Archive for May, 2008

Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Finishing off the blog posts from last weekend’s activities is my review of the new Indiana Jones flick. It was the first time I saw anything in the main stage at the Somerville Theater. Let me start off by saying that I don’t have any nostalgia for the old films. I thought that they were awful for many years. I wasn’t raised on them, I guess my parents skipped that chapter. Anyways, seeing them on TV didn’t help, there was no magic, there was nothing. However, in college my friends convinced me to go see Raiders of the Lost Ark at a midnight showing in a real theater. It was a blast with a sold our crowd, and gave me a whole new window onto the world of Indiana Jones. I never saw the other two in the theaters, but I figured I’d give this one a shot. I went with Andreas and most of my board gaming group.

The new movie delivers just like Raiders did for me in the theaters, there is magic and by the end I was sitting up in my chair. The plot was out there, a bit too much for me, especially the ending, but by then I had been drawn in. Some parts were too hokey for me. It was again fun to see it with a sold out crowd; there were plenty of crowd pleasing scenes, and they kept the Indy is old jokes to a minimum after the first act. Anyways I have to recommend it for a fun time, but not as an excellent film, hence the term flick.

Steve from the DNC

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I just had a nice short chat with Steve from the DNC. He said, ” we are going to win in November by running the largest grassroots campaign we’ve ever seen.” Upon hearing that I smiled, which, he commented, was not a Republican Smile. I told him that it indeed was not and that it sounded like a good idea. He then went on to hand me a clipboard with one name on it. Clearly it was to sign up to give money and time to the DNC. I managed to get out without signing my name to it, without much trouble. I probably would have at the time, but it now occurs to me that I’m glad I didn’t just in case the DNC makes the fatal mistake of going with Hillary. I certainly wouldn’t make a very good volunteer for her campaign. Anyways, he was really nice. He told me a short anecdote about how someone in Roslindale used the presence of an American flag on his property to imply that he didn’t want to talk to Steve. I told him that our little flag, which prompted the story, didn’t mean that and that we were a house of recently college graduated committed democrats.

The First Geohash Meetup

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

On Wednesday of last week, a full week ago, the geohashing algorithm xkcd comic was posted. It purposes an algorithm for randomly determining latitude and longitude coordinates scattered evenly throughout the world. There is a random location within roughly 85 miles of your present location generated every day. The algorithm works like this:

Meetups are held Saturdays at 4pm, and since the comic was posted last week, this Saturday was the first meetup, so I skipped the zombie walk, earth fest, and Zuneral to attend. The location was in the front yard of suburban house in Hopedale, MA.

Everyone was very good about not disturbing the house or entering the yard. We even actually met up around the corner from the location at first so as to minimize the hubbub directly in front of the house. Someone did actually bring some beer which had be promptly re-hidden in his backpack. There were about 40 people there in total, which Randall thinks is a “triumph.”

Arriving at the Crowd The Line of Cars Walking to the Actual Coordinates

I brought the following supplies:

  • Cooler with Coke, Sunkist, and Strawberries
  • Puerto Rico
  • Go
  • Kite
  • Laptop with GPS
  • Water Gun

I didn’t make use of most of that. What I did do was throw around the frisbee, chat and take lots of pictures. Here are some of the pictures that come with back story.

Incoming Frisbee Resuce #3

I managed to both take that picture and catch that frisbee on the left side. I’m proud not, but I did manage to sail one shot directly over this guy’s head and into the lake, but he was good sport and went to get it anyways.

Before the LOL

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

This panel was more of a one man show staring Jason Scott, who is an internet historian and librarian of sorts. He specializes mostly in Bulletin Board Service (BBS) stuff, but also ham radio and more. I heard that his talk was one of, if not the best talk on the first day of ROFLCon. Given his expertise his talk was a welcome trip back to before:

Jason Scott

Jason started off by recomending a book author, Tom Standage. Specifically The Victorian Internet and The Turk and hitting us over the head with the idea that “People fell in love over the telegraph.” Eventually he moved on to talking about the invention of the photocopier and the memes is spread. Of course, “People are still parking too close and need to get on the fucking bus.”

Thanks, for parking so close. Next time leave a can opener so I can get my car out. ASSHOLES LIKE YOU SHOULD TAKE THE BUS! A Home built computer
Moving to the internet era, the above is the first BBS from 1978. It Rebooted for every caller. I suppose that is one way to handle dynamic memory (if it even used any). It was custom built, but by 1984 systems were commonly run by kids, whom Jason has tracked down, “to their utter horror.” Jason later when on to discuss some of the origins of common internet slang, arriving at this conclusion:

If you take on a language to make fun of it and the language was designed to be efficient you will eventually use the efficiencies of that language. Its kind of interesting to watch that happen. People start to talk like idiots. but what they discover is wow this whole LOLcat’s languages is actually pretty goddamn efficient.

Moving on to the web he offerers this perspective on why he must rescue and archive pre-world-wide-web content, but all the content since then is still around, for the most part:

You were happy when it got down to a dollar per megabyte. I had [some] 514Mb hard drives in 1993 that I had gotten from an airline. They had previously been tens of thousands [of dollars] and I had gotten them for a few hundred. You had this case where storage was a premium. It wasn’t horrible, but it was still pretty expensive. To the life we now live of the terabyte drive; where a terabyte drive is something you pick up with your soda down the street and maybe a keyboard cause its right there and its a dollar.

We really have hit this kind of wall where data is so cheap we’re running out of things.

I put my cat on twitter. He just says things all day, I don’t have to do it. At midnight OMG Bird. He has 143 followers.

Jason Scott was a really big fan of ROFLCon, in fact, he is still sending the staff somewhat suspect emails. I’m not actually party to the details so I won’t elaborate. This was the thesis of his talk, of sorts.

What I’m showing you here is that when we have this ROFLCon, this meeting of minds and this concentration of ideas and stuff it has a very long very storied history. It is normal, it is neat, it is wonderful, it is rich, it is delightful, it is sometimes stupid, it is sometimes fucking stupid, it is sometimes incalculably stupid but all of it is perfectly fitting into our history as people, and I am proud to be a part of it.

In fact while I’m here why not just punch David Weinberger [the keynote speaker] in the face. In his little chat at the beginning. <aside>Oh, this goes over the net, excellent</aside>. He was talking about how suspicious he is when things that look too good. That is a spit in the face of craft. Craft is not an indication of professionalism, craft is an indication of giving a shit.

It’s cool to see some back and forth like that going on, even just watching the videos. Some random quotes and stories from the talk before I go:

When you look into the story of grep… grep is a string based implementation of mathematical theory that was 20 years before grep came out. And he was like, how do I come up with a good way to keep track of strings? I’ll use this hopelessly complicated meta language that they created in the 40s to keep track of complicated number sets, and use it for text. Won’t that be … Just that thinking. Who can do that anymore. Its like, It runs, we’ll fix it later.

When a person feels that they can’t get in trouble for trying something new they will do crazy crazy stuff.

I’ve never actually watched that, and I’m greater for it.

I Can Has Case Study

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

The second in a continuing series of ROFLCon Panel Videos posts, next up is the Cat Macros Panel, I Can Has Case Study.

Ryan Iverson and Arija Weddle (LOLSecretz) &amp; Alexis Ohanian (Reddit)

The stand out performance, for me, on this panel was Arija Weddle, of LOL Secrets. Mostly this was because she is damn cute. That said, I do have a weakness for eastern European girls. However, she didn’t explain her site well enough for the uninitiated, namely me. That prize goes to LOL Trek, but then he had it a little easier to start off with.

These are the highlights of the video, for me, painstakingly transcribed:

Alexis Ohanian: What is it about cats? What makes them so LOLable?”
Cheez:Its multifaceted, they’re really cute but also can be devilish at the same time.

Cheez: [Then there is this] linguistical side, which is actually very fascinating because it is a reflection of whats happening on the internet in terms of abbreviations and self expression. Because you can’t vocalize things you have to tonealize in visual format. So how do you do that with characters?

Female Attendee: So did you only make the one LOLTrek?
Stephen Granade: yes
Female Attendee: Could you please make more? Because I really want to see Jean Luc Picard!
Other Panelist: Would Jean Luc speak LOL?
Stephen Granade: That’s a good question. That’s part of the reason why I never did another – because I thought I’d used a lot of the meta jokes, like Spock speaking in regular language. That I didn’t know what to do again, but that’s a good question, would Picard speak LOL, would he speak French LOL?”

No word yet on the LOLTrek site about a TNG episode :-(

Friday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Not that there was any fighting on my Friday night, but there was a party. It was on a roof of the Harvard Science Center with a telescope. It was *Shambles: The Party* a manifestation the ROFLCon staff’s “abundant but abstract gratefulness [to the volunteers] into physical form,” and general Team Fatty event. There was Blue Ribbon BBQ, which I came to learn was integral in the genesis of Team Fatty. TF is a loosely formed group that made the mistake of incentivizing overeating; blatantly disregarding the results of a study which indicated that obesity is a social phenomenon. Blue Ribbon and Redbones vie for the title of best BBQ in Boston. I am undecided between the two, I only know that my summer in Texas eating at Rudys has spoiled me. If this is really the best BBQ new england has to offer then this is a sad, sad, state of affairs. That said, it was enjoyable food wise.

Harvard Yard Harvard Observatory Telescope The Moon Over Downtown

Aside from the great views and the food, it was fun to get a chance to see everyone again a month after the conference. I did actually pass one of them around town in the mean time, a sure sign that my plans to meet new people are not completely failing. I also met a girl named Lorelai at the party. She does not look and is not particularly similar to the Gilmore Girls character, but I have actually never met anyone with that name before. It isn’t particularly significant, but I was surprised and interested when she told me her name, and it showed. We had a above average chat until her boyfriend arrived. I later learned she was a vegetarian, so it doesn’t matter anyways in that regard.

As far as discussion topics go there was a great debate over whether it was a conference, where academics meet to discuss issues, or a convention, where fans go to meet celebrities in a given genre. I wasn’t really aware of the consciousness of this choice before; by the time I found out about ROFLCon the format was already well formed, and it sort of was what it was. It was both, a hybrid, with a lean towards conference, at least in my mind. The staff believes that this was instrumental in the success of both convincing internet celebrities to come as well as the success of the overall event. The open question remains how to tweak this delicate balance for the future.

ROFLCon Redux

Monday, May 26th, 2008

After a month or so of waiting videos from ROFLCon are still seeping slowly onto the net. This one answers the question of who the G4 reporter was. This one has more footage that I saw them shoot; although, I must say that I don’t care for Leslie Hall. Anyways, there is much more going on. The ROFLCon staff all recently posted postmortems on the event.

[ChristinaXu] [RachelPopkin] [DianaKimble] [TimHwang]

I don’t have an insider’s perspective like they do, and my previous posts perform that function from my perspective. However, the raw webcast feeds of the panels are also coming online slowly but surely. Like many of the volunteers and staff I missed almost all of the panels, so I’ve been watching the videos as a way to kill boring nights. My first impressions are that, wow, are these panels really long. Almost so long that I’m sort of glad I didn’t sit through them in person, (but not quite). Seeing as I missed the opportunity to live blog then panels, I’m going to take the video as an opportunity to blog about whatever aspect of them interests me. I decided that I had little time or skill for video editing, which could accomplish this goal in a rich media way, so enjoy all the text.

Opening Keynote and You Can Get Paid for This?

Opening Keynote:
david weinberger keynote
David Weinberger opened the conference by discussing fame and how the internet changes the nature of fame. This change, of course, provided all the conference guests. If you want a taste of the talk without spending an hour there is a really good video summery by rocketbomb. I disagree with him on one point. He thinks that misspellings, unpolished writing, and general lack of care in blogs is a good thing; that it provides a sense of intimacy. He says that this sense of intimacy comes from a need to pre-forgive the problems with the blog. I agree with that statement, but I don’t think that we should stop aspiring to a polished product. If I care about my readers and I care about my topic I should be motivated to write well. Although it may not seem this way, I am. Although, I do think that such things are forgivable on a blog, and not for a professional, I don’t think that being polished takes anything away from the blogging experience. This is something he implies rater strongly.

You Can Get Paid For This:
The real star of this panel for me was Ian Spector of Chuck Norris Facts. I suppose I just identified with him, as someone spending a weekend night bored and doing stuff on the internet. He had many other random fact generating sites before a poll on those sites lead him to make one for Chuck Norris, then fame, then a book, then a lawsuit.

The one red paper clip guy was not anything like who I imagined. The same was true for the million dollar homepage guy. They are both much younger than I thought. I don’t know why I would think older people would have come up with these great ideas, but until I was faced with them it did not occur to me. This isn’t a problem I have with other memes (that I’ve noticed), just these two.

As far as the actual panel topic is concerned. I was interested to here how Joe Mathlete of Marmaduke Explained made money. He did the usual T-Shirt thing for a while, but also accepted charitable donations until people sent him money and he began to feel weird about that. It seems currently he’s not making money from the site and is just hoping to not get sued. That I can understand. It was somewhat interesting to see how sorely JibJab stands out from the crowd with their corporate deals and infrastructure. It seems that they really are a sort of shadow marketing firm that happened to hit it big and are now trying to recreate their success. Shadow marketing firm is a bit wrong, because they are only trying to do it for themselves, they aren’t a hired gun as that term implies.

As I watch more videos, I’ll post more commentary, and link to it from here.

Kingston Station

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Well, that last post is pretty lame, so I’m gonna roll this one out pronto. Tonight’s WND was at a surprisingly spacious bar/restaurant near the Financial District. I chose Kingston Station at about 10pm last night. The place was dressed up to look like subway station, with white tiles and a mosaic plaque spelling out the stations name over a doorway. The main bar was loud (as tile does little to absorb sound), but the dining area was spared all of that noise. It was, however, somewhat of an upscale place, for a bar. Just behind our table was seated a group of maybe 16 men who were quite obviously from a law firm. It was also the kind of place that serves Absinthe, apparently legal now. This extended to the value proposition of the food, which was a little less than you’d expect for your money. The dishes were mostly enjoyable despite this.

We’ve been having some difficult over the past five months getting a large group together for dinners and so we’ve decided to go on a recruiting mission. For my part, I hope Kelly and some of her intern friends will join us while they are in town. As part of the recruiting drive we’re going to make June a best of Wednesday Night Dinner month. We’ll select restaurants from the early history of the group, of which some still present members have fond memories. We’ll give them a second shot to impress us for the benefit of the new people, and people like me who weren’t around back then. Sounds like fun. If you’re some stalker in Boston reading this (and I know there are some of you) and you want to come, let me know, and prove you’re not a creep :-)

Charging for the First Checked Bag

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

American Airlines will start charging $15 for the first checked bag…

Come on! That is a lot ridiculous. You might as well just increase fares by $15 across the board. The only real difference is the marketing angle. People are used to fare increases, they don’t like them, but they expect them. Increases in extraneous fees that you must pay just make people feel like you are ripping them off. The marketing can’t possibly favor the fee, now that it is no longer, hidden having been reported in the press.

I, personally, like to travel light and make a quick getaway from the airport. Until the asinine no liquids TSA rule was made I never checked a bag (when possible). The current, exceedingly annoying liquids rule results in the same behavior. The alternative, of course, is to purchase shampoo and such at your destination. This takes time, but probably only costs on the order of $5. By charging for a checked first bag American makes this option more desirable, probably more desirable than checking the bag. Although, it may be easier to for business travelers to get reimbursed for the fee than for the cheaper incidentals.

Of course, encouraging people not to check a bag does nothing to decrease the weight of the plane (saving fuel), it just makes them carry it on. With the planes packed as full as they are these days, there is already not enough space for everyone to carry on their two bags. This will only make things worse in that area, and further increase the importance of getting seated early in the boarding order. When the space on the plane is exhausted there will be an interesting choice — do you charge for baggage that must be checked at the gate due to over crowding? That is a damned if you do, loophole if you don’t situation.

The only saving grace of all this is that, for now,

Rival Delta has no current plans to match American’s fee for the first checked bag…

But we all know how this oligopoly works, everyone follows suit rather quickly. Of course, given the bone headedness of this idea compared to the easier to implement fare hike, maybe they wont all be lemmings. Come on, the cost to implement charing for a first checked bag has got to cost more than $15 per bag.

Dream Recounting

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

I’ve been having this recurring dream recently. If you know me, you know that any dream I can remember when waking is a rarity. I don’t, however, read much meaning into them. In this dream I am a high level assistant to a bumbling United States Senator. I’m a lawyer type who does his best to keep the senator in line and from looking like a fool. I’ve had this dream twice, with the second one being an extension of the first chronologically, not a repletion. While dreaming I remembered that in the first dream I was unable to discover the senator’s name, and so I made a point to find out this time. I succeeded, and it was a good name that now escapes my thoughts (and has done so all day). I remember that it was a man’s name befitting a senator.

Nearly all of the dream takes place in this grand, classroom sized, wood paneled, room outside of the Senate chambers. It has long dark wooden tables befitting a room of such a location at which myself and and an associate of mine, who shares my task, are the only ones seated. The senator or his other, more lowly aids rush in and out of the room and ask our advice, which is always sound. The advice is an abstraction, I give it, but I am not aware of what topics it is on, only that everyone bends to my word. Even the senator does not protest. Amazingly enough this position of power does not help me get laid, although this is not a prominent aspect of the dream. It’s quite enjoyable when I’m having it, but in retrospect it seems pretty lame. It is difficult to control due to the constant interruptions of people needing advice. This sort of resets anything I try to do. If I have it again I’m going to try to have some more fun, see if I can walk around a bit.