Category: Linkblogging
Limbo Links
by Ken Arneson
2013-04-12 17:48

A few months ago, I joined a project trying to launch a software startup. As a result, my Weekly Blogging Rate (or WBR, as the bloggemetricians like to call it) fell precipitously. However, my role in the project has now fallen into a kind of limbo, so I guess I’m kinda sorta a free agent again. So with a little more time on my hands, my WBR should be going up again in the upcoming weeks. At least until something else happens, like the project emerging from limbo, or some other offer that comes along.

So to kick things off, here are some links that inspired me recently:

Wednesday Linkblogging 2012-09-26
by Ken Arneson
2012-09-26 12:28

Jason Wojciechowski is finding it difficult to watch A’s games in this pennant race, because any failures by his favorite team are too painful. He wonders:

Given my strong suspicion that we only get one shot at life, is it better that I spend my remaining years experiencing as broad a range of emotions as I can reasonably give myself? Do the lows make the highs sweeter such that they’re worth it as a simple matter of arithmetic?

I have been similarly tempted to look away. I’ve found over the years that I’m actually a happier person when the A’s are not competitive. Winning breeds expectations, and the more your team wins, the more you expect them to win. But happiness research seems to suggest that the key to happiness is low expectations. I suspect, therefore, that unless the A’s actually win the World Series, our happiness as A’s fans actually peaked around early August, when we started to realize the A’s were a good team capable of winning, but before that winning had become so commonplace that we began to expect it.

However, I enjoy baseball on more dimensions than just winning. The game the A’s lost on Friday against the Yankees was a beautiful ballgame aesthetically: it was a dramatic game where both teams played crisp, solid baseball with good pitching. I enjoyed it immensely. Saturday’s game, however, was awful: the A’s lost, but both teams played terribly, the pitching was horrible, the defense was shaky and even the umpires got into the act with several mistakes. And that was just in the first inning before I turned it off, and went out to do something else with my Saturday. The game kept on like that, and ended up lasting almost six hours, without me. I’m glad I (mostly) missed that one.

The next three games have been equally dramatic, but somewhat in-between aesthetically. Last night’s game, for example, featured a horrible error by Brandon Moss that cost the A’s two runs, followed later in the game by a fantastic catch by Moss that saved the A’s three. For me, the drama would be much easier to watch if the A’s were not playing so sloppily.

I don’t always watch pennant race baseball, but when I do, I prefer errorlessness. Play crisply, my friends.

* * *

If you want to innoculate yourself from the pain of your favorite team losing, you can consume your sports like Will Leitch recently did, by entering the RedZone. Leitch describes his first experience watching NFL RedZone on the NFL Network:

RedZone is a commercial-free, seven-hour block of every exciting play in every NFL game all day. You see every scoring opportunity, you see every two-minute drill, you see every moment of fantasy relevance. The general consensus: You’ll never watch football the same way again.

On RedZone, events happen and are then forgotten in the chaos. Something that happened three minutes ago is distant history.

That, I suppose, is both the blessing and the curse of living in this information age. You can’t tell a teardrop from a raindrop in a hurricane.

* * *

Felix Salmon has an article about journalism in the midst of such massive amounts of instant information. Being able to find that teardrop in the hurricane in basically the job of the modern journalist.

But if I were hiring, the first thing I’d look at would be the prospective employee’s Twitter feed. What are they linking to? What are they reading? If they’re linking to great stuff from a disparate range of sources, if they’re following smart people on Twitter, if they’re engaged in the conversation — that’s hugely valuable. More valuable, in fact, than being able to put together an artfully-constructed lede.

The tricky balance there is to be able to both swim in the flood of information to gather the data, but to step out of it long enough to gather your thoughts.

* * *

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Jetsons, the Paleofuture has started a series to look at all 24 episodes of The Jetsons one-season run.

Thanks in large part to the Jetsons, there’s a sense of betrayal that is pervasive in American culture today about the future that never arrived. We’re all familiar with the rallying cries of the angry retrofuturist: Where’s my jetpack!?! Where’s my flying car!?! Where’s my robot maid?!? “The Jetsons” and everything they represented were seen by so many not as a possible future, but a promise of one.

The deluge of information we now experience in the real future thanks to the Internet and television is vastly different from the one we imagined when we grew up watching the Jetsons. The Jetsons’ future seems so much simpler than ours. So when we feel overwhelmed, our fight-or-flight response kicks in and we want to reject it all and run away.

As Jason says in his post above about turning off the A’s in this tense pennant race: “My gut the last few weeks appears to have made the latter choice for me, leaving me a little more time to spend with my cats, my wife, my books, and my thoughts.” Sometimes, you have to connect to the basic human needs that persist no matter what century you live in. And therein lies the dilemma of the real 21st century George Jetson: to know how to both live in the 21st century, and how to step away from it. It’s not easy.

Wednesday Linkblogging 2012-09-19
by Ken Arneson
2012-09-19 12:37

I’ve volunteered to help out in my daughter’s kindergarten class on Wednesday mornings, so that’s going to cut into my available writing time on those days. Since my time is short, I thought I could use Wednesdays to throw out some interesting links I encounter each week. Ready, steady, go…

* * *

My old Baseball Toaster buddy Jon Weisman is retiring from daily baseball blogging. Anybody can recognize quality writing, and Jon has been one of the best team bloggers anywhere. But people who haven’t blogged usually don’t realize how incredibly difficult it is to keep up the quantity. Most people who try blogging give up after just a month or three, because it’s too hard to keep going, day after day. Our lives get in the way. Jon’s ability to maintain both the quantity and the quality of his writing for 10 years has been astounding to me. But even Jon is human, and he’s decided that now is the time for him to move on. He’ll still be writing at his day job, the entertainment awards blog at Variety. Best of luck, Jon!

* * *

Speaking of life getting in the way, researches have found that all throughout human history, mankind has had a distinct preference for a maximum commute of 30 minutes each way. No matter whether we’ve travelled by foot, by horse, by bicycle, or by automobile, we’ve arranged our lives so that our work and our homes are no more than 30 minutes apart. This limit is called Marchetti’s Constant.

* * *

Yesterday, I wrote about some political questions that are looking for an answer. Today I saw that Stephen Johnson has written a book called Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age, about some political answers that are looking for questions. It looks interesting, and will definitely add that one to my Amazon wish list. Here’s a YouTube preview of the book:

* * *

Here’s a thought experiment for you, as an extension of Johnson’s idea: if you wanted to start up a business whose purpose was to disrupt government, how would you do that? I don’t mean disrupt government in the political way, like in organizing big protests or anything. I mean disrupting government in the Clayton Christensen sense: creating an innovative product that starts out small, but eventually grows to performing some of the same functions as government at a cheaper cost than government can compete with.

* * *

Christensen has a new book out that’s also on my Amazon wish list called “How Will You Measure Your Life?” The book extends the metaphors he uses to measure businesses to our personal lives. Here’s a TED Talk he gave about the topic:

* * *

Finally, my friend Bryan Pendelton pointed to a 1980 Turing Award acceptance speech by Tony Hoard. The money quote is this:

Programmers are always surrounded by complexity; we cannot avoid it. Our applications are complex because we are ambitious to use our computers in ever more sophisticated ways. Programming is complex because of the large number of conflicting objectives for each of our programming projects.

I conclude that there are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.

This tension that exists in computer science between simple and complex, is also a tension that exists in American politics. I think a lot of people who are fed up with both parties and the whole political system, are really feeling that the system has gone overboard on the “so complicated” end of the spectrum. That’s definitely the case with the financial crisis: it got so complex, nobody could see where the deficiencies were. They weren’t obvious.

You’d expect that the backlash to that would be toward a simplicity movement, where the rules and the system become so simple that any deficiencies become obvious again. I keep hoping that one of the political parties, probably the Republicans since it seems like idea that might land closer to their hearts, latch on to this idea. But it probably won’t until one of them loses so badly that they obviously need to change course in some way.

This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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