I have no preamble today; the links start now!

A solution to unwanted gifts?

Over at Dubious Quality, Bill Harris has highlighted an absolutely awesome patent:

A new patent from Amazon gives potential gift recipients the ability to set gifts from certain people to auto-screen or auto-return. That way, when Grandma sends you the latest sweater — it never ships — saving you and Amazon much grief.

Video games are not reality

Human stupidity is infinite, but this is still something special:

A 23-year-old Clemson, South Carolina man darted into traffic on Highway 123 at approximately 9 p.m. on Monday night and was promptly struck by an SUV. What looked like a jaywalking incident gone wrong turned out to be a real life game based on Konami’s 1981 arcade classic.

Police say the man is now in a hospital bed recovering from his injuries. Police did not release the man’s name, or the friends who encouraged him to play the real life version of the game [Frogger].

MMOs in 2011

While Lum and Darren are busy claiming that Star Wars: The Old Republic will determine the fate of the MMO genre going forward, Brain take a much more interesting look at the state of virtual worlds entering into this new decade.

Barriers to entry

Eric, one of the more thoughtful gaming bloggers out there, has a great piece about why sign up forms are done wrong by many online game developers.  A sample:

Every web developer who’s done any amount of A/B testing can tell you that if you make users fill out a form before they’re invested in your product, the chances of them leaving are much higher than if you delay that form until the user is invested.

This is so big a deal in the indie scene that on FlashGameLicense.com, we won’t even try to sell your game if it has a mandatory signup before you can play. It’s too high a hurdle; it also kills viral propagation of the game.

Surefire dieting advice

I’m deeply distrustful of diet companies.  As someone who struggled to lose 60 pounds a few years back (and has kept it off for six years) I am all too familiar with the diet industry.  For starters, how can you trust a company whose stated goal is to lose you as a long term customer?!?  These folks have a vested interest in you NEVER getting a handle on your weight.

Heather Mallick offers up some advice that, while a little harsh, is right on the money…. it’s the path I follow:

Here’s what you need:

• Eat delicious healthy food.
• Eat small portions.
• No snacking between meals.
• Take the stairs or do some sort of mindless exercise daily.

I charge no fee. If you follow my plan for a year, you’ll be so slim people will be approaching you in airports for sex, and I mean attractive people with that swinging avalanche of hair you see in TV shampoo ads. This is a no-fail.

I shall call it the Quit Feeding Your Face plan.

Supernova superstar

How awesome is this:  at the tender age of ten, young Kathryn Aurora Gray spotted a supernova on New Year’s Eve just past.

Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, N.B. is basking in the spotlight after noticing what was later determined to be a magnitude 17 supernova, or exploding star, on New Year’s Eve.

It’s in the distant galaxy UGC 3378, about 240 million light years away, in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says Kathryn is the youngest person to make such a discovery, which was soon verified by amateur astronomers in Illinois and Arizona. The finding has been reported to, confirmed and announced by the International Astronomical Union.

I have a feeling that her future will be bright.

PS3: Hacked wide open

Uh oh – bad news for Sony – hackers have finally properly cracked the PlayStation 3′s protections.  There is no way for Sony to recover from this exploit – this is not software-patchable it seems:

It leaves the PlayStation 3, once a resilient and well-fortified gadget, as possibly the most vulnerable home console currently on the market — even more open to exploitation than the Xbox 360 and Wii, which were opened up to piracy and hacking long before Sony’s box.

So why did the hackers do it?  Well, because Sony pissed them off:

Much to the aggravation and chagrin of amateur developers and hackers, Sony removed support for OtherOS (and the ability to install operating system Linux and therefore unsigned code) in May 2010, and shipped the PS3 Slim in September 2010 with no support for Linux. “By doing this, Sony pissed off the hackers,” a team member stated at the Berlin conference.

Good job Sony.  Good job.

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9 Responses to “Of real life video games, dieting tips, and a young astronomer”

  1. Re dieting in the US and to a lesser extent canada: yeah, it’s always saddened me that, for a country so addicted to consumption, their recipe to reduce a consumption habit that’s gotten out of hand is… more consumption!!!

    The diet business in the US is a racket, and a deeply corrupt one at that. Same goes for the supplement industry. Oh, and while I’m in the middle of a strong american health bashing paragraph, I’ll say that goes for the medical industry too. For one of the unhealthies countries in the world, it sure does spend a lot of money on health and supplements. Now, the question is: do they have to spend that much money *because* they’re so unhealthy, or are they so unhealthy *because* they spend that much money?


    • “their recipe to reduce a consumption habit that’s gotten out of hand is… more consumption!!!”

      You see that in “debt reduction” schemes from the lawmaker cabal, too, all the way from consumer debt to national debt. Idiots, all of them. (Well, or malicious viruses, but I think idiocy is more likely.)

      Oh, and kudos to Miss Gray!

    • The medical industry scares the hell out of me some days. In recent months both Discover magazine and CBC’s ‘Quirks & Quarks’ have dug into some of the scarier parts of the industry – like drug testing – truly astounding how loose things are, and how little it actually takes to get drugs approved.

      Another enormous problem with the medical industry is how they play with words and statistics to make their products’ benefits look ideal while hiding the actual risk. A local doctor in my city, Barry Dworkin, is very outspoken on this topic and tries hard to educate people on a daily radio segment that he does.

  2. I’m going to have to call you on the weight loss issue. Yes, sometimes the issue is one of overconsumption; when I switched to diet soda some years ago I dropped an impressive amount of weight and have kept it off. (I’m still overweight by most calculations, though, so I still have a long way to go.)

    The problem is that simple overconsumption isn’t always the problem. I was watching one show where a woman had an undiagnosed tumor in her pituitary gland. It stimulated the production of cortisol and caused her to gain weight even though she ate very little, according to what she said. She went to several doctors and specialists and for years they thought her weight gain was just from her overeating. (Maybe things are better up in Soviet Canuckistan with your death panels and socialized health care, though. ;) Anyway, it wasn’t until she reviewed her own lab work and saw elevated levels of cortisol that she found out there’s a specific disease associate with it. Armed with that knowledge, she found a doctor who specialized in the condition and was able to diagnose the tumor properly.

    Okay, so not every overweight person is due to a chemical imbalance. But there can be a lot of causes beyond just someone stuffing their face too much, and help to find those problems aren’t always forthcoming. That’s the real problem with the diet industry, because they offer easier answers that are cheaper than spending years going to doctors and specialists that might not be able to diagnose you correctly in the first place.

    In the end, every person is different. You might not have had problems setting your mind to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same issue for everyone. If it were only about willpower, then why does Oprah Winfrey, a woman who had enough drive, ambition, and willpower to go from abject poverty to reach heights of celebrity most of us can only dream about have so much trouble with her weight? It’s not like she can’t hire an army of personal trainers and have the tastiest, healthiest food money can buy.

    So, ultimately it’s more than an issue of simple willpower for many people. Be glad it was so easy for you, but be careful about judging others so casually.

    • Be glad it was so easy for you, but be careful about judging others so casually.

      Where did I say that losing 60lbs was easy? It took me a full year, loads of self education, and a complete change of lifestyle. And keeping the weight off is a daily battle – I have to religiously count my calories and exercise 30m-120m per day or I start to relapse. Maintaining a healthy body weight is by no means easy – it’s a freaking war!

      Now some people who are blessed with really good metabolisms have it easy… but that’s certainly not me.

      I agree that some small percentage of overweight/obese people can trace their weight issues to an underlying medical condition, however they are the minority. Statistically-speaking, you can isolate (and marginalize) this percentage by looking at the percentage of overweight/obese people throughout the last century or so. Obesity has jumped phenomenally with an increase in wealth, reduction in poverty, and increase in sedentary lifestyles.

      Aside from the medically-affected minority (who exist in Soviet Canuckistan too, medicare be damned), controlling body weight is a personal choice. We all have our breaking points; mine was multiple heart attacks in my family and seeing the scale hit 220 lbs. Who knows what it will take for someone else…. but the ultimate solution is pretty much the same…. and it does not involve a quick fix pedaled by the diet industry.

      • Okay, instead of “easy” substitute in “possible”. That’s a better way to word it.

        I have to religiously count my calories and exercise 30m-120m per day or I start to relapse.

        This sounds a bit more involved than the “Eat delicious healthy food” and “Take the stairs” plan you praised in the article. Your quote seemed to have not included the counting calories and exercise for up to 2 hours per day part.

        …controlling body weight is a personal choice.

        So, Oprah prefers to be heavy? I doubt it. For many people, a simple “Quit Feeding Your Face plan” will not solve the problem. There are a lot of other factors to consider as well besides “lack of willpower.” In fact, in my experience that’s the least of the issues that keep people overweight. I’m not sure if it’s because metabolic problems are more common than we expect, or because we have a “one size fits all” idea of body weight, because genetic disposition works against a lot of people, or if economic factors are to blame. It’s probably a combination of all of them. But, I find the whole “lack of willpower” accusation tired and unhelpful for a lot of people.

        We can both definitely agree that the diet industry peddles broken dreams and BS. It prefers that you keep paying them rather than getting healthy. No, there is no quick fix, not even all the “lol stop eating so much!” plans people post.

  3. Re Oprah’s failure: well, that’s what is so sad, and also so damaging to other people’s confidence. She simply doesnt have what it take, and it is still about simple willpower, in the end. History is littered with over-achievers with deep personal weaknesses in certain areas. It doesn’t matter how successful she is. If she cant control her weight, its almost certainly her own personal failure. Or, she simply doesn’t care enough to fight the good fight. I spent 3 years trying to kick the smoking habit, and while it’s not a daily battle anymore, a single moment of weakness and I’ll be back on the poison again. Its a choice, and being weak is also a choice, at least where these things are concerned. You can actually choose to be strong. That’s why others judge us by our weaknesses too.

    The issue here with some advanced western societies is that people have it too good. And they’ve been trained to believe nothing is ever their fault. In fact, Andrew you may know this *whale* of a guy – I did a 5 day vb.net training course with him in 2003, and I noticed you have his podcast on your site. He was the first time I met a really really REALLY fat American guy. Anyway, he and the class were out for lunch and after a nice seafood meal, he ordered this ginormous slice of chocolate cake for dessert (not to mention the huge box of donuts he bought for breakfast every day – for himself and the class). And when I asked him – nicely – about loosing weight, he told me his “metabolism is broken”, and there’s nothing he can do about it. With a straight face.

    That’s when you know an entire culture is in denial about a destructive habit of self-indulgence. And what’s even sadder, is that if its “not your fault”, you’ll never feel the need to do anything about it.

    • Just to be clear here, you believe that the only reason a woman who went from poverty in rural Mississippi to becoming the only self-made female black billionaire is overweight is because she lacks the willpower to overcome a personal weakness? There can’t possibly be any other explanation for it?

      As I said, yes, some people make poor choices. I lost a lot of weight once I stopped drinking regular soda. I’m certainly not trying to avoid introspection for my own weight problems here. And, yes, we all have examples of someone making poor choices, but the plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data”. I’m just pointing out that there is likely more to this problem than the simplistic “no willpower” explanation. Personally, I suspect that attitude is more harmful in discouraging people from trying to lose weight if they’ve already tried than anything else.

      • Yes that’s exactly what I believe – its a lack of willpower, and it proves that it takes more than you might think to overcome that sort of addiction. Also, I believe people in the US don’t know they lack willpower – they’re looking for something else to blame. For a lot of self-indulgent, self-destructive people, it’s only when their back is pushed right up against the wall for reasons they cannot control, that they suddenly, and miraculously, find they have all the internal resources in the world to take care of everything and anything they need to take care of. People underestimate what it takes, that’s all I’m sayingl. There’s nothing sadder than an addict who’s mysteriously unable to solve his own problems.

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