Archive for August, 2009


The power of Twitter Dooce spends $1,300 on a new Maytag washing machine, it breaks, she has a nightmare getting it fixed, and a customer service rep sneers when she makes a veiled threat to Tweet her woes to the world. Big mistake.


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The Grownups’ Guide to Indie Rock Interesting insights (and anecdotes) from a 57-year-old guy who can’t decide if he likes modern indie rockers like Devendra Banhart (above) because they’re a flashback to the ’60s, or because they’re better.

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3 kids, 1 flute MeFi has a fantastic thread on the book “The Idea of Justice” by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Here’s the starting premise:  Take three kids and a flute. Anne says the flute should be given to her because she is the only one who knows how to play it. Bob says the flute should be handed to him as he is so poor he has no toys to play with. Carla says the flute is hers because it is the fruit of her own labour. How do we decide between these three legitimate claims?

Much wonderful and witty discussion ensues (my favorite comment is from Alvy Ampersand: “I would break the flute into three equal pieces.  And then I would laugh at the tears of the children while I brought the fox and the bag of corn across the river.”).

But there’s one thing that isn’t clear in the premise — whose flute is it now? It says Carla says it’s hers because “it is the fruit of her own labor,” but does that mean she made it for herself, and now owns it? Or does she work in a flute factory, and recognizes it as one that she made (and presumably has already been paid for making)?

If we assume the former, then the whole premise is skewed in Carla’s favor, even though it’s blatantly illogical — why would she go to the trouble of learning to make a flute, gathering the raw materials, then investing time and labor in making a flute when she doesn’t even know how to play flute?

If we assume the latter, then her claim about the fruits of her labors rings kind of hollow, since she’s already been paid. Though if she’d been a slave at a flute-making plantation, that might be different.

(beautiful flute pic via The Music Store @ Powell)

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So, apparently Microsoft is entering the highly competitive market of smart phones (e.g. iPhone, Palm Pre, Blackberry) with the Fune. For some reason, I can’t see the word “Fune” without thinking of Inspector Clouseau (YouTube clip — go to 2:08 to see what I mean).


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flirtingFemale flirting futility

A study shows women can tell when women are flirting (as opposed to merely being friendly), but men can’t. From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, this raises the obvious question, WTF?

How did we get to a point where female signals intended for males are missed by the males but picked up by the females? Is female flirting some sort of territory-marking behavior, intended to signal other women rather thanthe man? Or has modern life just gotten everyone so conflexed and perpused that signals are getting crossed?

On a somewhat related note: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature focuses hugely on sex –especially polygyny —  and not so much on other aspects of what evolutionary psychology tells us (accurately or not) about human nature. Some of it veers dangerously close to the kind of stuff that gives Ev Psych a bad name, but it’s still worth taking a look.

(pic — and shirt — via Zazzle.com)

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Darwin’s First Clues National Geographic uses annoying 9-page format for a nice piece by David Quammen, IMO the best living science/nature writer, throwing light on what really got Darwin thinking about evolution (in contrast to the usual story about the finches):

Darwin’s first real clue toward evolution came not in the Galápagos but three years before, on a blustery beach along the north coast of Argentina. And it didn’t take the form of a bird’s beak. It wasn’t even a living creature. It was a trove of fossils. Never mind the notion of Darwin’s finches. For a fresh view of the Beagle voyage, start with Darwin’s armadillos and giant sloths.

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Elites vs. tweets

twitter-addictHow the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter

Geoff Manaugh takes issue with those who like to put down people who write with their thumbs:

Now that suburban housewives in Missouri are letting their thoughts be known via Twitter, it’s as if writing itself is thought to be under attack, invaded from all sides by the unwashed masses whose thoughts have not been sanctioned as Literature™.  In many ways, I’m reminded of Truman Capote’s infamous put-down of Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, it’s typing.”

And in We Are All Writers Now,  Anne Trubek says Facebook and other technologies can foster creativity and self-expression:

Take the “25 Things About Me” meme that raged around Facebook a few months ago. This time-waster, as many saw it, is precisely the kind of brainstorming exercise I used to assign to my freshman writing students decades ago.

(cartoon via Neuroanthropology blog, which also has some useful insights)

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