Had a bit of an incident today at the supermarket. Well, not an incident really, but a potential one. I had just put a bag of powdered sugar into my cart when I noticed the bag had a small hole in it. As I picked it up, I noticed that the sugar had gotten on some items in the cart onto the sleeve of my black jacket. My first thought was, “oh crap, some upstanding, bacteriophobic** citizen is going to see me with white powder all over myself and the next thing you’ll know, I’ll be surrounded by large men with large guns wearing protective biosuits screaming at me to put my bag of anthrax down.” Luckily, I was able to get the powdered sugar all cleaned up before that happened.
** Turns out there’s a phobia for everything.
Passing along some interesting-looking books about Web design and development. Haven’t read any of them…just passing them along is all:
- New Masters of Photoshop by Mike Cina, etc.
- Fresh Styles for Web Designers: Eye Candy from the Underground by Curt Cloninger
- Web Redesign: Workflow That Works by Kelly Goto & Emily Cotler
The last one looks especially interesting; perhaps the long-awaited update and upgrade to David Siegel’s Secrets of Successful Sites?
Steven Johnson’s Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (first chapter) is not a landmark or groundbreaking book (and it’s not supposed to be), but it got me more excited about thinking about the world than any book in recent memory. Emergence is a good introduction to “complex adaptive systems that display emergent behavior” or, as Wired magazine puts it, “How Dumb Components Give Rise To Smart Systems”. Highly recommended, if only for the bibliography.
Reviews of Emergence: NY Times, The Guardian, Wired magazine, Village Voice, LA Times, Chris Locke, Amazon
Related online material by Steven Johnson:
Play It As It Learns, The Swarm Next Time, Interview with Will Wright, Why Everything Is All That, Interview with Deborah Gordon, Interview with Mitch Resnick, Interview with Richard Rogers, Interview with Steven Pinker.
While reading Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines, I found the following passage related to terrorism (in a conversation about Ted Kaczynski):
Molly: “I’m still not comfortable with Kaczynski as a spokesperson. He is a confessed murderer, you know.”
Kurzweil: “Certainly, I’m glad he’s behind bars, and his tactics deserve condemnation and punishment. Unfortunately, terrorism is effective, and that’s why it survives.”
M: “I don’t see it that way. Terrorism just undermines the positions being publicized. People then see the terrorist’s propositions as crazy, or at least misguided.”
K: “That’s one reaction. But remember the society of the mind. We have more than one reaction to terrorism. One contingent in our heads says ‘those actions were evil and crazy, so the terrorist’s thesis must also be evil and crazy.’ But another contingent in our heads takes the view that ‘those actions were extreme, so he must have very strong feelings about this. Maybe there’s something to it. Perhaps a more moderate version of his views are legitimate.’”
The folks behind the DotGNU Project are attempting to build a free software version of Microsoft’s .NET (not an implementation of .NET, but rather a replacement). Addressing the concerns of some .NET critics, “DotGNU will use a decentralized paradigm: No single company, server or entity will control authorization. Secondly DotGNU will emphasize security, it will use encryption wherever possible to keep user data secure and hidden.” It would be nice if something like this took off; I’m a little wary of Microsoft’s motives concerning the storage & access of my personal data. If a system of this kind can be decentralized and secure, why not make it that way?
The Ampelmännchen (pictured at left): “Our country has vanished, our cultural and social institutions have collapsed, our old, familiar consumer products have long since disappeared, but you can’t take away our Ampelmännchen, particularly when he is not only cute, but clearly superior from a design perspective.”
SauteWednesday is an interesting food/cooking weblog that looks like it’s just getting going. I love these vertical weblogs. The sidebar links alone are worth the trip for those that enjoy food.
This would be useful: a Perl script that crawls through old weblog postings, finds all the broken links, and replaces those with links to the archived versions in the Wayback Machine archive (from the correct time period, of course). Such a script would be pretty useful to run over your site every few weeks, just to freshen things up.
People are selling some of the infamous Flordia voting machines from the past US presidential election on eBay, sample ballots and all (more here). I guess this is your chance to own a bit of American history.
If you run a company or are in change of managing anyone, you *need* to read Peopleware : Productive Projects and Teams (reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4). The book was first published in 1987, but surprisingly few of the several companies I’ve had experience with over the past few years have applied the knowledge contained within; in fact, that’s pretty much why I left my last job. There’s so much good info in the book that it’s hard to pick out some examples (I want to excerpt the entire part of the book on the office environment), but here are a couple snippets I found particularly interesting:
- “If you find yourself concentrating on the technology rather than the sociology, you’re like the vaudeville character who loses his keys on a dark street and looks for them on the adjacent street because, as he explains, ‘The light is better there.’”
- “We all tend to tie our self-esteem strongly to the quality of the product we produce — not the quantity of product, but the quality. Any step you take that may jeopardize the quality of the product is likely to set the emotions of your staff directly against you.”
- “Your people bring their brains with them every morning. They could put them to work for you at no additional cost if only there were a small measure of peace and quiet in the workplace.”
I saw a German version of Jeff Veen’s Art & Science of Web Design in a Berlin bookstore.
Possible titles for my autobiography, thought of just now in the bathroom: “Dear Manufacturer, My New Toothbrush Doesn’t Fit Into My Toothbrush Holder” or “The Shower Always Gets Cold When It Comes Time To Rinse The Shampoo From My Hair”.
I’m contemplating answering the “Home Typists Needed Immediately!!” email I got this morning with a request for information concerning salary and benefits.
Possible new tagline for kottke.org: “locked in a cabbage battle”.
If you’re looking for a lot of bang for your online advertising buck, you should consider trying out MetaFilter’s TextAds. Ads are priced at $2 per thousand impressions, with a minimum of 5000 impressions. MetaFilter, on the whole, gets a fair amount of what I would call discerning traffic, people who are on the lookout for new and interesting things (or something like that).
One possible use for TextAds: drop a measly $10 (for 5000 impressions) on an ad featuring your personal Web site or weblog. Getting readership for personal Web sites can be difficult; TextAds might be a quick and easy way to jumpstart the process.
My last day at B-Swing was more than a year ago. I miss it still.
Home from Berlin. Lagging badly (up at 5am this morning). Sorting thru email, I’ll get to yours shortly. Some pictures, reading recommendations, and lots of ideas to share.
Some interesting new maps of London from Quickmap. The Tube map in particular tries to give a little more information about the geographical location of the stops than does the traditional Tube map, which (to its credit) emphasizes relationships over location. The animated bus routes are quite interesting as well. via sir blackbeltjones (who I really need to add to my sidebar when I get back).
Speaking of, compare and contrast Dogme95, Dogme 00, Dogma 2001: A Challenge to Game Designers, and WebDogme 01. (Side note: given the nature of Dogme95, their image-heavy, framed site — complete with worthless splash page — is an interesting contrast.)
From Requiem for a Cheerleader: Silicon Alley Magazine Is Dead: “You can’t have a magazine about unemployed people. You can’t have a magazine about people who are taking time off.” May I suggest to Mr. Calacanis that his magazine, along with most of the other Internet-oriented magazines published in past 3-4 years that have now — or are in the process of — going down the tubes, completely missed the point about the Internet.
The business and financial aspects of the Internet boom were interesting, but there was so much more there. The NY Times, Wired Magazine, and Wired News (among others) understood that and offered more (and continue to offer more) than just IPO news and stories on how much dot com executives make. Maybe now that the financial side of things isn’t that interesting anymore, the remaining publications will focus more on the aspects of the Internet that are still interesting**.
** Just so I don’t get a ton of email saying, “Well Mr. Smartypants, what is so damn interesting about the Internet then?”, there’s a whole lot to be said about how the Internet (and more generally, technology) is affecting the people who use it and how, in turn, that’s affecting society at large. Michael Lewis, author of Next: The Future Just Happened, has written several articles for the NY Times in this vein:
- Boom Box: “The new technology from Tivo and replay provides the ultimate in television convenience. It will also spy on you, destroy prime time and shatter the power of the mass market.”
- Jonathan Lebed: Stock Manipulator, S.E.C. Nemesis — and 15: The Internet and the increased power of the individual.
- Faking It: The Internet Revolution Has Nothing to Do With the Nasdaq: “If the Internet was giving the world a shove in a certain direction, it was probably because the world already felt inclined to move in that direction. The Internet was telling us what we wanted to become.”
It’s been a month. Things still aren’t back to normal. That might be a good thing.
I’m off to Berlin for 10 days or so. Meg is speaking at the Wizards of OS conference there, and I’m tagging along (there’s Jason, riding along on someone else’s coat tails yet again). Through the magic of technology, kottke.org will still be updated sporadically while I’m away, although I probably won’t be answering any email for a couple weeks or so. Auf wiedersehen!
The Food Network has entered our home. I watched a whole hour of it the other day, a show called Emeril Live. It was like entering another world. People were cheering butter. Cheering butter! And garlic. And cream. He added butter to everything he cooked…and people were beside themselves with joy.
And don’t even get me started on Iron Chef. I know, I know, I’m seriously behind the curve on this one, but this is my new favorite TV show, surpassing even Let’s Bowl. There’s nothing about the show that I don’t like. And I’m usually wary of US versions of shows originating in other countries, but UPN is producing Iron Chef USA with William Shatner as the host. If it’s even half as good as I’m thinking, it’s going to be the best thing on earth, ever.
He liked Perl. She liked quilting. To impress her, he wrote some Perl programs to generate all the possible quilt blocks of a certain type, the output of which is shown here. When they got married, she made the program output into a quilt for him as a wedding gift.
Coping.org has a large list of resources on coping with the 9.11.01 aftermath.
Jesus. Now there’s a possible epidemic happening in Afghanistan involving an Ebola-style virus? Please, please, please don’t let this be terrorist related.
Jets crashing down around us, Jews killing Palestinians, terrorists killing civilians, Palestinians killing Jews, half of Africa infected with AIDS, millions suffering in Afghanistan, nuclear threats resurfacing, possible biological disasters. I don’t think I ever quite appreciated the unique status my generation has enjoyed in America up until now, never having fought a war or had its freedom or autonomy or lives challenged in any meaningful way, not compared with the rest of the world. I’m starting to appreciate it in a big way now. I want my innocence back, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
This was the face of Afghanistan: “These photos were taken in December, 1978, when Afghanistan had a socialist government, backed by the Soviets. I was an overland traveler. Iran was in turmoil, and closed right behind us. Afghanistan was on the brink of a future nobody could have then imagined.” via Steve.
Doc Searls responded to my post from yesterday with some interesting thoughts.
You may have noticed (or perhaps you didn’t) that I haven’t been talking about the Current Situation much lately. It’s not that I’m becoming apathetic or have been somehow desensitized to the whole thing. Far from it in fact. I saw video of the second plane ramming into the WTC for the first time in a couple weeks and all the grief, incredulity, and pain bubbled right up to the surface again…not that it was very far from the surface to begin with.
The problem I’m having is with the (intrinsic?) nature of news coverage itself. In the early stages of a situation like this, the news comes fast and hard and for the most part, unfiltered. It was mostly facts…there was actual reporting going on. Some of the reporting was crappy, and some of it was even dead wrong, but on the whole, it seemed honest and human and generally from a place of truth.
Now the spin and the analysis phase has set in. The PR machines of our government, large corporations, special interest groups, various agencies, and political parties have had time to mobilize. Everyone now has an “angle” appropriate to their political/corporate/religious/cultural affiliation. It feels like I’m not hearing the truth from humans anymore, I’m hearing careful crafted and sanitized PR from government/company/agency/media spokespeople. Perhaps it’s my fault for immediately distrusting spin, but I just don’t see how I can believe anything I’m hearing or take any notice of the analysis going on because it’s based on incomplete and faulty information.
Does that make sense? I know I’m probably not explaining this very well…and hopefully this analogy won’t make it any worse: I feel like I’m the last person in a giant game of telephone in which most of the participants are deliberately modifying the message so that when I actually do receive it, there’s little of the original message left. And I don’t feel like playing anymore.
However - and this is a hell of a however - I’ve decided that I’m going to try to ignore that instinct to give up. I’m going to continue to read and watch and listen to all the coverage out there with a critical mind. It’s important to me as a functioning part of humanity that I stay educated about what is going on around me. The world is a crazy place, but if I can understand just a bit of it, I can keep myself sane and who knows, maybe even help a few of my fellow citizens out.
Network. What a great movie (reviews), probably in my top 10 of all time. Hollywood should be proud that they once upon a time made this movie, but should not be so proud that they haven’t made one like it in quite awhile.
And thank you to everyone for their kind birthday wishes last week. I appreciate it. :)
Amazon has improved their Associates service once again (I detailed the last improvement back in May). When they first rolled out Amazon Recommends, the only list you could make was one based upon an associate’s sales history, a highly useful list, but one that didn’t quite cover all the bases. Now Amazon lets you build lists based upon bestsellers and keywords. Here are a few lists I whipped up quickly to illustrate the utility of the new service.
(You still can’t easily brand the thing (it would stick out like a sore thumb in the sidebar of my site), which is annoying but probably never going to change.)
(Also, several of the lists I set up this weekend appear to be broken now. Looks like they may be having some problems with the system. Just ignore the busted ones for now.)
Anyone want to buy a car? I’m selling my mom’s car on eBay (here’s the listing for it) because she got a new car and needs to get rid of her old one. It’s a 2000 Saturn SL2 sedan, low miles, very well maintained, located within driving distance of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I’d say that it’s your typical little old lady’s car, but my mom would probably get mad at me. ;) If you’re interested, go bid or drop me an email.
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