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2009

Two movies: “Precious” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”

Link: Two movies: “Precious” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”: ""

(Note : Spoilers for both movies, but nothing that everyone probably has already been exposed to)

I saw both these movies this weekend. One I thought was very good but disturbing, the other I thought was so so, kind of sick, but I did watch it to the end. Yet thinking about it, is there a core theme in common and what does my reaction say about my biases?

Precious shows the plight of a teenage mother, pregnant with another child, in desperate straights: she lives with an abusive mother, she is kicked out of school, people have told her that she is stupid and worthless, she is desperately poor.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shows several middle class teenagers with time on their hands exploring a derelict old house and encountering a family of (sorry:) cannibals who proceed to dine on these teenagers.

Ok: so you can tell which one I thought was good and which one I thought was sick. But what do they maybe have in common? In each case the movie shows, closeup, events that happens, has happened, or could happen in real life which is horrible.

You can ask: what purpose can be served - what point is there - to spending your time making or watching such a film? It makes the viewer uncomfortable to see it and glorifies or at least gives a platform to the bad guys who are causing this misery.

Still my reaction to each movie was radically different , and I am thinking more about the commonalities that I think I see between the movies. What do you think?

I’ll be teaching a course at Brandeis University

Link: I’ll be teaching a course at Brandeis University: ""

Follow along as I develop the course:Brandeis University Web App Dev, Mobile App Dev and Incubator

I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to co-teach 3 courses next year at Brandeis University. It's something that I have wanted to do for a long time now and I am looking forward to it. As an experiment, I thought I would publish the course notes as I am developing them and perhaps get some feedback, suggestions or even volunteer guest speakers.

Here are the blurbs:

  • Web Application Development : An introduction to web programming that covers the fundamental languages and tools, including HTML/CSS for page layout, javascript/ajax for client-side interaction, and server side programming in Java, Ruby, and SQL. The course will also discuss security, scaling/optimization, and multi-tier architectures.

  • Mobile Application Development: An introduction to the design and analysis of mobile applications that covers the architecture of mobile devices, APIs for graphical user interfaces on mobile devices, location-aware computing, social networking. The course also covers the theory and practice of space and time optimization for these relatively small and slow devices .__

  • Incubator : An introduction to software engineering for web and mobile applications. This course covers agile programming techniques, rapid prototyping, source control paradigms, effective software documentation, design of effective APIs, software testing and analysis, software licensing, with an introduction to business plans for software entrepreneurs.

I hope you are interested and take a look at the detailed syllabus and course notes and give me your comments and also volunteer as a speaker (we will be looking for a different speaker every week.)

Follow along as I develop the course:Brandeis University Web App Dev, Mobile App Dev and Incubator

Facebook and Twitter Hacking

Link: Facebook and Twitter Hacking: ""

I guess it's not surprising that people's Facebook and twitter accounts are getting compromised. From the New York Times:

"Malicious programs are rampaging through Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, spreading themselves by taking over people’s accounts and sending out messages to all of their friends and followers. The result is that people are inadvertently telling their co- workers and loved ones how to raise their I.Q.’s or make money instantly, or urging them to watch an awesome new video in which they star." (from From Viral Crooks, Social Networks are Prime Targets)

I just changed my three Twitter accounts, and Facebook accounts to use a "very hard" password. I suggest you consider doing it too 🙂

First useful info from Twitter for me :)

Link: First useful info from Twitter for me :): ""

After sending an email to Terroir Coffee asking them to explain the roastiness terminology that they use for all their coffee. It's obscure and not mentioned on the web site. No response.

I happened to note that George Howell, who is their CEO and visionary was tweeting. So I posted the question to him on twitter for all the world to see, and lo- and-behold, I got an answer.

Maybe I should try the same technique for the Mint.com question I don't seem to be getting a decent answer to.

Prediction: this model of customer service doesn't scale. As soon as the novelty wears off, Twitter as a way for the CEO to 'stay in touch with the little people' will fall by the wayside. I mean where's Jeff Bezos on Twitter?

Dan Lewis, on what it means to ‘own’ something

Link: Dan Lewis, on what it means to ‘own’ something: ""

This post talks about the difference between owning, possessing and accessing a book or anything tangible:

"If I buy (”own”) a book, I expect to be able to do things such as re-sell, loan, rent, gift it. If I rent or borrow (”posses”) a book, I don’t, but expect to be able to do things like take it with me on a trip. If I am in your house and flip through (”access”) a book, you being a mensch aside, I probably can’t just walk out the door with it." (from What does it mean to 'buy' an e-book')

There's another very practical aspect of physical goods which goes unmentioned, but is implied. The existence of a used-goods aftermarket. I was having a discussion the other day with someone who was bemoaning the fact that video game consoles were going the way of app stores and downloadable games. One effect of this is on the video game (cartridge) aftermarket.

There are loads of people who cannot or will not pay the new price for video games but, participate very actively in the video game world strictly by buying aftermarket games.

Contrasting the new Barnes and Nobel 'Nook' reader with the now famous Kindle: one of the big advantages cited for the Nook is that their model of 'e-books' includes a scheme to permit me to lend my e-book (the book not the device) to someone else. This is a start. But the one who takes that the next step and provides the ability to re-sell my ebook will have yet another leg up.

Stewart Alsop, Droid Doesn’t, Google UI

Link: Stewart Alsop, Droid Doesn’t, Google UI: ""

This is an insider's three-fer. In this article, Stewart describes his horrible personal experience with the Verizon Droid. It's a fun read. Three angles:

(1) It's been years and years since I've seen Stewart Alsop publishing a product review. Stewart, years ago, was totally famous in the tech world as software taste maker par-excellence. Kind of like Walt Mossberg is today (whoops - you don't know who Mossberg is?)

(2) All I've seen lately is hero worship of Google Android (cell phone software) and by extension, the new Verizon Droid. Here's a review from Stewart that knocks down, slaps around, and buries the Droid. Wow! Welcome back Stewart, or haven't I been looking in the right place? From the old days, I am sure you remember getting responses like this one 🙂 By the way, here's what Mossberg thought of Droid.

(3) I've been meaning to call out Google's terrible user interfaces for a while now. And I am not talking (just) about the totally inscrutable Wave (also subject of excessive hero worship, but in fairness, it's still pre-beta) but good old stalwarts as GMail (great product with lots of UI suckitude, even though I use it every day) and even the good old www.google.com. I mean look at Bing. Simple and straightforward, and still elegant and easy on the eye. And fast loading. Even the top-secret 'redesign' or 'update' of the www.google.com search page looks amateurish with ugly icons and ugly colors.

Ok, that's my insider's three-fer. Each one could be expanded into it's own post, and, maybe I will!