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Hello, and a place for questions [Jan. 1st, 2037|12:00 am]

So -- you've found my journal. If I know you, hi. If I don't know you, hi -- introduce yourself. Remind me why I might know who you are, or where you bumped into me and my journal -- all comments are screened by default. (You could also just email me directly if you're overly concerned about secrecy.)

Want to leave me a note? Comment here.

General questions? Comment here.

Remember that what I write here I retain the copyright to. In general, I love it when people link to (public) posts, and almost always give permission to repeat elsewhere what I've said here; but I do depend on my words and ideas to earn my pay, so if you want to use my words and ideas to make money, drop me a line first.

Have fun!
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Back before the ticking clock made each of us its slave [Sep. 2nd, 2014|07:51 am]
Happy first day of Fall!

I mean, yeah; it's only Sep 2. But the Autumn Roast coffee is out. So that counts, right?
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(no subject) [Aug. 16th, 2014|09:04 am]
Once you realize that laziness is one of the strongest of human tendencies, UX becomes the fine art of using people's innate laziness to help them achieve their goals.

It's a bit aikido-like, or perhaps like stage magic: using the mind's own weaknesses to achieve a particular effect.

(The opposite meta-goal can, of course, be achieved: using UX's dark patterns to guide people away from their best interests in service of your own. Perhaps we need a moral code, akin to bushido or the Jedi Code, to help UX practitioners introspect about the results they generate.)
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What's this concept called? [Aug. 15th, 2014|09:11 am]
I keep encountering people saying "we don't have control over X", where X is something they don't have control over directly, but can control indirectly. I keep calling this "second-order control", like, I can't control the weather, but I can control what I wear and where I spend time, thereby controlling my comfort levels a bit more.

Is there, like, an accepted term for this?
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Not a tame lion [Aug. 7th, 2014|08:35 am]
Katherine Langrish revisits C.S. Lewis, in what will hopefully be the first of a series of posts.

Interesting thoughts on fable vs. allegory, and the care shown by an author for a young audience.
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When we say "we", which "we" did "we" mean? [Aug. 4th, 2014|08:36 am]
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New email plug-in idea:

When encountering the text "we should ..." in an email, throw up a warning.

This would be similar to the "is attached / no attachment" warning that gmail emits, but with text "who should?"

Or, Wikipedia style: "We[who?] should..."

Too many "we should X..." ideas get dropped on the ground; it's an anti-pattern, one of failed delegation.
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Social science has a small "replication problem" [Aug. 3rd, 2014|03:23 pm]
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The journal Social Psychology attempts to replicate famous social science experiments, only able to do so with p<0.2[1].

I may have to pop off to a local college and have a perusal of this issue. I think of SP as a good journal with interesting results...which, y'know, may be highly suspect.

[1] That there's a joke. If you published an effect with p < 0.2 people'd laugh at you, right? Right?
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Creature creature double feature, part 2: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) [Aug. 1st, 2014|04:24 pm]
"Only Lovers Left Alive" is at its heart a movie about the ennui of nostalgia. Or perhaps a meditation on When Cool Kids Are Feeling Old[1]. It's very funny in an understated sort of way, and sucks you into its languid, easy pace.

Yes, there is some blood, and some fetishizing of blood, so this is not a good movie for some of my friends--but there's no violence, not really. This is a "talky", as they say. There is some frank investigation of deep ennui and acedia, and what that can precipitate, but it's handled in a loving way.

It was an excellent movie, of precisely the sort you don't get in a summer blockbuster. An art-house film, they'd call it, if people said that sort of thing any more.

Tilda Swinton gets to play a delightful vampire named Eve--possibly *that* Eve, though it's not explained--still alive these thousands of years and living in Tangier, of all places, at the intersection of cultures. She is the White Queen from a chess set, with her white leather coats and braided hair and sweeping motions, and particular care in speaking. She is people and literature; when she packs for a journey, we are treated to two or three minutes of book porn. She is life, still.

Tom Hiddleston[2] plays the matching Black King and is named, of course, Adam; he lives in Detroit, a famous rock musician in reclusion, playing ancient guitars and using a hodge-podge of out-of-date technology which he makes work using his technological know-how (bordering on wizardry). The anachronisms are hilarious; he uses a Mac laptop of the DuoDock era to power videoconferencing which shows up on an early 50s-era TV, incongruously connecting to FaceTime on Eve's white (of course) iPhone. He is technology and music, but he just can't be bothered to remember what was invented *this* decade as opposed to last (or next) century. He is...bored. Lonely and bored.

Events soon pull them back together, but mostly this is a slice of their life, a small section like a book in the middle of Pepys' Diaries pulled off the shelf and read and returned with no thought to rereading the rest of the series.

So, we have two tremendously gorgeous actors paid to be gorgeous and in love with each other, in a slow, long, languid fashion. The entire movie shows them draping themselves tiredly over furniture, or reluctantly engaging in conversation, dragging themselves to and fro, going for long drives to nowhere in the middle of the night. There are three or maybe four scenes where someone is trying to roust one of them from bed, successfully, but always with great resistance.

It's torpor[4], played out; these are vampires whose Humanity is a little low (Adam's moreso than Eve's), and for whom sleep is the most enjoyable activity around. While they've slept the world has moved on--except it hasn't, not in their little bubbles. Eve has shrunk her world to that of her books and her few friends, and lives there. Adam's put himself in a "town that time turned its back on"; the movie buys, hard, into the myth[3] that Detroit is composed entirely of decaying wrecks and streets of empty houses. Each has helpers that let them stay isolated and safe.

They see the world as it was around them--though, unlike Angel (which I'm rewatching), they don't seem out of place in the modern day. It's just that modern times are one more day in an endless life, and "now" doesn't have the importance or immediacy that it might for others. They adapt each in their own way.

It's this image of two somewhat innocuous people trying to be both immortal and unbothered that comes through; the world is on their damn lawn, and while they're too polite to raise much of a fuss, and all too aware of how dangerous it is for the world to _really_ notice them, they're still peeved by the whole thing.

It is, of course, well-acted, with some fun performances from the surrounding characters[5], but mostly from the interplay of these two very, very, very old lovers, who are still completely cathected, out of time except for each other. There's lots of texture, everywhere; Eve's bedroom is a study in fabric and patterns, and Adam's lab/lair is a techno-geek's nest writ large and accumulated over a century.

There're a lot of funny situations, some of the painful-funny sort, but most funny due to their very absurdity. There are any number of visual puns, including an unremarked recreation of a famous painting that made me and my movie companion laugh out loud. In-jokes abound, most of which I didn't get; which books, which songs, which guitars, which hospitals. And, of course, plenty of anachronism.

It's downright fun, and a bit daft.

[1] /me goes and looks up the director. Who is also the writer; ah. Yeah, def. Ooh, he did "Ghost: Way of the Samurai", which everyone else loved and I thought was slightly above average.

]2] Apparently Hiddleston replaced Michael Fassbender in the movie; that would have led to a more smoky, Angel-like vampire, rather than the rather whiny and childishly self-indulgent Adam we get in the movie-as-made. I think I prefer the way it turned out.

[3] There are plenty of each in Detroit; and yet, there are also plenty of vibrant areas, which we never see in the movie. Well, once, a local dive bar, but it's portrayed as if it were a lone building out in the middle of blackness.

[4] As in the mechanism in "Vampire: The Masquerade". Humanity represents how human your character is, and you lose it by doing amoral things like eating people. When you are "killed" by a non-permanent mechanism (say, shot), you enter Torpor, a deep comatose state which you cannot be roused from except by extreme measures like dripping flesh blood down your throat. The lower your Humanity when you are injured, the longer and the worse the Torpor is; in practice, this means every so often a really old and evil vampire arises, confused and very hungry...

[5] I have omitted discussion of the supporting characters as therein lies some spoilers. But also because the main characters are the story and terrain both...
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I said to myself this affair...oh, darnit, what are those words? [Aug. 1st, 2014|07:27 am]

Movies. I keep watching movies. I like movie theaters; they're a fun third-place, and one of the few ways I spend my money on entertainment these days.

This past week minerva42 pointed out it was a double-feature at the Brattle: Under The Skin (2013), and Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). Both were worth seeing, though the former more for the experience than the movie itself.

Let me say this first: part of the allure of this movie is, of course, the opportunity to see Scarlett Johansson naked. The director gets this out of the way up front, though as with the rest of the movie, the aura is one of uncomfortableness, a person vaguely nauseated with the flesh; but at the same time fascinated. A later scene lets her be a little more comfortable in her own skin, but the net effect is never more than one of disquietude.

The film moves very slowly. Shots are long, lingering affairs, more suited to a Bergman film than a modern one. The scenery is a character; we proceed from dark evening highways to a very desolate city, to the barren highlands; and then, finally, to a place with vegetation and forests. This matches the action; it's clearly intentional. It never feels like day, even when the sun is shining, but at least there is rebirth.

This is a sci-fi movie in the tradition of 2001; it leans on camera work and in-camera effects to communicate the otherworldliness of its subject matter. The action proceeds at a languid pace, and goes unremarked and unexplained. There is little dialog, and what little there is is in thick Scottish accents, leaving me struggling to understand. Johansson adopts a thick British accent, which is incongruous both for her and for the locales.

This movie is a Roschach test, a story ambiguous enough that the viewer is invited to attach their own meanings. To me, it is about a number of things, among them the fascination with beauty and attraction, the power dynamic between men and women especially as it revolves around sex, and our own discomfort and fascination at ourselves.

Johansson does well in this; as another reviewer pointed out, it makes an excellent counterpart to "Her", which I recommend highly. In that, she is a disembodied voice, full of emotion and longing and caring, building a strong connection with others. In this, she is a voiceless body, devoid of emotion as she does horrible things to people she cannot really form connection with.

At its heart this is a movie about redemption, I think, but a brutal one; I can see the themes of "Catcher In The Rye" in it, in the destruction of self that occurs when we expose ourselves, vulnerable, to connection with others.

There is a brutal sexual assault, and death, and other horrid things in this movie. It has horror moments, and builds tension for long moments; though, like the protagonist, we are kept at some emotional remove from it, unsure of what the violence wrought really means to the disaffected victims.

In summary, while I feel like it was good to have seen this, it wasn't a good movie; it was more of a thought-experiment, a koan told in cinematic form.

Next up, Hiddles and Tilda Suck Blood...
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Distribution [Jul. 31st, 2014|06:21 pm]

As a reminder, here's a rough outline of what I post where*:

1. Facebook: inanity to keep family and high school acquaintances happy. Sometimes photos, but that's falling off.
2. Google+: links I find while at work. Programming stuff**.
3. Twitter: um...mostly retweets. Some quips. Sometimes ends up mirrored to FB.
4. LJ: actual thoughts, conversations, essays, photos, and personal ideas. And, of course, stories-in-progress. Because I like you the best, and also because LJ supports robust filtering that can be used by mortals.

(* Technically I also have a realname blog but it's hard to make myself work on it.)
(** Hmm. Some of that I should mirror here.)

Poll #1977334 Instant attitude (v2.1)
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: None, participants: 30

Your response:

View Answers
I read this
25 (64.1%)
10 (25.6%)
0 (0.0%)
1 (2.6%)
0 (0.0%)
Response exceeds available resources
3 (7.7%)
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