Design flaw: to check air pistol pressure, point it at your face



Mark W Shead uses the terrifying design of this air pistol (you have to point is straight at your face to check the pressure) as a jumping-off point for a short, to the point essay on “domain knowledge” and software design.

Why You Need Domain Knowledge

(via Making Light)


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Alan Parsons on audiophiles

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In an interesting interview at CEPro, Alan Parsons, the man who engineered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and yes, had his own Project, says that room acoustics are far more important than audiophile gear. In fact, the interview led one Slashdot commenter to post this fine quip: “Audiophiles don’t use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment.” From CEPro:

What is the biggest thing that both electronics dealers and enthusiast consumers should do when setting up home theater/sound systems?

(Parsons:) You get what you pay for. But having said that, there are some decent budget surround systems you can buy at Costco or Walmart that really aren’t bad. Everybody has their budget; the hi-fi world will tell you if money is no object you can get better results out of every component – even the surface the amplifier sits on. Pro sound people have different expectations; they are only concerned that a piece of gear works and allows them to do their job. Hi-fi people spend huge amounts of money for tiny improvements, and pro sound guys will say, “I can spend half as much and get the results I need.”

I’m simply not very familiar with the latest domestic hi-fi equipment. I don’t go to hi-fi trade shows and I don’t have sophisticated equipment in the family areas of my house for music, but there are things that make sense like good speakers and a decent amp. But I dare say there would only be a small improvement if I bought a $20,000 amp. I can live with what I have.

I do think in the domestic environment, the people that have sufficient equipment don’t pay enough attention to room acoustics. The pro audio guy will prioritize room acoustics and do the necessary treatments to make the room sound right. The hi-fi world attaches less importance to room acoustics, and prioritizes equipment; they are looking more at brand names and reputation.

Beatles, Pink Floyd Engineer Alan Parsons Rips Audiophiles(Thanks, Pat Kelly!)


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The risk of using apps that access your Gmail account

Andy Baio, in an opinion piece for Wired News: “Since Gmail added oAuth support in March 2010, an increasing number of startups are asking for a perpetual, silent window into your inbox. I’m concerned oAuth, while hugely convenient for both developers and users, may be paving the way for an inevitable privacy meltdown.”


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John Wayne Gacy had a helper?

“There is significant evidence out there that suggests that not only did John Wayne Gacy not operate alone, he may not have been involved in some of the murders, and the fact that he was largely a copycat killer.”


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MC Frontalot’s Stoop Sale

The latest fantastic Kickstarter-funded video from the album Solved, by MC Frontalot


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Extreme DIY car mods: Volvo with a wood-burning stove for heat

Wood burns in a stove as Pascal Prokop drives his totally baller 1990 Volvo 240 station wagon during cold winter weather on a road near the town of Mettmenstetten, some 25 kilometres south of Zurich, on February 9, 2012. Prokob built in the stove by himself and got an operating permit by the Swiss technical inspection authority. As I publish this blog post, it is 15ºF in the town where he lives and drives.

Pros: S’mores while driving are possible. Cons: the stove occupies the spot where one’s significant other might be seated. Oh, and, you know: fire?

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)


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Killed by something that doesn’t exist

Placebos have no repeatable physical effect that can be broadly demonstrated to exist. But, if people believe the placebo can help them, it often does—especially for inherently subjective issues like pain relief.

Nocebos are what happens when a placebo (again, something that technically has no physical effect on the body) causes a negative side-effect, simply because the person believes that such side-effects are likely to happen to them.

There is a lot we don’t understand about both of these effects. After all, running really detailed tests would inherently involve unethical behavior—intentionally not treating patients or intentionally trying to induce a negative reaction in them. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore these phenomena.

A great example comes in a recent column by Alexis Madrigal on The Atlantic. You’re probably familiar with the idea of sleep paralysis—the experience of waking up, being mentally awake, but still physically paralyzed. This happens to people all over the world. And, all over the world, it’s long been explained in folklore as the work of demons and evil spirits. (The fact that sleep paralysis is often accompanied by feelings of terror, and the sensation of something sitting on your chest doesn’t hurt in that regard.) Normally, sleep paralysis brings a few minutes of terror, but no lasting harm. In the mid-1980s, however, it suddenly became capable of killing. The catch, the men it killed were all recent Hmong immigrants, living in the United States. Researcher Shelley Adler thinks it was actually a nocebo effect that killed these men—they believed themselves into an early grave.

[In America] some Hmong felt that they had not properly honored the memories of their ancestors, which was a known risk factor among the Hmong for being visited by the tsog tsuam. Once the night-mare visitations began, a shaman was often needed to set things right. And in the scattered communities of Hmong across the country, they might not have access to the right person. Without access to traditional rituals, shamans, and geographies, the Hmong were unable to provide themselves psychic protection from the spirits of their sleep.

Drawing on all this evidence, Adler makes the provocative claim that the Laotian immigrants of the 1980s were in some sense killed by their powerful cultural belief in night spirits. It was not a simple process.

“It is my contention that in the context of severe and ongoing stress related to cultural disruption and national resettlement (exacerbated by intense feelings of powerlessness about existence in the United States), and from the perspective of a belief system in which evil spirits have the power to kill men who do not fulfill their religious obligations,” Adler writes, “the solitary Hmong man confronted by the numinous terror of the night-mare (and aware of its murderous intent) can die of SUNDS.”

Via Christopher Ryan


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Happy Metal from Meshuggah guitarist

The excellently-named Meshuggah is a “technical death metal” band from Sweden. While I appreciate their musical experimentation, the singer’s angry growl is a bit much for me. I was delighted when my pal Patrick Kelly pointed me to this great video of Meshuggah’s guitarist Fredrik Thordendal shredding with great joy along with Morgan Ågren, the drummer in Thordendahl’s side project Special Defects. Those grins are infectious. As Pat says, this here is Happy Metal!


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Judge okays exclusion of damaging emails from BP oil spill trial

A judge has granted requests from defendants in the BP oil disaster case to exclude various emails from trial. The details of the emails are an interesting read. For instance: At Halliburton’s request, the court will not include an email from a BP geologist to a colleague in February 2010 which offered “thanks for the shitty cement job.” (Reuters)


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What is the deal with this purple squirrel?

The hard-hitting investigative journalism team at Accuweather is trying to figure out why this squirrel is purple. Currently, there is “No Explanation for Pennsylvania’s Purple Squirrel.” What do you think? Suggestions in the comments, please. (via @ProducerMatthew)


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