Less Human Than Human: The Design Philosophy of Apple | The Awl
Two things here.

First, this is just awful. The Awl usually has a fairly high standard for its articles, but this is a hot mess. When it isn’t rambling to the point of incoherency, it’s just plain wrong. For example, the first line of the second paragraph, where the author launches into the actual thesis:

The widespread admiration for Apple’s design ethos is in two parts: one functional, the other aesthetic.

Wrong already. Stephen Fry put it eloquently

Only dullards crippled into cretinism by a fear of being thought pretentious could be so dumb as to believe that there is a distinction between design and use, between form and function, between style and substance

(Although I don’t think anyone who feels like dropping a bit of irrelevant trivia about John Ruskin into an article about Apple’s design philosophy can legitimately invoke the ‘fear of being thought pretentious’ defence.)

Secondly, I don’t know if this is happening to anyone else, but I’m getting this thing where a flash ad for the Chevy Volt is actually hijacking my entire browser session, reloading the entire article in an iframe on the Chevy site. This completely breaks Instapaper and means you can’t send someone the URL without giving the Chevy site an extra hit. Earlier this week, Brent Simmons wrote a terrific article about how certain publications have become almost hostile towards their readers with the amount of intrusive ads on their pages. It’s genuinely disappointing to see The Awl going down the same road.


The Life And Death Of Skyrim’s Lydia – Rock, Paper, Shotgun
A while ago, I was banging on about the random events in the world of Red Dead Redemption and how they helped increase the sense of immersion and my fondness for that game (at least, the first time you encounter these random events. After six or seven attempted horse-jackings, it all becomes rote bullshit).

Skyrim, on the other hand, is genuinely amazing. There’s so much to do — not just story stuff, but random, one-off things — that you find yourself investing deeply in the characters. I found myself nodding along to John Walker’s story of ‘his’ Lydia. It’s a totally accurate description of how this game gets its claws in you and you find yourself doing things (and enjoying doing things) in the game that sound completely cracked if you try to explain them to other people.


Dead End Thrills does Skyrim
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a little obsessed with Skyrim right now. But look at these landscapes and tell me they’re not amazing. Everyone gushed over how great the facial animation system was in LA Noire. I think the cloud generation system in Skyrim is even more impressive. This one is my favourite of the lot.


Cultural Differences

In Ireland, Bagels and garlic bread set for sharp price rise as VAT rules change

The price of bagels, croissants, garlic bread and a range of other similar products is likely to increase significantly in the weeks ahead after Revenue decided they were not sufficiently bread-like to be exempt from VAT.

Meanwhile, in America, U.S. Decides Pizza Sauce Is a Vegetable

A joint Senate-House panel of American lawmakers has caved in to the frozen food lobby by voting to uphold school lunch regulations that stipulate that tomato sauce in pizza counts as a vegetable serving.

I never thought I’d say this, but maybe it’s time Pat the Baker and Mister Brennan got together to form a lobby group of their own.


Poetry of Twitter Spam, Redux

A while ago, I wrote about the poetry of Twitter spam, where a particular spam-bot was generating an odd series of tweets that, strung together, looked like bad teenage poetry.

That was two years ago. Technology has advanced. Neven Mrgan points to @horse_ebooks as an example of how Twitter spam-bots are now producing profoundly entertaining non-sequiturs that could be some of the most entertaining stuff found on the internet. In fact, some of these are so perfectly crafted I’m having trouble believing that it isn’t actually a person pretending to be a spam-bot.

Some of my favourites from @Horse_ebooks:


“1 2 You can use the power of your mind to find a shiny, cool car hidden in a paper bag. Your incredible mental powers”

“The difficulty of seeing with very large instruments”

“It s a FACT – Most Doctors, Nutrition Experts , Celebrity Chefs and Best Selling Authors are DEAD”

I’m wondering what linking to a known spam account will do for what little Google-juice I have – whether Google is going to push me further down its search listings. But honestly, I’ve enjoyed these tweets so much, I don’t care. It’s totally worth it.


Reader redesign: Terrible decision, or worst decision?
An ex-PM of Google Reader explains why the recent redesign/refactor is such a bad decision.

I’m glad to see someone with a bit of authority complaining about this a reasonable way. For the most part, the only comments I’ve read about the changes have either been from people saying “Eww, who uses Google Reader like that?” or from crazy people calling for an “Occupy Google Reader” protest. I was starting to feel like I was the odd one out.