From The Erbo Files
Tuesday, March 6, 2012


  • Seems that Facebook has been claiming that people's friends are playing games they're not actually playing. I've noticed this issue first-hand. Sabrina asked me why I was playing a specific game on Facebook; I checked, and I had blocked that game entirely. (I block most games on Facebook routinely. It's nothing personal.) I put it down to Facebook having more bugs than a bait store...but guys, you might just want to slip a user story into your next iteration for this.

  • More innovation from the Finns: they have an "Open Ministry" (Avoin ministeri√∂) Web site launching soon where anyone can propose a new law or initiative, and, if it's popular enough, the Parliament has to take it up. You'd expect this sort of thing in Finland, where Internet access is practically a way of life; in some respects, this is one of those "Oh, they're only doing this now?" moments.

  • And, while I was over on the Helsingin Sanomat Web site, I spotted the news item that Tarja Halonen has stepped down as President of Finland, ending a 12-year term. In the United States, Halonen is most noted for her resemblance to talk-show host Conan O'Brien; Conan has created political ads for her (getting mention on US news channels!) and even traveled to Finland (report in Finnish, from MTV3). I think everybody got a good laugh out of that. In the meantime, Halonen's record as President has been exemplary; I trust she will enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

  • For some perspective on why Finland is so awesome, this piece by Chris Byrne is a good overview. The cartoon is priceless, as is this advice: "Never drink with a Finn, unless you feel like getting in a friendly knife fight. No seriously, there will be a knife fight, or at the very least a rock or iceball fight, but it will be friendly. You'll only be cut up a little bit and then everyone will go back and drink some more...Unless you're a Russian in which case you'll end up wearing your testicles as earrings."

  • Why does everyone hate jury duty? Professor Bainbridge offers up a laundry list of reasons. Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds "I think it's a matter of respect, ultimately. The jury is supposed to be coequal with the judge, but they treat you like cattle instead." Ask Sabrina what she thinks about jury duty...and better not have anything else scheduled for awhile; a rant like hers takes time to fully appreciate.

  • Research is being conducted into the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve learning; if this writer's report is to be believed, what it does is help silence all those inner voices of self-doubt and let you get on with the business of learning. "What would a world look like in which we all wore little tDCS headbands that would keep us in a primed, confident state, free of all doubts and fears? Wouldn't you wear the shit out of that cap?" I think we all would. (Via JWZ, who refers to it as a "tasp." Slightly incorrect terminology, though; a Niven tasp stimulates the brain's pleasure centers wirelessly, from a distance. A closer term might be "droud," which is the device that wireheads use that regulates the current into their brains, also from Niven's work.)

  • Jon Evans, posting on TechCrunch, takes the knife to one of Extreme Programming's sacred cows: "Pair Programming Considered Harmful?" Some shops, like Pivotal Labs, live and breathe pair programming (as I learned at their session at Mile High Agile 2011); they likely won't think much of this article. However, the article suggests that developers are more productive when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption; Joel Spolsky and Fog Creek Software would agree heartily with this assessment. A mixture of both approaches is what Evans advocates; at IQNavigator, we kind of do this, employing pairing when it makes sense to do so and working solo when it doesn't. (The fact that our workstations are actually laptops, which can be undocked and taken elsewhere at need, helps facilitate this.)

  • Six words: "So...it has come to this."

  • Warning: Do not watch this video without having taken your blood pressure medicine first, and secure all firearms and heavy objects near the computer before playing. I'll just say this: "Nuke 'em till they glow, and shoot 'em in the dark. With bullets dipped in pig fat." (Via LCBrendan at Misha's place)

  • Here in Denver, we have a local traffic reporter named--I am not making this up, as Dave Barry says--"Amelia Earhart." And yes, she is a relative of the famous aviatrix. And she's a pilot herself, training to do what her famous relative attempted: fly around the world, in her Cirrus SR-22T. Here's her blog about the effort. Clear skies to you, ma'am!

  • Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked what the most astounding fact was that he could share about the Universe. In this video, he gives his answer: That the atoms of our bodies were once part of stars themselves, that while we are in the universe, the universe is also inside us. Of course, as a Babylon 5 fan, I already knew this: "I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff, we are the universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out." (Ambassador Delenn, episode "A Distant Star," season 2)

 

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Forty years ago, I was not considered hot. However, four billion years ago, when I was still supernova debris, well, *damn* I was hot!
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