I like this
Following links from it led me to
pictures, which I also like.
(I wonder if the URLs of clusters on flickr stay valid even if the
tag structures on the site shift around?)
W. Bush eating a kitten.)
Ian points out that Opera
is now Free (as in Free Beer).
Even the adless version!
I'll have to finally upgrade to 8 one of these days.
From Susie Bright,
the memorable-looking word count dot org
(although when I went to it just now it never finished loading up the words,
so I couldn't actually use it; I was going to get the neighborhood
of "chess" if possible, natch; but see
leotards), from which we get to
Number 27 (nice design), and
to Just Curio dot Us (cute idea,
lots of spam).
I have found your website davidchess.com by searching Google
for "yahoo webcam". I think our websites has a similar theme,
so I have already added your link to my website.
The "yet another list of lots of weblogs" site
blo.gs has been
skin-chooser selection control (down at the bottom of the
page there) shows the correct skin (CSS stylesheet) name as
already selected (even) if you're using a non-default
Pretty exciting, eh?
In related news,
here's a puzzle for Firefox CSS experts: if I go to this page in Firefox
with (say) the "Normal" CSS skin active, and then change to the
"Mocha" skin using the box at the bottom, all is fine. But if I
then push "reload", or otherwise load the page while the "Mocha"
skin is active, the words in the main (righthand) column of the
page slam over leftward against the vertical divider, with maybe one pel
of space between them. Looks awful. What could be going on there?
(So odd: also if I resize the browser window with Mocha active,
it looks fine after; but if I then press reload, it messes itself up
Oh, otherwise, I dunno.
The 'real' world encroaches rudely on the insularity of concept.
Do something that strikes you as beautiful.
So this week while pretending to cross-country ski I'm listening
to Gladwell's "The Tipping Point", from audible dot com (abridged).
It's kinda interesting, has some fun anecdotes and stories about
fads and fashions and stuff.
But it annoys me somewhat in that it's so much
just anecdotes and stories, and so much not science.
The whole idea of a tipping point is a little iffy.
People talk about tipping points, and the "knees" of
exponential curves, and so on, as if they were real.
But really exponential curves are some of the most
self-similar things going; they don't have knees.
I mean, we could arbitrarily label the place where
the first derivative is 1 (one) as the "knee", but the
only thing special about it is that the first derivative
is less than one to the left of there, and greater
than one to the right of there.
There is a related equation that does have a tipping
Take one of the simplest possible differential equations:
delta x equals x minus one (for x greater than zero;
delta x equal zero for x not greater than zero).
As long as x stays between zero and one nothing
interesting happens; the curve just decays back toward zero
But as soon as x gets the tiniest bit above one,
it takes off for the sky and never comes back.
If you start x at point-nine-nine, it just goes quickly
But if you start x at one point oh one, off it goes.
So in this case x equals one is fairly called a
tipping point. It's a metastable state between
two potential wells, one that leads back to zero,
and one that leads off into positive infinity.
(Unless I have all the math entirely wrong because
it's Monday morning, in which case the reader is
invited to fix it up for emself.)
It's like the two ways an orbit around a planet
can decay: in toward a landing, or out toward
This is the kind of thing that I think Gladwell is
But this kind of thing has two very important features:
- Delta x is positively correlated with x:
that is, the more of it there is the more of it
there's likely to be in the future, and
- There's that "minus one" in there, a decay
rate that offsets the growth rate for small x.
What irritates me about Gladwell's book, I think, is
that it fails to explicitly call out either of these
critical things about the kinds of phenomena that
he's interested in.
Instead what he does is look retrospectively at various
stories about things that eventually took off, and
give facile labels to various of the inevitable
features of the story.
It's easy to parody Gladwell's "laws".
The "Law of the Few" says that if you look at any case
where something started out with just a few people
doing it, and later there were lots of people doing it,
you'll find that at first there were just a few
people doing it.
And sometimes you'll be able to point to a few of them
and say "those were the ones that told other people
Similarly, the "Law of Stickiness" says that if you find
a phenomenon or message that spread to lots of people, you'll
be able to point to something about it that helped it to
And the "Law of Context" (I think it is) says that there's
also other stuff that matters besides the people involved
and the thing itself, and that sometimes you'll be able to
point to some small feature in that other stuff and
say "this was important for the thing to spread."
These laws do not strike me as having amazingly
useful predictive powers.
Now there are lots of interesting scientific
questions to ask about the epidemiology of any
particular spreading thing:
about how to identify the set of
people through which a thing is spreading, about
what correlates delta x with x, about what
the decay rate is.
There are broad questions also.
To a first approximation, after all, delta x
positively correlates with x in almost any
human endeavor: humans love to copy each other.
But why do some things spread wildly and others not?
Why do many things, that you'd expect to naturally
settle into either extinction (if growth is
slower than decay) or ubiquity (if growth is
faster than decay), instead settle at some small
but more or less fixed fraction of the population?
(This was a question that we chewed on, and never
really solved to our satisfaction, back in the
computer virus days; see the second open problem in
But Gladwell doesn't talk about, or even hint that he's
aware of, either of these things, and I think that's a pity.
The closest he gives us to an answer to "why didn't this spread?"
would be (in our terms) "the growth rate was too low"; well duh!
On the other hand maybe it's just that I've known too much
about these phenomena for too long, and that what seems
obvious and rather shallow to me is really important and
groundbreaking as a piece of popularization.
(In his terms, maybe I'm an "innovator", and Gladwell's a "maven".
Now does having applied those labels actually tell us
anything new? I'm not convinced.)
So that's that.
When I actually finish listening to it I'll probably
write it up.
(I'm currently in the epilogue, where Gladwell is talking
about stuff that happened in the year or so after the book
came out, and making up more post hoc labels for
features of phenomena.)
Have I mentioned that I've been playing this computer game
called "The Sims 2"?
(Ha ha ha ha ha!)
From some Google search, to
weblog entry, to
Google Video listing of a Sims 2 version of Eminem's very
Me, in which he taunts the listener for listening to him.
Much of the video just uses the Sims 2 University Expansion's new
"jump around making silly rap-looking gestures" action (and so credits
EA more than the video maker), but it's got some clever bits.
(Requires the Google Video Player, which I can make work only in
IE so far.)
(Ooh, very scary!)
I've been posting my endless Sims 2 stories and pictures over on
Hullabaloo, so as not
to glaze over the eyes of too many of y'all innocent log readers
*8), but here are a few recent
As detailed in a four-parter starting
Brandi LeTourneau (former Criminal Mastermind, now famous surgeon and until
recently Eleanor Raptor's live-in squeeze) has moved out of the Love Nest and
opened a nice upscale boarding house in an old industrial building on the
edge of town.
Taylor whatsisname (the guy that Gina Raptor left her little college
house to when she graduated) moved in after finishing college (passing
the house along in turn to his de facto fiancée Candice Ng),
and Joan Danvers also moved in (escorted by her Mom in a complex set of
transactions necessitated by the fact that the game doesn't actually
allow teenagers to move out on their own).
You can read the full story over there, but here's a funny picture.
The first day that Joan went to school from the new place, she came
home with an A+ report card, and just had to brag to someone:
Candice (who Taylor had invited over while everyone else was out)
managed to sleep through the whole thing.
And over at Gina's place, I made my first piece of Custom Content
using a non-Maxis tool!
(For whatever reason Maxis hasn't yet released
anything that lets users customize objects; but the user community
has hacked merrily around this.)
Here is Gina admiring her new acquisition:
After acheiving her first Lifetime Want by becoming a Celebrity Chef,
Gina got another one.
Rather than some typical Romance Want, like "have a zillion lovers
at once", she now wants to reach the top of the Athletic career,
by becoming a Hall of Famer (like Marisa did
the other week, just before
she got pregnant with Hermes).
Of course in Gina's case it'd probably be the "Wealthy Celebrities
Who Get Into Sports With The Help Of Their Marketing Departments
Hall Of Fame", but that's okay.
So she got on the computer, switched careers, and as of one aye-em
this morning when I finally decided to go to bed she was at
the "MVP" level.
A couple of coaching levels to go, I think, before she gets her
second Lifetime Want,
the fortunate thing.
So what's your Lifetime Want?
Or is extending that Sims idea up into this universe an