Komodo dragons maul man to death#

Two Komodo dragons have mauled a fruit picker to death after he fell out of a tree in an orchard in eastern Indonesia.


The giant lizards had been waiting for him under the tree, according to a neighbour.

OK, yeah, let's go ahead and file this one under "scariest thing ever."

Twitter search to be bigger than Google?

March 24, 2009

Of course not, but I definitely am finding myself heading over to search.twitter.com more often1, especially when what I'm searching for is remotely temporal in nature. For example:

  • My Internet went down recently and my first thought was to hop on Twitter to see if others were experiencing the same problem. I jumped on my iPhone, ran the search and within 15 seconds I knew that Speakeasy was suffering a nationwide outage and that any calls to tech support would be futile.

  • It can make for a nice barometer when you're trying to determine whether you should install newly-updated software. If a new beta of your favorite program has just come out, but you're hesitant to install it because you're worried it may break a plugin, etc., you likely can use Twitter to resolve your question within an hour of the application being released.

  • When trying to decide which of two movies to see in the next few hours, I might do a quick search on Twitter. It's very easy to get a fast, hive-mind sense of which movie I likely will enjoy more.

You get the point. While the idea behind Twitter proper (i.e., one-to-many syndication) isn't new, the additional ability to search, on a large scale, against real-time experiences and impressions most certainly is. This sort of thing has been possible on a small scale since the very early days of the Internet (e.g., searching an on-going IRC discussion), but it usually has been limited generally to a very small number of like-minded people (e.g., an IRC channel devoted to Mac nerdery).

With Twitter that's no longer the case: in an instant I can get immediate feedback on just about any topic and from just about any population sector (or, to be more precise, every sector).2

Given the pre-Twitter limitations of real-time search, it's easy to see why it never could gain real momentum, and why, maybe, it's so difficult for some to now grok the power and usefulness of it. It's hard to give confidence to (and therefore use) a search system that inherently 1) contains too few people/data points (e.g., going back to the IRC use-case, where very few or none of the 50 people in the "mac nerdery" channel has commented on your topic) and 2) has too much friction associated with it.

Regarding the friction element, just compare searching using Twitter's simple search interface (which is like every other web-based search you've used over the past 15 years) to, for example, grepping the transcript of an IRC session. Going back to the example I gave above about searching Twitter for information regarding my broken Internet connection, sure, I could have poked around on my iPhone looking for Speakeasy user forums or a status page, but it would have taken me 10x longer to get my answer. I knew (i.e., I had confidence in the system) that Twitter would be able to get me what I needed and with very little resistance.

World-wide, real-time feedback on any topic is now available to all of us with effectively no associated friction. It's free in every sense of the word. I'm not quite sure what all of this means just yet, but there's no denying it's a game changer.

  1. Mark Carey has developed a great Greasemonkey script that "displays the most recent 5 tweets for the query that you are search[ing] for, giving both real-time Twitter search results and Google results on the same page." I've been using it for a few days to great effect.    

  2. I'll concede that an argument could be made that Technorati has long provided this sort of thing to some extent, if you'll grant me that we're talking apples and oranges. ;)   

Overclocking the human CPU#

Since we have external memory storage down (thanks, Internet!), this leaves personal working-memory bandwidth the most lacking of human traits in our time. In biophysical terms the bandwidth of our intelligence is limited to a tiny conduit of neural cables running from our working memory in the brain's frontal lobes, back to the abstract symbol processing networks in the parietal lobes, and back to the working memory again.


Glims is a plugin for Safari (including the latest beta) that adds a slew of great features to the browser, though the only ones I really care about are undo for "close tab" (cmd-z!), favicons-on-tabs (they're shown on top of each tab's circled "x," which appears when you hover over the favicon) and auto-restoration of previous sessions. (Yes, I'm well aware that other plugins offer similar features (e.g., SafariStand, Saft, etc.), but I'm pretty sure none of them offers all three of the features I list above.)

WP Super Cache not caching anything

March 23, 2009

If you find that your WP Super Cache plugin isn't working, be sure you have something in the "Accepted Filenames & Rejected URIs" text box. A few months ago, when I first started playing around with this plugin, it took me quite a while to figure out that something needed to be in the field for the plugin to work.

By default, both "wp-." and "index.html" are included, but I removed them (for various reasons that aren't worth getting into here) on the assumption that leaving the text box blank would cause everything routed through WP to be cached. Apparently though, the plugin treats empty space there as a directive to not cache anything, and so my blank text box was causing the plugin to have zero effect on my site (though the same can't be said for my sanity).

Put something in the field (e.g., "gobbledygook") and you should be good to go.

How to incorporate stupidity into your AI code#

We don't set our AI with the intent to lose the game, but rather to give the human player a reasonable chance of winning. If the human plays poorly, the AI will still win, but the player will at least feel like she came close to beating a strong opponent, and thus feel like playing one more game.

A machine that speeds up evolution#

The ["target"] DNA is mixed into a vial of bacteria, which is then put into a custom-made machine designed in Church's lab. In the machine, the mixture is subjected to a precisely choreographed routine of temperature and chemical cycles that encourage the bacterial cells to take up the foreign DNA, swapping it into their genomes in place of the native piece it resembles. The single-stranded pieces of DNA are thought to "fake out the cell's DNA replication machinery, sneaking in and filling a gap" during the replication process, says Church. Each generation of the rapidly reproducing bacteria takes up more of the foreign DNA, ultimately producing a population that has all the desired genetic changes.

The Godfather Wars#

The magic was the lucky result mainly of a series of accidents--Coppola's vision of the perfect cast and crew; misunderstandings between the director and the executives; the strange camaraderie that grew between the moviemakers and the Mob; and a number of priceless ad-libs by actors that turned what was supposed to have been a low-budget movie into a masterpiece.

A wonderfully long, behind-the-scenes look at one of the greatest movies ever made.

(After this piece was published in Vanity Fair, the "daughter of a reputed mobster told [the magazine] how her family befriended, tutored, and overfed the Corleones.")

Inside the Mac OS X kernel#

Many buzzwords are associated with Mac OS X: Mach kernel, microkernel, FreeBSD kernel, C++, 64 bit, UNIX… and while all of these apply in some way, "XNU", the Mac OS X kernel is neither Mach, nor FreeBSD-based, it's not a microkernel, it's not written in C++ and it's not 64 bit - but it is UNIX… but just since recently. This talk intends to clear up the confusion by presenting details of the Mac OS X kernel architecture, its components Mach, BSD and I/O-Kit, what's so different and special about this design, and what the special strengths of it are.

Instapaper bookmarklet, modified to close the current tab

March 15, 2009

I've just recently started using Instapaper after repeatedly seeing discussions regarding its nascent Kindle support. It's been around for a good while, but I never paid it much attention because I didn't think I needed it (I'm pretty sure I just thought of it as a variation on delicious and never looked back).

After using it for a day or so I was pretty sure I didn't want to go back to life without it. I'll try to cover this more in-depth in a future post, but for now let me just say that Instapaper has liberated me from the 50-100+ tabs that usually occupy my browser window(s).

Anyway, the crux of the Instapaper workflow is the bookmarklet that drops your current tab into your Instapaper account. When you click the bookmarklet a small pop-up tells you whether the link has been saved to your account, and then closes (and this all occurs very quickly, which is why Instapaper just works for me). However, the tab you just saved to Instapaper remains open. Huh? The whole point of the service is to save for later things you can't read now; what purpose is served by having a site "open" in two places?

In light of this, I modified the bookmarklet slightly so that the tab closes immediately, without disturbing the pop-up. This way, saving something for later is one simple action, instead of two.

To use the bookmarklet, drag this link to your bookmarks bar. UPDATE: I've updated the bookmarklet.

A couple of notes:

  • I've tested it only on Safari 4/Mac.
  • The bookmarklet requires a user key. I've replaced my user key with "USER_KEY" (without quotes). Find that phrase and replace it with the user key found in the bookmarklet Instapaper generated for you.

Hello, from Slicehost

March 12, 2009

Why I moved

I made the decision last week to move this site from Media Temple to something else. Anything else. Without getting too detailed, suffice it to say that the (gs) service has been crap lately (e.g., recently, my site and email were defunct for two full days).

To Media Temple's credit, they are as transparent and forthcoming as any webhost I've ever used (see, for example, this piece they did in response to the aforementioned two-day incident), but that conspicuousness has at least one downside too, namely over-exposure of faults.

It became all too common to see posts on the (mt) status page regarding some system hiccup or failure, which naturally would cause me to do some investigating of my own, which inevitably would cause me to become upset after realizing that some service was inaccessible, email was broken, site was terribly slow, etc.

It's definitely a fine line these large hosting companies have to walk between transparency and bad publicity, and I don't envy the public-facing decisions they have to make every single day, so again, MT must be applauded for their openness.

That said, openness does not a solid host make, and at some point you just have to cut bait and run, so that's exactly what I did.

Where I ended up

I knew I wanted to go the VPS (virtual private/dedicated server)1 route — the idea of total control and the ‘impossibility' of over-selling (there's only so much RAM on each machine) really excited me — but I wasn't sure with which provider I should jump into bed. It was a big decision, one that I most certainly didn't take lightly, and after a lot of research I decided to go with Slicehost (a 512MB slice, for those wondering).

The two other options I considered were a Joyent Accelerator and a Media Temple (dv)2. A big problem I had with both of these was the price; my 512MB slice is $38/month, whereas Joyent doesn't even offer a 512MB option (just 256MB or 1GB), and both Joyent's and Media Temple's 256MB configurations are $45 and $50/month, respectively.

More than price though, it was the overwhelmingly positive reviews that really tipped the scales in Slicehost's favor; in addition, random solicitations to the Twitterverse for hosting providers always effected effusive recommendations for the recent Rackspace acquisition. After all I had read and been told about the company, I felt compelled to give them my money.

The setup

Not a minute after making that decision I received an email with my new IP address and the root password for my slice. I spent all day Saturday setting up my new home (i.e., installing and configuring SSH, Apache, PHP, MySQL, etc.) and waiting for various DNS records to propagate through the tubes.

With respect to email, I played around with a few different things, but ultimately settled on Google Apps for Business. The setup actually was surprisingly simple: 1) sign up for the service, 2) convince Google that you own the domain, and 3) change your MX records to point to Google's mail exchangers. Boom! You've got email.

You likely (hopefully!) won't notice anything different about the site, except that it's SO MUCH FASTER now.

  1. How I lasted this long with shared hosting I'll never know. I mean, really. I suspect it was a confluence of trepidation and fabricated complacency.   

  2. I realize it may seem odd that I would consider the provider with whom I'd recently had so much trouble, but Media Temple's dedicated-virtual offering is a different beast entirely, and by nearly all accounts is a wonderful service.   


Kindlefeeder is "a service for Amazon Kindle owners that lets you aggregate your favorite feeds and have them delivered to your Kindle in a convenient, easy-to-navigate format. You can also have your feeds delivered to your Kindle automatically on a schedule."

The physicist and the historian discuss the nature of truth as theoretical models of the universe become increasingly difficult to test#

So we must ask ourselves: Is this question — whether or not space is finite — even a scientific one? If it's forever beyond our realm of testing, is it science? Is it metaphysics? Is it even an important question?


In many ways the ultimate paradigm shift is for us to define what kinds of questions we consider within the domain of physics, and within the domain of science in general.