Ramblings

Usually drunken.

Want to keep track of the ramblings without visiting the site all the time? Well, subscribe to our RSS feed. Don’t fret and don’t frown, learn how to subscribe in mail (for OSX) or subscribe in iGoogle.

Next 10

A[nother] Challenger Approaches

Jun 11, 2009, 8:16 pm by Paul Stiverson

A little less than a year ago I commented on Cuil, a search engine that was trying to compete with Google for a slice of that money cake that Google has been nomming on for quite some time. Now Microsoft is throwing their hat in the ring too… again (there has always been an MSN search engine which sucks). They recently unveiled a new service called Bing, which I predict—like Cuil—will not be able to squeeze out a toe-hold on the search market. Alas, Microsoft is sidestepping the primary error that Cuil made, they are advertising the shit out of Bing, and they are doing so in markets that appeal to the internet savvy—or at least internet aware—crowd. This past week they had a live Hulu broadcast of “Bing-a-thon”, which starred a hostess from G4 (Olivia Munn). I didn’t watch it because I fucking hate Microsoft (and I forgot when it was on), but the adverts made it out to be a hilarious and raucous event. I’m sure it was nothing more than a drawn out advertisement, but if Microsoft is willing to pay for me to watch Arrested Development and Stargate SG-1 by buying up ad space on Hulu then I’m not going to stop them.

Now, what does Bing have going for it? Well they make themselves out to be more than a search engine, instead it is a “Decision Engine”. I’m not entirely sure what that is supposed mean, but there is probably some functionality that facilitates decision making, how useful it is/will be is yet to be seen. Bing also features a fancy looking front page which juxtaposes the minimalist Google front page quite nicely. I really can’t help but notice how similar Cuil and Bing are in their logotype (see below), both names are short, set in sans-serif, and both feature a color changed ‘I’ glyph (or at least a color changed part), and finally they (like this site) are set entirely in lower-case. I wonder if their choices are somehow related.
Cuil logo vs Bing logo

Hulu Adverts

May 25, 2009, 11:27 am by Paul Stiverson

Sprint’s Now Network

According to an interesting commercial which is appearing on Hulu these days, Sprint’s Now Network privacy policy needs some revision. Apparently they want potential customers to believe that they monitor and scan emails, text messages, tweets, locations, and… well everything else that their customers are up to. Interesting gambit, lets see if it works out.

Ketel One Vodka

Ketel One’s new ad campaign which is appearing on Hulu features a bunch of manly men (think people acting like Barney from How I Met Your Mother) purporting that drinking other vodkas is not manly because they come in “Delicately painted perfume bottles.” They end the ad by saying “Gentlemen, this is vodka”, while at the bottom of the screen they flash “DISTILLED FROM WHEAT. 40% ALC/VOL”. Yeah, real manly, vodka distilled from wheat, why don’t you ‘real men’ try drinking some real vodka made from potatoes.

Axioms: Meta-Nature's Candy

Feb 24, 2009, 11:16 pm by Paul Stiverson

The following is a guest post made by my roommate, Tim.

Sometimes in philosophy and math, it becomes requisite to acknowledge that certain "facts" are unverifiable. Assumptions are made, and arguments use these assumptions as a starting point. There's not a question of them being right or wrong, as they're either "self-evident" or just light from the proverbial void. I point this out in reference to a statement that "2+2=4" is "always completely verifiable". It's not that it's a bad assumption to make, but it's being somewhat abused to make a point about morality or birth control... or something.

Let's start with what doesn't have anything to do with scientific fact (in this case, because it isn't scientific). Firstly, the afore-mentioned "2+2=4" is a special instance of what is called the law of identity (e.g. a = a). For certain arguments, this so-called law has been used as the assumption upon which various blitheringly stupid arguments have been made (see: Ayn Rand). Basically, science doesn't enter into it. Science is all about figuring things out based on empirical observation (called "a posteriori" knowledge), and the law of identity is self-asserting, not based on experience (called "a priori" knowledge), but draws its truth value from the claim itself. 2+2=4 is neither a scientific claim nor a scientific fact.

That being said, let's talk about another thing that doesn't have anything to do with scientific fact (in this case, because it isn't fact). It's true that scientists of a sort became aware of a possible health danger exists in the consumption of eggs. Researchers (people who experiment and analyze results) discovered a link between the amount and type of cholesterol in egg yolks and a dangerous increase in LDL cholesterol levels in the human blood stream. The researchers in question work in biomedical science, which at this point is far softer science than something like chemistry, making it particularly difficult to verify the veracity of claims made. At very best, there was fairly compelling evidence that the assertion could be true. The link was popularized, and many people did accept as "gospel truth" that "eggs gon' kill us". This speaks more to the fickleness of the general populus and less to the claims made by "science". As happens with things that may or may not be true, studies have been done that suggest the exact opposite; that eggs in fact lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. The absolute truth of the matter is arguably difficult to pin down, and as long as people keep immediately believing anything published on paper, people will continue to scapegoat "science" for giving us lowly commoners "facts" that later end up not being true. To clarify, the Houston Chronicle's "health" section doesn't count as science, as far as any vaguely accurate definition is concerned.

Now, let's change things up completely and talk about why scientific fact doesn't have anything to do with what was said (in this case, because the term "scientific fact" doesn't make a damned bit of sense). The "facts" (I'm just going to discuss the laws of thermodynamics as the strongest possible objection to my own argument) that science currently possesses are very strong, but no matter how strong they contend to be, there's an implicit assumption that they are correct and that they are just so compelling that they're almost certainly true. I'm not going to disagree, as they are very, very compelling. Despite that opinion/fact, there are various contingencies in which science's strongest facts manage to be actively false (e.g. our context isn't as clear as it seems, there are forces at work we just flatly can't currently see... There are more. But don't take my word for it!).

I've managed to pretty bluntly avoid my real problem with the obviously referent argument. The morality/ethics/religion/science battle royale being waged earlier was convoluted enough that I'm not sure that any of the parties involved were necessarily sure what was even being argued. But I suppose that's content for another headache.

I suppose it's pointless to mention that THIS MATTERS.

It’s Dot Com

Nov 20, 2008, 12:22 pm by Paul Stiverson

One of my pet-peeves is systemic disorganization1, I prefer for there to be a specific place where every individual thing (or class of things) belongs2. This idiosyncrasy makes me both love and hate the internet—originally there were bins for each type of website: commercial sites, business sites, informative sites, educational sites, sites for organizations, &c. The practice of organizing sites by top-level domain has unfortunately fallen out of practice, and, as a result, the internet has become a mess.

For the most part this isn’t a big deal, but in my romantic view of the internet I see sites organized by fully useful URLs. Rather than “aggielandhelpwanted.com” you could navigate to “aggieland.jobs”, and instead of “producerscooperative.com” you could use “producers.coop”. The best example of somebody using top-level domains correctly that comes to mind is aggieland menus (.info), which—oddly enough—provides information.

I have been able to pinpoint the root of the problem: stupid people; but more pointedly: stupid web designers (or web designers who were unwilling to tell their clients no). As Artemy Lebedev illustrates, the customer rarely knows what the hell they are talking about or what they want, so it is up to the designer (in this case the web designer) to step up and say, “You don’t really want ‘coopertravelagency.com’, you want ‘cooper.travel’”. However, it is rare that the web designer has the balls to tell their customer that they are wrong (for fear of losing business), and rarer still that they have the insight to separate what the customer says they want, from what the customer needs.

I would like to see a return to deliberate categorization of sites, and strict adherence to URL meanings; unfortunately it isn’t feasible to prevent people from abusing the internet. I propose that ICANN adopt a few new top-level domains (like .art for artists, musicians, and the like; and .gen for general shit), start enforcing restriction on new domain registration to categorize them effectively, and disallow the renewal of domains that currently don’t fit in their TLD.

Notes:

  1. Anybody who has seen my room knows that localized disorganization doesn’t bother me so much.
  2. For instance, rather than keeping a jar for all coins I keep a jar for each denomination of coin.

Cuil your jets

Aug 2, 2008, 7:05 pm by Paul Stiverson

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past weeks you will have heard about the new search engine on the block, Cuil. Now, being a narcissist, the first time I used it I searched for the very site you are reading—it wasn’t found—I almost instantly wrote it off as a piece of garbage. However the buzz about the search engine kept bringing me back, and I eventually found a way to submit pages to be parsed (I’ve sent in the request, but as of yet it hasn’t been added to their index).

It is true that the search results are garbage (so far), but the engine is promising when you look at its fabric. For starters, I like the interface, the three column business is pretty nice, and overall it feels really clean. There is a cool tab breakdown that lets you immediately refine your searches that is quite promising. The next good thing is the lack of page ranking, sometimes you aren’t looking for the most popular search result, but the most pertinent result. They don’t index Wikipedia, if you’re like me then you are sick of seeing Wikipedia as the first three Google results—when I want Wikipedia’s input on an issue I’ll ring their fucking bell myself. The last—and most compelling—reason I like Cuil is their privacy policy. It is really simple, they don’t collect any user data. When compared to Google’s labyrinthian privacy policy it is a breath of fresh air.

The folks at Cuil have some challenges ahead of them if they are to gain a toehold in the internet search business. First, they need to seriously improve their search results. They need to index probably twice the number of sites they have currently indexed (which is a ton more than Google already has). Then they need to get some name recognition—people need to start saying “Cuil it”, not “Google it”. They need to keep their nose where it belongs, don’t start making maps, don’t start hosting email, just index the web.

What really confuses me about Cuil is their business model. They don’t have any advertisements, they don’t charge you to search, and they don’t make you pay to be indexed, so how do they make their money? I think it will be interesting to see how this whole thing plays out.

Final Presentation

Jul 30, 2008, 7:07 pm by Paul Stiverson

The astute reader will realize that it has been some time since my last real post, this is because I have been a bit swamped with work and social shit, but today my work culminated during a blissful 15 minute presentation.

Sidenote: Keynote is decidedly the best presentation making software on the motherfucking planet. If you find yourself working a job that requires giving a bunch of presentations, buy a Mac and get your keynote on.

I probably put 8 solid hours in the creation of the 10 slide masterpiece, but when my office-mates said it was the best presentation they had ever seen I realized it was time well spent. I set the bar high for the other interns. What now? I’ve got 5 work days left to tie up the loose ends and get my ass back to slacking off. I’ve got a couple of good posts brewing for y’all, look for them over the next few days.

Big Flippin’ Windtunnel

Jul 16, 2008, 5:46 pm by Paul Stiverson

look at dat fukken windtunnelI just got back from a tour of the 80'x120' windtunnel here at Ames. They finished building it in 1987, and it was built as an addition to the existing 40'x80' tunnel (which was the biggest until the 80'x120' was finished). I’ve walked by this thing pretty often and it is pretty impressive, but when compared to Hangar 1 it isn’t that big, however when you walk inside all the illusion is dissipated by the hugeness of the room. They had a parachute for the set up for testing.

The inlet (there in the picture) is as big as a football field.

eeepc

Jul 2, 2008, 9:54 pm by Paul Stiverson

I took my laptop into the shop on Sunday for the same damn screen problem, and this time they said they were going to replace the screen (which would take a little longer), so for the interim I will be using my new (used) eeepc which I picked up on Craigslist for $310. So far I am pretty pleased with this tiny beast, the keyboard takes a bit of getting used to, but usable—also it was approximately the same price as an iPod touch and much fuller featured (and running Linux :).

Gay Pride Parade

Jun 29, 2008, 3:56 pm by Paul Stiverson

I'm posting from an apple store in San Francisco (using an iPod touch). I just got done watching the gay pride parade, it was pretty kick ass. It was nice to see so many people out to support the gay folks.

California vs. Texas

Jun 27, 2008, 12:14 pm by Paul Stiverson

I’m rapidly approaching the 2 month mark here in the Bay Area and I think I have gathered enough data to publish my opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the Golden State (or at least the Bay Area), Texas will be the basis for comparison (so obviously California loses). Here goes.

Final score: California 4, Texas 10. Not even close, I’ll be home for good on August 20th or so.

In other news, I got my laptop back on Wednesday—they replaced the motherboard, and it seems to be running fine.

edit: it is still doing the dark on half the screen thing. Looks like I’ll take it back in again.

Next 10
Sidebar off | Posts per page: 10 20 30