Month: December 2012

The Ten Worst Habits of Advanced Surfers

YouTube has some funny videos – even about surfing! The one every novice should watch, though, is titled, How Not To Be a Kook.


It’s a short compendium of the things you need to watch out for when you start out. The rules of the trade, the etiquette in the water, the all-important right-of-way. The things listed in the video are very typical of novices and any surfer worth their salty hair will know better.

Still, watching the video got me thinking. There is a lot that advanced surfers do wrong. It’s not that it’s wrong because it’s not in the rule book, but because it’s terribly unsportsmanlike. So, here a list in ascending order of annoyance.


The Most Translated Pages on Wikipedia

There is a list on Meta, the wiki about Wikipedia, that contains 1,000 articles deemed important for a new language version of Wiki. So if you come up with some new language (not Klingon, please!), you should first translate these articles to kick start your project.

I looked through the list and found it extremely arbitrary. It was pretty obvious it was a curated list that had someone’s opinion of the things that matter. So I decided to do my own footwork and determine what articles you should translate first.

anarchism-wikiTo do so, I decided that the thing that matters the most is what other languages decide that matters. And a language decides what matters by writing an article about it. And if a language other than the language in which you are reading the article has the article, too – there is going to be a link on the left that tells you about that.

The little image on the right shows what I mean: on every Wikipedia page there is a list of languages for which the article you are reading is available. Curiously, the list contains the names of the languages, although the link is to the exact article that is the translation.

Now the question: what are the articles with the most translations? The ones that are most translated are probably also the ones you want to translate into your new language, no?

After a brief investigation, it appeared that nobody had asked that question before. There are all sorts of lists of articles, but none that did what I wanted. Since Wikipedia is an open effort, i decided to look at what it would take to find the information on my own.


Extract (2009)

Extract movie posterMike Judge is a funny guy. Office Space and Idiocracy are some of the most intriguingly humorous movies in recent history, with Idiocracy gaining renewed hilarity because Microsoft’s Metro user interface looks remarkably like the pictogram computer interface in the movie.

Extract is a movie by Mike Judge, who wrote, directed, produced, and even cameo-ed in it. But it’s funny only in stretches, without an overall funny theme. Given how the other two movies worked out, that’s a little short of expectations, which explains why the movie is already available on Netflix.

The plot is straightforward: Joel Reynolds is an entrepreneur that has made a fortune with his home-grown extract flavoring business. He’s stuck in a sexless marriage (cue masturbation jokes throughout the first part of the movie) and is unhappy with this workers, who are up to all sorts of mischief. He’s thinking of cheating on his wife to alleviate the pressure on his testicles, and is all too excited when a buyout offer comes in for his business.

Then everything falls apart. The girl with whom he wants to have an affair (played by Mila Kunis, the visual and emotional centerpiece of the movie) is a con artist. The mischief his workers are up to ends up causing an accident that jeopardizes the sale. The guy he sends to test his wife’s fidelity falls in love with her.


Magic Hour [Scissor Sisters]

Magic Hour Cover ArtFor a group that faced an existential crisis in the mid-2000s, Scissor Sisters has a remarkably consistent output. After releasing  in 2003, 2005, and 2008, the band released Magic Hour in 2012. 

I need new music for the gym. It has to be dance music, since dance music really lifts my workouts to a higher plane. Scissor Sisters fits the bill pretty well, with their upbeat tunes and dance rhythms. Can’t go wrong, right?

Magic Hour didn’t disappoint. I have listened to it all day, and have been spinning to Baby Come Home for a half hour. It’s all good fun.

You hear me unenthusiastic. True that. Scissor Sisters has been aging as an act faster than the years that have passed. Many of the songs on the album sound like they come from long-gone eras. Fun eras, sure, but we live in the time of Time Life’s Best Of series. Seriously?


Western vs. Eastern Learning

Today, surfing reminded me of my days doing Tai Chi.

OK, you say. Whatever. Hear me out. 

My buddy and co-worker Dudley said I should do Tai Chi with him. I had seen them do it (since “perform” or “workout” don’t work too well) at the Jardin du Luxembourg one May morning, and it looked blissful. (Plus, twenty years later I manage to get a gratuitous reference to the Jardin du Luxenbourg in a blog post!). So I did join.

We had one wonderful teacher, a master of his art. Apparently, a routine consists of 32 moves, and he would explain one after the other. The whole routine would last something like 15 minutes. By the time we became Tai Chi masters, we would have achieved perfection in each of the moves.

I sucked. My suckage was total. I am glad I didn’t fatally wound anyone in the gigantic room, since I managed to always move in the wrong direction. It was comical. Dudley laughed half the time. I am sure he told his wife every night, because when she saw me for the first time, she giggled like a schoolgirl. When I meet his kids for the first time, they’ll giggle, too.


Working out with a Heart Rate Monitor

A while back, I read an article about the dangers of using heart rate displays on exercise equipment. The gist was that the machine told you to reach a certain heart rate, and if that was too much for you, you could injure yourself. Of course, the advice was sound, but the alarmist title, Are Heart Rate Monitors Dangerous? was not helpful.

I found using a HRM one of the biggest improvements to my workouts, so much so that I don’t even like to go to the gym at all if my HRM doesn’t work. The monitor motivates me and paces me, and those are two enormous benefits. In addition, I use it to set and track workout goals. Let me chat a little about all of that.


Is Surfing Dangerous?

Every year, there are reports of surfer deaths. There is the always popular (in the press) shark attack, the horrific vision of a sneaky predator shooting from far under the surface to swallow you in little pieces – or big chunks, as luck would have it. There is the giant freak wave that submerges you for minutes until you drown. But, really, how often does either happen?

On the other hand, surfing looks fun and safe. It’s very similar to snow- and skateboarding, but instead of falling on a hard surface, you just hit water. Sure, a big wave may bury you; but it will eventually wash over, unlike an avalanche that is there to stay and slowly suffocate you. And yes, you could hit the board if you botch a turn; but really, how does that compare to a spill on the skateboard, where you have the same risk, but hitting the board is the least of your worries?

After two years of surfing, I think I have the definitive answer: surfing is much less dangerous than it sounds, but it’s much more dangerous than it looks.


Romanizing Esperanto / Romigi Esperanton

When you grow up bilingual, you don’t feel 100% comfortable in either language. The things you say tend to sound odd to most people around you, at least some of the time. You tend to use expressions from the other language, or have a preference for words in one that are shared with the other.

Thinking that learning a third language would make things right, I started learning Esperanto. The original goal was never accomplished, as is turns out there are about as many people full of scorn for my Esperanto as there are for my Italian or German (or English). But I loved the language, and still love it.

Today’s topic, though, is not Esperanto in general. I’ll talk about a problem that has stuck with Esperanto since inception: it’s unusual alphabet. You see, Dr. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, thought it imperative that reading and writing Esperanto had to be easy to do (probably scared by the example of English orthography). So each sound in Esperanto corresponds more or less exactly to one letter in its alphabet.


Calibre and the Kindle Fire 2

Quick Summary: All you need for Calibre to detect and connect with the Kindle Fire 2 is an updated that has the correct vendor/product for this eReader. That’s all you need for Linux, but an updated DLL will do the same on Windows, and I presume the same is true for OS X.

Calibre is great. I’ve used it since I got my first Kindle, many years ago, to backup my eReader, to push Gutenberg library files to it,  and to download RSS feeds. It’s been working great and is real easy to use (with a few exceptions).

The other day I decided to buy a Kindle Fire at the discounted price of $129. It’s not the Fire HD, just the regular Fire with the crappy (2012 standard) screen. But I had seen it in a store and really liked it, and I thought I could use it as a development platform for my books.