28 May 2002

Star Wars update: Natalie Portman will be filming new scenes for the DVD edition of Return of the Jedi. Speculation is that she'll be appearing in flashback scenes involving Princess Leia, and perhaps the dying Anakin? (That last possibility could actually be quite moving, if done right. Unfortunately, when's the last time Lucas did anything right?)

27 May 2002

Hey, I found the Photic Sneeze Reflex site!

(By way of explanation, this is a European web site devoted to the subject of photic sneeze reflex, a very interesting topic. I'm linking to it because they use an excerpt from one of my X-Files fanfic stories to illustrate the phenomenon. The funniest part is that the character who suffers from photic sneeze reflex in my story actually gets killed in the next paragraph, although they don't include that part here.)

25 May 2002

This site is great: ESP Experiment.

The actual trick is cute enough, but make sure you read the "Explanations" section for an amazing look at genuine, if misguided, human ingenuity.

17 May 2002

Even though I sorta like "Episode One," I thought that this was very, very funny: 78 Reasons to Hate Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.

Sample reason:

"Reason #27

Anakin built C-3P0

I will not accept that fact that Anakin built C-3P0. I won't do it. You can torture me in a scene reminiscent of the finale in Braveheart and I will cry out "Freedom!" rather than admit to this horse shit. Anakin simply didn't build C-3P0, end of story. Anakin says that he's good at building things. I'll believe that. My friend's nine-year old son used to build stuff and wire up all the home electronics. That I'll believe. Anakin built a Pod Racer. I will even believe that. I will entertain the notion that he may have put C-3P0 together using an "Assemble Your Own Robot" home kit but I doubt that they give those away to slave boys. I have one simple defense to prove that he didn't build C-3P0: Anakin Skywalker--the ten year old boy--does not know 6,000,000 forms of communication. Does Anakin Skywalker have experience with binary loadlifters? No. We know that C-3P0 does. Does Anakin Skywalker know how to speak Ewok? I doubt it. C-3P0 can. Does Anakin Skywalker know how to understand moisture vaporators? Probably not since he's not a machine (yet). The only language (other than the main language that they speak [which Lucas would probably call "English]) that Anakin knows is Huttese. I'll accept the fact that maybe he was lying to try to impress Padme in hopes that she would sleep with him. I hope that's what it was because otherwise I'm very upset with this turn of events."

Oddly enough, this otherwise very comprehensive list omits the single worst scene in Episode One: the "revelation" of Padme's real identity, which I still think must be the clumsiest scene of its kind ever shot. Well, not counting anything from Episode Two, anyway.

16 May 2002

Can any of you figure out what seems to be a hidden message encryped in morse code at the end of the trailer for CQ?
We saw episode II today, and i think it was really for the most part genuinely terrible, although certainly bits were fun. Anyway afterwards i told alec i'd post a link to this humor piece. What the new starwars are missing is characters like han solo.

My word of advice today for aspiring directors and screenwriters? Don't cut away from a scene unless you know what is going to happen next.
I'm not sure how i'd never heard of alexa's web rankings before, but if you put in a url it'll pop up a description with a ranking which is made by the number of hits by people using their software. If you've ever wondered whether more people read the new york times online or shop at amazon, now you can find out (amazon is 22nd, while new york times is 82nd).

Also there's a convenient, "people who liked this site also visited" feature a la amazon. Which reminds me of a post today on the Volokh Conspiricy:

This case aside, I love the "readers who are reading this are also reading that" function of Amazon, however incomplete it may be. I don't buy all of my books online, or all on Amazon, nor are all of the books I buy online for me, but the service provides some amount of information. A friend once made the seemingly obvious but brilliant suggestion that Amazon merge its database of reader's preferences with an online dating service.

Give me a man who is reading Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, Jennifer Weiner's hilarious Good In Bed, and The Dictionary of Insurance Terms, and I'm there. Of course, we don't want this model to be taken too far:

"Men who have enjoyed dating Suzy have also enjoyed dating Kelly and Sarah . . ."
Time Waster of the Day:

Remember the good old video game music from the original nintendo? Ever wanted to listen to thousands of songs based on those tunes? Well then check out remix overclocked.

My personal favorite so far is a mario 1 remix called underworldrock.
Here's a really good blog, which was blogger's blog of the day sometime this week. It'll definitely go on the list when i get around to making a list of my favorite blogs. The bit on the first day of high school and the bit on tatoos (both last week, scroll down a tad) are quite fun. Definitely my favorite blog of the more journally-type that i've found recently.

15 May 2002

My paper on applications of the theory of representations of Lie algebras to particle physics is finally done, and so I can bet back to the important things in life, like blogging. This was my last Harvard paper ever, which isn't really so sad.

First topic of conversation, in keeping with our recent links to video games, there have been several recent articles about video games...

Apparently some judge in a district court in Missouri has decided that video games categorically are not speech and deserve no first ammendment protection (here's the decision). Salon has this article. His argument comes down to the claim that video games are like other games and sports and not like films. The crucial point in his argument is the following:

"This Court has difficulty accepting that some video games do contain expression while others do not, and it finds that this is a dangerous path to follow. The first Amendment does not allow us to review books, magazines, motion pictures, or music and decide that some of them are speech and some of them are not. It appears to the Court that either a "medium" provides sufficient elements of communication and expressiveness to fall within the scope of the First Amendment, or it does not."

I don't think I really buy that argument, but I'm not a lawyer and so perhaps he is right. However, having made that argument, it stands to reason that it is sufficient to find a single video game which clearly contains speech in order to give protection to all of them. Rather than conduct such research or request such information from the party to the suit, or even say that he does not have enough information to make this decision, this judge decides to look only at the 4 games which the defense had provided him. These games were, Doom, Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, and Fear Effect. As one would expect, these four games which were chosen by the defense have little to no important speech in them.

Perhaps judge Limbaugh should have read this article, whose headline is "Civilization and its Discontents, A video game makes you ponder the nature of history."

What do I think on the matter? There are video games which clearly qualify as speech, some now, but there will be many more in the future. On the other hand, no matter how much i enjoy them, games like Quidditch and 3-D Pong are, just as judge Limbaugh argues, really just high tech versions of bingo.

13 May 2002

One of the coolest places in America has got to be Youngstown, OH. You know it's cool because the newspaper is called The Vindicator. It's also cool because until recently it had the nuttiest congressman around, James Traficant. Traficant doesn't always get the most attention in national media but on Capitol Hill he's a great source of entertainment. C-SPAN watchers got more than their share of Traficant's one-minute speeches, whose subjects ranged from his ongoing "feud" with the FBI (actually he was being investigated for corruption) to UFOs to the China Threat. This is unsubstantiated, but he often looked to me like he was drunk when he made those speeches. Maybe that's just the way he acted. In later years his corruption investigation overshadowed everything. In 2000, he even pledged to vote for Dennis Hastert as House Speaker because he had "done more to help him [Traficant] with his problems" than the Democratic leadership. The Ohio State Democratic Party tried, but failed, to get him kicked out of the party.

Youngstown is not without its problems. A steel-dependent town, it has suffered from a shrinking steel economy in the past 30 years, and it's one of the most mob-infested places around. There were gallons of evidence against him and it was clear to all that Traficant was guilty of corruption, but he maintained his innocence and defended himself in court, as he had successfully done in 1983. Unfortunately, he was finally found guilty last month. He could be spending many years behind bars.

I was delighted to find that the Vindicator had written Traficant a fitting political obituary.

12 May 2002

Our email addresses are now online. Thanks to hivelogic's encoding robots won't be able to find them and we won't get spammed. Visitors feel free to email any of us.
Here's something interesting, Alec if you're in new york watch out for this. Copied from jaded writings:

An Official Brush-Off

You're in a bar, humoring the guy who bought you a drink. You've tried to be kind, maybe even a bit forceful in telling him you're simply not interested. He doesn't get the hint; he assumes since you accepted the drink, he's "in there."

Now, if you live in New York City, you have a painless way out of this difficult situation. Just give him this phone number: 212-479-7990.

Instead of reaching your answering machine, Casanova will get the Rejection Line operator. For no charge, the rejected paramour will also be given the option of speaking with a comfort specialist or hearing a sad poem.

What will they come up with next?
errr... well the latin phrase "in loco parentis", but in spanish loco means crazy... its not that deep...
Alright, maybe I'm an idiot, but could someone explain the pun? I don't get it.
Exciting Deadly Mantis News Item:

Today we got what appears to be a visit from Katie Granju of loco parentis. I had linked to her site in passing on tuesday, may 07. Anyway, she's a real live A-list blogger with actual readers and a link on instapundit and everything. Furthermore, so far from what I've read she wins the best name for a blog contest hands down. I mean bilingual puns are pretty cool when one of the languages is in english (for example for those of you who know American Sign Language and spoken english (as opposed to written english, not as opposed to signed english which ASL is not), the famous "past-your-eyes milk"-joke), but a latin/spanish pun? that's just great.

Anyway her blog is all about the joys and trials of parenting and promoting increased parental involvement. For a good example of her writing at its best, see her may 6th posting on infants sleeping with their parents. Anyway, her blog is generally quite good. although its from a perspective that many of us at harvard might find a little anti-career anti-feminist, its certainly not in a sexist way and she makes a lot of good points, check it out and let me know what you think.
Noah's News Commentary of the Night:

So over the last couple weeks the issue of whether television advertising is sustainable in the light of TiVo and other machines which make it easier to skip commercials. For example this article on lawmeme was one of the more popular links last week. However, as lawmeme also points out people don't watch commercials that much anyway as pointed out in this article. Already advertisers are trying to find new ways to get around the notion of the 30 second commercial, mostly through product placing, as discussed in this column.

All of this got me thinking, what sort of commercials would get me, a dedicated commercial skipper (read a book, change the channel, go to the bathroom, etc.) to actually watch a commercial. And then it hit me, there's another paradigm for commercials which we've seen this year. BMW commisioned half a dozen highly skilled moderately famous directors to make 6 minute shorts featuring cars and put them on their website. I highly recommend it, most of them are good, and wong kar-wai's film "the follow" is really quite amazing, i've watched it maybe a dozen times.

So why not do the same thing for television commercials? Instead of a bunch of 30 second clips, you sell a full 5 minute block to some big company who has an army of directors making good short films featuring their products. I wouldn't miss them if they were good...

(Don't forget, you heard it here first.)
A great new resource for procrastination has arrived online... FHM has released a top 100 web video games. (No, i do not read FHM, i followed the link from fark (although i did recently describe fark as "the Maxim of the weblog community", so maybe i'm not totally exonerated).

My five favorites:

1. Quidditch. The multi-player version is wonderful. Nat and I just played it for a solid half an hour. Really a delightful game.

2. mini-putt. Yeah i've been raving about it for weeks, but that's cause its fun. Notice what this says about how much i liked Quidditch.

3. Rock-Paper-Scissors/Russian Roullete. I know that liking this makes me sick and twisted, but its sooo sooo funny. PG-13 for cartoon violence.

4. Monster Sumo. This one is really amusing and fun, although the computer gives itself a bit of an unfair advantage and the gameplay takes a moment to catch on to.

5. Snowball Fight. Great idea and good graphics, plus i'm going to miss snowfights in berkeley...
Yay technology! I'm currently reading No Place for Amateurs by Dennis Johnson. It's a book about the professionalization of political campaigns, and Johnson talks a lot about scientific and not-so scientific polls. Here's a couple of stories about bad polls that I found amusing:

"USA Today asked its readers in June 1990 if Donald Trump symbolized what was right or wrong with the United States. Eighty-one percent of the 6,406 people who called an 800 number said that Trump was great and 19 percent said he was bad for the country. But there was an organized effor to fix the numbers: it turned out that 72 percent of the telephone calls came from two phone numbers."

"In July 1999, baseball fans were encouraged to use the internet to vote for their favorite All-Star players. One Red Sox enthusiast programmed his computer to cast ballot nonstop, and after two days, he had "voted" forty-thousand times for his hero, Nomar Garciaparra."

"TIME.com conducted a straw poll allowing anyone, not just registered voters, to cast their ballot choice for president. Orrin Hatch, who was barely visible in most traditional polls in late 1999, garnered 60 percent of the votes on the TIME.com survey. Hatch had hyperlinked the TIME.com poll to his own campaign website, and his supporters enthusiastically clicked away."

If only real voting were that easy. Of course, bad polling has been around a lot longer than the internet. It's just a lot easier to cook up convincing numbers that mean nothing nowadays.

11 May 2002

I found this link about Nixon and Kissinger on a professional video gamer's weblog. He was upset about electoral tampering in Uruguay, his home country. I was interested because I've been researching the Nixon White House recently to come up with a theory about Deep Throat (see my previous post). History is not exactly being kind to these men.

10 May 2002

Upon further reflection, I've decided not to post my response to the James Mann article on the identity of Deep Throat. It's a nice byzantine conspiracy theory rife with crime, betrayal, and coverups. It's also completely made up, and I don't want conspiracy theories about real people with my name on them circulating around the web. Still, it's entertaining, and if you want to read it, email me at chakeres@fas.harvard.edu. This was my first try at coming up with a conspiracy theory, and it's pretty fun -- you start by assuming that there was a conspiracy, then you do your research to find random coincidences and connections, and then you weave a story around them. Don't assume they're telling you the whole story. I think I would have written some good history papers if I had done them this way...

09 May 2002

Man, your google searches are way cooler than mine. Noah, I am in awe of your inspirationality, and Alec, believe it or not, I sometimes get the urge to break your head open also (I suppress the urge with cough drops, usually).

Not counting my bio on Dave "too cool to blog" Freeman's website, these are my top search results:

1. The HVL roster (not to be confused with the far superior HVL website).

2. Apparently I'm a member of the BU bowling association. I went bowling with them last year through a friend of a friend because they had cheap deals with the bowling alley. Nice people.

3. I am also listed on the Star Tournaments leaderboard. These are strat-o-matic tournaments that go on all over the country, and I participated in one in Fort Collins once. I almost made it to the World Series but I never did a tournament again for a number of reasons. I objected to the gambling aspect, they were really inconvenient ways to gobble up your time, and the people were very frightening (in a "I hope this guy doesn't get too angry and slit my throat if I beat him" kind of way). I suppose I should have expected them to have a screw loose if they're spending all their weekends betting money on a board game. They weren't even very good at it.

Those are the only remotely interesting returns for my name. I guess I'll have to make a better name for myself, maybe by becoming a noted conspiracy theorist...

08 May 2002

Okay, google results for my name:

1. Somehow a quote from this really bad teenage angsty play which i wrote junior year of highschool ended up on a stone soup seminars page of inspirational quotes. I can't for the life of me figure out how these people found this quote. I have no idea who this person is.

2. I knew I had a famous surfer alterego, i did not, however, know that he is now an evangalism tool. He and some other surfers have a website with their own T-shirts and which is a tool in the evanglism toolbox.

3. My Harvard Ultimate bio is the first link which comes up which actually refers to me and is somewhat amusing.

4. This article appears in one of my favorite publications, which is cool enough to put it on this list.

5. A wonderful annagram of my name appears on this site: "shy? no, a nerd!"
By the way, that Virtual Nightclub is the most depressing idea I've ever seen.
Most interesting Google results for my name:

1. A movie review I wrote for Student.Com ended up on a Holocaust revisionist website. Lovely.

2. Another one appears in a student newspaper in Limerick, Ireland. Hmmmm...

Everything else for the search "Alec N-L" is pretty boring (lots of movie reviews, section lists, etc.). But you get somewhat more interesting results when you search for "LGG" (my nom de plume from when I used to write X-Files fanfic, mostly in high school). Sample quotes from people's fanfic web pages:

1. "LGG...is a god."

2. "The LGG is getting famous for being the best fanfic writer no one reads."

3."LGG. This fellow makes me look extremely lazy. His stories graft a bafflingly wide range of knowledge involving history, science and literature to moody, surprising plots. I would like to crack his head open just to see what's inside. And to stop feeling outclassed."

4. "Blood of Angels by LGG. I read this story and I honestly started to cry. Not because it was sad, but because this was so bloody good that I could never write anything that could compare."

No wonder I get a swelled head sometimes.... Anyway, you get the idea. There's also a site that has a discussion of one of my stories in what appears to be Polish. I do love the Google ego search...
Time for another top 5 list:

Top Five Links Which Appear When You Google Your Own Name

By top five i of course mean your five favorites, not the first 5 which anyone can find out. Alec is at a slight disadvantage because all of the ones that come up are actually about him... I on the other hand get lots of fun surfer sites...
Despite the fact that we've had two hits by people who aren't us in the past 10 minutes, we unfortunately still have not gotten into google as is evidenced by the results of this search...

On the other hand, this search is a bit more flattering... Incidentally because of this link when i went to visit berkeley (where i'm going next year) half the first year grad students i met said "noah... are you the abc guy?" it was a little embarassing.
Wow, this is amazing... These people are developing a virtual nightclub where you can pretend to dance and pretend to pick up other people...
We now have a counter telling us how many billions of people are not visiting our webites, so far the 1 is just me... sigh...

on the other hand i have found a new internet game for those of us bored with beruit...


Nat, if you wrote a justice paper on dwarf tossing, i think now is the time to link to it on this site...
Lots of new links up...

07 May 2002

At first i thought how can this guy write this much about the spiderman movie? And then i looked at the old postings and they're all this long, which is undeniably cool, its like long emails instead of like your usual blog snippets...
Reading some other blogs I've been inspired to try posting more often...

So today I spent walking all accross cambridge looking for appartments...

Now i'm not only tired but feeling annoyingly grown up, almost graduated and appartment shopping... So how do I comfort myself? Finding ways in which I'm not yet grown up...
Here's my gem of the day from blogdex. This is the blog of a law professor and was linked by blogdex because of his ammendment competition which seems like it could be interesting once the answers come in. Lemme know what ammendment you'd choose... But beyond that it seems to be a generally interesting blog mostly on legal issues and public policy.

Of course my favorite legal commentary on the web is Dahlia Lithwick's hysterical Supreme Court Dispatches on Slate. (Yes you did just hear "hysterical" and "supreme court" in the same sentence. Its amazing how funny she is with such little material.)

Any other favorite legal links?
New beirut high score: 7580 on 58.823% shooting in under 1:32.

Noah, I'm not going to put up any links for now because you've already put up the websites that I go to frequently.

06 May 2002

So, at the end of the Mavs-Kings game tonite, the tv guy asked Mavs point guard steve nash what he thought of Mavs nutty owner mark cuban's threat to hand out 600 cowbells to the fans behind the Kings bench in the games in dallas... Steve nash said something roughly like this:

"well... you know mark... his psychological tests haven't come back yet..."

can you imagine someone saying that about steinbrenner? he'd get fired the next day. that's what you gotta love about mark cuban, he may be a nut, but at least he's an amusing one.
So, i've put up my daily reads into the links part. Alec and nat, you should put up some of your favorite sites as well... i hope to also get added a list of favorite blog links, unfortunately i haven't read enough yet (only having been blogsurfing for a few weeks) to really do that, but i hope to soon.

05 May 2002

A little birdie says that someone just got a 6130 in beruit... 55.555% shooting... in two minutes and two seconds...

how do you like them apples!!
For everyone who's tired of online putt-putt, here's a new diversion: beirut.

My top score: 4465.

I'm still working on my theory about Deep Throat...

03 May 2002

Quote of the day:

"That's just who I am. I want to have a nice career for my children. I want them to have a great education. I want to fly my birds. I want to live my life. I want to have a drink every now and then. I want to have a charity event every now and then. And every now and then, I want to fornicate and that's just being a human being." -- Courtesy of this guy.
A great article on the less famous cousin of the Sports Illustrated curse, the ESPN magazine curse, and the pistons/raptors series:

Great video of the Harvard ultimate frisbee team, for whom i used to play:

Shankar's Greatest

02 May 2002

Link of the Day:
The Atlantic

This is a rather old article which Slate claims is the best argument for the identity of Deep Throat thus far. Read it and see what you think.

01 May 2002

I'm not sure why i find this so amusing:

Completely Pointless Personality Test

For what its worth (which isn't much) i got 41% making me a doc martin boot.