April 30th, 2007

Ask Mr. Tool!

An interesting article about Beijing’s bad habits, but I was most impressed that a guy named Tool is running around Beijing teaching “analytical thinking” and being offended by bad English translations. Naming is destiny, I suppose.

Where do figure I can get a “Woodpecker Society” green sash?

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April 30th, 2007

NY dining scene: so 5 minutes ago

While I know ALL of us will disagree with the statement that “there’s only so much you can do with a pork belly,” I have to say I agree with the overall thrust of this New York Magazine article. I think he misses the larger point, that New York’s continuing transformation into an amusement park (to be sure, the world’s most expensive amusement park) is a big part of the problem. New York is losing out to Las Vegas because it is trying to play Las Vegas’ game — and when you play Vegas, the house always wins.

I, for one, absolutely believe that Seattle is far ahead of New York — on a per capita basis at least. As I have said many times, I would not trade Seattle for New York. (London, though… that might be another story!)

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April 29th, 2007

Jay’s back – now with LOLcats!

I suppose I could go back and try to see how long it has been since I posted anything more substantial than vacation pictures, but the answer is pretty simple: a long-ass time.

But I’m back. I’m going to make a concerted effort to reenter the blogosphere on a regular—if perhaps not daily—basis. Even I am tired of my pathetic excuse, “it’s been really crazy at work.” Well, when isn’t it. My company’s CEO and other top execs manage to blog regularly, so I really need to get over myself.

To celebrate my triumphant return to nonfamous, I want to talk about something VERY important… LOLcats. More specifically, LOLcats and the future of the English language.

If you’re not familiar with this particular species of animal, please to enjoy:

These images courtesy of this ummyeah.com, a site with the hyper-accurate tagline “Dear Productivity, it was nice knowing you.” But the reigning champion of the LOLcats phenomenon is I can has cheezburger?, a site that you should never visit unless you want to become that guy who just has to show co-workers funny pictures of cats. Reader, I became him. Which is especially sad when you consider that I don’t even like cats!

But as usual, I have an overintellectualized rationalization that allows me to partake of an otherwise guilty pop-culture pleasure. I put my Amateur Linguistics Society hat firmly on my pointy head every time I wade into the syntactically strange habitat of the LOLcat. These are not normal cat photos, you see… LOLcats are cat photos captioned in a strange hybrid of Internet jargon, text messagisms and assorted geek memes. What’s really interesting to me (and apparently Anil and some linguist guy I’d never heard of) is the fact that that LOLcat syntax and usage, however hilariously fractured from the mother tongue, have rapidly acquired a fairly durable structure—deserving, perhaps, to be understood as a pidgin. It simply doesn’t take long (500 LOLcats, say) to recognize a “correct” caption from a wrong one. And almost invariably, the funniest captions are those that best comport with canonical (catonical?) usage. (Here’s a primer, if you’re interested.)

What’s interesting to me is that the LOLcat penomenon takes something with fairly universal appear (pictures of cats) and creates a shared inside joke. Anything you have to explain isn’t funny, but when I showed my boss the insanely cute photo above, I had to explain the whole “im in ur ___ ____ing ur ____z” thing to her. Granted, some LOLcats captions are pretty accessible, but the whole movement is more or less as cliquish as highschool—LOLcats fans are the unlikely cool kids with their special words and inscrutable hierarchies of hilarity.

Which brings me to my final point. What is a grammar-geek with a degree in English to think of this? Isn’t it another sign of linguistic apocalypse? Maybe so, if you as the Ireland’s State Examination Commission, which just released a report which apparently tries to answer the question “Y cant teh jonny rite?”:

“The emergence of the mobile phone and the rise of text messaging as a popular means of communication would appear to have impacted on standards of writing as evidenced in the responses of candidates,” the report said, according to Wednesday’s Irish Times. “Text messaging, with its use of phonetic spelling and little or no punctuation, seems to pose a threat to traditional conventions in writing.”

The report laments that, in many cases, candidates seemed “unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary”.

It may well be that LOLcats and its fellow tech-inspired argots are “in ur brainz, fraggin ur wordz.” If LOLcats is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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April 18th, 2007

Whistler introduces Peak-to-Peak Gondola

Coming December next year: the Whistler Blackcomb – Peak to Peak Gondola. Whistler/Blackcomb has always been my favourite ski resort, but the two mountains, while adjacent, are separate from the skiier’s perspective: you have to come all the way down to the base to switch from one mountain to the other. That will change with the new peak-to-peak gondola just announced. Each cabin will cross a span longer than four Golden Gate bridges wide in about 11 minutes, sailing over the valley floor higher than four Statues of Liberty. Sweet! Check out the video section for the views.

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April 17th, 2007

The three laws of Roombotics

  1. Roomba must not suck up jewelry or other valuables, or through inaction, allow valuables to be sucked up.
  2. Roomba must obey vacuuming orders given to it by humans except when such orders would conflict with the first law.
  3. Roomba must protect its own ability to suction dust and debris as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

But when Roomba violates these laws, chaos ensues. I, for one, welcome our vacuuming overlords.

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April 15th, 2007

The future of fountains in multinational corporation lobbies

From a scientific perspective, this is cool. But check out the last 30 seconds for the future in laser-lit fountains in NY corporate lobbies.

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April 13th, 2007

A new kind of puzzle

For you puzzle fans, here’s something fresh: a 3-D building puzzle from MathsNet Interactive Geometry. It’s not too clear from the interface, so here are some instructions:

  • The goal is to create the 3 illustrated 2-D patterns created when looking at a 4×4x4 pattern of cubes from above, the front, and to the right. You only need one cube in the marked row/rank/column to create the pattern in profile, but the puzzle may demand more.
  • The top view is looking down on the grey grid, with the arrow at the bottom pointing upwards. The “front” view is looking along the arrow. For the “right” view, rotate the grid 90 degrees to the left from the front view, so the arrow points to the right of the screen.
  • To add cubes to the grid, select “build” and click the grey grid or the face of an adjoining cube. To remove cubes from the grid, select “break down” and click a cube to remove.
  • There are 10 puzzles in all — select a puzzle by clicking “figuur1″, “figuur2″ etc. They are not in order of difficulty; in fact #1 is one of the hardest. I suggest starting with #5 or #6 until you get the hang of it.
  • You have to use exactly the specified number of cubes: no more, no less. When you make the right profile pattern in all 3 dimensions but with too many cubes, a green dot will appear next to the puzzle name — you’re close, but not there yet. You need to remove more cubes while preserving the profile patterns until the dot turns yellow, indicating you’ve solved that puzzle.

It’s very tricky to start out with, but there’s a trick you need to figure out that makes it much easier. If you’re stuck, the trick is after the fold. Enjoy.

Read the rest of this entry »

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April 6th, 2007

Enjoy your commute

As they say, you know you live in Seattle when you think of a floating bridge as a pain in the ass instead of a marvel of engineering. So, ever wondered what would happen if the 520 bridge got hit by a windstorm?

Or maybe an earthquake?

Enjoy your commute.

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April 2nd, 2007

Google offering Free WiFi in homes

TiSP for Enterprise
We’re actively developing a higher-performance version of TiSP specifically tailored to small and medium-sized businesses, including 24-hour, on-site technical support in the event of backup problems, brownouts and data wipes.

This above factoid become increasingly funnier when you realize that the fibre optics run through the sewer and out your toilet. The age old standard of magazine reading material will be replaced by a WiFi capable device in the very near future. Feel free to visit the Google TiSP group to discuss your backup or wipe problems with others that may have similar problems.


PS> Interestingly enough, Rich Miller points out that sewer delivered fibre optics were actually implemented in Indianapolis and the ‘Burq in 2001.

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