Archive for October, 2009

A long time coming… read the full essay here.

Their theft had shown that under each other’s influence they could be impulsive and unscrupulous. Could they also—no matter how unbelievable it seemed—be violent?


And yes, he’d written a school paper about a man in a black trenchcoat who brutally murders nine students. But we’d never seen that paper. (Although it had alarmed his English teacher enough to bring it to our attention, when we asked to see the paper at a parent-teacher conference, she didn’t have it with her. Nor did she describe the contents beyond calling them “disturbing.” At the conference—where we discussed many things, including books in the curriculum, Gen X versus Gen Y learners, and the ’60s folk song “Four Strong Winds”—we agreed that she would show the paper to Dylan’s guidance counselor; if he thought it was a problem, one of them would contact me. I never heard from them.)

Easy to wonder why no one thought to bring up details of the paper but remember until Columbine, there wasn’t some obvious trenchcoated kids killing peers stereotype….  the essay might have been “run of the mill” disturbing…

I think I believed that if I loved someone as deeply as I loved him, I would know if he were in trouble. My maternal instincts would keep him safe. But I didn’t know. And my instincts weren’t enough. And the fact that I never saw tragedy coming is still almost inconceivable to me.

And that’s just it… it’s extremely complicated and no one is to blame.

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You Make the Call – does the amazon recommendation engine have me figured out?  here’s what I saw when I logged in 10 minutes ago:

Amazon Recommends Mimi to Me Me!

Amazon Recommends Mimi to Me Me!

Quiz: Which of these products do I actually own?

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Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App

Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App

[full disclosure: I’ve been working with the Wolfram|Alpha team… so I’ll leave out a review or discussion on price justification]

The Wolfram|Alpha iPhone App is live in the App Store.  The blogosphere has its own impressions.  Argue price, features, business models, and whatever else that seems relevant in those lively communities.  On this blog and post I’ll give you my impressions and use cases.

Features that are unique and handy to the iPhone App:

  • History – it keeps a running history of your queries.  As a utility for doing many queries within the same domain, this is extremely helpful and time saving
  • Favorites – As with the history, it’s nice to set up your own list of queries you’ll do over and over again.  This becomes a sort of “homepage” for me.
  • better GeoLocation – because the Apps can get at lat/long the overall geolocating is stronger than via the geoIP on the website.
  • Refined Keyboard input – when doing a lot of math or long calculations it’s much easier to input queries with a fine-tuned keyboard.  Though not a limitation on the full website, the constraints of the default mobile keyboards made using the website challenging on a smart phone.  Not so in the app.
  • Direct Links to Source Information – this will go unnoticed by many… but having a hyper linked bibliography with this depth is extremely useful if you need to research deeply or go beyond the calculation.

Features that make this a killer mobile app for me:

  • Instant access to real time information about the most important daily data points in my life all in one app: weather, stocks, earthquakes (i live in la!) …
  • An easy to use calculator that saves me tons of keystrokes via unit conversions and cleaning up my sloppy input
  • deep data in many of my own hobbies, pursuits and professional domains.  Getting an individual app for each hobby is quite expensive, time consuming and frustrating to learn how apps work

Things that can be improved:

  • I wish I could set the Favorites tab to be my default opening screen with a search box on top.  This would speed up activation of the service
  • Offline use for very basic calculations when no compute data is accessed.
  • Ability to Add Notes – I’d like to be able to keep private comments and ideas right inside the app (and export later with links to the inputs/outputs)
  • Mashing with Wikipedia and/or other essay style knowledge sources – would be convenient to have backgrounders on some topics and be able to use the Wolfram|Alpha assumption/categorization to do some of the knowledge mining for me.

Post your impressions/use cases once you get the app.

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It wasn’t real news the other day, but it is now.  Balloon Boy – a series of hoaxes.  First the original hoax, now the authorities “misleading” the media to “keep the trust” of the Heenes.  So now how do you go on to nail someone for lying and then use lies to trap them in their lies?

As I said the other day there are some serious issues with TV news and the real time web.  It’s clear that few folks stepped away from the situation to really consider what was going on.   It’s pretty easy to blame the Heenes.  BUT…. Media (broadcasters and consumers) created the Heenes.   So… how will we all approach these situations in the future?   Instead of news and real time web being a stiff wind to fan the flames, how can it turn into machinery to get at the facts/truth faster? Is it even possible to be REAL TIME and get to the facts?  (I don’t think so)

If new media doesn’t figure this out, which only happens when consumers demand it, we’ll see oddities like this becoming far less odd and it will get harder to decipher what’s a serious situation and what isn’t.

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Good news.  The boy was just hiding in the attic.

The bad news… the real time web (twitter) and news outlets went haywire.  These outlets are fighting for credibility and this ain’t going to help.

Oh, and this story is hardly over

There’s no point in judging the media, the parents, etc. etc.   Everyone is a product of their environment and learning… start putting these pieces together and its straightforward how such a “strange” set of events can unfold and will continue to unfold.

This going to generate big ratings for post event interviews, conspiracy stories, internet videos… I bet someone even invents a Balloon Boy toy or tshirt or something.  And what’s balloon boy going to learn from all of this?

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LCROSS Centaur Separation occurred at 9:50 p.m. EDT (6:50 p.m. PDT), Oct. 8. After separation, the spacecraft performed a 180 degree pitch maneuver (turning around) to reorient the LCROSS science payload towards the receding Centaur.

Read more from NASA

This is going to be so great!

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… I would stop making movies altogether and just focus on making video games.

HALO franchise has sold more than 27 million units worldwide.  $1.6 billion or so in cash money.  This from a game that probably only cost $40 million to make.  and far less than that to market.

Beyond just unit sales the number of impressions generated by Halo and its online machinima, books, boardgames and other offshoots is pretty staggering.  Factor in additional sales of XBox hardware and peripherals.   Movies would be very hard pressed to beat this.  And, no, this isn’t the only game franchise with these kinds of numbers.

If you want a really neat look into games, gamer numbers and recent gaming behavior, this is a great preso.

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Paul Carr nailed this.

Geekiness is now cool enough to invade pop culture in a non-patronizing way.  It goes much deeper and further back than than Carr presents in his funny (and weird!) post this morning.

Super Cool Geek

Super Cool Geek

The “geek” used to stand for values and behaviors counter to fame, fortune and romance. And, in general, geekery didn’t lead to fame, fortune and romance.  There’s no real simple cause and effect chain of when geekery broke through.  A combination of hi-tech business success, the gadget as status symbol, the Internet and TXT as major communication medium, and the shift from blue collar to knowledge worker jobs generated a demand for pop culture representing the world and then the success of that pop culture reinforced further geek-to-cool.

Above I have a picture of Robert Redford from Sneakers (from 1992).  I think this is one of those early hi-tech geeks can be cool and sexy movies.   It’s distinctly different than say War Games – where the geek is still counter-culture.   I think the Matrix pushed geekery officially into cool.   In some ways the Matrix gave a message of “geeks shall save us all” as well as pushed geeks to be as cool as Neo – a celebration and a challenge.  The success of South Park’s creators, Simpsons’ writers, Model-turned-Punk’d-turned-TwitterLeader Ashton and countless other recent examples…. have only further cemented the reality that celebrity without geekery just isn’t possible anymore.

Now geekery is reinforced by the iPhone, distribution of viral videos, facebook, youtube.  Carr thinks it’s “weird” but in reality celebrities and media folks who don’t get their geek on are flat out not making as much money and gaining fans.   The geek vocabulary is now mainstream (and you might wonder if there is a deeper geekery developing that is counter culture to mainstream geekery… probably….).  Geekery is a part of how regular folks will meet boyfriends/girlfriends, get their first job, notify each other of life’s happenings, make their cash and so on.   The pop culture reflects this.

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Straight Shot:  The Zune HD is a better gadget than the iPOD touch.

Still needs work:  The Zune HD has only a handful of games available and almost no apps.

Frustrating:  Despite a decent browser, most websites kick the Zune browser to their crappy mobile sites.

Long Wind:   I’ve been a avid user of the ipod touch since it’s launch.  I love mine.  However, it’s starting to annoy me.  The battery with wifi is weak on the touch.  The itunes store doesn’t save your password and prompts you incessantly.  I hate the way apps come up and shut down.  It’s heavy.  The headphone jack is on bottom… blargh (so is the zune’s… double blargh).

my biggest beef though is that the itunes experience is old and the track by track business model annoys me.  I much prefer the amazon mp3 approach for track buying (buy once and it’s yours) and the Zune pass for all-you-can-eat subscriptions.

The Zune HD is a great little device.  I mean it is little… very light and thin.  Touch screen is crisp and responsive.  The user interface is nice and seems fresh.  The HD radio is very nice.   Ok, i’ll admit it’s still a bit geeky looking compared to the sexy ipod/iphone curvey/shiny/flashy cases…. but geeky is the new sexy, right?

Mark My Words:  The Zune and the Microsoft entertainment ecosystem will continue to chip away at Apple’s dominance.  From gaming  to VOD to music players Microsoft has a better line up and that will win out over time.

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I can tell you this article is WRONG about why we love zombies.  and by love, we mean, we fear them and we love the adrenaline they produce.

Channeling my evolutionary psycho/bio/social – ist… it’s because mostly mindless stuff has chased us/stood in our way of survival for eons.

no really.   we fear the random beasts that come to chase us from the stuff we need/love/want.  The more human it appears, the more dangerous it seems.  I suspect this holds for vampires too.  They just look like creatures that would eat us and are smart enough to trick us.

For all these creatures the fancy stories are just gloss on a really simple thing… we fear the unrelenting beast that can’t be talked out of taking us out.

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