I meant for this post to be a recap of everything that has happened this year, but quite honestly too many notable events occurred for me to even attempt to cram into a single post. Instead, I’ll leave you with the capable hands of Fimoculous and their 2008 list of best lists. I would like to say just one thing though: Obama FTW. Happy New Year everyone.
It started with a simple question posed by Coding Horror:
Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you met someone who told you they had two children, and one of them is a girl. What are the odds that person has a boy and a girl?
I instinctively thought 50% but realized I couldn’t explain why. This problem illustrates the unintuitiveness of Bayesian probability. The reasoning supposedly goes: the only available combinations are ‘boy then girl’, ‘girl then boy’, and ‘girl then girl’, which seems to indicate the probability is 66.67% (two-thirds), but the mind-wrecking part is that the order doesn’t matter so ‘boy then girl’ and ‘girl then boy’ are the same combination and so it’s 50%. This is a very hotly debated question—the comment thread ran 691 replies long last time I checked—and the answers run from zero to 100% with little agreement. The two most ‘correct’ answers, 50% and 66.67%, are both splitting the majority of the opinions.
Apparently, this problem suffers from malformed language: the way it’s phrased seems to rule out the possibility there’s two girls (“…one of them is a girl.”) so some people argue not enough information is given, and the language used to give it is flawed. If the problem ended here I wouldn’t be so confused, but it—of course—didn’t. Someone posted a link in the comment thread to an article on Overcoming Bias, “My Bayesian Enlightenment”, and rather than shed light on the matter—as the title seems to indicate—it cast me into further confusion.
I hate to start another paragraph with the same first word so this is a buffer. Apparently, there is a whole class of problems and puzzles that are inherently difficult for humans to grasp with our built-in mental facilities—like quantum mechanics and the Wason selection task. Read these two Wikipedia articles and I guarantee you will feel stupider than you did an hour ago. Consider my mind absolutely blown.
- Liz Lemon: This is gonna sound really weird, but, um… you need to wear a bra.
- Cerie: Oh no, I… I don’t, actually. They kind of just stay up on their own.
- Liz Lemon: Yeah, okay. What I’m saying is, you need to wear a bra to work if you want to be taken seriously in this business.
- Cerie: Oh, but I don’t actually want to work in television. Career-wise, I’m just gonna marry rich and then design handbags.
- Liz Lemon: Here’s the thing. The way that you dress, …is making some people around the office uncomfortable.
- Cerie: Really? Who?
- Pete Hornberger: [ducking in] Not me!
- Liz Lemon: I guess it’s mostly me that has the problem with it.
- Cerie: Oh, because you have, like, one of those body-image things?
- Liz Lemon: No, it’s not that.
- Cerie: Good, because I was gonna say, you still have a good body.
- Liz Lemon: Well, …thank you, but this isn’t about me.
- Cerie: Like, how’d you dress before you were married?
- Liz Lemon: I’m not married, Cerie.
- Cerie: Oh, for some reason I thought you had, like, three kids.
- Liz Lemon: Nope. Never married. No kids.
- Cerie: ’Cause sometimes you have, like, food stains on your shirt and stuff. I just assumed that it was kids.
- Liz Lemon: You know what? Forget I mentioned it. You look great.
It’s hard for me to imagine VHS was still around two years ago, with VHS versions of movies regularly released alongside their DVD counterparts as recently as March of 2006, when the VHS release of “A History of Violence” marked the end of the VHS era.
Although production of new films in VHS has ceased for over two and a half years, there was still a thriving market in buying up old VHS films and reselling them to bargain-basement chains and corner delis until this past October when the last major reseller Distribution Video Audio Inc. finally ended their VHS reselling business.
I hardly remember the last time I’ve watched anything in VHS and since my parents are fairly technologically proficient, it must not have been long after the introduction of DVD-Video in last 1997. I vaguely recall watching the 1991 live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” on VHS so many times I probably could have recited the dialogue by heart. I also remember my parents renting VHS cassettes from Blockbuster and me rewinding the tapes after viewing with one of those high-speed rewinding devices (remember those?).
VHS launched in the United States in 1977 and took until 2002 or 2003 for its sales to be surpassed by DVD-Video—a lifespan of 25 years. DVD-Video was launched in 1997 and many predict Blu-ray sales to surpass it by 2010, a lifespan of only 13 years. Technology only seems to be moving forward at a faster rate every year; I also predict Blu-ray will be the last major physical media format to rule the video market, before ceding marketshare to online video-streaming within 6 years. Check back with me in 2015 to see if I was right. The future never looked more exciting!
In New York, we all tend to mind our own business, politely, as far as neighbors are concerned. For example, I never complain when the male lovers upstairs keep me up all night. I humor the former crack addict, Anthony, from the 2nd floor with his “I’m taking this to the landlord!” crusades. And I smile genuinely each and every time I see the cute Puerto Rican mother and daughter at the laundromat, which has become so often that I am starting to recognize their unmentionables.
So this is my personal “I think you are a really good person” e-note to my next door neighbor, Jared. If I told him what a great man I think he is, he’d probably think I have a thing for him, then we’d have to interact awkwardly as we bump backs trying to lock our bizarrely positioned apartment doors. Thank you for randomly taking out my trash that I leave outside my door at night, that I intend to take down with me the next morning. I like the jazz you play on your saxophone, even when it’s just the scales. And how you always put it away promptly at 11pm, as if you think that’s when I might be heading to bed. And your whistling. I usually hate whistlers, but when I hear you humming your tunes as you lock up for the day, I can’t help but admire your attitude. And tonight when I ran into you on the street and you apologized for seeing me last week carrying my suitcase and not offering to help, you were sincerely beaten up over it. I think you’re nice, and I’m glad I live next to you.
The only post I’ve ever ‘liked’ and reblogged. There are dishearteningly few genuinely written entries on Tumblr—everything is just random photos with no captions or insight, or vaguely artsy quotes with no explanation or further details—I just had to show my appreciation for awesome posts like this.
Malcolm Gladwell questions why genius is so often equated with precocity in a fascinating New Yorker article. This is only one of a series of articles Gladwell writes on our sociological problems, another being one that delves into knowing which school teachers or quarterbacks are great before actually hiring them. It turns out that the school teacher and quarterback hiring predicament is remarkably similar, and Gladwell argues they can be compared with interesting results.
I’ve been fascinated by his compelling research against the long-standing belief that individual success comes solely from personal skill, intellect, or talent, and instead supporting the theory that a series of fortunate opportunities and surreptitious events happening to an individual do far more to cultivate success than individual merit alone. The very American belief of the ‘self-made man’ is controversially questioned in his book Outliers, which looks fairly interesting but has attracted its fair share of criticism for being overly disorganized, citing dubious sources such as Wikipedia, and failing to consider exceptions to his claims—qualities that many reviewers on Amazon say books of this nature should unequivocally have. The consensus seems to be that Gladwell’s Outliers is a fine introductory book into sociology, a subject I would’ve never guessed was so intriguing.
- Maya: [asking about Miles’ unpublished manuscript] What’s the title?
- Miles: “The Day After Yesterday.”
- Maya: Oh. You mean… today?
I only recently discovered Tumblr’s amazing bookmarklet for posting on your tumblelog. It has pretty much everything from the Dashboard version except for minor features like custom URLs and post preview, but it has the awesome ability to autofill details from the page you opened the bookmarklet on. Images are automatically linked, URLs are filled in, and selections are placed in the appropriate boxes. This is probably my favorite feature ever. I love you, Tumblr.
- Be concise.
- Revise mercilessly.
- Read more.
- Write more.
I’m doing the first three but I’m guilty of slacking on the fourth point. I revise compulsively; the worst time was when I figured out how to type real quotation marks [these: “ ” instead of:
" "] and apostrophes on Windows and went through every single one of my entries and changed out all the retard quotes even though Tumblr automatically transforms them.
I spend a lot of time rewriting my entries for flow, grammar, and voice even though few people read this because I want to feel proud of the way I write and the things I have to say. I never want to look back and think, “wow, I wrote like an idiot.”—a problem I’m sure a lot of bloggers had when they first start. I even caught it in Kottke’s first few entries; his writing was horrendous [all lowercase too!] and more stream-of-consciousness than actual thoughts.
I’ve always loved writing and although I’m fairly clueless of the technicalities in grammar, it comes naturally when I write or edit. I rarely have issues with grammar in my school assignments or papers, and it’s even rarer with spelling. This probably comes from my many childhood hours spent hiding behind every book I could get my hands on—the books in my local library, books bought from book catalogs in elementary school, and even books bought from Barnes & Noble when I had a little money. As I got older, though, I stopped reading as many books and I hardly borrow anything from libraries anymore but I continue to read a lot online and my ability to write in acceptable grammar thankfully remains. This tumblelog is my first and only foray into blogging and although it’s young—it’s not even a year old!—I truly look forward to reading my old entries as I grow and change. And hopefully, I will be proud of myself.
You must be relatively good looking to get away with taking an ‘ugly face’ photo. So many people don’t understand this. I look back at some of my older Facebook pictures, see the wretched faces I used to make in them and wonder why I didn’t just hang a sign around my neck that says “DORK. DO NOT DATE.”
More random thoughts to come. This new series stems from my realization that this tumblelog is too cold and impersonal. This is my personal outlet on the Internet, and I think I should show a little of myself in my posts. So here goes.
Sorry for the string of undeniably immature posts over the last couple of days. I could blame the depressing nature of the dwindling winter sunlight or the difficulty in designing a completely homegrown Tumblr theme, but I just needed some laughs and FAIL Blog delivered in aces. Back to your regularly scheduled programming soon.
I’m so spoiled by Tumblr’s dashboard feed. I never visit anyone’s actual tumblelog anymore—the feed view is plenty for nearly everything.
Just caught up on this week-old Tara Michelle Tumblr debacle, thanks to Hoyin. It’s a lot stupider than I had imagined. I’m not going to link to any of this mess (“Tara Michelle” deleted her tumblelog anyways) because I don’t want to validate or prolong this trainwreck. It just makes me realize no matter how web-savvy and “connected” the userbase, the same old cattiness and immaturity still exists (at least amongst a certain population on Tumblr), and that makes me really sad. I thought Tumblr users would be above the fray, unlike the whiny high school bitchfest that commonly spouts from Xanga or LiveJournal users (no offense to any grown-up, mature, un-emo users of these platforms). Instead, this mess just reeks of the worst of these aforementioned fountains of teenage angst and emotion. Everyone, just grow up.
It’s time for that long-awaited redesign of this blog. For months I had in my mind a sketch of how this design will look, but with no real hands-on CSS coding experience, it’s going to be a long uphill battle. I can save a lot of time (and heartache) by adopting an existing layout, but I stubbornly want to code the entire shindig by hand—for bragging rights or whatnot—and it will start very soon.
- I know I want my blog to be snappy. It has to scroll smoothly on the crappiest computers with the crappiest browser. I don’t know why sites like Twitter and Facebook have jerky, unsmooth scrolling while others like SimpleBits and mezzoblue offer smooth gliding, but I would like to be in the latter category.
- Some tumblelog layouts like kaylawicker, suyhnc, and qiring provide a dedicated way to specify reblogs. I want to do this.
- I never knew Tumblr provided simple word search functionality to our blogs until I spied it over at Marco’s tumblelog, and was relieved to find it’s simple—perhaps even simple enough for me to implement.
- Integrate my Twitter feed into the layout in an elegant, unobtrusive way.
- Ideally, my code should pass W3C validation. Currently, my markup is a horrid mess. Daring Fireball has got the right idea.
- Time to figure out a better way to host images/pictures than ImageCave or Tumblr’s photo template.
- I have no idea why, and I’ll be kidding myself if I said it’s something I can fix, but Tumblr’s archive layout is horribly broken in Firefox 3.0.1.
I’ll have to look into if this is some Adblock conflict.[It’s acknowledged in Tumblr help.]
- This has nothing to do with the actual layout of my blog, but Tumblr’s rich text editor is not powerful enough and plain text / HTML is fairly spartan and not very pleasant. Perhaps I’ll give Markdown a try.
- I also want to have visible tags (like kottke), culled from the “tag this post” box in Advanced options. Useful for quickly browsing all similar posts.
- Some tumblelogs also have visible notes (reblogs), like david and marco, although this I will probably hold off on implementing until more people reblog my shit. Sigh.
- Lightbox-style capturing of images.