February 7, 2013

Twitter is stupid and here's six reasons why.

1) The 140 character limit. This has been twitter's big thing ever since it started in 2006. The limit was set so that tweets could be sent and received via SMS, which had a 160 character limit, with twitter reserving the extra 20 for usernames. This limit is and always was stupid.
  a) No one uses twitter via SMS anymore. There may be a handful of people who still tweet via SMS, but no one, no one receives tweets via SMS and needs all of them to be under 160 characters. Also...
  b) Up until recently, I had a Nokia 1100. It came out in 2003, three years before twitter. Do you know what happened when it got a text message longer than 140 characters? It would receive them as two messages and then seamlessly stitch them into one without breaking a sweat.
  c) Log on to facebook. Go ahead, I'll wait. How many posts on your newsfeed are longer than 140 characters? One, maybe two? Would they have made it under the wire if they had spelled a couple things wrong like changing you're to ur and please to plz? Is it that hard for you to get through the full 200 or so characters? Most other social media outlets that don't limit by characters end up with pretty short messages most of the time too. The arbitrary character limit that supposedly makes twitter unique barely matters and necessitates terrible grammar and url shorteners.

2) One time, I decided to follow @uberfacts. I thought they would be an interesting addition to my twitter feed. I was wrong. They became my entire twitter feed because they post multiple times an hour. I don't check twitter more than once a day, if that, and the fact that they drowned out everyone else I was following made me had to unfollow them. Twitter has had half a decade to solve this problem and they haven't.

3) Trying to follow a conversation on twitter becomes a whole thing. On facebook, it's really clear. People's names are separated out from the content of the message, everything is threaded in a way that's easy to digest, instead of this mess that mixes and matches names with usernames and somehow takes my entire computer screen to show me four replies.

4) You have to click on a tweet to find out if it got any replies, retweets, or anything, which makes this thing appear: . This is a stupid button whose sole function is to collapse the expanded stuff that you just wanted to show, even though the link to collapse it is right where you just clicked. Also, this stupid button continues to be there, even if the thing you expanded isn't on the screen anymore.

5) God damn it twitter, when I click on someone's username, I want to go to their profile, not get a stupid little window with their name and three of their tweets.

6) I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Will, everyone knows that the web interface to twitter sucks, you need to download an app." My response to which is "FUCK YOU." You want me to pay $20 so I can view images and small blocks of text? That is literally what web browsers were invented to do. Apps are cool when they need to, say, use hardware, or run in the background, or whatever else apps do better than the web. But twitter is just a stream of text. Get it together twitter. Now that you've finally figured out how to keep your servers from crashing once a day, maybe now you can get around to building a web site that doesn't suck.

Posted by Will at 4:54 PM | Comments ()

December 18, 2012

I'm in Berlin and some guy messaged me on Facebook. Hear me out.

Well, my time in Kenya is up, and now I'm sitting in my friend Keith's apartment in Berlin.

The day after I get here, I got a facebook friend request from some guy in Berlin. Oh, this must be Keith's test account or maybe his girlfriend's or something. But no. No mutual friends, seemingly no connection, but whatever, who am I to turn down some Berliner who wants to be friends. Today he sent me this message:


Hello Mr. Carlough, by the small chance, that you will read this message, i would like to tell you, that all the following words, names and phrases, have the same numerologic data 43 pt:
JESUS CHRIST = 43 pt
I LOVE YOU = 43 pt
SAVE OUR SOULS = 43 pt
JESUS IS LORD = 43 pt
SAY NO TO WAR = 43 pt
MORPHEUS = 43 pt
TRINITY = 43 pt
More Wonders around 43 (MOVIE 43 ?) you will find on www.jesusmatrix.de
I wish you a merry Christmas.
And please help spreading this knowledge.
Thank`s Tom

I almost deleted it as spam, but then I noticed, he's talking about my movie, Movie 43. Which is really weird. A Christian numerology message about Movie 43 sent to me by a Berliner while I'm in Berlin. This whole thing is weird. Super weird.

Posted by Will at 10:27 AM | Comments ()

November 25, 2012

Get your shit together, New York Times.

For previous New York Times sonning, see here, here, here, and here.

Take a look at the header image for Nintendo Confronts a Changed Video Game World.

A few things:

1) Nintendo does not own Sonic the Hedgehog.
2) While he has appeared in Nintendo console games in recent years, he is only on one game for the Wii U. He appears in at least seven games for iPhone, so really, he should be on the other side.
3) Angry Birds and Plants Vs Zombies have entries on Nintendo platforms, although I appreciate the fact that they're better known for their iOS versions.
4) There's an Ice Climber in the corner of that picture and I like that so I'm not mad anymore.

Posted by Will at 9:01 AM | Comments ()

November 9, 2012

I'm going to talk about Kenya

Just kidding, I'm going to talk about Star Wars. Last week, I was asked to pitch a story about Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm. It ended up getting turned down, so here is what the article would have been:

Last week, George Lucas did something that most people thought would never happen. He sold Lucasfilm to Disney, and with it, all rights to the Star Wars franchise. Fan reaction has been mixed, but as someone who has hated almost everything Star Wars related that has come out since 1999, I can only think of this as a good thing.

Before we get to Disney's promise of an Episode VII in 2015, let's talk about what Disney is best at: merchandising. In recent years, Star Wars merchandising has gotten a little ridiculous, coming to a peak most recently with Star Wars Angry Birds. In the 70's and 80's, film merchandising was a new art form that Lucas basically invented himself. Action figures, novels, comic books, video games; before Lucas, these kinds of things were not usually made for movies. When he made Star Wars, he retained the merchandising rights, and made his fortune off of them. It's not a stretch to say that the enduring popularity of the movies was because of synergy between the movies and the stuff you could buy during the three year stretches in between them. Due to the newness of the industry, there were a lot of odd, off-model type things that we'd only see today in the form of cheap, unlicensed foreign knock-offs. My friend got a Yoda's Christmas Diary one year. I tried to tell her that Yoda wouldn't celebrate Christmas, not only because Yoda was in a different religion, but that he predated the birth of Christ by a long, long time, but she didn't care. There were some silly cash grabs like C-3PO's breakfast cereal, but for the most part, the merchandise made you like the movies more and the movies made you want to buy more merchandise. But some time in the 2000's, Star Wars licensing changed. If I had to pinpoint a specific product, I'd point to Super Bombad Racing, a Mario Kart clone with Star Wars' most iconic characters with big bobble heads driving around go-karts. From the licensed satires by Family Guy and Robot Chicken, to the complete non-sequitur of Star Wars Angry Birds, Star Wars merchandising became jokes riffing on Star Wars, instead of cool things to inspire the imagination and extend the world. Darth Vader became a shill for Target and is now less an iconic movie villain and more an easy butt of "I'm making a reference so it's funny" humor.

Disney has built its empire off marketing its mascot, Mickey Mouse for almost a century. Despite the fact that he's barely been in any cartoons since the 1960's, he remains one of the world's most recognizable icons. And they even take risks with him every once in a while, like with recent video games, Kingdom Hearts and Epic Mickey. They've been relatively good stewards of the Muppets and Pixar, so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The real question though is, what will Episode VII be about? Lucas has gone back and forth over the years whether he had plans for a third Star Wars trilogy, but with this new business deal, he's back to his story of having outlines for them, and he's sticking to it. What little we know of the sequel trilogy seems to have been made obsolete by Return of the Jedi, as the few details told to us by producer Gary Kurtz involved Luke confronting the Emperor and meeting his sister, who is not Princess Leia. Some have hoped for film adaptations of Timothy Zahn's Thrawn series, the well regarded trilogy of books that take place after Return of the Jedi, involving Luke, Han, and Leia defeating the last remnants of the Empire. Disney has said that the new movies will be brand new not be adaptations of anything and the actors are about thirty years too old anyway. So assuming that Episode VII takes place after Jedi and won't directly involve the main characters of the original trilogy, who could it be about? Luke had a son, and Leia and Han had three kids in the books. But does anyone at Lucasfilm care? While Lucas has used certain elements from the expanded universe, like the name of Coruscant taken from the Thrawn series, he's also never been afraid to totally contradict it, like rewriting Boba Fett's original origin story or wiping the 80's Droids cartoon from canon entirely.

I think that someone else taking the reins will new life into Star Wars. Empire Strikes Back, widely regarded as the best of the series, had the least involvement from Lucas. My main hope for the new movies is that they try to get back to the swashbuckling fun of the original Star Wars. That story of a young man from the middle of nowhere going on an adventure, meeting colorful characters, and saving the galaxy appeals to me much more than a bunch of guys in a cult waging a pointless war. More blasters, less lightsabers. Less moping, more swinging on things. Less meetings on couches, more adventure.

There's only one prediction that I can make that I have any faith in at all. It's that these new movies will feature R2-D2 and C-3PO. Lucas has said that the series was to be told through the eyes of the droids, although that became less important to him in the prequels, as they're not around for a good chunk of the action, and the main characters mostly act like they don't exist. The appearance of these two beloved characters will help link the new movies with the old. That and R2 works cheap.

PS: I can understand why this story was rejected, as I spend most of it talking about merchandising and have no real insight into what's actually going to happen next. Since I wrote this, Harrison Ford has expressed a vague interest in reprising Han Solo, and maybe Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have said something too, I'm not going to check. They've also revealed who's writing it, and he's some Pixar guy, so things are looking up.


Posted by Will at 9:18 AM | Comments ()

October 27, 2012

One month in Kenya and transportation

My one month anniversary for living in Kenya was two days ago. I feel like my brain has gotten out of "what a crazy adventure I'm on" mode and it's more into "this is what my life is like now" mode. So in honor of that anniversary, I'm finishing this post about transportation that I started two weeks ago and never finished.

I've never made it a secret that I dislike New York City buses. They're confusing, undependable, and I can often walk faster than them.

So with that in mind, let me introduce you to the main form of Nairobi public transportation, the matatu:

That's what I take into work every day. If you think way back into your head of stereotypes of Africa, you might think of like twenty guys packed into a small van, maybe with a guy hanging out side. That's a matatu. They're usually pretty packed, sometimes smelly, sometimes with loud music, and very hard to get in and out of for anyone over six feet. The price to and from work varies a bit, from 20 shillings (a Kenyan shilling is about equal to a US cent, give or take), to 60 shillings. It depends on a number of things, time of day, which route I'm taking, and whether the guy taking the money decides to charge me extra because he figures I either don't know any better or that I can afford it and won't put up a fight for a few dimes.

Traffic here is chaos. I didn't see a stop sign or a traffic light for my first two weeks here. The first time I saw a traffic light was as my cabbie sped through a red light as if it weren't even there. A few years back, I remember there was a news item that there was a guy in the US who had to cross a six lane highway everyday to get to work, and one day got hit by a car. Because of where the matatu drops me off, I have to do the same thing, and so do a lot of other people, and it's a miracle that anyone survives. They just completed a huge green walkway over the street by my office so that you don't have to walk across all the traffic, but no one uses it, and everybody just runs across the street anyway.

I've also taken a boda-boda.

They're basically small motorcycle cabs that you ride on the back of and hang on for dear life, sometimes with a helmet, sometimes not. My first ride on one was my first ride on a motorcycle ever. I wasn't sure what to do with my hands. Wrapping them around the driver seemed a little intimate for someone I had just met, even though I wanted to. They go pretty fast and you really feel like you could just slide off at any moment. But I just held onto the seat, and was later told that was actually the safest thing to do.

That's it for now, this weekend is the Kenya Film Festival. I saw a one short and one feature documentary last night, I'll probably see one or two movies today. Toodles!

Posted by Will at 12:30 PM | Comments ()

October 16, 2012

Kenyan Prostitutes

I've had two experiences with prostitutes in New York. Both in the early 2000's. The first, I was walking somewhere in Manhattan with some friends when a woman came up to us and asked if we wanted to party. We said no. The second (and to be honest, I'm not really sure if this lady was a prostitute or just weird) came up to me on the street because she thought she saw me at the party she was just at, and then proceeded to talk to me about something or other and suggested that we go to the nearby bodega, get beer, and go back to my place. I told her that I was only buying orange juice and going home, but she was insistent and followed me all the way until I actually paid for the orange juice, after which she left without a word. The irony of it was I actually had intended to buy beer and I had to go home with just the juice.

But today on the way home from work, I went to the place where I pick up the matatu (vans used for public transportation that I'll elaborate more on in another post). When I asked which one was going Agha Kahn (the stop near my apartment), I was told to go to one with only two women sitting in it. They started chatting me up, asking me where I was from, what I was doing here, what my name was, etc. This kind of interest in me from Kenyans was uncommon, but I was polite and answered their questions.

Then a guy came up to the side of the matatu and asked me if I liked his girls. "Are these your girls?" I asked. The three of them laughed. "This isn't going to Agha Kahn, is it." They laughed again.

"What, are you married or something?" the guy asked me. I told him no and got up to leave the vehicle, but someone from the other side shut the door. I couldn't reach the handle and it was one of those "now I'm in trouble" moments, but one of the women opened the door for me, and nicely showed me to the correct matatu.

The End

Posted by Will at 1:24 PM | Comments ()

October 13, 2012

If you like Looper, you lack critical thinking skills.

I know I promised more about Africa, but whatever, I'm talking about Looper now.

Here are some questions about Looper.

1) Why do criminals send people they want killed to the past? Joseph Gordon-Levitt says it's hard to dispose of bodies of the future. Harder than operating a time machine? Do they not have forests in the future? Or tubs of acid? Why don't they send them to outer space? Why don't they send them a hundred years in the future where they can't go back and kill you when you're a kid?
2) This is the best use of time travel that future criminals have come up with? Have they not seen Timecop?
3) Why don't they kill people before sending them back? Or at least sedate them?
4) Why would you ask someone to kill their future self? If a looper knew that was coming eventually, wouldn't they be a little hesitant to kill whoever is under the sheet? Wouldn't it be easier to get a different looper to do it? Isn't it very probable that someone would let their future self go?
5) Why do they kill future loopers? Bruce Willis has been living peacefully for say, thirty years, without causing any trouble, without ratting anyone out, spending his pile of gold. Wouldn't it make sense to leave him alone? Wouldn't giving him a big pile of gold give him the ability to hide from whoever wanted to kill him?

I do not like that movie.

Posted by Will at 5:52 AM | Comments ()

October 1, 2012

Kenya: Week One

I've been trying to collect my thoughts about my trip so far and to figure out a way to write it all down without sounding like some doofy white guy who's never spent any significant amount of time out of New York State, but whatever, that's what I am, so here goes.

1) Poverty. It's one thing to know that it exists, but it's another thing to be thrown right into the middle of it. Just on my cab ride from the airport to my apartment, three different women with babies came up to the car and asked for money. This morning I saw a guy washing his clothes in a drainage ditch. And it's all not that far from decadent places that from the inside are indistinguishable from a fancy bar in New York. The funny thing is, people who have been here for longer than me say that what I've seen isn't that bad, so I'm not sure what to think.

2) Crime. My apartment building, and most apartments around where I live, look like fortresses. They have ten foot walls with barbed wire at the top, and a gate with at least one guard posted at all times. I've also been warned not to go out at night by almost everyone I've met. The severity of these warnings make it sound like zombies come out of the ground when sun sets. If you want to go somewhere after dark, you get a cab, and not just any ol' cab, because some guys will just kidnap you, so you need a go-to cab guy to call. My second night here I saw Nairobi Half Life, which is a great movie, and from what I hear, has a good chance at an Oscar for best foreign film. But damn, that is not the movie to see you your second night here. The movie basically paints Nairobi as a place where at any given moment, in any given place, a guy might just come up to you and take all your stuff, maybe kill you, and there's nothing you can do about it. But so far I've been fine, and I'm being careful, so don't worry.

3) Weather. Surprisingly tolerable. I wear basically what I would at home. Sometimes I even wear a sweatshirt. Since most of you are probably coming from facebook, you've probably already seen this, but here's me in front of the clinic with a donkey.

Also, in un-Kenya related news, here's the trailer for Movie 43, the movie that contains the sequel to Robin's Big Date. It's coming out shortly after I get back to the US in January.

Sadly, you only get a second of Justin as Robin in there, but here's an article from Entertainment Weekly, where you get some stills.

'Movie 43' co-director Peter Farrelly praises comedic Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts -- EXCLUSIVE

Interesting to note is that in the picture, someone digitally removed Batman's ears and replaced his logo with a 43. For legal reasons, I guess. Weird.

Anyway, lots more to say about Kenya, so stick around.

Posted by Will at 11:29 AM | Comments ()

September 24, 2012

Off to Kenya

For those of you who don't know, I'm leaving today to go to Nairobi, Kenya for three months to volunteer for Jacaranda Health, a maternal health organization, writing code and doing tech support and whatever else they can find for me to do. The reason I can do this is because I've been at my job at Meetup for seven years, and I get a three month paid sabbatical.

I rarely go abroad and have never been to Africa. I don't think I've even left New York City for more than a few days in the past decade. So this'll be a big change for me.

People are surprised when I tell them what I'm doing, and I don't blame them. I've never voiced any interest in volunteering or Africa, and I really have no interest in children until they're old enough to talk about Pokemon. But, I wanted to take advantage of sabbatical, and I thought I'd go a little stir crazy without working for three months, so that on top of the fact that it would be nice to get out of the city for once, along with giving something back to the world made it seem like the thing to do.

My friend Veronica, who works with Doctors Without Borders, put my name out into that community, and the guys from Jacaranda Health got in touch, and a couple months later, I was packing my bags. The question I get asked the most, once we get the basics out of the way is, "How long's the flight?" Which seems like a weird and boring question, and one I also don't know the answer to, but whatever. I guess I'll find out today.

I really don't know what to expect, but I'll be updating this blog more than I usually do (which, I know, isn't saying that much), so watch this space.

Posted by Will at 12:18 PM | Comments ()

July 31, 2012

People who are 34, like me.

George Jetson
Rocky in Rocky III
Bill Murray in Ghostbusters

Thank you for your time.

Posted by Will at 11:06 PM | Comments ()