Monthly Archives: June 2007

The war on pop-ups continues remorselessly

First, the links: Why Snap previews are a terrible idea and how to disable them.

The downside to the recent widespread adoption of WordPress by Hebrew bloggers is that they’ve adopted on masse some of the worst eyesores of the global WordPress community, specifically an annoying bit of blog-bling that pops up (Pop. Up. doesn’t that already sound like a bad idea? Haven’t most browser advances since 1997 revolved around finding ways to disable and remove things that pop up?) a preview image of each website just as soon as you move your mouse over an external link. Not only is this annoying and distracting, it’s bringing you information you really don’t need at a time you really don’t want it. I mean, who cares what the site you linked to looks like? 99% of the time, it’s going to be another damn blog, using another damn bog-standard blog template.

Now, of course, annoying javascript widgets like this send any self-respecting geek scrambling for a greasemonkey script or even firefox add-on to disable it (user stylesheets, maybe? hosts file hacking?). Turns out there’s an opt-out option described in the FAQ of the company that provides this worthless “service” (it toggles a cookie from the snap.com site). Of course, it feels like a sissy’s solution. But the freedom from distraction is worth it. Update: I found a way to do this with greasemonkey.

Zepplins vs. Bicycles

A while back when the For Want of a Nail alternate history lexicon game was taking place, the theme of a trans-historical struggle of Bicycle vs. Zepplin emerged. Zepplins are the iconic alternate history vehicle, and bicycles were mentioned in the title of my first entry, which inspired others. Rob Macdougall had a brilliant essay which puts the eternal struggle between Zepplins and Bicycles at the center of the war over the nature or reality.

Now I ran across a link to a humorous essay by Umberto Eco from 1994, The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS, which opens with the following:

Friends, Italians, countrymen, I ask that a Committee for Public Health be set up, whose task would be to censor (by violent means, if necessary) discussion of the following topics in the Italian press. Each censored topic is followed by an alternative in brackets which is just as futile, but rich with the potential for polemic. Whether Joyce is boring (whether reading Thomas Mann gives one erections). Whether Heidegger is responsible for the crisis of the Left (whether Ariosto provoked the revocation of the Edict of Nantes). Whether semiotics has blurred the difference between Walt Disney and Dante (whether De Agostini does the right thing in putting Vimercate and the Sahara in the same atlas). Whether Italy boycotted quantum physics (whether France plots against the subjunctive). Whether new technologies kill books and cinemas (whether zeppelins made bicycles redundant).

Either this is a weird coincidence or more evidence of Rob Macdougall’s cleverness.

The Carrington Event

The Carrington Event was an awesome solar flare that is the starting point for Stuart Clark’s book The Sun Kings

In September of 1859, the entire Earth was engulfed in a gigantic cloud of seething gas, and a blood-red aurora erupted across the planet from the poles to the tropics. Around the world, telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe. However, nobody knew what could have released such strange forces upon the Earth–nobody, that is, except the amateur English astronomer Richard Carrington.

Redhaired Scissorman makes Atomic Tacos

I seem to have completely stopped posting to my blog. Two reasons I can think of for that (aside from the obvious laziness): First, recent versions of WordPress have broken the “Blog This” bookmarklet which used to make it pretty convenient to grab a link and get a new blog entry window to post it in. Second, I started using my Scuttle to save interesting links, or (more rarely), the Shared Items page in Google Reader. And since most of my posts are quick links to something from someone else’s blog anyway, making new blog entries has become rather pointless, most of the time.

But sometimes the urge is not just to link, but to wave as well.

  • Is gingerism as bad as racism? (BBC). Apparently, virulent prejudice against redheads is endemic to Britain. The topic came up in a podcast I listened to, and the next day I found this article. My family includes Brits and redheads (as well as British redheads), so, interesting.
  • Bash vs. Snip: How to Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors (through John Wick’s LJ) This bit is interesting:

    The World Rock Paper Scissors Society claims rookie men tend to lead with rock. If you’re playing a spontaneous game against a male rookie, there’s an increased chance that his opening throw will be rock, so you’ll want to go with paper. Why do men start with rock? Perhaps the clenched fist evokes power and makes guys feel tough. If you’re playing a female rookie, however, keep in mind that competitive player Jason Simmons claims that women tend to start with scissors, so go with rock.

  • Robert Rodriguez’s Ten Minute Cooking School has two installments up on youtube. These were originally packaged as DVD extras. Rodruguez is as cool on film as Tarantino is creepy. Or more so.
  • Canadian king of Hard SF gloom Peter Watts (of Vampire Domestication fame) has finally converted his fascinating newscrawl page to a real blog you can subscribe to. When he’s not being pessimistic about his writing career, he can be fascinatingly pessimistic about the implications of the latest scientific research. Sometimes he combines both.
  • Also SF and also with the pessimistic implications of science (this time to space-opera style science fiction, not to human life on Earth…) is Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site, which has a ton of cool info on interstellar spaceships and hard science in between a whole lot of retro art. It includes such sobering thoughts as “Jon’s Law for SF authors”, which states that “Any interesting space drive is a weapon of mass destruction” (where “Interesting is equal to ‘whatever keeps the readers from getting bored'”).