Things 69: One Minute, Crows, Build It

’28 Days Later’ in one minute, in one take (and will make little sense if you haven’t seen the film but might be entertaining anyway):

Tumblr is like Twitter for pictures. As a strange side effect, incredibly well-curated collections of images of niche interest are being created, such as crows, or Selleck Waterfall Sandwiches.

I had just described my systems for organising everything in my life (including writing up the lastest Things) to Bex:

Bex: But what about allowing for spontaneity?
Tim: Allowing spontaneity to be a possibility leads to apathy. And death.

My (very old) mobile phone would last for about 6 days before needing to recharge. I moved house and this fell to 2 days. Why might that be?

Answer to Last Week’s Puzzle
Under what circumstances does the slightly misquoted “build it and they will come” apply?

Xuan says “Depends if what you’re building has tapped into some underlying desire/interest. Las Vegas was quite an idea.” Simon makes some disparaging remarks about marketing agencies and asks “Is an idea a good idea if nobody is there to hear it fall?”

I think a more instructive quote might be Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” (also misquoted).

The assertion seems to be that society operates according to some kind of omniscient meritoracy. This is a pretty tough assertion to defend, even if we can agree on what we mean by ‘better’ (the ‘humane’ problem seems to be difficult in the field of mouse-traps; there have been interesting developments in aesthetic considerations). In practice, as individuals (and therefore collectively) we can only judge the things we are aware of. To solve that problem, we need an omniscient third party of some kind that understands how we will judge things and show us those we are most likely to favour accordingly.

Of course, the internet gives us some very powerful tools to do exactly this. Pandora and go a long way to achieving this for music: Pandora recommends an obscure musician purely because the music is the kind that it has learned that you like, and can then direct you to buy from them directly. But doing the same for other media types is more challenging.

We can expect more of this in the future, eventually rolling out through location-aware mobile devices so that if you happen to be interested in baseball and can get to Iowa, you could indeed discover an unmarketed Field of Dreams. But until then, I just don’t buy that ending.


Between asking the question and writing this answer, I happened upon this article which describes what I’m talking about pretty well.

Things 3: Overheard, Glasses, Illusion

(Originally sent in December 2007)

This week’s film – one line review
The Golden Compass takes very naturally to film and clearly has a lot of talent poured into it; unfortunately the script itself contains the worst screen writing I’ve heard since Eragon.

Next week’s film
I’m going to see Hitman because for some reason I can’t get enough of films about human weapons that end up fighting their creators.
Imdb rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 14%!

Hitman Trailer

Prognosis: Judging by the Rotten Tomatoes rating, this may well breach the so-bad-it’s-good barrier.

A Puzzle
Why do you always find things in the last place you look?

Answers to previous puzzles
Answer to puzzle from Things 1: A number less than 103. I won’t tell you what it is because it’s too good a puzzle to spoil.
Answer to puzzle from Things 2: 1.

A Quote
Digby, circa 1992: “I had one, right, and then I had another one – funny how they come in ones…”

A Link
Actually, it’s just more quotes.

A video
My favourite viral. I think I’ve worked out how most of it was done.

A picture
An example of the most powerful optical illusion I know.

Things 68: Tony, Build It, Ghost Man

Having recently read about Buckminster Fuller’s utter conviction that learning from video was superior to traditional classroom learning, it does at least seem reasonable to accept that technology in some form could improve the standard learning environment. This report on “Cell phones in the classroom” (more accurately, computing devices in the classroom) is not entirely convincing, but raises some interesting ideas:

David Yelland somewhat accidentally became editor of The Sun from 1998 – 2003, despite being a lefty liberal sort. He’s got a book coming out, and although I’m not generally very political I did rather like this snippet:

Tony Blair Once asked me: “What’s the first paper you read in the morning?” “The Guardian,” I answered. “So why are you editing The Sun instead of The Guardian?” he said. “Why are you leading the Labour Party instead of the Tories?” I shot back. He laughed.

Full article is here. (Warning: links to Daily Mail)

Under what sort of circumstances does the tellingly misquoted suggestion “build it and they will come” actually apply? For example, build a wider road and more cars will come; build a random blog about stuff and nobody will really look at it at all.

The ‘Ghost Man’ simply paints himself in order to blend in:

More here.

Things 2: Acoustic standing waves, Aurora Sounds, Mammatus Clouds

(Originally sent in November 2007)

This week’s film, one line review
Unfortunately the story in Sleuth (2007) was changed from the original, so it was a bad story badly told.

I also saw the anime film “5 centimeters per second“, which was insanely beautiful.

Next week’s film
I’m going to see The Golden Compass some time next week. It’s too soon for ratings to appear on imdb or rotten tomatoes, although I am keen to see it just to boycott this boycott:

Golden Compass Trailer:

Prognosis: The weakest of an otherwise amazing trilogy, it’s worth going to see this just to make sure the rest get made.

A Puzzle
If you forget to turn off your away notifier in Outlook and then send an email to someone that also has an away notifier on, does this cause an infinite loop? And if not, why not? Do you get an away notifier if you email yourself?

A Quote
LaPlace: “An intelligence that, at a given instant, could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings that make it up, if moreover it were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, would encompass in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atoms. For such an intelligence nothing would be uncertain, and the future, like the past, would be open to its eyes.”

A Link
The Golden Compass was called Northern Lights when it was first published.

These days there is not much left in the realm of human experience that science cannot explain, and I find myself extremely fascinated by the few things that are left.

Here’s an interesting link that relates to both of these things:

Perhaps needless to say, there’s a lot of other interesting stuff there.

A video
Continuing the audio science theme, here’s a beautiful demonstration of acoustic standing waves:

A picture
Mammatus clouds are extremely rare. They also look extremely photoshopped. See below and judge for yourself.

There’s lots more over at Dark Roasted Blend.

Things I found on the internet. Cannot guarantee 100% potato-free.