August 17, 2007

A Value Proposition

Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 5:45 pm

The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”, was first uttered by Fred Barnard in 1921, a dimly-remembered age when a soda cost a nickel and steam-powered kinetoscopes were a plausible technology.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that this claim is accurate.

It’s difficult to directly evaluate the picture/word exchange rate, but by the beginning of the Second World War, Heinlein was being paid a penny a word and a 5×7 film plate cost between $2.75 and $4.00. If we posit an average three hundred and thirty words per picture, this represents an inflation-adjusted devaluation of approximately fifty percent.

Curiously, using various comparative metrics the picture-to-word exchange rate was reasonably stable over the course of the next few decades. While first color 35mm film was introduced in 1950, the addition of colour-adjectives did not represent a significant increase in the picture-related word supply, certainly not enough to offset the reduced costs achieved through streamlined manufacturing processes. The well-known volatility of the silver market in the late seventies and early eighties had yet to set in, and though the cost of pictures declined slowly (adjusted for inflation), the relative cost of words declined comparably, lending stability to that market. (Silver nitrate is a critical element of the photographic process, and until recently Eastman Kodak was the world’s largest corporate consumer of silver.)

In the early 80’s the picture-word exchange rate shifted dramatically in what is widely regarded as a “perfect storm” of completely unrelated events – Nelson Hunt’s efforts to corner the silver market and the beginnings of the consolidation of the media by large corporations drove up the cost of silver substantially, while the real value of words dropped dramatically. Pictures were briefly expensive but talk was, more than ever, cheap.

This might be the high-water mark of the picture’s worth in words. Not long after Hunt was bankrupted and convicted for his attempt to corner the silver market, the renormalized price of silver and the introduction of affordable autofocus cameras made photography much more accessible to the wider public. The resulting increase in the picture supply more overcame the imbalances of the still-soft word market, and the per-word value of pictures continued its downward trend.

Fluctuations in the both supply and demand for pictures and words would remain relatively modest for another ten years until a pair of technologies would cause the most significant value-shift to date – namely, the introduction of affordable digital cameras and the explosive growth of the internet. A sudden glut of pictures should have been accompanied by a comparable increase in words, but the low relative quality of those words, the advent of instant messaging and SMS, down-rezzing and idiosyncratic abbreviations made the market difficult to evaluate.

In reality the problem turned out to be one of calibration;with the new irrelevance of the admittedly problematic silver-cost metric and both pictures and words themselves now worth very close to nothing in real terms, how does one correctly evaluate them on a comparative basis? The answer turned out to be simpler than expected: combine the two. In early 2006 the idea that later became known as LOLcats began to take hold, clearly fixing per-image word-value by embedding verbiage in the image itself. Fixed-word values are of course variable, some as low as one and as high as twelve, with very little consistency from one example to the next. Fortunately, over a sufficiently large sample set, it is now possible to directly evaluate the picture/word exchange rate to with a reasonable degree of precision.

So, although it represents a significant devaluation from the 1921 value, in Q3 2007 a picture is on average worth between four and seven words, two of which are misspelled.

August 8, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 3:42 pm

Shaver seems to have caused some confusion, which (while I don’t claim to be speaking on anyone’s behalf, here) I think it’s worth clearing up.

It’s important to remember, I think, that when somebody in an organization expresses their enthusiasm for, and confidence in, their processes, that the manner and degree of their expression becomes an integral part of their company’s official policy on the matter. For example, when Steve Ballmer throws a chair and says that he is going to “fucking kill” Google, that’s not just a throwaway comment, made perhaps in the heat of the moment – it is in fact now official Microsoft corporate policy to have Google employees sexually assaulted and subsequently killed with office furniture whenever their paths might cross.

You can understand why they would prefer that not be widely publicized, but it is nevertheless literally, precisely the case.

August 7, 2007

Staring At The Ceiling

Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 7:11 pm

I had a good trip to a cottage, and had a good time with my friends, I had a good drive back and I had a good full day of painting and house-labor afterwards.

If somebody can tell me why I can’t seem to get more than an two hours of sporadic sleep a night out of any of that, I’d appreciate it.

Though in truth, I’ve got a pretty good guess.

July 31, 2007

Fight Me, Lennon

Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 10:43 pm

Homemade music videos featuring misheard lyrics: the new black.

I’ll be requiring you to look at this, this and this immediately.

Violating An AUP For Dummies

Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 3:23 pm

I had a big rant going here, but it’s not worth it. Here’s the short version.

The Wall Street Journal has an article up called “Ten Things Your IT Department Won’t Tell You”. It’s got things in it like “how to send huge files” and “how to cover your tracks”, a bunch of other stuff.

Their advice is pervasively, comprehensively wrong. If I wanted to bait someone into something I could fire them for doing, I’d send them that article. If you take any of it to heart you’ll probably lose your job.

Thank you for your attention in this matter, please go about your business.

July 30, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 4:22 pm

Some of my neighbors like to listen them some radio, and while I’m not sure if the relationship is correlative or causal, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Classic Rock is pretty tightly bound to a whole slew of other poor life decisions.

Friends don’t let friends, etcetera.

A little while ago I was going through some of the swing music I collected when it enjoyed that brief, possibly-Gap-commercial-driven resurgence, and I’m just stunned at how poorly that stuff has aged; clearly this is some sign of encroaching senility, but I can’t remember an entire branch of my music collection going from being novel and fun to being comprehensively tiresome in such a short time. Big Boring Voodoo Daddy, for sure.

Spurred by that, I’m going through my collection now trying to find music from at least a decade ago that has stood up to the cruel vagaries of passing time. And I’m not particularly surprised at, though I have to say a little hurt by, how much of what I still enjoy listening to has found its way into the self-described “classic” space.

Which is to say, none.

I virtually never hear any of this music anywhere outside of those circumstances under my immediate auditory control. The word “classic” seems to be inextricably associated with shitty white-guy bar-rock, and there don’t seem to be any other broadcasters around willing admit that before last year, the world contained bands and albums and everything. Merely aging well doesn’t seem to be enough.

So, yeah. Hoye’s Reasons To Not Listen To The Radio, number three hundred and ninety-eight in an ongoing series that everyone finds totally enthralling.

Here’s my list. This is going to be a little incomplete, but these are some albums that fit the aged-well bill, that are on my iPod right now.

  • Funkdoobiest – Brothas Doobie

    Occasionally over-the-top and cartoonish, this is high-grade old-school hiphop nonetheless. Highlights including “Lost In Thought”, “Rock On” and “Dedicated”. Good, head-nodding stuff, good for driving, good for porch-sitting.

  • Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet

    Remember when rap was something that you took seriously? No? When rims, grills and bitches were less important than, say, pervasive racism, oppression and social inequality? Probably not, but this album might be the high-water mark of that era. Just by its own bad self, “Fight The Power” makes this album worth having, and it’s not the only gem there. In a just world Fred Durst would cry himself to sleep every night listening to Public Enemy, knowing that on his best day he’ll never be worth a tenth of P.E.’s weakest work.

  • Harvey Danger – Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone

    Yeah, I feel pretty bad putting this album right next to Public Enemy like that, but there you go. It’s a lot artier and a lot whiter, and you’ve probably heard their single “Flagpole Sitta” and though to yourself, that’s cute, next. But that’s by far the weakest song on the album, and Sean Nelson (who’s also worked with Death Cab For Cutie) just sings his nerdy arts-major heart out; “Carlotta Valdez” and “Jack The Lion” are standouts, and I have to admit that I still have a soft spot for “Flagpole”.

  • INXS – Kick

    Ignore their current incarnation. Just don’t even bother. “Listen Like Thieves” was a good album, but Kick, released in 1987, is iconic. “Guns In The Sky”, “Need You Tonight” and the title track in particular are pop rock of the highest caliber.

  • Joe Satriani – The Extremist

    This is one of the first pure guitar-rock no-vocals albums I can remember hearing, and it is still one of the very best. If you’re of a mind to drive ever-so-slightly faster than the speed limit, perhaps on a long stretch of slowly winding highway on a warm evening, “Friends”, “Summer Song”, “Motorcycle Driver” and the title track are must-haves. Ambiance is important, obviously, and I should tell you that these songs are certainly just a bit better if you can arrange to have some sunlit, forested scenery blowing by you at a hundred and sixty kilometer per hour, but even without that they’re still good.

  • U2 – Achtung Baby

    This is the album with “One” and “Until The End Of The World” on it. They’re on the same album as “The Fly”, “Mysterious Ways” and “Acrobat”, if you can believe that, and I’m not even sure that this is U2’s best album. You probably know, but let me remind you, that this album is just monstrously good.

  • The Cure – Galore

    I loves that layered, multi-instrumental sound, loves it to death. Some of the roots of what I guess people are calling “nu metal” these days are in here, but there’s way too much going on here to pigeonhole this album. “Just Like Heaven” is great, “Lovesong” is great, and “Friday I’m In Love” has a legitimate shot at being the single greatest pop song ever recorded.

  • The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God

    If you’re looking for frenetic, aggro-celt drinking songs, this album will stop your heart. Shane MacGowan’s got the voice of a man who’s been smoking unfiltered tobacco and washing it down with Jamesons’ since he was three years old, which I believe is actually the case, and the central conceit of this album seems to be that everything is more awesome if it’s done twice as fast and yelled, and Celtic music is already awesome, so if we we play Celtic music twice as fast and Shane yells the lyrics, the result will be an avalanche of raw whiskey-sodden genius. And it is, it really is. The title track and “Bottle Of Smoke” are great, as is “Sit Down By The Fire” are entirely worth your snarling, drunken while.

  • Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

    This wasn’t the first industrial album in the world, but it’s definitely the first one that most people heard. And that’s entirely deserved, because it’s a powerful album, crunchy, brooding and vicious throughout. Hard to actually recommend this album to anyone, though; if this sort of thing grabs you at all, you almost certainly already own this album, and if it doesn’t there’s no point to even trying. “Mr. Self Destruct” and “Closer” are standouts, and this is where “Hurt”, the song that Johnny Cash eventually appropriated, was first released.

Like I say, this is just what’s in front of me. I’ve got more, really! But my collection needs some serious triage right now, so forgive me. But now, readership, it is your turn; what are you listening to now, that you’ve been listening to for years? And why?

You Had Me At “An Ostrich Full Of Rohypnol”

Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 12:18 am

I just finished reading Warren Ellis’ “Crooked Little Vein”.

It is the most depraved, lunatic thing I’ve ever read, written as though Dashiel Hammett had given up alcohol for some homebrewed viagra, PCP and drain cleaner concoction he’d cooked up in his basement.

It is so great. I strongly encourage you to pick one up, though I should tell you that’s conditional: if you have a low squick threshold, avoid.

Further, if you don’t know your squick threshold is because you don’t know what a “squick threshold” is, the process of learning what that means should give you a very clear idea where you stand on the subject – think of it as a fractal self-discovery process, except (possibly? depends!) pinker and squishier. This is need-to-know stuff here, seriously. Think I’m kidding? Read the book and tell me I’m wrong, and that jumping in blind is just fine.

July 27, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 2:40 pm

A little while ago, Lore Sjoberg published a short list of famous poems rewritten as limericks. Shortly after that, it found its way to Metafilter, and the Metafilter readership stepped up to the plate.

There are some real gems in there.

Like the night, in her beauty she strides
In the darkness her light is my guide
Her allure leaves me spent
But she’s still innocent
(I’m Lord Byron, so trust me: I tried.)

posted by Pallas Athena at 10:23 AM on July 23

In Xanadu, there was this guy
Built a pleasure dome for which to die
It had rivers to Hades
and mad singing ladies
and then – oh man, I am so high

posted by bibliowench at 7:51 AM on July 23

This makes me think of Nick a bit and smile.

July 26, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 11:56 pm

This might not mean anything to you, but let me tell you: pulling the disc right to the back of the end zone, hustling down the field and intercepting the next pass for a Callahan feels quite fine.

Go, me!

July 23, 2007

Separated At Birth, Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — mhoye @ 4:43 pm

No peeking.

Exhibit A: “Scientists Reveal Underage Dino Sex”

Exhibit B: “Radioactive Money Used To Spy On Insurgents”

One is a headline from the Weekly World News. The other, from Fox News.

We report; you decide.

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