Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shakespeare impressionism

You've probably seen this guy already, but his rendition of a speech from Richard III as several dozen different celebrities is pretty amazing. There are a few weak impressions, but mostly disturbingly uncanny. (And all better than I can do.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Are Facebook birthday greetings really that good?

I disagree with Virginia Heffernan's column yesterday about birthday messages on Facebook. She thinks it's nice that people are reminded to send you birthday greetings by our corporate overlords. I'm unimpressed.

Now, I'm not going to argue, as her straw man does, that what matters is that you should remember a birthday with a note on paper. Or the power of your Bhagavad Gita remembering mind. I'm supportive of using new technology to augment our mental capacity. Plato's character complaining about how kids these days can't remember epic poetry can suck it.

But for me, people posting "Happy Birthday!!!!!" on my Facebook wall just shows me that they logged on to Facebook. When 50 people don't communicate with me on Facebook or any other way (email, phone, in person) 364 days of the year, then suddenly appear to be glad that I'm alive, it reveals the shallowness of a Facebook "friend". If you post that you saw a punctuation error you thought I'd appreciate, or just send me a link to a cool video, that shows more knowledge of me as a person, and indicates more friendship than letting Facebook remind you to tell me HAPPY BIRTHDAY. It's not about whether you remember my birthday or not, with or without mechanical aids. It's about whether you remember who I am. (And I'm ok if you have some sort of notes that assist you in that, too.)

I don't mind when people shower me with hollow affection. But I find deeper interactions more meaningful.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spoilers make stories better!

A researcher asked people (aka college undergraduate psychology students) to read some short stories, but some of the students had a spoiler paragraph at the beginning that revealed the twist in the story.

Surprisingly, people rated the spoiled stories as more enjoyable. When you know there's a secret, you can read the story and see the hints coming. I think we still enjoy being surprised sometimes, but we are more able to see the quality of writing when we know more of the details. Having a story "spoiled" makes the first time reading it like reading it a second time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Video games ARE making us smarter

Good news for Stephen Johnson: video games are in fact making us smarter.

Studies show that IQ scores have been steadily increasing over the last few decades. Part of this increase can be attributed to better schools and nutrition, but even well-educated and well-fed people do better solving puzzles than they did 50 years ago.

One likely reason? Video games. Lots and lots of people spend leisure time solving 3D mazes, intricate puzzles and logic problems, and doing other things that IQ tests challenge you to do.

Not that increases in IQ scores are necessarily good. But video games are changing our brains.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Birth Control must be covered

I'm not stating my opinion, but a new rule. Starting a year from now, healthcare companies must provide birth control with no copay or other fee. It's about time.

The only argument against this preventative medicine is a religious objection to people having sex. Those who don't like this new rule will lie and say that birth control pills cause abortions - they don't.

This is why electing Obama mattered. Healthcare reform is happening, and it's making a difference.