the whole world burns

Archive for February 2010

Term of the day: "Manic Pixie Dream Girl"


Dunst [in Elizabethtown] embodies a character type I like to call The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (see Natalie Portman in Garden State for another prime example). The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.

More concisely, "the free-spirited stock character whose main function is as a psychological tonic or crutch for the nice guy male lead". (Examples.)

World Loanword Database

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[I]nformation on loanwords, source words and other words in 395 languages.


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Leather laptop case in the style of a hardcover book.

Chip and PIN is broken


The flaw is that when you put a card into a terminal, a negotiation takes place about how the cardholder should be authenticated: using a PIN, using a signature or not at all. This particular subprotocol is not authenticated, so you can trick the card into thinking it’s doing a chip-and-signature transaction while the terminal thinks it’s chip-and-PIN.

Avatar in "4D" in Korea

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The 4D screening uses more than 30 effects during the 3D film's 162 minute run, including moving seats, smells of explosives, sprinkling water, laser lights and wind.

My favourite experience at Hong Kong Disneyland was the "4D" Mickey's PhilharMagic, because it was a complete surprise when the wind and water effects started. Awesome fun.

Donate money, not stuff


First let me debunk a couple of myths, starting with the principle that "anything is better than nothing". Trust me, it's not. [...]

"Anything" costs in time, training, freight, spoilage and waste; it can cost lives.

Cycling jerseys with retro images


If you must wear garish cycling attire, why not go for Munch's "The Scream" instead of some stupid team logo?

Church to the eXtreme


The young man was a member of a fight team at Xtreme Ministries, a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy. Mr. Renken, who founded the church and academy, doubles as the team's coach. The school's motto is "Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide."

The Depressing News About Antidepressants


Short version: they don't work better than placebos.

Right about here, people scowl and ask how anti-depressants--especially those that raise the brain's levels of serotonin--can possibly have no direct chemical effect on the brain. Surely raising serotonin levels should right the synapses' "chemical imbalance" and lift depression. Unfortunately, the serotonin-deficit theory of depression is built on a foundation of tissue paper. How that came to be is a story in itself, but the basics are that in the 1950s scientists discovered, serendipitously, that a drug called iproniazid seemed to help some people with depression. Iproniazid increases brain levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Ergo, low levels of those neurotransmitters must cause depression. More than 50 years on, the presumed effectiveness of antidepressants that act this way remains the chief support for the chemical-imbalance theory of depression. Absent that effectiveness, the theory hasn't a leg to stand on. Direct evidence doesn't exist. Lowering people's serotonin levels does not change their mood. And a new drug, tianeptine, which is sold in France and some other countries (but not the U.S.), turns out to be as effective as Prozac-like antidepressants that keep the synapses well supplied with serotonin. The mechanism of the new drug? It lowers brain levels of serotonin. "If depression can be equally affected by drugs that increase serotonin and by drugs that decrease it," says Kirsch, "it's hard to imagine how the benefits can be due to their chemical activity."

Stock and flow: "the mas­ter metaphor for media today"

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  • Flow is the feed. It's the posts and the tweets. It's the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It's the con­tent you pro­duce that's as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It's what peo­ple dis­cover via search. It's what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time.

Broken Promises: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization


Supposedly "anonymous" datasets have a history of revealing far more personal information (including identifying details and details which could reasonably be considered private, such as sexuality) than intended.

Small things, links and miscellany, sparkling with light. Sam's tumblelog.