December 20th, 2007

cyborg mass transit

December link roundup, Part I

Alright, I need to clear these out before the minimized browser windows take over my Dock completely ...

GENERAL

Finally found something I'd like for Christmas.

'Study Reveals Why Monkeys Shout During Sex' (Probably NSFW: Clinical text descriptions)

Glow-in-the-dark cats! Now with 90% less tripping-over-at-midnight!

PUN ALERT: I heard a rumor that the Metal Gear Solid webcomic "The Last Days of FOXHOUND" is going to start discussing transhumanist themes in a new spinoff. Supposedly, they're going to name it Dresden CODEC.

(Speaking of which, best Dresden Codak comic ever -- Philosophy: The RPG.)

"Is it always illegal to kill a woman?" -- a look at how far advertising has advanced in a mere 50 years.

Amazon.com gets trolled. Amazon.com assigns response duties to someone with a sense of humor.

Make a low-tech refrigerator with clay, sand and water. (Via tropism.)

Is stress making us sick?


WRITING

Essay on the lifespan of literary genres; why "science fiction" as a genre is (un)dead; and why it's still worthwhile.

13 Clichés To Avoid In Blogs. ("Top (n) lists" is #12.)

Is Aleister Crowley George W. Bush's grandfather? I'm filing this one under "writing" instead of "politics" because, as a conspiracy theory for TTU, this is MADE OF PURE AWESOME. (In the real world, even if true, I still can't work up any paranoia over it.)

Definr: Nifty scripting tricks let you look up a dictionary definition in nigh-real time, without the multiple page loads and/or giant ads involved in (say) Google-searching the word.

'Early morning conversations with my brain': How Wil Wheaton knows he's a writer.


TECHNICAL

Fixing Mac (and generic) wireless connectivity issues.

Google Code Search is now letting us see how programmers swear inside their source code.

Five types of end users that tech support folks have to deal with.

Blacklists Don't Work: An essay on why the approach used by spam filtering and antivirus applications is doomed from the outset. Good-but. The frustrating thing is -- the general point is true, but the article has some serious logic flaws. For instance: "Why don't Mac users run anti-virus software? Why don't UNIX users run anti-virus software? Because they don't need to. ..." Right. "... They don't run as administrators." WRONG!! This statement in comments (12/12 4:53AM) calls bullshit: "Here's the fundamental law of computer security: don't be the easiest, most common, target on the net."

Interview: What it's like being IT manager at the South Pole.

What do security software and used cars have in common? Market forces favor bad products over good ones. (Dear libertarians: The invisible hand doesn't solve everything plzkthx.)

Ever wondered if perhaps, someday, you could achieve programming superstardom by coming up with a way to somehow notify people that they've got new e-mail? Don't bother. It's patented. :-p


POLITICS

Hey, remember the "up or down vote" GOP? The new, improved Republican Senate doesn't. In a blisteringly recordbreaking way.

Now that's chutzpah: "In response, Romney delivered an address that simultaneously pleaded for religious tolerance and urged intolerance of what he termed the "religion of secularism."

If you've seen the documentary "The Aristocrats" (or heard some variation of the joke), take a look at this political take of the classic. A little too close to the truth to be funny.

Fox News with a laugh track (VIDEO): Oh my god, they made Bill O'Reilly watchable!

What do you think about this painting of Jesus? The author claims that your reaction is a pretty good litmus test for whether you understand Jesus' actual teachings.


ECONOMICS

"The Total Stupidity of Crowds": How playing games with iterative risk pooling has made EVERY investment that gets anywhere near mortgages dangerous and suspect. A good, non-technical summary of why the subprime mortgage crisis is going to wipe a lot of people out quickly when it starts snowballing.

Morgan Stanley issues recession alert for U.S. File this one under "well, duh"; but the real significance is that the cracks in the wall of Wall Street confidence are showing.

Oldie but goodie: Gapminder. Play with world economic statistics; roll your own animated graph from hundreds of different data.

10 Absolute "Nos!" for Freelancers. Meant for web designers, but the principles hold elsewhere.

BONUS BAXILIAN WRITING:

Back in 2004 [friends-locked], I submitted an anonymous story to Tom Tomorrow's blog regarding the evils of debit cards [the quoted part overlined "More, from a reader"]. I'm pretty sure any statute of limitations that might apply to my time at the bank has expired, so let me take this opportunity to repost the link, open the floor to questions, and caution people: DO NOT USE DEBIT CARDS.

In the intervening four years, my stance has moderated a bit: As long as it requires a PIN for expenditures, and as long as you have your pin memorized instead of written down, you're probably OK. Probably. But one thing has not changed: any ATM and/or debit card with a Visa/Mastercard logo is A LICENSE FOR PEOPLE TO STEAL YOUR MONEY.

If a stranger goes on a shopping spree with your credit card, you're legally liable for no more than $50 as long as you report it promptly. But if a stranger goes on a shopping spree with your debit card, you're at the mercy of your bank to get your money back, and in the meantime I hope you don't have to pay rent or utility bills. As they say, read the whole thing.

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Standard disclaimer 1: Links were picked up from all over the Internet; including blog posts, Reddit, Livejournal, and you. (If you linked it first, I probably got it from you; say so and I'll be happy to name-drop.)

Standard disclaimer 2: All these links (and many more!) are also available, nicely tagged and labeled, at my del.icio.us account. Yay social bookmarking!