Monday, October 27, 2008

PCs that boot fast

This is ridiculous!

You know what PC makers need to do? They need to stop putting in stupid applications when they ship the PC -- and they especially need to disable applications that start up on boot and slow the computer down. But trying to make an extra buck out of "fast starting" PCs? Someone needs to start a consumer uprising or something!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The spotless mind

Via Slashdot, looks like the world of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might be here sooner than we expected (ok I'm half kidding, but still ... and the movie is a gem).
It sounds like science fiction, but scientists say it might one day be possible to erase undesirable memories from the brain, selectively and safely. After exposing mice to emotionally powerful stimuli, such as a mild shock to their paws, the scientists then observed how well or poorly the animals subsequently recalled the particular trauma as their brain's expression of CaMKII was manipulated up and down. When the brain was made to overproduce CaMKII at the exact moment the mouse was prodded to retrieve the traumatic memory, the memory wasn't just blocked, it appeared to be fully erased.

Excellent timing too, as Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York gets released tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hooked by The Wire

It took me around 30 minutes and subtitles to get into it - but folks, all the critical praise is not unwarranted: The Wire is a gripping tale, gritty and literary at the same time. It's so so so hard right now for me not to keep watching it and do something else.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Line of the day

Line of the day: David Edelstein on Clint Eastwood's Changeling
The way Eastwood shoves Jolie’s suffering in our face is like a threat to the Academy: “And the Oscar will go to … ” She’s a great actress. She doesn’t need his domineering chivalry.


This profile of Angelina Jolie in the Times is almost complete fluff but it makes one good point: that Jolie has ascended to superstardom without starring in a single romantic comedy.
That may be part of the reason she has become virtually the only current A-list actress to achieve her status while completely bypassing romantic comedies. Nobody is ever likely to call her “America’s Sweetheart.”
Food for thought, no?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Black Swan

I know Nicholas Taleb's stuff is widely read and interesting, and the current crisis seems to have vindicated him but I found The Black Swan well-nigh unreadable -- not for its content, but it's style, it kept circling around its main point but never made it (at least in the first 30 pages, which is when I stopped reading).

Of course this was half a year ago. Now I wish I'd read it. But may be I should go back and give it a try.

See here for another viewpoint.

Here's an example of Taleb's murmurings that makes The Black Swan unreadable.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate # 3

I'm so glad that Obama didn't agree to McCain's town-hall meeting proposal -- just imagine watching the two of them in fifteen friggin' mind-numbing sessions like this across the country!!!!

McCain was bad tonight -- grinning, grimacing, unable to stick to a point, weirdly aggressive one moment and piteously whining the next. And his sarcastic interjections just looked ... petty.

Alex Massie -- whom I don't read regularly but whose commentary on the debates so far has been side-splittingly funny -- used a little thingie called CoveritLive to live-blog the third debate. I wonder when we'll be able to live-blog via IM -- wouldn't that be great??!!

The financial crisis

There are tons of articles on the financial crisis out there -- but here are two (well, one is an article, the other is just a quote) that helped me make sense of it*.

Jim Manzi's exceptionally well-written take explaining what's happening in terms of a primitive hunter-gatherer society.

And this quote from

To show the impact of deregulation, consider the underlying premise of all credit transactions – loans, mortgages, and all debt instruments. Over the entire history of human finance, the borrower's ability to repay the loan has been the paramount factor in all lending. With mortgage, this included elements such as employment history, income, down payment, credit rating, other assets, loan-to-value ratio of the property, debt servicing ability, etc.

Greenspan’s decision to not supervise mortgage lenders led to a brand new lending standard. During a five year period (2002-07), the basis for making mortgages was NOT the borrowers ability to pay – rather, it was the lender's ability to sell a mortgage to firms that securitized them.

This represented an enormous change from the past.

These new unregulated mortgage brokers no longer cared about a standard 30 year mortgage being repaid over time. In the new world of repackaged loans, all that mattered was that the loan did not come back to the originator. By contract, this was typically 90 or 180 days. As long as the borrower did not default in that period of time, it could not be put back to the originator. [emphasis mine]

*Of course everyone's been talking about the housing bubble for a long time. What I didn't know about was the labyrinth of "securitization" that existed behind each mortgage which was how subprime mortages were viable in the first place -- something that is only now becoming clearer to me, as I read about the crisis. (In my defence, I've never taken out a mortgage, so I have no idea of what it entails). :-)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Organize All The World’s Information, Then Put Google Ads On It

I think Michael Arrington gets this right:
Most people still think of Google as a search business. But what the analysts understood long ago, and the rest of us are realizing now, is that what they really want to do is organize all the world’s information, and then put ads on it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Debate # 2

Line of the day -- Alex Massie's reader writes:
McCain is better than before. In that he's making his talking points fairly effectively but in his paedophile uncle, rather than his mad uncle, voice.'"

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I stayed at home, skipped the movie at the Film Festival because I thought tonight's debate could just possibly have some kind of earth-shaking moment, some monumental gaffe, something that would be remembered in posterity, even if no one really remembered Sarah Palin.

But no - this was the even more boring than the Obama-McCain debate. Palin chirped on and on and while her answers made no sense, she repeated catchphrases ad nauseam, and explicitly (!) made it clear that she would not answer certain questions, overall, it was still significantly better than her abysmal performance in the Katie Couric interviews (Oh, update on that, watch this , the latest from what Daniel Larison calls the eternal Couric interview).

Biden was very good, very authoritative and it was a good decision for him not to talk down to Palin or belittle her in any way.

Also after watching McCain's utter contempt for Obama - the congeniality between the two Veeps was kind of nice.

Oh and I was right that Palin does better with her hair loose.

Sigh, Sarah Palin

I must say that this tpmtv video chronicling Sarah Palin's "greatest hits" does make one thing clear: that even during Palin's biggest gaffe in the Charlie Gibson interview, her initial confusion about the Bush Doctrine, she was almost completely in control. She looked cocky, she looked at Gibson right in the eye and her answers, even though completely short on substance, were never as cringe-inducing as the ones she gave Katie Couric.

See for yourself:

Makes one wonder what has changed in the meantime. Has the cramming become too much? Or is it just that Palin speaks much better when she wears her hair long rather than scrunching it up into a bun? I suspect the latter -- she clearly seems more comfortable wearing her hair long.

Of course one thing is also clear. CBS did a very canny thing by releasing snippets of the interview so that Palin's gaffes seem even more stretched out. What we have to realize is that most of these cringe-inducing answers happened in one seating and clearly in times like these, one error leads to another. So Palin's gaffes must be taken in this context: that she committed a gaffe, which in turn led to her losing her cool, and committing another, and another. But by looking at one gaffe at a time, each seems even worse.