A Blog of Very Little Brain

'What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?' said Pooh. 'For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.'

More revenues from The Hitchhiker’s guide announced

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Douglas Adams passed away, and with him, the ability of making money of new Hitchiker’s books.

Now Adams’s widow, Jane Belson, has finally found a way to kickstart the money machine, in her everlasting quest to produce money hats off of her late husband’s work.

Eoin Colfer, 43, who is no stranger to milking a series for all it’s worth, said he was “terrified” by the prospect of actually raking it in from the works of another artist. He assured us that fans will buy it, based on almost a quarter of a century of the Hithchiker’s products being a cash-cow. He said that the series being, what he described as a “slice of satirical genius”, would not come in his way of having his way with them in his goal for enlarging his rates in at an order of magnitude.

The Adams leeching also spawned a BBC TV series starring Simon Jones, and amovie that made more people questioning the decision making of the late Adams “Golden Goose” estate.

“My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone other than me was allowed to tamper with this incredible series,” Colfer said. “But on reflection I realised that this is a wonderful opportunity for me to dip in that pool of income that is the Hitchiker and drink my fill. It was also obvious to me that with such a devout following, I could have my 2-year-old girl write it and still make a pretty penny of the deal.”

“I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written. At any rate, it will be better than the movie and that was actually based on a book”

Jane Belson said: “I am delighted that Eoin Colfer has agreed to continue the Hitchhiker series. I was worried that I will not be able to buy that 300-acre farm on Essex, and might have to settle for a 100-acres.”

“I love the revenues he made off his books and could not think of a better person to chunk out a fast one before the Christmas rush. The project has my full support.”

Adams died of heart failure in 2001, aged 49. In his wake, several cheap shots were released, including “The Salmon of Doubt“, which was left in a nowhere-near-ready-for-print state, a movie that assured viewers worldwide that neither Belson, nor her advisors, have any clue what about her late husband is paying their montly fees (other than sticking the words “hitchiking” and “galaxy”, that is).

Around 16 million copies of his Hitchhiker books, which have been translated into 35 languages, have been sold around the world.

Colfer was a primary school teacher in Ireland before he secured the largest ever advance for a children’s novel by an unknown author. He has sworen since to break that record and improve on it, whatever the damage to his artistic integrity. In recent interviews he confessed of never having it in the first place.

His Artemis Fowl series, about a teenage criminal mastermind who wreaks havoc in this world and the next, went on to sell more than 18 million copies worldwide and a film adaptation is due to go into production next year, despite being devoided of a single original idea. Or because of it.

And Another Thing… will be published in October next year, and sequels will continue to appear as long as the idiotsfans are willing to pay for it.

Written by Erez

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 14:01

Posted in Books, Business

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Drolling down the river

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There’s nothing like starting a new week with a bang.

Sadly, the only bang worth speaking of comes from the Large Hadron Collider. Now, I’m not that puritan, but those Brits and their sexual leniency can sometimes get on your better opinions.

I mean, c’mon. Not only they have a huge phallic object, supposed to recreate a “big bang”, but they keep referring to it as the “Large Hardon”. Yuch.

With that out of the way, it may seem that we are going for a week composed mainly of “meh”, not that its predecessor was anything exciting.
Despite the “yes, we *are* getting another Katrina, praise the lord!” announcements coming from different media outlets, Hurricane Gustav failed to really do much damage, apart from the damage to said media outlets’ ratings.

Also, Google released a browser. Or should I say “Google! Released! A! Browser!”. Once the dust cleared, people rushed to the scene to discover that it: loads web pages.

True that it has a newandexciting rendering engine that loads rich web “applications” in a newandexciting, multi-processed way, with a newandexciting javascript engine to create a newandexciting user experience. But other than that? It’s a browser. And it loads web pages.

Is it any wonder that a few uninspired desktops are toted as “The Amazing Artwork of Fedora 10“?
Is it of any difference that two parrots that can whistle 4 notes in order are described as “The Greatest Thing You Will See On The Internet All Day“?

And so, with no major war planned anywhere, all we left with, this week, are warm noodles described as “a new triumph in Pasta”. Allez Cuisine!

Written by Erez

Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 9:58

Posted in Internet

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The origin of Kung Fu Panda

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Last week we watched Kung Fu Panda (capsule review: it’s mostly like Advil), which is a fun and funny DreamWorks Animation film about anthropomorphic animals in mythological China.

As expected, it manages to pull most of the ‘right’ levers. The Chinese references are mostly good, in a non-patronising way, although they do pull a Katzenberg (e.g. where all the characters are ‘in-character’ but the main character is Robin Williams) with the Panda, US accent and all. The actual animals are either Chinese, or from the Chinese culture, with some interesting choices (a mantis and viper as Kong-Fu fighters, a turtle as the ancient master). Also, no dumb pack animals are shown pulling crates or working, a usual miss in anthropomorphic works. The Red Panda Shifu (a Chinese word for martial arts master) is probably the best character in the whole film, artfully played by Dustin Hoffman.

The morals of the movie are also hit-and-miss, they do base on a lot of Zen/Chinese ideas, but it is the Big-Mac version. On one hand, the Panda remains an obese slob throughout the film (good), on the other, that is his “inner strength” (wot?). There’s a huge gap between saying “the power is within you” and showing you a mirror. The art is mostly good, although its Computer-Generated nature sometimes gets a bit overdone. I’m a fan of hand-drawn animation, so I’m biased, but I prefer my CGI “obvious” as in the Shrek, or Toy-Story way, rather than in a “drawn 2d” way. But I digress.

The whole reason for this review is that I kept wondering about where does the whole “Panda as a martial arts master” idea comes from? It’s obviously not original, DreamWorks are not known for inventing wheels. After all, we are talking about the studio that released “Antz” two weeks before “A Bug’s Life“, both starting production about the time Katzenberg left Disney (Pixar’s former publishers and current owners). But it’s more than just that. Pandas are not connected with martial arts the way other animals are. The film’s Furious Five (a tigress, a crane, a monkey, a mantis, and a viper), represent familiar Kung-Fu styles. The Panda, while is a Chinese animal, does not have any connection with Kung-Fu, or anything seemly resembling martial arts.

That is, if you stop looking at history and culture and start looking in pop-culture.

In April 1st, 1999, Blizzard, deep in the production of Warcraft III, “announced” that a new race was in the works for the game: Pandaren Empire.

The page included a fleshed history of the race to make it look an integral part of WarCraft’s world, complete with some units details, art and mockup screenshots.
Reaction was immediately favourable. The race, basically Panda Samurai, appealed to a lot of WarCraft fans and gamers in general (regardless of the Pandas being Chinese animal and the Samurai being Japanese), and managed to create a buzz around the concept, soon leading to some interesting results.

In the WarCraft III expansion pack, one of the playable characters was a Pandaren Brewmaster, sort of a Drunken Master warrior, but a panda. Here, once moving from the mock to the official, the character moved from the oriental mashup of panda samurai to a more Chinese oriented ideas.

Once this became “official” it just kept rolling. In World of Warcraft, there was an idea to capitalise on the Warcraft/Panda connection, with Pandaren Xpress, a delivery company for Chinese food. Later, a Panda cub was added as a pet.

With World of Warcraft being the no. 1 online RPG for several years now, its no wonder that Dreamworks Animation decided to roll their own version with a Kung-Fu Panda. With the last Warcraft-panda hulabaloo taking place circa 2005, it should coincide with the film’s production start, and nail this conspiracy on the head.

Written by Erez

Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 18:13

Buzzword compliance test

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I saw Scribd‘s embedded web document on a couple of sites; although I think the “web-document-format” is a good idea, I was sort of turned off by two elements. The first is the actual document format, which is Flash (blech). Making it less of a Web-based document and more of “embedded element”, which isn’t quite the same. The second being the “document” name: iPaper.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but naming your product after the latest brand-buzz doesn’t sound like “the here-to-stay next-development-in-web-technology”, but more like “Take the Money and Run“. In a sense, iSomething is akin to eSomething from the days of Ye Olde Web, and there’s not much going around that carry that moniker.

To test that, lets run Scribd’s “platform page” through my imagined iBuzzWorth scanner and see what we find out:

1: Company name is spelled in a "cool, vowel-less" web2.0 name.
2: Product is being presented as a development framework.
3: Use of Apple's iProduct trademark
4: Product is described as "beautiful". No explanation is given to this.
5: Description terms are capitalized, as if they represent a term rather than an adjective.
6: Simple CRUD interface for uploading/embedding documents, no added horsepower to vindicate the claim to power.
7: Usage of the plural form of API, indicates this isn't the technical term, but the marketing one.

There’s more, naturally, but I’ve turned the program off.

Written by Erez

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 11:40

Posted in Internet, Marketing

Tagged with ,

Test-Driven Development, cyberpunk version

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From the OneTrueWiki:

add a test, get it to fail, and write code to pass the test

From Blade Runner:

Tyrell: Is this to be an empathy test?
Tyrell: Demonstrate it. I want to see it work.
Deckard: Where’s the subject?
Tyrell: I want to see it work on a person. I want to see a negative
before I provide you with a positive.

Written by Erez

Monday, August 25, 2008 at 20:37

“…no worker should be more than 150 feet from a food source”

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Familiar with that one? According to CNN/Money, that’s what Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, used to believe. Past tense because, according to the Wag, they no longer do.

Let me run through the human-resourcing-efficiency math. You have a 100 employees, making 40x (x being your local currency) an hour, working 40 hours a week, that means 160,000x a week, or approx. 700,000x a month. If you fire layoff 30%, then fill those positions with workers that earn 25x a month, you now expend less than 650,000x a month. If you make sure to do the layoffs at the start of the month, and hire towards the end of it, your Quarterly report might even show some major savings.

Unfortunately (for them), Google can’t do this employee juggling. If they could, they’d already outsource the whole GooglePlex to India and fill it with programmers making 0.1% of what their current employees make. Sadly, they need those high-end-salary making guys, and they need them to devote many hours for non-productive actions such as “research” and the famous 20% personal projects time (which may or may not be given these days). And with the Web2.0 bubble in full effect, cutting salaries is a no-no. What is left? Cutting down food expenses (estimated at 72,000,000$ a year), and childcare, and other “non-work-related” perks.

In past years, Google touted these perks as a way to maintain the “start-up” atmosphere where developers spend double-figures of work hours on their projects, as well as come up with innovative ideas and are motivated to research better, and more efficient ways of improving the company. However, these days, this isn’t what making the company richer. The ads dept. is. So now we hear terms like “investment in human resources” and “tinkering with incentives”, which means reducing the money spent on non-profitable ventures, mainly Research. If anything, this will cause those high-end-salary programmers to leave, cashing their overly-priced shares, and being replaced by Pimply-faced youth making much less than those who leave.

Written by Erez

Monday, August 25, 2008 at 10:45

Posted in Business, Technology

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Cynic’s corner or: why I don’t buy it.

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Saw this on Last.fm’s blog:

One of the nicest bits of feedback we’ve had here at Last.fm HQ in the past few weeks was a message from two users who had just started a life together. They wrote to say that it all started through common musical interests on Last.fm, which led to them becoming friends online, and, over time, to discover that they were true soulmates. Yes, honestly.

Honestly? Don’t buy it.

I may be an old cynical, with my romantic nerves rugged and my soul tattered, but I’ve seen this too many times. It just happened that they got a way-too-cool-to-pass PR story that *just* coincides perfectly with the way they’ve “been using the idea of a musical soulmate (…) to guide the development of our new neighbours service”. And they don’t put their names, or faces, on it?

Yes, its quite the thing, I think its a PR thing, since they didn’t make it look like a PR thing. But think, if this was a true story, you’d get down their names, or even their Last.fm usernames, with those funky avatars they have. Its not like they have confessed to liking bestiality, and for a few dollars, this story could’ve made much more sense and go much better than an opening paragraph in a blog.

On the other hand, I’ve seen this before. The just too good to be true story, with no names, no real details, just a ‘believe you me, ’tis be ‘onest tale’ hand around the shoulder confidentiality. I worked in this place, where as incentives to the more efficient employees, used to give raffle tickets to the lottery. When asked, the managers used to tell how “once, this girl actually won 10,000 NIS from one of those”. She didn’t, but the story got carried on, even appeared in a couple of articles on the company. It’s a white lie, no real harm done, win-win situation, so to speak. I just don’t buy it any more.

Update: And not two minutes after posting, I read this item in ValleyWag about what Venture Capitalists really think about the start-ups they invest in.

Written by Erez

Friday, August 22, 2008 at 17:30

Posted in Blogging, Culture

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