guest - flak

the nether

In the future, the Internet becomes The Nether, a fully immersive virtual reality and the setting for a play by Jennifer Haley. The play alternates scenes between a real space interrogation room and flashbacks to events in the nether. A detective demands that the proprietor of a particular realm, one that specializes in adult-child relationships, reveal the location of the hosting server.

Most of the play explores the line between reality and perception. What difference is there between feeling something and doing it? Or as one character put it, the nether is the contextual framework for our existence. This is a question with at least twenty years of fiction, but I liked the approach taken here. Despite the pervy setting, it’s a very human story.

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Posted 2016-04-13 01:58:41 by tedu Updated: 2016-04-13 01:58:41
Tagged: event moviereview philly

the popepocalypse is nigh

The Pope is coming. And so, unlike the earthquake and two hurricanes Philadelphia has recently weathered, everything must be shut down. And what’s not shut down must be locked down.

Center City looks quite different without any cars parked on the streets. Or Big Belly trash cans on street corners. Or mailboxes. But sidewalks are lined with portapotties as far as the eye can see. It’s more than a little ridiculous.

The Pope is holding mass on the Franklin Parkway, so it makes some sense to prepare the immediately surrounding area. But this same area, earlier this month, hosted the Made in America concert without such extreme measures. The Beatles may be bigger than Jesus, but the Pope is still bigger than Beyoncé.

There’s some question of separation of church and state, though it’s not too big a deal for me. The Pope is a foreign dignitary. There were some special arrangements made when, e.g. Nelson Mandela gave a speech here. And arrangements might also be made if Richard Dawkins were popular enough to draw such crowds. What’s unprecedented is the scope of the restrictions.

A line has been crossed where the inconveniences of this visit are being imposed on everyone in the city, not just the people living immediately adjacent to the planned events. Subway and bus service is all carved up. (And originally with doubled fares, although they seem to have backed down from that.) Personal vehicles will be forbidden from entering the Center City area for the entire weekend. This isn’t a matter of higher than usual traffic slowing things down. This is the city simply shutting down. Giving up.

Here’s a page of maps showing the ever expanding no fun zone.

The city has promised they aren’t paying for any of this. I remain deeply suspicious that the IOC accountant was hired to reach that conclusion.

Posted 2015-09-23 15:12:42 by tedu Updated: 2015-09-23 15:12:42
Tagged: philly politics

Indego - Philly bike share review

Joining the ranks of bike share programs in other cities, Indego is Philadelphia’s version. The basic concept is the same and pretty simple. You check out a bicycle from one of many kiosks located about the city, ride around, then return it to an empty dock when done. The program is manufactured by B-cycle but owned by Philadelphia; it’s similar but not identical to programs in other cities, such as Austin or Denver.


There are three plans available. For $4 per 30 minutes, the walk up plan lets you check out a bike with a credit card. This is clearly the tourist and visitor plan. The flex plan, with a $10 annual fee, gets you a key fob for easier access and extends your $4 to an hour long ride. I’m not sure who this plan is for. The Indego30 plan is $15 per 30 days, but includes an unlimited number for one hour rides. This is the plan for locals.

Continue reading Indego - Philly bike share review...

Posted 2015-07-09 14:56:51 by tedu Updated: 2015-07-09 14:56:51
Tagged: business philly review

are you the one who’s watching me?

Walked by an old man on the street who repeatedly asked me, “Are you the one who’s watching me?” I tried to deny it, but he didn’t believe my lies! Was briefly tempted to tell him, “We’re all watching you,” but he was clearly operating marble free and already seemed to have that impression. A strange encounter.

Posted 2014-07-30 01:02:56 by tedu Updated: 2014-07-30 01:02:56
Tagged: philly quote

the wrong way to beg for money

Because it’s summer and therefore nice and warm (or terribly, impossibly warm) out, I go outside and walk around the city. Because it’s a city, that means people ask me for money. Sometimes it’s grizzled old men sitting on a stoop. Sometimes it’s chipper young people who jump in front of me. Guess which group this post is about.

It’s one thing (an annoying thing, but borderline acceptable) to stand in the middle of the sidewalk so that I have to go around instead of walking in a straight line. Watching me course correct, then side stepping to block my path and accost me is never acceptable. I deal with this by making a mental note of the responsible organization and then blacklisting them for one month. Penalties accrue. This summer’s front runner appears to be Planned Parenthood, though it will be some time before they overtake the all time record holder. Two summers ago the ACLU accosted me more than once per day on average, earning them an effective lifetime ban.

The stupid part is I’m generally in agreement with these organizations, disagreeing more in degree than kind. The problem seems to be that unlike the local neighborhood homeless beggars, the political beggars are shipped in from elsewhere. I imagine the college job fair pitch goes something like “travel the country and harass strangers with like minded hotties”. The result is that it’s a new beggar every day with no recollection of the previous dozen encounters. Even the duck tour people learn to recognize me as a resident and leave me alone. (Presumably the political beggars set up shop all summer long to get in on the tourist trade, but since the duck tour peddlers have claimed all the good corners, they get pushed out to areas that are in fact mostly locals.)

Posted 2014-06-20 19:34:46 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-20 19:34:46
Tagged: business philly politics rants

catastrophic weather movie alert

Went to a movie this afternoon because it was raining. Because it was raining, the government issued a puddles of unusual depth alert, causing everybody’s phone to blow up mid movie, within the space of a few minutes. The weather catastrophe alert tone could have been a credible sound effect, coupled with some great positional surround sound, but all the lit up screens gave the trick away. Then it kept happening as the less important people were notified and started interrupting the movie. There’s always a few idiots who can’t turn their phone off, but the number of alerts received made it seem likely the alerts can override vibrate or even silent settings.

The good news is the alerts can be turned off (somewhere in phone settings) to avoid disturbance at the movies or elsewhere. I did so last summer after noticing alerts happen whenever it rains.

The movie was Edge of Tomorrow. I liked it. Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers.

Amber Alert update: Amber Alert worked well. Apparently, their definition of success was waking people up at 4am, since there’s no mention of how the alert influenced the outcome of the children, which is how I would determine if it worked well or not.

Posted 2014-06-10 23:08:33 by tedu Updated: 2014-08-08 19:21:34
Tagged: gadget philly politics rant

home is where you want to be

Much has been written about the awfulness of Apple Maps, but sometimes it’s just awesome. I’m in California; I search for a Philz (because that’s what you do in the Bay Area), and I get... Philadelphia. iPhone knows me better than I thought.

Posted 2014-06-07 00:39:41 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-07 00:39:41
Tagged: bugs philly

ten year reunions

The only thing better than remembering the past is reliving it.

Yellowcard released an acoustic version of Ocean Avenue last year to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the original release. Then they went on tour to promote, starting at the TLA. That was such a great idea that The Ataris launched a ten year “reunion” tour for So Long, Astoria (skipping the album part), which eventually came to TLA as well. Both shows were fun, in part for the same reason: they played the band’s breakout hit(s) in album sequence, instead of saving them for the encore. They didn’t play any new or old songs I didn’t like, or didn’t expect. Predictably enjoyable, enjoyably predictable. On a personal level, these two albums recapture the past in a way that VNV Nation albums like Futureperfect don’t. Then again, VNV Nation didn’t peak ten years ago (though Welcome the Night is great too).

Continue reading ten year reunions...

Posted 2014-04-17 04:59:49 by tedu Updated: 2014-04-20 02:46:03
Tagged: games moviereview music philly

forgers and scammers

Finished reading the rest of the Dec 16 New Yorker, beyond the State of Deception article.

The Lost World profiles Darwin’s lesser known predecessor, Georges Cuvier, the inventor of extinction and mastodons.

The best article is A Very Rare Book. The rare book world trades on reputation and a perhaps mistaken belief that nobody forges old books. Until somebody does. A very good story, one might believe it’s the start of a Dan Brown novel, except better. At the heart of the story is a forged proof of Galileo’s book Sidereus Nuncius in which he documented Jupiter’s moons. What relics will people collect 500 years from now? An original Kindle that once held a first edition?

Continue reading forgers and scammers...

Posted 2013-12-26 22:10:43 by tedu Updated: 2014-01-23 20:56:21
Tagged: magreview moviereview philly

Nerds the musical

Nerds is a live musical comedy. I’d say it was somewhere between awesome and really awesome.

Act One roughly follows a similar track as the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley although with less attention paid to historical accuracy. It’s a comedy, not a biography, but it gets a lot right. Various video screens showing era correct screenshots and logos were a nice touch. Act Two covers events up to today, but without even the pretension of accuracy. (The original script was apparently from 2007; it’s been updated to include the iPhone and death of Steve Jobs.)

Favorite part was probably the unveiling of Windows. Previously, Gates and Allen had tried to introduce DOS with a rap song but with bungled rhymes; e.g., “MS-DOS is lots of fun; we made it for every...body”). Then Jobs and Wozniak introduce the Mac (complete with the 1984 commercial showing on screen, but on stage is Wozniak in a crop top throwing the hammer). Finally, Gates steals all of Jobs’s cool ideas, leading to Windows 95. Gates and Allen run out on stage and launch into a Beastie Boys style number with tons of style.

Least favorite parts were probably the love interests for Gates and Jobs. It felt rather forced, especially the sex crazed band geek style stereotype chasing Gates around. Does every musical need the main character to have a love interest, just because it’s a musical? Allen and Wozniak both stuck around far longer than in real life, but that’s forgivable in the interest of plot streamlining. The love stories, on the other hand, were an unnecessary and awkward complication.

Posted 2013-12-20 22:09:43 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-20 22:09:43
Tagged: event moviereview philly

the greatest map ever

Everything that is wrong with the rest of this country, succinctly represented on one map. This one is also pretty good. I can absolutely confirm this one as well. Some people just don’t know how to talk.

Nothing too surprising for anyone who’s talked to people from different parts of the country, but this is the best visual representation I’ve seen.

Interactive version by NY Times.

Posted 2013-06-07 15:57:14 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-26 23:29:56
Tagged: language philly

gnome squad

I happened to be in Best Buy today and noticed the computer department had sprouted a little Google Chromebook booth next to the Apple section. It was manned by a Google shirt and badge wearing dude, kind of a hybrid Geek Squad Apple Genius type, by way of Middle-earth. Whatever, people can look however they like. He did, however, have the whole super nerd speech thing down. Not just the language but the tone radiated the extremely smug, slightly condescending attitude that I’ve previously only encountered in Hollywood depictions, never real life. And I’ve dealt with some pretty nerdy types. As for the Pixel he was pimping, his main point was that it has the highest resolution laptop screen in the world (technically arguable) and how the Pixel could natively display 4k video (not even close to true), before trying to say it was both a computer and a tablet and could run the apps for both (too vague to be entirely falsifiable). To say the least, the shopping demographic in this particular South Philly Best Buy did not find him particularly endearing. He made it clear he didn’t work for the store (if you want to buy anything, talk to somebody in a blue shirt), but if he’s somebody’s idea of a product ambassador, relations between humans and halflings are not looking good.

Posted 2013-03-29 02:01:03 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-29 02:01:03
Tagged: business philly rants

RedSnake Philly XIII

Attended RedSnake Philly mini conference on Friday. All the talks were ten minutes, which is shorter than I expected (maybe I should have looked closer at the schedule), but meant that things really kept moving. It was a good pace, but some of the talks could have used more time. Maybe 15 minutes is about right. Anyway, it was a nice contrast from the hour long talks I’m used to.

As far as content, ironically the C++ and lisp talks had the most technical content. The ruby python talks were split between introducing a framework one might find useful and describing a solution at such a high level it was basically language agnostic. If the event’s purpose was to gather a bunch of people in a room and introduce a few speakers to them, then I’d say it succeeded wildly. Three of the event’s scheduled six hours were dedicated to social time. That’s not a complaint, but it’s a little shy of their goal of being “hardcore”.

On an irrelevant note, a lot more women were present, proportionately, than at any other software conference I’ve attended. Maybe because women like ruby and python more? Maybe because the event was both free and pitched as more of a social thing? Didn’t feel like being the guy to go around and ask, but if somebody wanted to promote women in tech, more events like this would be a good start.

Posted 2013-02-19 03:27:07 by tedu Updated: 2013-04-11 21:34:11
Tagged: event philly software

Philadelphia hates business

The city is suing Yuengling to collect some tax money.

Changing the name of the tax from Business Privilege Tax (for serious, that was the name) to Business Income and Receipts Tax doesn’t make it any better. I’ve always thought this was a really stupid tax that just pushes every white collar office business out into the suburbs, twenty feet over the city line, but this is absurd. What counts as taxable activity? The city will tell you (or not, apparently) when they send you a bill.

Company responds.

Posted 2013-02-05 23:07:47 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-09 01:37:23
Tagged: business philly politics rants


Today Yuengling is having a customer appreciation toast, where you can walk into basically any bar in the city and get a free bottle, because they’re now the largest American brewery, even though they still only sell regionally. A reminder that success sometimes takes a long time. Yuengling is also the oldest brewery in America, since 1829, but much of their growth has occurred recently after the introduction of the lager. Never know when you’re going to release a homerun product.

Posted 2012-09-28 20:48:31 by tedu Updated: 2012-09-28 20:48:43
Tagged: business philly thoughts