealthier than autocratic / xenophobic ones.

In fact, Heifer Internationally frequently goes one step further... Since they have ultimate say about who is the most needy, they can say who will receive the offspring of your cattle. In an attempt to boost peace, they frequently insist that tribes exchange cattle with their long-time enemies. Naturally, when tribes hear about the conditions for getting a free goat, they are hesitant and suspicious... they wonder, why should I give a goat to my "enemy," when I could give it to my tribesman? Well, because Heifer sets the rules, and they don't want you to think of your neighbor as your enemy... that's why! As a result, these tribes are forced to get to know each other, and co-operate with each other. After a few months, they stop seeing each other as the enemy. As a result, Heifer has a long list of success stories where they not only eliminate poverty, but also decades-old fueds.

Its a brilliant concept, well executed, and with many success stories. Kudos to Mancini for starting this meme, and thanks again for the hat tip.

Shirt Of The Day

'nuff said

Interesting Ad Placement: Obama Leading? Oh My!

I had heard about a new poll which gave Obama a double-digit lead over Clinton... so I went to the site, and was greeted with an interesting ad placement:

They say that Obama's campaign is kind of like a Rorschach inkblot test... different people see different things in him... so I'm curious, what does this ad mean to you?

Yes We Can

I try to keep this blog apolitical, but I've decided to side with Fake Steve Jobs on this one... I support Obama for president. He's the most inspiring politician I've ever seen, and many folks feel the same way:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics ... they will only grow louder and more dissonant ... We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

He's currently winning the race for the democratic nomination, including the last eight primaries in a row. If you need to know more about the man's politics, you can read either of his books (one of which recently won a frigging Grammy) or just check Wikipedia.

Did you know he's a distant relative to both Bush and Cheney? Let the conspiracy theories begin...

The Class Of 2011

Via Boing Boing, I heard about the annual Beloit College Mindset. This is a list of tips they give to their professors, about the mindset of the incoming freshmen... Its filled with tons of stuff to make you giggle and feel old... some of my favorites:

  • What Berlin wall?
  • They never “rolled down” a car window.
  • They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  • General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  • They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  • MTV has never featured music videos.
  • Most phone calls have never been private.

That last one reminded me of an older post of mine: Take My Privacy, Please, about how kids these days don't care one bit about privacy. Cell phones and reality TV have made voyeurism mainstream... and they don't see the down side.

Feel old, yet?

Books That Make You Dumb

This is hilarious... Some chap downloaded (manually of course) from Facebook the top 10 most popular books at each college... he then co-related this against the average SAT score for the college, in order to see what the smart kids read. His result?

Books That Make You Dumb! It comes with some pretty nifty graphics about what the smart kids read, and what the dumb kids read.

Not surprisingly, if you're at a college where pop-culture books are hip -- like "Fahrenheit 451", "The Devil Wears Prada", or "He's Just Not That Into You" -- then you're probably not hob-nobbing with mental giants... Although the popularity of "Lolita" amongst the ivy league is rather disturbing...

And to dispel the myth, followers of "The Book Of Mormon" and "The Bible" are equally bright, with some edge to the Mormons... but for some reason calling it "The Holy Bible" makes you markedly dumber. You'd think the latter group would get points for precision at least.

No Quack.

One of my favorite sites is TheDailyWTF.com, I visit there every day to hear horror stories about software gone wrong. The problems stem from either arrogant developers, arrogant consultants, or arrogant management. Sometimes all three.

Anyway, they were on vacation for the last few weeks of 2007, and re-ran some of the most classic stories. I came across one where some small software company got the brilliant idea of using a neural network to parse reports from a water plant. A neural network is a very complicated beast, with few practical uses... To put this in perspective, it would be like spending millions of dollars inventing artificial intelligence to replace your receptionist. It made utterly no sense.

The neural network consultant begged them to let him write it the standard way: find the patterns in the reports, and write a straightforward text parser... but management refused. They paid this expert an obscene amount of money, it took months, and a tremendous amount of hardware, but it finally worked...

After a few years, the software company got bought out... their new CTO was running through old projects, and confronted the neural network consultant about why he implemented such a bizarre solution. The consultant said it was a management decision, and even produced old specs on how to solve the problem the old-fashioned way. The CTO agreed, and within a few weeks they had it done the right way: faster, cheaper, and more reliable to boot.

However, the CTO realized that they had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on this artificially intelligent beast, so they should probably try to re-use it for something... anything. In a stroke of what can only be called genius, the CTO ordered the computer to be re-programmed to write spontaneous prose:

The pig go. Go is to the fountain. The pig put foot. Grunt. Foot in what? ketchup. The dove fly. Fly is in sky. The dove drop something. The something on the pig. The pig disgusting. The pig rattle. Rattle with dove. The dove angry. The pig leave. The dove produce. Produce is chicken wing. With wing bark. No Quack.

yes... No Quack indeed...

Rockstar

I'm not a huge fan of Nickleback, but this video is pretty good...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrcTz5XRtN8

Did you recognize all the celebs in it? 30 years from now people might still sing it and think its kitchy cool... just like how we still howl away with "On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone"...

Friday Bizarre: Frankie Sez Remix!

I just recently discovered Cyriak's work on YouTube... he's an amazing video artist and composer, with quite a twisted imagination... one of his latest is a remix of Frankie Valli that is surprisingly rockin':

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qN3kC_4xURA

Its only gives a taste of how bizarre this man's mind truly is... if you want more, check out MOO! (cows versus aliens)... he has others that are even more bizarre, some of which are NSFW. Consider yourself warned!

Yet Another Stupid Web 2.0 Video

From those idiots at The Richter Scales:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi4fzvQ6I-o

How to run a Web 2.0 startup, to the tune of We Didn't Start The Fire. The whole video's pretty funny... my favorite line:

Find yourself an engineer,
Feed him pizza,
Buy him beer,
Give him just a fraction of a fraction of the pie...

So very true...

UPDATE: some jerk used the DMCA cudgel to force YouTube to take down this video. I blame those humorless tools at Facebook... all scam, no skill. The video is still up at Valleywag if you want to see it.

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