As our transition from agriculture to manufacturing shifted the focus from food to material wealth (commodities), we are undergoing a similar shift now where material wealth is becoming as cheap as food became during the industrial revolution (introducing similar problems of overabundance). As material goods were the most valuable things before the industrial revolution, ideas and information are what’s most valuable now–in other words, service industries. This has implications across the economy not just concerning which businesses will make the most money, but how most of that money will be made. Continue reading
This Monday, June 7th, my fiance and I went to the airport and picked up this little guy:
His name is Beetle and he is adorable. Normally I think pugs are hideous (it was her idea), but Beetle is the sole exception. Obviously. Continue reading
How come nobody told me about this before? Amber Smalltalk is a dialect of the Smalltalk programming language, which is what caught my attention. I have been a fan of Smalltalk for years, but the image-based development environment proved a little too cumbersome and monolithic for my tastes. Amber to the rescue!
After my initial “project” (modifying the “counter” example to count only by primes), I’ve started working on a web-based game. It won’t be the much-anticipated port of my game “Press A to Win” (my apologies to both of you who were hoping it would be), instead it will be a game about numbers! A game about finding numbers’ unique prime factorizations, specifically. What? Why are you looking at me like that? Of course it’ll be fun!
Anyway, you should go check Amber out. It’s great. I’ll have something more for you to look at next week. Until then, stay curious!
I’ve expressed unpopular opinions about nerd idols before, but this one is a little harder for me to talk about. My dislike of Terry Pratchett’s books is simple: I don’t like the deconstructionist genre. Easy enough; I can just stick my tongue in my cheek and go on a rant. But my reasons for disliking World of Goo and Little Inferno aren’t so straightforward. Continue reading
I’ve already been over some of my favorite bloggers in the past, but you may have noticed that bloggers aren’t the only thing in my sidebar. Although I enjoy all art forms, comics are a particular pleasure for me, and since webcomics are usually free I tend to read a lot of them. Here are my favorites:
- Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell might well be my favorite comic of all time, online or off. It hits all my weak points: alternatively funny, serious, and touching, with a story featuring both technology and magic, told through expressive and well-rounded characters. It’s smart, imaginative, and very well-written and drawn (though, like many of the comics on this list, its early pages are much rougher than its later ones). Tom plans each page meticulously and has probably had the entire story planned out start-to-finish since the beginning–relevant plot details will regularly be foreshadowed many months or even years in advance. In short, it’s excellent, and you should start reading it from the beginning right now.
- Dresden Codak is the kind of comic that could only have existed on the internet. Especially in his earlier stories, creator Aaron Diaz frequently makes various scientific references that will leave you feeling really stupid, then really smart after you’ve been to Wikipedia so you can get the joke. His art and writing are both brilliant, a little surreal, and frequently esoteric. The biggest downside of his comic is that it only updates about once every hundred years. You can start reading it from the beginning here.
- A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible–hm. Well, basically, imagine Dresden Codak turned up to eleven. Kind of. Very surreal, very highbrow, frequently makes literary and/or philosophical references that will leave you feeling stupid and/or smart, occasionally flirts with continuity but doesn’t really make a habit of it. Written by Dale Beran and drawn by David Hellman (who also did the art for Braid), it updates approximately once every thousand years. You can read it from what I suppose is technically the beginning here.
- El Goonish Shive by Dan Shive is something of a guilty pleasure of mine–it’s a fun, quirky story about a group of teenagers featuring magic, aliens, relationships, and frequent shapeshifting and gender-bending. It’s funny and cute and I like it, okay? Stop looking at me like that. The first comic is here (and yes, the art and writing do in fact get way better).
- Oglaf (EXTREMELY NSFW, by the way) is, well…I’m just gonna quote the ‘warning’ page directly: “This comic started out as an attempt to make pornography. It degenerated into sex comedy pretty much immediately.” Yeah, that about sums the whole thing up. Written by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne, it’s fantasy-themed, frequently inappropriate, and always funny. Make sure nobody’s watching over your shoulder, then start from the beginning here.
- Lackadaisy is the tale of a group of charismatic bootleggers in prohibition-era St. Louis, told by the master of brilliant and hilarious facial expressions, Tracy J. Butler. Oh, did I mention the bootleggers are anthropomorphic cats? In addition to the main storyline (which you can read from the beginning here), her website features a number of vignettes, side stories and sketches that are often even more hilarious than the main comics. This one about waffles is one of my particular favorites (don’t worry, it’s spoiler-free).
- Cerintha is a fantasy webcomic set in an alternate universe shortly before the fall of Rome. The art isn’t as impressive as many of the other comics on this list, but Cope (the author) keeps drawing me back with intricate plotlines and fun, interesting characters. Be warned: although the comic is frequently funny, the overall tone of Cope’s stories (including his previous comic, Atavism) tends to be pretty fatalistic. You can start reading Cerintha here.
- Speaking of dark and humorous, The Perry Bible Fellowship has some of the darkest and humor-iest on the ‘net. Nicholas Gurewitch masterfully juxtaposes cartoonish, childlike visuals with morbid, sexual, or just downright terrible stories. You will laugh, and you will feel like a horrible person, and then you will click the ‘next’ button. Go ahead, you monster.
- Continuing to speak of dark and humorous, never forget Garfield Minus Garfield, the greatest existentialist-humor webcomic ever accidentally written. I’ll let the comic’s description speak for itself: “Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.” I have honestly never laughed harder than I have reading this comic. Start here, then keep going until you can’t breathe. Trust me, it’ll happen sooner or later.
- Switching gears, Erstwhile is a comic that re-tells many of the lesser-known stories by the brothers Grimm. Each story is adapted and illustrated by a different author–Gina Biggs, Louisa Roy, and Elle Skinner. If you like fairy tales (especially the original versions), give them a look! Their first story is The Farmer’s Clever Daughter.
- Finally, there’s xkcd–a nerd classic. If you haven’t heard of Randall Munroe’s comic yet, you should get out from under that rock you’ve been living beneath and go check it out. Unlike most of the other comics on this list, there’s no real need to start from the beginning, since only a few of his storylines are continuous–it’s probably better to just hit the random button and go from there. Enjoy!
How about you? What are your favorite webcomics? Let me know which ones I’ve missed in the comments!
The question of consciousness–of what it means to be “self-aware”–is one of the longest-standing unsolved problems in human history. It has showed up in practically every field from philosophy and theology to literature and the arts to multiple scientific disciplines including psychology, biology, programming, and even mathematics. Like the nature of sleep and dreams, it is one of those tantalizing problems that has resisted all solutions for millennia, despite being a fundamental part of our daily lives. Yet intelligence was also considered such a problem, and Hawkins’ theory tied a neat bow on it. Might the problem of consciousness be similarly solved? Continue reading