Thursday, September 30, 2010

cool writing tool

A few months back I stumbled upon the Check Text Readability analyzer. This produces results of a reading ease score from 0 to 100, with higher scores being easier to read. It also produces several grade levels (number of years in school) according to various different methods, and shows an average score of those.

I entered the following text into the analyzer:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
This Robert Heinlein quote yields a grade level of 15 (i.e. third year college or tech school) and a reading ease of 36.

Let's see how the analyzer works on this gem:
But deep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined this Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the fa├žade of ``objectivity''. It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ``reality'', no less than social ``reality'', is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ``knowledge", far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities. These themes can be traced, despite some differences of emphasis, in Aronowitz's analysis of the cultural fabric that produced quantum mechanics; in Ross' discussion of oppositional discourses in post-quantum science; in Irigaray's and Hayles' exegeses of gender encoding in fluid mechanics; and in Harding's comprehensive critique of the gender ideology underlying the natural sciences in general and physics in particular.
This produced a readability of minus 32 and a grade level of 32 (i.e. in school from age 6 to 38). It is, in short, utter bovine excrement. And, that was the intention all along.

Curious, I entered other text and tried again. The famous Lorem Ipsum text produced a readability of minus 1 and a grade level of 19.

The Check Text Readability tool allows a writer to get a handle on the level of their writing, and can serve as a warning that the text is unnecessarily complex. Ideally the readability of any text will be as high as possible. The grade level of the audience can also be considered. For instance, if the target audience is teenagers the grade should be around around 8 to 12. Here's another sample from something I wrote three years ago:
So, what should NASA be doing, beyond just developing those enabling technologies? If they are going to go about doing the Vision for Space Exploration, then what is the better way to do it?

The solution is to decouple the mission from the implementation. It matters that it gets done, not that NASA does it or that the agency does it in a specific carved-in-stone way. NASA can't do it all by itself anymore, so it shouldn't even try. No more of this business of NASA building their own brand new launch vehicles and their own brand new manned capsules and their own brand new moon landers and their own brand new moonbases and micromanaging every detail. It is a brittle way of doing things, and the slightest hiccup in the yearly budget process or the slightest failure along that critical path brings everything to a screeching halt.
Grade 11 and 60 readability. It's simple enough for even a congressman to understand.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

deja vu

Here's Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus on CNBC early Friday morning, September 17th:




The part that rang a bell for me was from 4:27 to 5:39 -- "every day there's a new regulation... I can't plan"

(a week passes by...)

I was going to post this on the 18th, but I just couldn't put my finger on what it was that rang that bell about that phrase. Just now it occurred to me: it's 2010, and they probably number the new regulations in sequential order. Would we be up to directive 2010-289 yet? (Let's see... 30 days hath November... I guess we'll have to wait for October 16th for regulation 10-289, assuming a new one appears daily.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

no kidding

Via Instapundit, this:
they wanted "a natural life" but that they had ended up living "surrounded by wild animals".
I think my irony meter just exploded.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

from the department of "give your freaking head a shake"

Female reporter gets harassed in NY Jets locker room

Well, duh. Imagine the reaction if a male reporter was in the locker room of, for instance, the US Olympic synchronized swimming team. He'd be branded as a pervert and his career would basically be over. And now the NY Jets are apologizing to her?

Either you're equal or you're not. If not, get the hell out of the mens' locker room, stupid.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Apparently, they were right

... you can't stop the signal:

Browncoats: Redemption Online Premiere from browncoatsmovie on Vimeo.

A couple things to note:

First, this is a sequel to a five-year-old movie which wasn't exactly a blockbuster. Serenity didn't make back the producers' investment domestically, but foreign distribution and DVD sales helped it eventually make a profit. It was no Star Wars or Star Trek.

That movie was itself only made due to widespread fan support for Firefly, a TV series canceled after only thirteen episodes (while being preempted and bounced around the weekly schedule, and shown out of chronological order, with the pilot episode shown last).

Second, this is a feature-length fan-made film. It's all the result of donations and volunteer effort. Nobody's getting paid for this. Look at the production values. This is easily comparable to Star Trek Phase II.

With distribution like this blog and others, and with the film (and music) production and distribution tools available to everyone with a computer, are we seeing an end to the big entertainment empire system? Could it be that someone with a good story can get it made into a movie all by themselves? (and of course, collect all the merchandising profits, something the fans can't do in this case) It would be like unleashing a million Clerks-era Kevin Smiths making do on even smaller budgets or no budget at all.

I was a fan back in 2005, showed Firefly to anyone who would watch, was on the Browncoats forum, went to the bloggers' pre-screening of the movie Serenity, and have waited in vain for more.

And now after five years of nothing from the Universal Studios, the fans themselves stepped up to make a sequel.

Awesome.