I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Advice, Five Years Old

The Guardian asks a very earnest question (or is it?):

As Google search results throw up more and more ads, using SEO to reach your audience is becoming increasingly futile. Could social media optimisation be the answer?

The answer: yes. In 2008. Also, the cited article is clickbait. In 2008.

Cars Can Get Hacked Too

Reuters :

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek say they will publish detailed blueprints of techniques for attacking critical systems in the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape in a 100-page white paper, following several months of research they conducted with a grant from the U.S. government.


They said they devised ways to force a Toyota Prius to brake suddenly at 80 miles an hour, jerk its steering wheel, or accelerate the engine. They also say they can disable the brakes of a Ford Escape traveling at very slow speeds, so that the car keeps moving no matter how hard the driver presses the pedal.

Put an Internet-connected computer into something, and somebody will find a way to hack it. Maybe it’s not the best idea to connect every object in the world after all.

Scientists Implant Fake Memories in Rats

The New York Times :

[S]cientists at the Riken-M.I.T. Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.

Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu and other scientists, led by Susumu Tonegawa, reported Thursday in the journal Science that they caused mice to remember being shocked in one location, when in reality the electric shock was delivered in a completely different location.

It sounds like the first chapter of a dystopian novel. Why torture a fake confession out of a scapegoat when you can make him think he’s confessing truthfully?

Here’s hoping this research instead furthers the cause of all humankind. Yeah, right.

Learning Keeps You Young

Have you ever felt as if time were speeding up as you get older? Richard A. Friedman has some good advice in the New York Times:

Don’t despair. I am happy to tell you that the apparent velocity of time is a big fat cognitive illusion and happy to say there may be a way to slow the velocity of our later lives. […] It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.

The second you stop learning, you start dying.

Play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Against a Computer

The New York Times‘ Science page, as a method of demonstrating basic artificial intelligence (and also presumably in the spirit of pointless fun), has published a browser-based game of "Paper, Rock, Scissors" in which you try to best the AI program running on their server. Don’t say I never gave you a way to procrastinate.

WARNING: It’s a Flash-based game.

Death Propagates Throughout An Organism Like A Wave

The researchers quoted in this story on Discovery.com say that they can actually watch the progress of death as it spreads through the body of a dying worm. In addition, they suggest that the spreading chemical reaction they’ve witnessed might respond to chemical intervention in deaths not stemming directly from old age. They are, in a very real way, claiming that there might be a cure for death.

Giant Bubble of Methane Poised to Belch Forth From Arctic Ice

New Scientist:

Billions of tonnes of the greenhouse gas methane are trapped just below the surface of the East Siberian Arctic shelf. Melting means the area is poised to deliver a giant gaseous belch at any moment—one that could bring global warming forward 35 years and cost the equivalent of almost a year’s global GDP.

It sounds more like a fart to me—the biggest, most expensive fart of all time. I make fart jokes because it hurts if I don’t.

Long Hair’s SQUIRRELWOOD is Really Quite a Good Record

I’m no music critic, despite a deeply critical streak. Let’s just say that I know what I hate, and what I hate is almost everything. It’s getting worse. Lately I find that a year or two will pass before I find something I really like. Sometimes I worry that my advanced age1 is tripping me up, and other times I settle on the idea that most cultural artifacts are simply not worth the amount of time that consuming them might require.

Squirrelwood is worth your time. The record bills itself—and others have billed it personally to me so, as well—as an instance of modern Prog Rock. There is most definitely to be found here the influence of 1970’s Prog, but it’s not a Prog which exists in the field of pastiche. There’s a very real earnestness. It’s bolstered by a breadth of influence and by a clear and communicative voice.

The best bit is that you can download it for free. Do me a personal favor, though, and contact Michael Walz. I’ll just bet that he has a PayPal account or something.

  1. I’m a ripe old 36, as of this writing; that’s not too old by any really productive standard, but it’s positively ancient in practical terms. Old people tend to calcify, and their musical tastes tend to reflect what they were “into” when they were 25. 

Twitter Fakes Tweets From Real Users to Promote Its Own Ads


The tweets look completely real, but SFGate discovered that while the Twitter users who are featured are real, their tweets are not. The users featured raving about TV commercials never said anything of the kind, and were unaware their profile pics and accounts were being presented in a post on Twitter’s blog sent out to hundreds of thousands via the @Twitterads Twitter account and retweeted to more than 1.5 million.

I previously would have thought that only Facebook could be this slimy. Go ahead, Twitter, start talking me out of using your service.

The NSA Can Reportedly Track the Location of Cell Phones Even When They’re Turned Off

Here’s some more insanity; Ryan Gallagher of Slate reveals stunning new details about the NSA’s ability to track us:

On Monday, the Washington Post published a story focusing on how massively the NSA has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Buried within it, there was a small but striking detail: By September 2004, the NSA had developed a technique that was dubbed “The Find” by special operations officers. The technique, the Post reports, was used in Iraq and “enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off.” This helped identify “thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq,” according to members of the special operations unit interviewed by the Post.

The article goes on to speculate that perhaps these phones are being infected with malware, or maybe that the government injects tracking code into updates to a phone’s operating system. This whole thing just keeps getting creepier—who’d have thought that something like this could even be technically possible?