Let's Crunch Intelligence Squared

08 August 2014

Intelligence Squared US is a cool debate series I listen to on NPR every so often. Debate topics include “Death Is Not Final” and “Russia Is A Marginal Power.” Debates feature two sides: one for the motion and one against the motion. The audience is polled on their opinion before and after the debate; they can vote for the motion, against the motion, or be undecided. The winner of the debate is whichever side has the largest increase in percentage points. So if the split is 70/20/10 (for / against / undecided) before the debate and 72/25/3 after the debate, the against side wins because they increased by 5 points, whereas the for side only gained 2 points. Winning usually boils down to whoever can sway the most undecided voters.

The other day a friend observed that, “I’ve listened to dozens of episodes, and not once has the number of unsure audience members increased.” While it seems natural to be less undecided about something after hearing an extended discussion on a topic, I can also see where his disappointment comes from. If you hear people present compelling arguments regarding a topic, being more informed yet still unsure of the “right” side isn’t completely out of the question. A friend of disappointed friend, who also happens to be a data scientist, then crunched some numbers and wrote a spectacular write-up with some pretty interesting finds.

Said data scientist inputted all data into Google Spreadsheets before crunching some conclusions out, but I’m a JSON-type-of-guy. Enter intelligence-json: a repository containing all results of Intelligence Squared US debates in JSON format. Also enter intelligence-analyzer: a skeleton project that parses all this data into POJOs using Jackson, my favorite JSON parsing library.

Crunch away friends!

Futurama - An Eye for the Details

26 July 2014

I appreciate an eye for the details, even when they may appear to be so minor or inconsequential. I recently revisited the pilot episode of Futurama where Fry – on December 31, 1999 – is transported 1000 years into the future. Later on in the episode, his newfound robot friend Bender says they can hide in a museum because “it’s free on Tuesdays.”

My trusty general-purpose calculator Wolfram Alpha confirms that December 31, 2999 is in fact a Tuesday. Yes, it’s a small detail. Yes, they could’ve just picked a random day and hoped they were right. But caring enough to get this small detail right is pretty dang cool.

Please Take My Money Sony

20 July 2014

Man, I can’t believe I’m saying this but SONY, PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY. I was just trying to buy some video games in the PlayStation Store. When I was adding funds to my account, I kept getting an error when inputting my credit card details: “please enter a valid credit card number.” Double-checked the number, the expiration date, the security code, and name on the credit card and tried again. ERROR. Double-checked my billing address. ERROR. What the hell, Sony!?

After digging around online, I find I’m not the only person with credit card input issues on Sony’s website. After a ton of “me too, fuck Sony” posts, I found a helpful netizen who suggested making sure the billing address inputted on Sony’s website EXACTLY matches your credit card’s billing address. Now I can understand having to get a billing address correct when authorizing a transaction, but Sony is handling this somewhat poorly.

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Shame on Yelp, See What I Did There?

14 July 2014

Yelp, we’ve got a problem. A serious problem. I really like what you’re doing, but you should know that commas cannot join two sentences. Yet every time someone sends a friend request, the placeholder sentence is a classic example of a comma splice.

That comma should be a period or a semicolon.

I already shed enough tears on behalf of the English language when I read some people’s reviews. Yelp, please do your part and stop this unnecessary propagation of terrible grammar. Your community will thank you.

P.S. Also, tell your engineers that they really should get around to replacing “[link to your page]” with the actual link to my page. iOS developers can check out the stringByReplacingOccurrencesOfString method and Android developers can use the replace method. Happy coding fellow developers!

Tales of Awesome

10 July 2014

Namco’s Tales series has been one of the most consistent JRPG franchises. My first taste was in 2004 with Tales of Symphonia, and that was a wonderful experience. I haven’t played every game in the series (there are a few duds it seems), but since Symphonia, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Abyss, Vesperia, Graces, and most recently, Xillia. In a month, Tales of Xillia 2 will be released. I found Xillia to be a solid entry and the sequel is very, very well-regarded. RPG Fan has a great preview on the game; here are my main (and somewhat irreverent) takeaways.

  • “Ludger [the protagonist] can switch between three weapon types (dual blades, a hammer, and a gun) to fight his enemies effectively at any distance.” Finally! Some game designer realized that the best weapon isn’t a sword, or even two swords, but two swords, a sledgehammer, AND dual-wielded pistols. Genius!

Where will cosplayers keep the extra weapons?

  • “He can also transform into a demi-humanoid using the power of ‘Chromatus,’ dramatically augmenting his strength and ability repertoire.” Yes!!! Not only does he wield three different kinds of weapons, he can also GO SUPER SAIYAN!


  • “The Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System (DR-LMBS) returns as well.” The awesome battle system in the Tales series is a cornerstone of the series, but I never realized how ridiculous they name the system.

The Double Raid...ehh, fuck it. This is the battle system in action.

  • “Ludger and Elle are injured during a train hijacking early in the game, and a mysterious man takes advantage of their plight by paying their medical bills and putting Ludger into astronomical debt.” Sounds like Ludger and Elle don’t live on Elympios, but in the United States of America given the ruinous amount of medical debt they were able to incur. Running with that theory, it also sounds like the TSA should start securing our train systems.

20 million gald!? They must've spent a week and a half in the hospital!

Irreverence aside, August 19th can’t come soon enough because I’m super excited to dive in Tales of Xillia 2.