Monday, December 31, 2007

Measure Your Racism Online

The book Blink I blogged about referenced an online tool developed at Harvard that attempts to measure certain biases / preferences that one holds within his/her unconscious thinking.

The technique is called an Implicit Association Test (IAT). It works by flashing words or pictures on a screen and having you classify them as quickly as possible.

Go take the "Race IAT" to measure your bias of white or black skinned people.

The site is here: http://implicit.harvard.edu

Click on the "Demonstration" button and follow the screens until you can select which IAT to take.

Blink



The holiday break gave me a chance to finally read "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell and I loved it.

The book is about our "adaptive unconscious" which is the part of the brain that reacts quickly or "instinctively" for us. You use this, for example, "when you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a truck is bearing down on you". Here you clearly don't have time to consciously think about all of your options!

In this mode of thinking the brain will process a vast amount of information and render a decision very quickly. We have difficulty explaining the rational for these decisions though and often can only describe them as hunches or gut feelings.

This kind of thinking can be helpful or hurtful depending on how and when you use it. Malcolm describes, for example, an art expert who is able to quickly and accurately spot a forgery even though he is unable to explain exactly how he knows. He also describes a car salesman who is betrayed by his unconscious because of certain stereotypes based on sex or skin color that cause him to lose sales.

The book describes this type of thinking and makes the case that it is possible to "educate and control" our "snap judgements and first impressions".


In Blink you'll meet doctors and generals and coaches and furniture designers and musicians and actors and car salesmen and countless others, all of whom are very good at what they do and all of whom owe their success, at least in part, to the steps they have taken to shape and manage and educate their unconscious reactions.


My one criticism is that he is not able to explain when you should or should not trust your this "unconscious" thinking. It was very interesting reading though and I highly recommend it.

Emacs.NET ?

A blog post from a Microsoft employee says:

We are looking for developers/testers to build a tool that I will roughly describe as "Emacs.Net".


zdnet.com speculates on it here.

Conan O'Brien's 2000 Commencement Speech



One of my favorite commencement day speeaches I've read / heard was the one Conan O'Brien gave to Harvard in 2000.

I just read it again and thought I would share it.

The Mythical 5%

Bruce Eckel posted his commencement address to Neumont University, a school in Salt Lake City dedicated to teaching computer science.

It is a pretty good read.

36 Startup Tips

readwriteweb.com has posted a great article titled "36 Startup Tips: From Software Engineering to PR and More!".

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jump In My Car

While we are on the topic of Knight Rider check out the following David Hasselhoff video.

And yes .. this is real!

Hilarious.



Jump in my car!

Knight Industries Three Thousand



Looks like yet another 80's classic is coming back. NBC will be airing a brand new Knight Rider made-for-TV movie in February 2008!

KITT will be upgraded from a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am to a 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR and the acronym KITT will no longer stand for "Knight Industries Two Thousand" but instead "Knight Industries Three Thousand".

Popular Mechanics has a hilarious feature by feature comparison between them.

Unfortunately the article fails to mention the existence of the car "Knight 4000" which was featured in the little remembered Knight Rider 2000 made-for-TV movie in 1991. It was based on the Pontiac Banshee concept car and had impressive features such as a built in fax machine.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spam Management User Manual?

I recently had to look at a User Manual for a spam filter that works with MS Exchange.

One section was called "Spam management from the user’s point of view".

The first two sentences read:

This chapter describes how users can manage their spam. First and foremost, it needs to be pointed out that [this software] has been designed to minimize spam management by the user.


The chapter went on for 7 pages.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Batman - The Dark Knight Trailer

The trailer for the new Batman movie turned up on You Tube. Check it out:



Comes out in December 2008.

There is a much higher quality version on atasteforthetheatrical.com here

Friday, December 14, 2007

Monkeys and Culture


fridayreflections.typepad.com posted an interesting anecdote on monkeys and culture.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

From Boiling to Freezing

Watch what happens when you throw boiling water into sub zero temperature air:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Google Street View in Boston



It was announced that Google has updated Google Maps to include "street view" images in the Boston area!

Just enter an address, click the "Street View" button and then click an area on the map.

Everyone at work is busy trying to find themselves.

No luck for me yet.

#2 on Google



I just discovered that my posting from Wednesday is currently the #2 result on Google when you search for the words "Poor Man's PCP".

Scientists Kill Oldest Living Animal



Time has written an article on the top ten scientific discoveries of 2007.

#9 is the discovery of

what is believed to be the world's oldest living animal: a 405 year-old clam. Or it was living, until researchers had to kill it to determine the clam's age by studying rings on its shell.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

News Headline of the Day


The news headline of the day goes to this article on yahoo news:
Eco-friendly kangaroo farts could help global warming: scientists

kangaroo flatulence contains no methane and scientists want to transfer that bacteria to cattle and sheep who emit large quantities of the harmful gas.

25th Anniversary for the Commodore 64

CNN is running a piece on the Commodore 64 and a website called C64.com that is "dedicated to preserving the games, demos, pictures, magazines and memories of the Commodore 64".

On Monday, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, will celebrate the C64's 25th anniversary. Computer pioneers will reflect on the C64's achievements and contribution to the industry. Jack Tramiel, the founder and CEO of Commodore, will attend, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and William C. Lowe, father of the IBM PC.
Two of the site's most popular downloads are Ghostbusters and Impossible Mission which were my two favorites. Can't wait to try them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Poor Man's PCP

I got my first bad cold of the year. I went to CVS to buy Tylenol Cold medicine and the clerk asked me for proof of age! Then she gave me a note that said the following:

Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse
You must be 18 years of age or older to purchase medicine containing dextromethorphan
Here are some excerpts from the wikipedia entry on dextromethorphan (DMX for short):
When taken at doses higher than are medically recommended, dextromethorphan acts as a dissociative hallucinogen. It produces effects similar to those of the controlled substances ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP), which affords it a high potential for abuse.
Dextromethorphan has little to no psychological effect in the doses used medically; however, alteration of consciousness generally occurs following ingestion of approximately 7 to 50 times the therapeutic dose over a relatively short period of time.
Slang terms for DXM often correlate to the brands of cough medicine used, such as "tussin," "robo," "dex," "Red Devils," "Triple C's," "skittles," and "poor man's PCP". Recreational use of DXM is frequently referred to in verb form as "dexing," "tussing," "decked out," "roboing," and "robotripping".
Due to abuse and theft concerns, many retailers in the US have moved DXM-containing products behind the counter so that one must ask a pharmacist to receive them or be 18 years (19 in NJ) or older to purchase them. Some retailers also give out printed warnings about the potential for abuse with the purchase of products containing DXM.
So I bought two bottles instead of one.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rambo Trailer!



We have been waiting 20 years for this. A new Rambo movie hits theatres on January 25th, 2008.

Check out the trailer here.

Evel Knievel Dead at 69



Evel Knievel died last night at the age of 69.

From a yahoo news article:

Immortalized in the Washington's Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.


Here he is jumping the fountains at Caesar's Palace. He was in a coma for a month after:




And here is the (attempted) jump over Snake River Canyon while in a rocket:



How did he make it to 69!?