Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wikipedia Needs More Trivia

The "... in popular culture" sections and articles on Wikipedia used to be called "Trivia," but were so overwhelmingly lists of pop-culture references that the convention was altered. These days there are articles like Zombies in popular culture which typically start off well, but quickly descend into cobbled-together lists of movies, books, comics and video games that may or may not relate to, or represent the state of the genre being discussed. At one time, I worked on the  Lovecraftian horror article, and while I tried to make it an article about the genre and its evolution over time, it was continuously inundated by well-meaning editors who would add lists of genre works to the article.

To combat this, Wikipedia really should embrace both styles, and integrate them more deeply. I'd love to see the template mechanism enhanced so that trivia could be encapsulated as template-like objects. (more...)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Repost/Update: Jekyll Review

Jekyll is a BBC drama series about a modern day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story opens in the middle, as the protagonist, Dr. Jackman is dealing with his uncontrollable transformations. There's nothing in this series that knowing the original story can spoil for you. You meet Mr. Hyde in the very first episode. You are told about the original story very early on. Before we get to the spoilers, I want to recommend that you consider buying or renting the series. What follows will certainly ruin a few surprises.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dollhouse and Stargate: Universe Have Best Episodes of Season

This week's SG:U and Dollhouse were easily the best episodes of the current season so far. Dollhouse is in its second season, while Stargate is just starting off, but they've both had weak seasons so far. In the case of Dollhouse, they have had to cut back their budget due to ratings last season, and have some ground to cover from a DVD-only episode. Stargate just seems to have come out of the gate at a trot, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's part of their LOST-like model, but in my opinion, it was a mistake that's hopefully behind. (more...)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Conservapedia Claims Jesus Home-Schooled John

Jesus with graduation cap derived from and
Conservapedia, as you may know, was created as an alternative to the "liberal bias" of Wikipedia, at least originally. These day's it's a Christian revisionism site which is attempting to rally the conservative Christian base in America to literally re-write the Bible to better reflect their political message. One of the more interesting articles on the site that reflects this trend is "Mystery: Was John a Child?" The article was written by the site's founder, Andy Schlafly, a proponent of conservative families home-schooling their children, and questions whether John was a young teen, home-schooled by Jesus (ignoring the fact that only wealthy families in the Roman Empire had centralized schooling).

As I said, this is a piece of a larger effort to, as the site says, enable "a thought-for-thought translation," of the Christian Bible, "without corruption by liberal bias." Among other changes this means favoring masculine wording in an attempt to revert the, "emasculation of Christianity"; using "powerful new conservative terms"; "explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning," which I quote in full because I can't actually imagine how that pertains to a re-translation; and removing references to the name, "Jehovah" (an example of "liberal wordiness").

What's particularly shocking is that the project aims to re-translate the King James Version of the Bible rather than returning to original sources, thus maintaining any inaccuracies both in that translation, and that have arisen as a consequence of the change in English since that time. Presumably this is being done in order to open the effort up to those who haven't spent years studying dead languages, but of course, it makes the end-result highly suspect, even given a scholarly goal, rather than a political one.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google Reader vs. Twitter

I've been using both Google Reader and Twitter for a long time now. I use them both very differently, but these days, I'd have to say that I prefer Reader for most things. I'll go into more detail below, but here's the short of it: Reader is free-form, but just as social as Twitter. In fact, because of the tie-in to Google Talk and Gmail, I'd argue that Reader is fundamentally a better social networking platform than Twitter. The problem is that it doesn't have the user-base, so I still use Twitter when I want to contact the largest number of people or to follow what my non-Reader friends are up to. (more...)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How To End the Recession: Print Money

Four of the US currency bills, courtesy of the U.S. TreasuryThe recession is retreating, but most analysts suggest that lingering unemployment and other results of the downturn will take years to work their way out as the economy rebounds. I have a simple, one-step solution to this problem: print new money. (more...)

Disclosure: Endorsements and the FTC

AJS.COM has two primary sources of revenue (neither of which is substantial, at this time): Google Ads and Amazon Associate links. In theory, either of these could generate substantial revenue, but they don't, due to a limited audience. I don't get samples or any other consideration from the companies whose products I review from time to time (such as my review of Dollhouse Season 1 on DVD), and the only kickback I get is from Amazon if someone buys these items through the image link. As for the Google Ads, I see around $10/mo. which isn't enough to pay for my home Internet connection.

So, while I understand where the FTC is going with these new guidelines, they don't really affect this site (or its AJS.COM sister sites) at all.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why Harmil stopped editing Wikipedia

The Wikipedia logo
Harmil was my alter ego on Wikipedia for years. I created dozens of pages and uploaded many of my photographs of wildlife and New England landmarks for articles. But then I stopped. I would still be contributing today if the site hadn't turned into the sprawling bureaucracy that it is today. At first, Wikipedia was a meritocracy like the open source movement from which it derived its initial ethos. The idea was simple: be useful and your work will be respected. Annoy people and you'll be ignored. Get in the way and you'll be moved.

Over time, that changed. Copyright law is a hot issue, and everyone wants to have their say. That lead to some strange policies and a schism between the main site and their image hosting site, Commons that still has strange ramifications to this day (images are routinely moved to Commons from Wikipedia because they are free, but Commons has a stricter definition of "free", so they're then deleted). (more...)

Get that Candy: World of Warcraft Halloween Quests

This article was written on my old blog in 2008, and may be slightly out of step with the 2009 event, but should still prove a useful reference

If you're playing WoW, and and not getting the Hallow's End (Halloween) event candy from the various inns around Azeroth and Outland, you really should! Not only is the candy really nice for stackable stat buffs (defense, hit rating (which includes spell and melee hit now), and two kinds of spellpower), but it also gives experience for every inn you get candy from. Here's how I went about collecting them all. (more...)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

College Mornings: A Poem or C.P.E.

In the mists of time, I was a student. It was the late 1980s, and I was terrible at it. I was studying computer science at The University of Lowell (which has now eroded into UMass: Lowell), and failing because I spent all of my time either studying things that had nothing to do with class or playing roleplaying games with friends. They were heady days of learning C and Unix while getting myself in trouble with anyone who would pay attention. I found myself reminiscing about it this weekend, and suddenly it seemed to form a poem, so here goes:
4 AM blurring, swimming monochrome before me.
Not bright enough to learn, too bright not to.
To hack in C, shell and Perl all I know.
What rough beast, the nacent Internet swims before me.
Forces gather while I, in key-click slumber
Drift toward rocky shoals of dot-com intrigue.
But innocent, I type; one more demo tweak
Before a dawnlight shuffle home.
Well, there it is. I'm no Cummings, but I hope it was worth a moment of your time to look back with me.