A place for new ideas to settle.

22 July 2015

Wednesday Links -- 22 July 2015

Here's some of the stuff I've read about this week that's worth a comment or two.

h/t Slate Star Codex: There's an international codebook for medical conditions, presumably to help with diagnosis (and billing). There's a big enough need for precision that you get such codes as W22.02 (Walked into a lamppost) and V91.07 (Burn due to water-skis on fire). Humorous, and food for thoughts on the inherent problems of putting human experience into rigid categories.

h/t Asher, who was kind enough to link to my Smugquake post in his own post about that New Yorker earthquake clickbait. Asher's post has the added benefit of cartoon illustrations, so go read that!

I really like the mini-documentaries put out by Retro|Report. They did a good one on vaccination a while back, but this one on the Waco massacre really highlights how they can show both sides of an event without succumbing to the wiles of the Magical Balance Fairy. Plus, they draw the clear path from Waco to the militia movements of the 1990s and the Patriot movements of the 2010s, including the cowboy cosplayers at the Bundy Ranch.

The Atlantic on hackathons, specifically StartupBus, specifically the StartupBus through Appalachia, which sounds like the most terrifying variant of what we on Tuggyloop Radio described as "the world's douchiest road trip" back in March of 2014. You got scooped, Atlantic! Scooped I say!

Scott Adams on the "judgy bubble":
I might be one of the least-judgmental people on Earth. That’s because I see humanity as a bunch of moist robots bumping around according to the laws of physics. My worldview doesn’t include free will as anything but a necessary illusion to keep people sane. I never believe people “choose” to be evil or socially unacceptable.

I say this sort of thing often, and that means people quickly identify me as someone who can hear their deepest secrets without judging. And so I do.
Adams is one of a few online writers (notably: middle-aged, white, male, tech-focused or tech-adjacent) who write in a very particular voice. Namely, I get a sense that they see themselves as hyper-competent, virile manly men, and everyone else is either a follower or an obstacle. So you get rather bizarre postings like Adams "people tell me their deepest secrets all the time, because I see humanity as just a bunch of moist robots" and, similarly, Eric S. Raymond's occasional reminders to his readership about how many women throw themselves at him (which of course he manages chivalrously because he is a married man, but of course his wife is okay with it). I'm not entirely sure what the point of this posturing is, but I do think it's a pattern.

h/t Milo, a very interesting post from Aceso Under Glass called "Status Through Disbelief":
You can believe people are wrong, you don’t have to accept all ideas as equally valid.  But what I would suggest, and what I’m attempting to do myself, is to make the amount of energy you put into your disbelief proportional to the harm the idea causes, not its wrongness.  To have wrong ideas drop out of sight, resurfacing only if they cause problems or turn out to be a winning lottery ticket.   I think that on net this leads to a better world, and in the meantime I’m calmer and less annoyed.
The Startup That Wants To End Social Anxiety: On the one hand, it's great that some people want to use Web 2.0 technology for good... but on the other hand, can we really trust startup culture to deliver on this one?

He who tweets with marketers should take care, lest he become a marketer. And if you tweet too long into the Abyss, the Abyss tweets back at you. Somewhat related: As this is anonymously related to the author I don't really give it much likelihood of being true, but hilarious if so—and honestly, I would totally do this if someone was foolish enough to let me design news graphics. I Hid Illuminati Symbols In Broadcast News Graphics Because I Was Bored

I enjoy some academic schadenfreude: A professor at University of Maryland subjected his students to the Prisoner's Dilemma for extra credit. And I laugh.

Doron Zeilberger is a mathematician with lots of opinions. This one is particularly provocative: Guess What? Programming is Even More Fun Than Proving, and, More Importantly It Gives As Much, If Not More, Insight and Understanding

The members of Something Awful know that gibbering insanity is a part of any healthy breakfast: has anyone noticed strange things happening since cheerios + ancient grains was released?


The r/BadHistory subreddit is like MST3K for history nerds. Here's a particularly high-effort post refuting Civil War apologia, which may or may not be currently relevant oh wait it's totally relevant

My 5th grade Language Arts teacher kickstarted my journey into fantasy fiction by suggesting The Sword of Shannara for a book report project—the author, Terry Brooks, is a Pacific Northwest native. Now MTV is making a series out of the (better) second book in the original trilogy, and it looks kind of awesome. New Zealand location (but check out the Planet-of-the-Apes-style toppled Space Needle!) and shockingly good CGI for television, at least in the trailer. I'm actually kind of looking forward to the pilot. "High fantasy set in our own post-apocalyptic future" is a pretty great pitch, right?

Theme music for the week:

h/t Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs for spotlighting Drew Ofthe Drew, a Berklee grad with some very interesting musical predilections. He does dubstep remixes and also has a full band for crazier fusion of jazz/pop/electronic stuff, which I totally dig. Here's one song, and another song.

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