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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things I read

Sakura last days here... by fofurasfelinas from flickr (CC-NC-ND)As some people expressed interest in RSS feeds I follow, here they are.

For every feed I want to include some recent good item (if there's none, then obviously I should just unsubscribe). Standard fair use disclaimer here (some comics are explicitly CC-*, but most aren't; it's all legit fair use, no matter what Rupert Murdoch thinks).


First, I love webcomics, and there's plenty of those in my feed. Most of them are "one self-contained funny story per item" type, which work very well with RSS readers.

Abstruse Goose is sort of xkcd-ish, crudely drawn smart jokes about science and pop culture, less obsessed with girls than xkcd, and without mouse-over tooltips. calls itself "Comics. Often dirty.", and is exactly that. Most of it is NSFW, so if you need something to read while sipping a morning coffee in the office, and waking up, it's probably not it. This sample is from quite far back, not because more recent ones weren't good, but because it was hard to find one that was SFW. It's also very nicely drawn, unlike most comics here.
Cyanide & Happiness is an extremely well known comics, strangely with multiple people drawing it, all in more or less the same style. I'll use this opportunity to rant about one infuriating thing about their RSS feed is that very often comics get into RSS feed before they get live on their website (it happened like 4 times just last month).
Order of the Stick is something completely different - instead of being "one funny a day", it actually has a multi-year story of a team of adventurers playing Dungeons&Dragons-inspired campaign and making fun of the rules as they go. Well, at first it was "make fun of D&D vaguely connected strips" format, I think it got significantly worse as it tried to get serious, and most of the humour is about OotS characters, not D&D. Here's one really old strip that you'll get even if you don't follow OotS.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is another one of those good funny comics - it delivers daily, and has fairly mainstream appeal.
xkcd probably got more cult following than any other webcomics ever. In addition to fans, there are blogs of xkcd hate, and even RSS-able Web 2.0-style website Is xkcd shitty today - their answer always being YES, most often unfairly. It can get really cutesey and sad, or mindlessly evil, or philosophical, or anything else. There are many meciocre xkcds, but it reaches pure comics awesomeness level more often than any other comics I know. And don't forget the mouseover tooltips.
Zero Punctuation isn't really a webcomics - it's a weekly sarcastic video game review. It's universally loved as it tends to find faults in games and make fun of them, while most of the so called "reviewers" just rehash press releases. Here's one old review of one particularly good game:


All right, I sometimes read and not just look at pretty pictures.

538 is probably the only blog about political polling in existence. It has some highlight, such as predicting results of 2008 American elections much better than anyone else, and finding out that one polling firm was a total fraud, and all their results were fabricated.

It contains a mix of detailed analyses of particular elections (not terribly interesting, unless you happen to live there), criticism of bad polling and bad analysis, and probably most interesting of all - big picture view of shifts in public opinion. Unfortunately it's mostly about USA, and rarely writes about Europe and other places.

Less Wrong is a spin-off of Overcoming Bias, or what Overcoming Bias used to be before becoming Robin Hanson's personal blog. It's filled with insightful posts about human rationality, and biases in thinking, and philosophy of thought. It also has scary amount of discussion that's only understandable to insiders. Some examples:
There's plenty more, and I even sometimes post there.

Marginal Revolution is one of the Freakonomics-style "economics made fun, now with more anecdotes" blogs. It publishes insanely often, five posts a day pace is entirely typical. Unlike this blog, which gets more like five posts a month. A lot of it is reposts of interesting things they found somewhere else, what saves you from following too many feeds. Like repost of this bathroom scales that tweets your weight for all world to see as motivating factor, and experiments with placebo coffee.

Actually 90% of Marginal Revolution is reposts with tl;dr summaries, comments, and counter-arguments. It's pretty good this way. Sometimes they get into crazy libertarian mode, especially when discussing health care, but it doesn't happen that often.

Paul Krugman's blog, and New York Times column (which is like blog, just with longer posts). Krugman can get annoyingly dogmatic about whatever the left wing of Democratic Party believes at time, and often gets horribly "wonkish" about tiny details of macroeconomic analysis. Some good posts:
Krugman can be as bad as dogmatic libertarians, but at least it's bad in the opposite direction. It would be highly amusing if Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen were locked into one room for a week, and forced to Aumann.

Overcoming Bias used to be Eliezer's blog about rationality, then Eliezer moved to Less Wrong, and Overcoming Bias is all Robin Hanson's. Robin has three big ideas: everything people do is about signaling status, modern medicine doesn't work, and prediction markets are universal solution to every problem. Robin has way too many crazy libertarian moment, so if your libertarian-phobia is stronger than mine do not read. Some good recent posts:
Peak Oil Debunked used to fight peakoiler doomsdayers during their high days of doom. The doom didn't come, peakoiler movement sort of died, so there are few posts these days, but it was really good back then. Most posts are just facts and figures, something peakoilers hate with passion. (my recent post about geoengineering and its followup were in similar style)

Some nice posts:
Schneier on Security is probably the least controversial of blogs on my reading lists - most of them do politics from time to time, but it's hard to be angry at Schneier about anything. Some good posts:
And the last feed I follow - the War Nerd. Unfortunately it hasn't been posting much since The Decider left. He's way better at predicting course of events on the Middle East than the mainstream media - mostly because mainstream media is just rehashing White House press releases instead of doing any independent thinking. Some good pieces, most pretty old:
Plus countless pieces about Iraq and Afghanistan of course.

Enjoy your reading.


Anonymous said...

I think you might like , start from the beginning.

taw said...

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