Dec 22, 2007

Props to Destineer for their DS release of WordJong. The reviews are not wrong to give it an 8 of 10; it's no 9.8/10 multi-million-dollar blockbuster. But it is very solidly an 8 out of 10, a very competent execution of the basic concept. The dictionary is rich, the game modes complement each other nicely, exploring the basic concept without undue repetition.

If you think you might like it based off of the descriptions in the reviews, you probably will.

M-O-V, I-N-G, S-U-C-K-S
Dec 20, 2007

And if the tune of the title doesn't immediately come to you, give it a few reads aloud. It's a little ditty my wife has put together.

I'm officially a homeowner now, to the extent that you own something the bank owns 95% of. It's nice, but it's taking forever for various reasons to put everything together.

For instance, it was very nice of Mother Nature to cover my new driveway in eight inches of snow the day after the move. (Could be worse, could have been the day of.)

Tidbit: I have long complained about the slow speed of Comcast's digital cable boxes. The first one I tried would literally take five seconds or more to respond to single button presses. By "literally" I mean "measured on my watch". This is unusable.

Their new boxes respond in a quarter to half second; I can still see it and it's not quite to the "pleasure" stage, but it's much more usable. Pages come up more quickly too.

This has unfortunately orphaned my TiVo, for various technical reasons, but I have hope that Comcast TiVos may actually be on their way. Of course, for all I know it'll be six years before they get here, but who knows? (Theoretically, it shouldn't take them that long to roll out.)

Hey! Comcast Tivo! Brighton, Michigan, OK?

Shouldn't we get like some sort of official domusaternity leave for moving into a house or something?

And how am I actually supposed to move out of this thing after I bulk it up a bit?

The Money Value Function
Dec 04, 2007

I've loosely defined the value function (link) to only compare two "things", without further specifying what "things" it can take, because some things we put in there (like CloseToFamily) are fundamentally non-numeric properties. But some people have their own specializations of this value function. One that almost nobody will admit to using, but a lot of people live by, is the Money value function. This function takes just one argument and returns a single concrete number with the unit "Dollars" (or relevant local currency).

Read the rest...

This entry is part of the BlogBook called "Programming Wisdom".

Dec 03, 2007

Following up on Scientific Federalism:

Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed [Malawi] to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.

Stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, he led the way to reinstating and deepening fertilizer subsidies despite a skeptical reception from the United States and Britain. Malawi’s soil, like that across sub-Saharan Africa, is gravely depleted, and many, if not most, of its farmers are too poor to afford fertilizer at market prices...

...This year, a nation that has perennially extended a begging bowl to the world is instead feeding its hungry neighbors. It is selling more corn to the World Food Program of the United Nations than any other country in southern Africa and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to Zimbabwe.

In Malawi itself, the prevalence of acute child hunger has fallen sharply. In October, the United Nations Children’s Fund sent three tons of powdered milk, stockpiled here to treat severely malnourished children, to Uganda instead. “We will not be able to use it!” Juan Ortiz-Iruri, Unicef’s deputy representative in Malawi, said jubilantly. - Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts - New York Times via dangerousmeta

I find this example particularly interesting because I would also probably have said "let the free market do its thing", and it seems I would also be wrong. Copying the successes is better than any received wisdom.

(One can argue that agriculture is a bit of an exception to some aspects of the free market. If normal economic pressures would result in most food production being moved outside of your country, it is arguable that there is a strategic interest in twiddling the market so that you still have internal food production. A country like Malawi may have no choice but to meet Western market distortion with its own market distortions.)

(One could also argue that the preceding is a post-hoc rationalization.)

Nov 28, 2007

One of the milestones I've been watching for is the first entirely DVD-based TV-style series. It's going to happen sooner or later, and will mark a major shift in how TV is produced, once it becomes possible to make it without advertising or subsidy, the only two models that currently work. I've been looking forward to this because I think quirky niche content will benefit the most, and who doesn't think more quirky niche content is a good thing? Nobody who matters, that's who. (... said the nerd.)

I've figured(/hoped) one of the Fox-Cancelled-F's would start us off: Firefly, Family Guy, or Futurama. Firefly, alas, seems dead. Family Guy resurrected in an entirely conventional fashion.

Futurama, while not quite meeting the letter of my conditions, has come closer than anybody else to date. Today I picked up Bender's Big Score. It's a new Futurama DVD movie that has not yet been aired on television in any form, so at the moment, you could say it's entirely DVD based. However, it is going to be chopped up into four episodes and aired on Comedy Central in a month or two.

Still, I think this release will be seen as a turning point. With Bender's Big Score, the time from TV airing to DVD release has gone negative, and it's still only a matter of time before we see a DVD release that never makes it to TV. (Or only makes it as an afterthought after becoming popular on its own merits.)

(Note that while I've referred to this as a "TV series", Bender's Big Score is showing us right away that this term is going to become superseded; Futurama's new "season" is already four movies that just "happen" to be easily chopped up into four episodes each, rather than conventional episodes that can just be slapped on TV as-is. "Video content" is insufficiently descriptive, we're going to need a new term for video content that based around producing lots of relatively-cheap minutes of video. I find it odd that somebody hasn't managed to profitably do this; the budget of one "season" of "TV" and one blockbuster Hollywood movie don't seem too dissimilar, but you get to charge a lot more for the season of TV.)


How is it, you ask? On the Futurama scale, I'd give it a 3 out of 5. It doesn't reach the height of the last season. But it is still Futurama, so it's still well above average entertainment; if you liked it before, you'll find this quite a bit more enjoyable than many other movies. And there's three to go, and clearly some arc still in progress, so rather than a so-so movie, he're hoping it's a necessary start to an excellent series.

I think I could see the episode breaks, but only because I was looking for them. I did see a couple of obvious commercial breaks, but not anywhere near as many on the original DVD sets. It doesn't feel as forced into four acts as I thought it would be.

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