Reviews and links for July 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

4/5

Jon Ronson just has an incredible knack of getting crazy people to talk to him. In The Psychopath Test he mixes with Scientologists, CEOs, psychopaths and psychopath hunters. The book is both funny and very disturbing. There's the theory that a significant proportion of CEOs and politicians are successful because they are psychopaths. There's the somewhat arbitrary checklist that is used to diagnose a psychopath and the impossible situation of trying to prove that you're sane once you've been committed. And there's the profit seeking alliance between drug companies and psychologists that Ronson claims has led to over *three million* children being diagnosed as bipolar in the US when quite possibly none of them are.

 

One Day by David Nicholls

3/5

A sharply observed romance spanning the 80s, 90s and 00s. Initial lust turns to friendship, hatred, some more friendship and finally love. Decent enough read.

 

Links

- Why do so many people online hate "The Smurfs"? from All Salon (Because so many people IRL do).

- Spotify sued over music streaming from BBC News - Home (Trolls with a feeble looking patent. Sigh.).

- Judge blocks circumcision ban bid from BBC News - Home (Then under what theory is female circumcision banned?).

- Is monogamy essential to democracy? from All Salon (No, you're thinking of mahogany).

- We could have had the Moon, instead we get Afghanistan from jwz (Actually nearly three moons...).

- Medical Examiner: Bullet That Killed Kenneth Harding Not From Police from KQED News Fix (Will the protesters turn out for some community service this weekend then?).

- Standards from xkcd.com (Guilty).

- Government 'to back badger cull' from BBC News - Home ('badger' is a British euphemism for 'tabloid journalist').

- The Brain on Trial from jwz (Not guilty by reason of finely tuned initial conditions).

- Unusual toilets from Boing Boing (They missed the pop up toilets from Reading.).

World Time Lapse

Updated on Friday, May 22, 2020

I've just made a new time lapse video using web cams from the Catfood WebCamSaver directory:

If you haven't seem the time zone version it's a completely different take.

Toys

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Kate has a VTech Move & Crawl ball. From the name you can guess it’s supposed to help encourage crawling. Actually she was terrified of it for a couple of days, and now she likes to pick it up and interrogate it.

vtech-move-crawl-ball

I can’t wait for her to get bored and move on to a BigTrak. The ball is going to get some spray paint and be reincarnated as Sargent Major Zero:

sargent-major-zerojpg

If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Bolts of Fabric

I used to work in Woodley, a small town on the outskirts of Reading in the UK. The town center has a pub, a café, a newsagent, etc. It also had something truly remarkable – two shops that combined fabric and general haberdashery with pet supplies.

I never found out exactly how this came to be. I imagine that there was a fabric shop and a pet shop. The fabric shop was struggling and decided to start selling some dog food. The pet shop responded in kind. Both businesses ended up with no real focus, chasing the competition instead of doing one thing really, really well.

Either that or there was a really messy divorce…

Catfood: WebCamSaver and PdfScan

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Two new Catfood releases.

Catfood WebCamSaver 3.10 adds support for simultaneous updates in 4 and 16-cam modes. The WebCam Directory has also been completely overhauled. WebCamSaver is a rather voyeuristic screensaver that lets you watch live feeds from around the world. As well as a screensaver the feed is available in my World Webcams Google Gadget.

Catfood PdfScan 1.20 follows hot on the heels of 1.10. The main update is showing a preview of each scanned page which is super handy if you always forget which way pages are supposed to go in your document feeder. Mentioning no names…

Twitter: Put some status in status updates

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Paragraph Symbol

Give me an extra character for every year that I’ve been with Twitter.

Another extra character for every tweet that gets retweeted more than a couple of hops outside my social circle.

Ten more characters if I #AskObama and he answers.

Etc.

Circles

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

 A Circle

I just got on Google+, and the Circles concept definitely moves the ball forward, but my heart sinks a little at having yet another disconnected social identity. It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again – social networking needs to be an open, core internet standard like email. You can live on Facebook, Google, Twitter, wherever but your social graph should be independent of any specific service.

I don’t mean this in any (well, OK, a little) granola crunching open source way. Companies should compete to the death on their social graph implementation and added value. But the actual data on who your friends are should belong to you and should be both portable and interoperable. I should be able to friend someone on Google from within Facebook and share core items in both directions. If I get fed up of Facebook I should be able to move my graph and central identity elsewhere.

We’ve got OpenSocial, strangely not mentioned in the same breath as Google+, and Open Graph which is open for things but not people. Also FOAF, XUP, and other possible foundational standards. Of course the barriers here aren’t technical.

Altly wants to be Pepsi to Facebook’s Coke. I’m waiting to see what it tastes like, but it doesn’t sound like they’re itching to change the game.

Diaspora is an interesting project, but running instances (pods) of a social network is the wrong level of abstraction.

Of course ‘owning’ the graph is tremendously valuable and it’s hard to see Facebook giving this up anytime soon. If Google really don’t want to be evil they should use Google+ to liberate us from the tyranny of walled social gardens. Unless it turns out to be another Buzz or Wave in which case it’s down to us.

High-Frequency Trading

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Fibre optic cable

Algorithmic trading is getting a little out of hand:

“For high-frequency trading firms that use powerful computers to pop in and out of positions in milliseconds, so-called collocation, or "colo," is a pricey necessity. That's because trade times are approaching the speed of light, and the only way to make light reach its destination quicker is to shorten the trip.” smartmoney.com

This kind of trading accounts for an estimated 70% of US market volume. It’s completely disconnected from any kind of intrinsic value and only creates a benefit for the HFT firms and the exchanges that pocket the fees and exorbitant server hosting fees.

It’s like installing an ATM skimmer on the capital markets.

I think we need some way to enforce a hold period to discourage this business model. It could be an actual window that forces you to hold stock for a few days before selling (actually a few minutes might help), more likely a tax or fee that is prohibitively high at the millisecond turnover rate but ramps down to nothing after a week. 

Reviews and links for June 2011

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

5/5

A new must have parenting book. The giant pangolins of Madagascar are inspired, move over Eric Carle. The only problem with the book is that as soon as Kate can read I'm going to have to permanently worry about where this is hidden...

 

Started Early, Took My Dog (Jackson Brodie, #4) by Kate Atkinson

4/5

Better than When Will There Be Good News although no less depressing. Jackson Brodie (curiously now on Twitter as @JacksonBrodie) is back at the center of the action, investigating the origins of a woman in New Zealand who was adopted under mysterious circumstances. Needless to say it wasn't a harmless mix up. Typically discursive and character rich. Humorous with a black, black heart.

 

Links

- Robot Armpit Prototype from jwz (At last!).

- Scottish domain name bid launched from BBC News - Home (.scot is silly though, should nab .off which could power the economy post independence...).

- Parents 'influence teen drinking' from BBC News - Home (Funny how that works both ways ;)).

- Heat and light from BBC News - Home (Will a drop in solar activity counter global warming? Apparently not enough).

- High court spurns atheist's 'under God' challenge from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Pretty feeble arguments for why the phrase isn't discriminatory...).

- Sarah Palin on Paul Revere from Boing Boing (Got to love the Paul Revere head slap).

Catfood: Earth, PdfScan and Weather

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Three recent Catfood Software updates:

Catfood Earth 3.10 includes rotation to longitude / solar time, volcanoes, a screen saver, time zone updates and more. Catfood Earth uses satellite imagery and a variety of data feeds to render jaw-dropping live desktop wallpaper.

Catfood Earth 3.10

Catfood PdfScan 1.10 saves your selected paper size and feeder choices. There is also an option to keep PdfScan open after saving a scan, something that had been bugging me when slogging through large digitization projects. PdfScan is a free tool for scanning stuff into a PDF file.

Catfood PdfScan 1.10

Catfood Weather 2.00 includes weather alerts and an updated UI. Catfood Weather provides a free, taskbar based weather forecast for US locations.

Catfood Weather 2.00