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Allen Varney
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Lives in Ithaca, New York
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Allen Varney

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A Redditor cross-indexed the movie scores on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb to produce lists of critically overrated, critically underrated, and unjustly obscure great films. Don't miss the analysis charts of average movie length over time, etc.

http://rpiai.com/movies/analysis.html
Ratings are pretty well distributed, and most are better than the rating average (a rating of "5"). Ratings are well correlated between databases. Mean ratings have slowly been changing over time, depending on the audience. Mean ratings may have been changing because of the greater prevalence of ...
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That is really strong.
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Allen Varney

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"HAIR SLIDE, CHOCOLATE SAUCE, WAFFLE IRON, COMBINATION LOCK, ODOMETER, MAGNETIC COMPASS" -- machine intelligence's tentative identification of objects in the introduction to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFVB5rnqjyY
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I really want to watch the episode where an enigmatic space god uses a ringed planet as a plectrum to rock out on his space god guitar.
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When you need to foster financial panic, Business Insider is on the job.

http://www.businessinsider.com/
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I was told there would be pie. 
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"Food has replaced music at the heart of the cultural conversation for so many, and I wonder if it's because food and dining still offer true scarcity whereas music is so freely available everywhere that it's become a poor signaling mechanism for status and taste. If you've eaten at Noma, you've had an experience a very tiny fraction of the world will be lucky enough to experience, whereas if you name any musical artist, I can likely find their music and be listening to it within a few mouse clicks. [...] The food scene today offers a seemingly never-ending supply of scarce experiences, ingredients, and dishes. Cronuts you have to wait in line for a few hours to get your hands on. Pop-up restaurants that serve only on a few nights a week for a few weeks, then disappear forever. Restaurants that you have to sacrifice a goat to just to get a reservation, and then they'll actually take that goat you killed and prepare your entire dinner from it, nose to tail. A white truffle add-on that tacks $80 on to a single piece of cured hamachi, and oh, the truffle is only available for four weeks a year and came over on a gondola from Alba, Italy, and the hamachi is one of the last of three members of its species so you know, you should probably try it before -- oops, sorry, the chef says someone just ordered the last of it. Yep, it's that couple at the corner table, and that's the last plate that she's Instagramming right now." (Eugene Wei):

http://www.eugenewei.com/blog/2015/8/18/cuisine-and-empire
Great episode of the podcast Econtalk featuring guest Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire, an instant purchase for me. Host Russ Roberts has a fascinating diversity of guests on his show, but always takes an interesting angle into the conversation, one that is driven a lot but not entirely by economics. Some of my favorite moments from this episode. First, on the history of the potato, and just think about how many ideas are ...
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"If McDonald's has been the 600 lb. gorilla of American dining in the past several decades, perhaps Chipotle is a more suitable totem of this current age. [...] Chipotle serves an ethnic food, derived from one of our largest immigrant populations, but transformed into something palatable for the masses, claiming to be sourced with only GMO-free, organic ingredients, served in franchises that are clean if somewhat generic, available in the places we inhabit, from cities to suburbs to highway stops. [...] Chipotle represents something America does better than any country, this assimilation of the world's people and ideas and then a subsequent radiation of that back out to the world in a form more agreeable to the masses."
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"Everyone was talking about the news. Everyone was watching and reading the news. There was a sense, in those weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, that Americans were all in this together, preparing, girding, for what we didn’t know. And maybe it’s crazy, but we grew closer to each other, kinder, as we all participated in this event as one country. [...] We elected a man who loves to name things after himself, but all we named after him is the 'Trump Recession.' He’ll be remembered for that forever. The irony was almost worth the price.

"And maybe it was a price the American people had to pay. Maybe Trump was a mirror, and we hated him because we hated what we saw in our reflection. We were coasting and knew it. A generation of elites prized shamelessness and ambition over virtue. Our newness and pride as a nation didn’t protect us from decadence, but it did allow us to ignore it, glued to our grievances and our phones as our culture and politics grew ever more brittle and shallow and crass.

"In the end, Trump is what America had earned. Trump is what America deserved. Trump was our reckoning. And while his rise to power was born of our failings, it also forced us to find our strength. It’s amazing how adaptable we are as human beings, isn’t it? Trump saved us." (Jon Lovett, Atlantic):

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/the-election-of-donald-trump/401579/
“Relations with Mexico remain tense.” A dispatch from the future.
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Neocon thinktanks are gaming Google search results. Type "Seattle minimum wage" into Google, and you'll get a card inaccurately saying it's $15/hour; in fact Seattle's minimum wage is $11, not $15. "The search was fooled by what looked like an authoritative factual article, but was in fact a commentary filled with misleading information. The conservative site Western Journalism has incorrectly written about this in March, and again in July and numerous times since. [...] Western Journalism describes itself as 'a news website and blogging platform built for conservative, libertarian, free market and pro-family writers and broadcasters.' Fox News, PJ Media, Breitbart, TownHall and others dominate the Google minimum wage search results, which also includes a post by the Seattle’s mayor’s office and the Washington Post. Indeed, most of the sources cited on the first page of search results include other conservative outlets that repeat the same false statements about Seattle's minimum wage." (Barry Ritholtz, BloombergView):

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-08-19/gaming-google-for-profit-and-ideology
Political fellow travelers have learned from the spammers.
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I dare say Google will be interested to fix this now it's been pointed out to them.
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Have him in circles
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Allen Varney

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"But during one 30-year period -- between 1890 and 1860 BC -- for one community in the town of Kanesh, we know a great deal. Through a series of incredibly unlikely events, archaeologists have uncovered the comprehensive written archive of a few hundred traders who left their hometown Assur, in what is now Iraq, to set up importing businesses in Kanesh, which sat roughly at the center of present-day Turkey and functioned as the hub of a massive global trading system that stretched from Central Asia to Europe. Kanesh’s traders sent letters back and forth with their business partners, carefully written on clay tablets and stored at home in special vaults. Tens of thousands of these records remain. One economist recently told me he would love to have as much candid information about businesses today as we have about the dealings -- and in particular, about the trading practices -- of this 4,000-year-old community. [...]

"The picture that emerged of economic life is staggeringly advanced. The traders of Kanesh used financial tools that were remarkably similar to checks, bonds and joint-stock companies. They had something like venture-capital firms that created diversified portfolios of risky trades. And they even had structured financial products: People would buy outstanding debt, sell it to others and use it as collateral to finance new businesses. The 30 years for which we have records appear to have been a time of remarkable financial innovation.

"It’s impossible not to see parallels with our own recent past. Over the 30 years covered by the archive, we see an economy built on trade in actual goods -- silver, tin, textiles -- transform into an economy built on financial speculation, fueling a bubble that then pops. After the financial collapse, there is a period of incessant lawsuits, as a central government in Assur desperately tries to come up with new regulations and ways of holding wrongdoers accountable (though there never seems to be agreement on who the wrongdoers are, exactly). The entire trading system enters a deep recession lasting more than a decade. The traders eventually adopt simpler, more stringent rules, and trade grows again." (New York Times Magazine):

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/magazine/the-vcs-of-bc.html
A cache of clay tablets provides an unusual look at an ancient but strikingly familiar-looking economy — and confirms a modern truth about trade.
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How absolutely fantastic!
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Honorary college degrees, like Life Achievement Awards and other such "honors," are basically moneymaking/publicity exercises. "Aside from stroking the intellectual egos of wealthy donors, many universities see the honorary degree process as an opportunity to score some free publicity. There is perhaps no greater example of this than when New York’s Southhampton College awarded an honorary doctorate in 'amphibious letters' to Kermit the Frog in 1996. In the aftermath, 31 newspapers picked up the story, resulting in a 'free marketing bonanza that raised the college’s profile and drew hundreds of new admissions.'" (Priceonomics):

http://priceonomics.com/why-do-colleges-give-out-honorary-degrees/
For more than 500 years, the honorary degree has provided an opportunity for colleges to build relationships with the rich, famous, and well-connected, in hopes of securing financial donations and cheap publicity.
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Seems like a better way to boost revenues than ratcheting up tuition and fees.
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The best short treatise on small-press RPG Kickstarters I've seen yet, posted by +Kevin Crawford of Sine Nomine Publishing (whose Kickstarter record is impeccable) on the RPG.net forum under the "Failstarter" topic:

"It is a very simple process for completing a successful small-publisher Kickstarter. It is by no means an easy process, but it is conceptually very simple.

"1) Complete the manuscript to final-edit condition.
   2) Do a rough layout or line up your layout designer, paying for a few pages of it to get the workflow clean and the rough concept acceptable.
   3) Line up your artists to fill the art slots, buying a slot from each beforehand to get art for your KS and get the lines of communication working.
   4) Launch the KS, offering no physical goods except for the book, and that via at-cost codes from DTRPG and not you personally printing and mailing it. Offer no stretch goals that require further creative work or that promise text you haven't written to final-edit condition.
   5) Collect your money. Subtract current expenses and save a third of the rest for taxes. Spend none of the rest on anything but project expenses until step 8.
   6) Wait for your art slots to get filled or your layout designer to finish the rest of the book, doing monthly audits to project likely completion date based on to-date progress.
   7) Email out the freebie .PDF codes and at-cost print POD codes to your backers.
   8) Win.

"If you have a finely-tuned team of writers, artists, and designers at your disposal or a practical understanding of physical goods fulfillment with contacts to match, then maybe you can get fancier than this. For a small publisher doing their first Kickstarter, however, anything more than the steps above is an invitation to disaster. Too few people are willing to take a modest success; they plan like they're going to be the second coming of Numenera and just don't know when to say 'I have enough now. I'll come back for more later.' They just don't understand that the most trivial physical addition -- a set of dice, some pencils, a keychain -- doesn't just add the physical object to the cost, it adds the burden of finding suppliers, coordinating delivery on time, and worst of all, an obligation for a single non-professional to handle hundreds of shipping orders, many of which might be international. Or they stack on stretch goals or promise a finished project they just sort-of-know how they're going to write, blithely confident the muse will sing to them on deadline. If you're Lester Dent, I'll buy that. The rest of us? Not so much.

"The friendship and fan-club aspect of the hobby makes Kickstarter backing a very emotionally-fraught process, where you're not just pre-ordering a widget, you're backing this great idea from your pal X you see on G+ or blogging all the time. And who wouldn't be understanding toward a friend? It's very hard for creators to simultaneously accept the existence of that hobby zeitgeist, to sell their project based on personality or community ties, and then turn around and shut off that attitude when it comes to delivering the goods. You need to pitch your project like a tent revival preacher and deliver like you were an auto production line subcontractor. Everybody loves you, but it is a very shallow love, and they really don't want to have to express it in putting up with delays they'd never accept from a conventional retailer." (RPG.net forum):

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?703645-Kickstarter-Failstarter-2-Failstopper&p=19315887#post19315887
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I'm not sure I have much more to add. This was basically how I started off. Lots of people have chimed in about how well this has worked every time for them. I'm throwing in my experience as someone for whom this idea of "edit-ready" manuscript turned out to be a big mistake in one instance. 
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"Network scientists have known about the paradoxical nature of social networks for some time. The most famous example is the friendship paradox: on average your friends will have more friends than you do. This comes about because the distribution of friends on social networks follows a power law. [...] Now [USC researcher Kristen] Lerman and co have discovered a related paradox, which they call the majority illusion. This is the phenomenon in which an individual can observe a behavior or attribute in most of his or her friends, even though it is rare in the network as a whole." (MIT Technology Review):

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/538866/the-social-network-illusion-that-tricks-your-mind/
Network scientists have discovered how social networks can create the illusion that something is common when it is actually rare.
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The paradox is that minority viewpoints can be numerically "proven" to be a majority -- at least in our perceptions.
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"Contagious yawning in our species has been strongly linked to empathy. We exposed 135 students, male and female, who completed the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R), to a yawning paradigm intended to induce a reactionary yawn. [...] We found that scores on the PPI-R subscale Coldheartedness significantly predicted a reduced chance of yawning. [...] These data suggest that psychopathic traits may be related to the empathic nature of contagious yawning in our species." (ScienceDirect):

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886915003645
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This is why Republican Presidential hopefuls never yawn.
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Writer and game designer based for many years in Austin, Texas; currently in Ithaca, New York.
Introduction
I've designed three published board games, the PARANOIA roleplaying game (2004 edition), and two dozen tabletop RPG supplements, and have written eight books. I co-wrote (with Warren Spector and Alex Duran) the original 300-page design document for the Nintendo Wii videogame Epic Mickey. Many major companies have commissioned Enspire Learning to run my business leadership simulation Executive Challenge. I wrote and packaged official PARANOIA novels under my own imprint, Ultraviolet Books. Currently I run a small bundle site, the Bundle of Holding.
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Survived as a freelance writer for over 20 years, a nontrivial challenge.
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Currently
Ithaca, New York
Previously
Austin, Texas - Topeka, Kansas - Cupertino, California - Reno, Nevada - Renton, Washington - Stone Town, Zanzibar - Cape Town, South Africa - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
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Allen Varney's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.