Archive for December 2013

#  Directions for a Year-End Inventory →

December 31st, 2013 at 13:47 // In Worth Considering 

One of those AskMeFi comments that just makes me really glad I know about and follow the site. In response to a question about how to take stock at the end of the year “coppermoss” posts a rather exhaustive 38 item list of questions you should answer. It includes:

26. What did you want and get?
27. What did you want and not get?
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
29. What did you do on your birthday?
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I don’t know if I’ll do it in full, but I think it’s a great idea to do this regularly. In twenty years you’ll be able to look back fondly (or with concern).

#  Bill Gate’s Good News of 2013 →

December 29th, 2013 at 18:33 // In Worth Knowing 

I won’t say anything of his news is huge or mind-blowing. I’m linking to it at least in part because Bill Gates has a blog and I’ve never linked to it. But it’s hard to say it’s not good:

Child mortality went down—again. One of the yearly reports I keep an eye out for is “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality.” The title doesn’t sound especially uplifting, but the 2013 report shows amazing progress—for example, half as many children died in 2012 as in 1990. That’s the biggest decline ever recorded. And hardly anyone knows about it! If you want to learn more—and I’d urge you to—the report has a good at-a-glance summary on page 3.

#  Linguistic Locator Quiz →

December 27th, 2013 at 18:10 // In Worth Distraction 

The New York Times put together a pretty awesome quiz that uses an understanding of the nuances of the American lexicon to pin down where in the states your vocabulary best represents. It’s actually, I believe, based on the exact same dataset as that pretty cool video I linked two weeks ago.

(via /r/science)

#  Considering Christmas’s Economics →

December 25th, 2013 at 22:38 // In Worth Considering 

I’ve got a bit a (well-earned) reputation for seeing Christmas as inefficient economically. Tyler Cowen raises some interesting points both for and against that view which are worth a look. This idea made me chuckle, though that hardly makes it wrong:

Clustering a lot of the buying and marketing at the same time may lead to a better matching of purchases and products, a bit like “speed dating.”

#  What Screens Want →

December 23rd, 2013 at 18:30 // In Worth Reading 

This made the rounds in the technology-focused sphere almost a month ago, but I just finally read it. While Frank Chimero’s beautiful visual essay is aimed at people making technology, it’s rich enough to be relevant even if you aren’t. Plus it’s so damn pretty! Plus so phrasing are just beautiful:

One of the reasons that I’m so fascinated by screens is because their story is our story. First there was darkness, and then there was light. And then we figured out how to make that light dance. Both stories are about transformations, about change. Screens have flux, and so do we.

#  The Surreal Future of Telemarketing →

December 21st, 2013 at 17:07 // In Worth Reading 

A really interesting piece by Alexis Madrigal about the weird enmeshing of people and machines that constitutes a likely future of telemarketing.

Such conversations happen millions of times a year, but they are not what they appear. Because while a human is picking up the phone, and a human is dialing the phone, this is not, strictly speaking, a conversation between two humans.

Instead, a call-center worker in Utah or the Philippines is pressing buttons on a computer, playing through a marketing pitch without actually speaking. Some people who market these services sometimes call this “voice conversion” technology. Another company says it’s “agent-assisted automation technology.”

(via Daring Fireball)

#  The Divisions of US Land Area

December 19th, 2013 at 16:44 // In Worth Seeing 

This is a pretty cool animated GIF, which shows the way that American states, territories, and future spaces were organized over time. It also moves pretty fast, and because it’s an animated GIF, doesn’t natively allow you to pause. Which is why you should also use it as an excuse to try out this pretty neat tool: JSGIF, a little bookmarklet that makes it easy to pause and step through GIFs.

animated-map-of-usa-land-division

(via Christian Heilmann’s Oredev talk, where he’s primarily quickly highlighting the bookmarklet, but my attention was more caught by the map)

#  Why Haven’t Any Banking Executives Gone to Jail? →

December 17th, 2013 at 16:37 // In Worth Considering 

Since the start of the current economic downturn all those years ago, this question comes up pretty regularly, and never really gets a satisfying answer. I don’t know that I’d call Jed S. Rakoff’s explanations “satisfying”, but it’s both less political and more plausible than any other explanation I’ve seen:

In recent decades, however, prosecutors have been increasingly attracted to prosecuting companies, often even without indicting a single person. This shift has often been rationalized as part of an attempt to transform “corporate cultures,” so as to prevent future such crimes; and as a result, government policy has taken the form of “deferred prosecution agreements” or even “nonprosecution agreements,” in which the company, under threat of criminal prosecution, agrees to take various prophylactic measures to prevent future wrongdoing. Such agreements have become, in the words of Lanny Breuer, the former head of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, “a mainstay of white-collar criminal law enforcement,” with the department entering into 233 such agreements over the last decade.

#  Second Largest Religion Map

December 15th, 2013 at 11:07 // In Worth Seeing 

I’ve recently learned that I’m more interested in maps than I previously knew. And this one’s pretty cool, though the comment thread (linked below casts doubt on some of its specific data points). This is a map of countries shaded by the second largest religion in their territory. You can probably easily guess the first in most of them, but the second wouldn’t have occurred to me for many of these.second-largest-religion-world-map

(via /r/MapPorn — which is completely SFW; my efforts to find the creator came up empty)

#  Video Map of US Dialects →

December 13th, 2013 at 19:01 // In Worth Watching 

This is a really neat project: The Atlantic called people around the US and asked them to say specific words with their distinctive regional accents. Then they made that into a beautiful video with a map for the area in which each pronunciation of the word is most common.

(via kottke)