Tuesday various

Hold on for one more Saturday

My parents bought a new computer, and I spent what turned into almost all of my afternoon helping to set it up. Most of it was just unpack-and-plug-in simple, but a few things like the television connection and file transfers, ate into the hours. I notice with some amusement that Dell’s packaging has started to get a little Apple-like, in that the boxes are nested inside one another in cute little configurations, and presentation is easily a big part of it.

The rest of the day, what there was…well, I spent a good chunk of it playing Portal 2, and this evening, I watched and enjoyed the heck out of Bridesmaids.

That’s it, really.

Thursday various

  • I don’t know why I find this particularly interesting, but I do:

    The post office ignores the return address for Netflix DVDs and sorts them separately for a Netflix truck to pick them up early in the morning for processing.

    Discs are shipped back to the nearest processing facility, regardless of the address on the return envelope; that address is there just for legal reasons, apparently. This seems like something I maybe sort of already knew, but it’s a reminder of the volume they (and by extension the post office) have to process.

  • John Seavey’s Open Letter to Zombie Story Writers:

    In essence, the human body is a machine, like an automobile. You are trying to describe the ways this machine can malfunction to produce a specific effect, and that’s good, but please stop explaining to me how it keeps going without wheels, gasoline, or a functioning engine.

    He raises some interesting points, although I don’t think they apply to the “zombies” in films like 28 Days Later, as he seems to. At least from my recollection — and I re-watched the movie pretty recently — the infected population there a) don’t act at all like George Romeroesque zombies (i.e., no human flesh, no brains), and b) don’t continue acting beyond physically believable limits. Beyond normal pain tolerances, sure — there’s the one guy who keeps running even though he’s literally on fire — but into the realm of sheer impossibility.

  • “What is, come with me if you want to live, Alex?” So you may have heard: a computer has won at Jeopardy. (There goes that Weird Al remix idea!) I’m still looking forward to the televised rematch next month, though perhaps not so much to the subsequent robot apocalypse.
  • It’s worth it for Goodnight Dune alone: Five Sci-Fi Children’s Books. [via]
  • And finally, Jeff VanderMeer on Everything You Need to Know to be a Fiction Writer.

Tuesday various

Thursday various

  • I like Doctor Who. I’m not sure I like it enough to have a A Doctor Who-themed wedding, though.
  • Thomas Pynchon on plagiarism:

    Writers are naturally drawn, chimpanzee-like, to the color and the music of this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited. When given the choice we will usually try to use the more vivid and tuneful among its words.

  • A visual diary documenting a flight from New York to Berlin (with a layover in London). [via]
  • You know, it is kind of funny that programs like Word still use a disk as the save icon when lots of computer users these days don’t even know what a disk is.
  • And finally, even qwerty keyboards are falling by the wayside:

    Like the “Enter” key that becomes a “Search” key, the self-leveling card deck may at first seem trivial. But it’s also a sly way that digital technology that uses real-world iconography destabilizes experience. What, after all, is a more recognizable symbol of the capriciousness of life than a deck of cards, out of which your fate is randomly dealt? And yet here the deck icon is only superficial. At heart it’s not a random-card generator but the opposite: a highly wrought program with a memory, an algorithm and a mandate to keep children in the game. An app posing as a spatiotemporal object.

    As a populous commercial precinct, the Web now changes in response to our individual histories with it. Like a party that subtly reconfigures with each new guest, the Web now changes its ads, interfaces and greetings for almost every user. Some people find this eerie. But it’s nowhere near as shiver-worthy as the discovery that digital “things” — apps carefully dressed as objects — change as we use them, too. And it’s weird enough when those things are being solicitous and cooperative. What if the keyboards and decks of cards all turn on us? Let’s not think about that, not yet. [via]