Shaun Inman's Mint stats package contains a great easter egg. Just key in the Konami cheat code (up up, down down, left right, left right, b, a) and you're greeted with a custom graphic. More old school video game-inspired easter eggs on web sites please.
We have a new leader in the OCT 31
We have a new leader in the dumbest blog-related word/phrase competition: blogometric pressure.
The funny thing about TagTagger is that it probably would be useful to tag tags; it could help tag ecosystems like del.icio.us and Flickr better determine how tagged items are related. Think of it as defining tags...the tag "andywarhol" could be metatagged something like "andy warhol nyc artist person art popculture modernart".
Everyone's a Critic panel OCT 31
If you happen to be in NYC on November 3rd, stop by Eyebeam in the evening and check out a panel that I'm on about criticism called "Everybody's A Critic, Or Are They?" Here's a description:
With 9 million blogs, umpteen online message boards, thousands of shows on hundreds of cable channels, and an increased number of magazines on the newsstand, the number of outlets for expressing criticism has never been higher and the barriers to would-be critics have never been lower. Is this devaluing evaluation or does the shotgun approach result in better criticism? YOU be the Judge!
Joining me on the panel are Emily Gordon, Village Voice film critic Michael Atkinson, and Columbia professor & author Duncan Watts. The wonderful Steven Heller will moderate and no doubt bring the conversation to a higher level. Details:
November 3, 2005
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
540 W. 21st St.
New York, NY 10011
Jim Holt asks Freeman Dyson, Lawrence Krauss, Ed Witten and other in trying to figure out how the universe will end. Further reading: Time Without End by Freeman Dyson, Frank Tipler's Omega Point theory, and The Physics of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations by Michio Kaku.
The memoirs of Winston Churchill's bodyguard have been recently discovered. "Why, Thompson, did they allow the president [FDR], almost dying on his feet, to be there? All Europe will suffer from the decisions made at Yalta."
Pumpkin carved with winky emoticon ;) Awesome.
Needy software OCT 31
Found this in my inbox the other day:
Subject: Friendster Misses You
Date: October 30, 2005 11:09:14 AM EST
Subject: Friendster Loves You So Much. You Were The Only One Who Really Ever Understood Friendster. Could You Come Over Right Now? Friendster Just Wants To Talk. Why Don't You Want To Talk To Friendster? It'll Be Different This Time, Friendster Promises. Please Call Friendster.
Date: November 23, 2005 02:49:14 AM EST
George Dyson visits Google on the 60th anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer. A quote from a Googler -- "We are not scanning all those books to be read by people. We are scanning them to be read by an AI." -- highlights a quasi-philosophical question about Google Print...if a book is copied but nobody reads it, has it actually been copied? (Or something like that.)
Michael Bierut offers a requiem for the AT&T logo by Saul Bass. SBC is buying AT&T, keeping the name, but introducing a new logo.
Nerdy Halloween costumes alert: Ricky dressed as Google Image Search. I know someone out there is planning their Web 2.0 or folksonomy costume. Let's see it!
Syrupy sweet smell in Manhattan yesterday still unexplained. There were reports from all over the city, but air tests and investigations revealed very little.
Star Trek's Sulu, George Takei, comes out. First Swoopes and now this...the self esteem of young, gay, basketball-playing Trekkies must be skyrocketing. (I keed, but seriously, pro sports and sci-fi geeks could benefit from more confident & successful gay role models for young people who're feeling less than confident with their sexuality.)
Lots of email on this...it might be a fake/hoax.
For those of you who are Napoleon Dynamited out, how about a "Pedro Lacks Political Experience" tshirt?
A series of art projects based on Flickr. The Flickr tag cloud tshirt is clever; the printing on the shirts is reversed so that you can read them in the mirror..."the [Flickr user's] narrative is actually addressing himself while claiming to address others". (via ia)
Watching the World Series last week, Meg wondered, "why White/Red Sox and not Socks?" I knew that if we waited long enough, the Internet would come up with the answer. Bonus: the NY Yankees were once known as the Porchclimbers. Those rascals!
Photo gallery of an urban model railroad with scenes modeled after the streets and tracks of Philly, NJ, and NYC. The modeler even painted some tiny graffiti on some of the buildings and walls. (thx, malatron)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle OCT 27
I've been reading a fair amount of fiction lately, which is not typical for me. My usual regimen of nonfiction followed by even more nonfiction has been wearing on me and I read so much news and short nonfiction pieces in keeping up with kottke.org that I'm getting a little burned out. My latest foray into fiction has been great, a welcome reprieve from a schedule that has been a little brutal recently.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was especially good; I burned through it like I used to do with books when I was in high school. The lives of the characters in the book start out fairly normal but get more and more strange and unsettling as the action proceeds. But from my point of view as a reader, I was overcome by a growing sense of calm as I read. Maybe it was Murakami's quiet storytelling style, but I was especially struck by the duality of self theme running throughout the book. Many of the characters either had two distinct personalities (not in a schizophrenic sense...usually one personality before a dramatic event in their lives and a different one afterwards), talked of leaving their body & looking back on themselves, or had vague feelings that they should be someone else, that some other personality was inside them and couldn't reveal itself. This all ties into Japanese history & culture, eastern religion & philosophy, and Murakami's own experience, but I found it all personally reassuring, a reminder that you could change as a person and still essentially be who you were before or that stepping outside your normal self for a look 'round can be a healthy thing.
 I knew next-to-nothing about Murakami before picking up this book, but when I finished, I did a little poking around. Via Andrea Harner, here's an interview with him from 1997 in Salon. In it, you can definitely see how he feels disconnected with Japan, other Japanese writers, and from his past:
Because it's my father's story, I guess. My father belongs to the generation that fought the war in the 1940s. When I was a kid my father told me stories -- not so many, but it meant a lot to me. I wanted to know what happened then, to my father's generation. It's a kind of inheritance, the memory of it. What I wrote in this book, though, I made up -- it's a fiction, from beginning to end. I just made it up.
Several companies who manufacture digital cameras have issued "silent recalls" due to a faulty chip distorts photos when it fails. Sony, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and others are affected.
Digital Photography Review has more; here's the Nikon D2H & D70 advisory. (A "silent recall" isn't an official recall...the companies are only repairing items in which the faulty chips fail.)
You can now get prints of your photos from Flickr (in the US, more locations coming soon). You can also do a bunch of other things, like get books printed, back up your photos to DVD, and get stamps printed.
Our short national nightmare is over, Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination for the Supreme Court (her letter). However, our long national nightmare still has 1181 days to go.
Forbes has quite a large feature on the subject of communicating, with thoughts from Arthur C. Clarke, Carl Zimmer, Milton Glaser, Jane Goodall, etc. I haven't read any of this yet; it looks sufficiently interesting to get it in magazine form for easier reading.
An oddly shaped hill in Bosnia is a 10,000 year old pyramid, says Bosnian archeologist Semir Osmanagic. "The pyramid is 100 metres high and there is evidence that it contains rooms and a monumental causeway... The plateau is built of stone blocks, which indicates the presence at the time of a highly developed civilisation."
What the fizzle? While I was apparently living in a cave, Broken Social Scene came out with a new album. What's the skinny? Is it any good? You Forgot It In People was one of my favorite albums of the past two years.
Science triumphs again with the solution to the wobbly cafe table problem. Aside from a caveat or two, it's always possible to correct 4-legged table wobbliness by rotating the table until it's stable. (via cd, which is on fire lately)
US News & World Report has a list of 25 of America's best leaders. Condoleezza Rice, Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman, Bill & Melinda Gates, etc.
Speak Up critiques the covers on the recently released list of the 40 best magazine covers of the last 40 years. Chock full of snarky designy goodness. (thx armin)
Some fun images of advertising painted on fingernails. That's some seriously intricate work...love the soda pop nails.
New feature from Bank of America: Keep the Change. When you use your bank card, you can have your charges rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference automatically deposited into your savings account. I think this is the first neat thing I've ever seen a bank do. (via coudal)
R.W. Apple on the Las Vegas OCT 26
R.W. Apple on the Las Vegas dining scene and has great things to say about Joel Robuchon's return to haute cuisine. "During the tryouts preceding its official debut, the restaurant served the best food in Las Vegas, by a decisive margin, and some of the very best French food I have ever eaten on this continent."
Mr. Angry and Mrs. Calm is a OCT 26
Mr. Angry and Mrs. Calm is a great optical illusion...up close, she's on the right but switches to the left when you view it from far away. (via bb)
In-game space station recently purchased for $100,000. The game, Project Entropia, lets players earn real-world cash in the game, so it's not such a silly investment. (via cd)
Discover Magazine on a prototype of the fascinating 10,000-year clock being built by Danny Hillis and The Long Now Foundation. Here's more info on the prototype and some photos from its launch party.
Processing applet in which an adaptive population plays tag. "If a member plays tag well (when they're it, they tag others), they'll live longer." Prettiest game of tag I've ever seen. (via proc blogs where you'll find lots of neat Processing-related things)
PDF (2.3 Mb) of nifty infoviz graphs that show different improvisation styles for jazz greats Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, and John Coltrane. More here. Reminds me a little of Tufte's sparklines.
Interview with Jeff Bezos on Amazon's current activities. "We have always tried to be very clear with people that we are an appropriate company only for long-term-oriented investors."
Informal investigation of video game addiction reveals that it burns bright and fast but stops suddenly. I've noticed the suddenly vanished compulsion with my game playing as well. (via rw, i think)
The URL of Sandwich OCT 25
Although the sandwich was named so after an 18th century British Earl, its invention dates back to a rabbi who lived in the first century B.C.. In my short history, I've eaten more than my fair share of sandwiches and while I can't consider myself a true connoisseur, the humble sandwich is one of my favorite things to eat and the ultimate in comfort foods.
The keys to a good sandwich are the three Bs: bread, balance, and...ok, there's only two Bs, but they're important. Aside from the main ingredient (turkey, tuna, chicken salad, etc.), the bread has the power to make or break a sandwich. The first thing you taste when you take a bite is the bread, so it had better be good and it had better be fresh.
Balance, or how the various parts come together to make a whole sandwich experience, is even more critical than the bread. Too much meat and the sandwich tastes only of meat. (The "famous" delis in NYC are big offenders here...the amount of meat in their sandwiches is way too much. These are sandwiches for showing off, not consumption.) Too much mustard and you overwhelm that beautiful pastrami. The mighty sandwich should not be a lowly conduit for your mustard addiction; why not just eat it straight from the jar? If you've got a dry bread, add a slice of tomato, a little extra mayo, or save it for tuna or egg salad. If you've got a lot of bread (a Kaiser or sub roll, for example), you'll probably need more of everything else to balance it out. Make sure the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the sandwich. You should get a bit of everything in each bite...it's a BLT, not just an L on toast. If the sandwich maker is doing his job right, you should be able to taste most of the ingredients separately and together at the same time.
Here are a few sandwiches I've enjoyed over the years. I haven't included any of the ones that I regularly make for myself because they're pretty boring, although IMO, they're right up there with any of these.
In college, when my friends and I got sick of eating on campus (and had the money to do so), we'd venture across the street to Zio Johno's, a little Italian place with good, cheap food. At first I just got the spaghetti or lasagna, but one time I tried the Italian sub they offered and I was hooked. The key was the super-sweet sub roll; my measely $3 was enough for both a savory dinner and sweet dessert at the same time. I've never found anywhere else that uses bread that sweet.
I've lived in NYC for three years now, but I haven't run across a steak sandwich that rivals the one I used to get on my lunch break at The Brothers' Deli in Minneapolis. Fried steak, fried onions, and cheddar cheese on a Kaiser roll with a side order of the best potato salad I've ever had.
Surdyk's (say "Sir Dicks") is an institution in Northeast Minneapolis (say "Nordeast"), the finest liquor store and cheese shop around. They also had good croissants (say "Qua Sawn" or "Cross Aunts") on which they put fresh ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Mmm.
There's nothing I like more than a good BLT, and Specialty's in San Francisco has one of the best I've had. Secret ingredient: pickles. Also, they didn't toast the bread, which I usually frown upon, but it worked well anyway.
As for New York, I don't live close to any good delis, but when I worked in Midtown, I used to zip over to the food court below Grand Central and hit Mendy's. Their chicken salad is top-notch; the chicken is good quality and it isn't overwhelmed by the mayonnaise. I'm usually not such a fan of rye bread, but their rye (it's a light rye) is fantastic and goes very well with the chicken salad. The salami is good too. I usually have half a sandwich with a cup of their chicken noodle.
Do you have a favorite sandwich? Know of any good NYC sandwich spots I should check out?
 Although Meg has been making this warm garlic potato salad lately that is a serious contender for the top spot.
Google is launching something called Google Base soon...an open web database type thingie. From what little info there is, this sounds very cool. (via waxy)
Merlin is collecting funny eBay ads from Google. "Looking for Handjob? Find exactly what you want today. www.eBay.com". Dictionary.com used to have Amazon ads tied to search terms that would say things like "Buy crack cocaine at Amazon" or "Buy hookers at Amazon". I for one welcome our new robot marketing overlords.
If you've ever wondered what your lowly narrator would look like with a moustache, wonder no longer.
With 5 weeks to go in hurricane season, tropical storm Alpha breaks the record for most named storms in the Atlantic Ocean. All of this year's names have been used up, which means the remaining storms will be named after sequential Greek letters.
Any Starbucks in the US (and 22 other countries) is supposed to sell you a cup of fair trade coffee if you ask them to. The Starbucks Challenge is motivating people to take them up on their offer. You can track people's progress or join in the fun yourself.
Reap is an art project "exploring the notion of marking and capturing time: time as memory, as process, as moments, as metamorphoses and metaphors". I like the apple rotting one. (thx susan)
Debate between economist Milton Friedman, John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) and T.J. Rodgers (CEO of Cypress Semiconductor). The discussion centers around Friedman's assertion that "the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits". (via mr)
James Surowiecki on insider trading and members of Congress. From 1993-1998, "senators beat the market, on average, by twelve per cent annually". Here's a piece on the same study from the FT early last year.
A man asks MetaFilter for help in tracking down his grandfather's address in 1938 Vienna and after only two days, he's got the address as well as a bunch of other information he never knew about him. This internet thing is gonna be huge someday.
Watch Me Change is an interactive advertisement from The Gap that lets you specify the appearance of an avatar, who then performs a striptease out of Gap clothing. Gothamist has more info and a screenshot. Sorta NSFW, I guess.
Clever billboard advertisement that changes when it rains. Somewhat NSFW.
It's difficult to watch an animated movie these days and not compare it to Pixar's recent efforts. I've all but given up on Dreamworks...they've drawn their line in the sand and are making unchallenging, cheesy movies full of passe pop culture references that are guaranteed to make money at the box office and on DVD (until audiences catch on, like when Disney did the same thing back in the late 80s/early 90s).
Luckily, although they distributed the film in the US, Dreamworks doesn't seem to have had anything to do with the making of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The film is pure Aardman entertainment, full of dry humor, slapstick, Rube Goldbergian gadgets, and, of course, a patented W&G chase scene in which Gromit races to the rescue of a flailing Wallace. Aside from the briefest hint of a lesson regarding the dangers of genetic manipulation and a couple of jokes for adults ("may contain nuts"), W&G doesn't have the depth or broad appeal across all ages of a Pixar film -- no one's going to be comparing it with the ideas of Ayn Rand -- but it hardly matters because the film is enjoyable enough at the level on which it chooses to operate. Plus, there's cheeeeeese!
Parable about Google's Library Project and copyright (discussed here last week). "All I have to do is borrow the CDs or DVDs, downloaded music or video or whatever, copy them, and then offer some sort of 'fair use' excerpt index service, just like Google is doing with the books. It's the perfect gimmick."
As frustrated as one can get with the US sometimes, it is truly a marvelous land of plenty. In the past few months, I've run across some remarkable consumer items which I'd like to share with you.
- A microwave oven with a radio in it. With a little tinkering, you may be able to take the FM signal coming into the radio and convert it into microwaves to cook the food. Lite jazz will cook that baked potato nice n' slow or crank the hard rock station if you're in a hurry to scorch your Healthy Choice.
- A mounted deer head that sings and talks. I know you're all familiar with that mounted bass that plays music, but this is a whole deer head we're talking about here. I was too amazed to note any of the songs or whether the deer lip-synchs along, but I'm sure that when you plug this sucker in, whatever it does is wonderful. It's singing taxidermy fer crissakes!
- A refrigerator with a TV. For that 3-4 seconds it takes you to get a glass of orange juice when you're away from the TV just in the other room. Oh, and if the TV part breaks, good luck getting it fixed. Also, there didn't appear to be a Refrigerator Channel for viewing inside the fridge to avoid letting that precious cool out while your teenage son stands with the door (and his mouth) open for three minutes deciding what to eat/drink.
Convergence is grand, ain't it?
Slideshow of the biggest emerging design trends according to Murray Moss. This came out of a presentation at the 2005 AIGA Design Conference, which presentation (and audio recording) can be downloaded on the AIGADC resources page.
Why do people believe in God? Evidence suggests that it's partially inherited. "The degree of religiosity was not strongly related to the environment in which the twin was brought up. Even if one identical twin had been brought up in an atheist family and the other in a religious Catholic household, they would still tend to show the same kind of religious feelings, or lack of them."
Middle school students in Indiana and Australia are building edible moon rovers, with the idea that if you're going to ship a car to the moon or Mars, why not have it be edible when you get there?
A short interview and some photography by Douglas Levere from his book, New York Changing, in which he rephotographs NYC scenes captured by Berenice Abbott in the 1930s. "I realize to stand still is to move backwards, but architecture today in NYC today too often feels like it is only creating wealth and almost nothing to do with creating community."
Great post about Florent, a restaurant in the Meatpacking District, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. I love the NYC/SF map mash-up and the photo of James Earl Jones enjoying a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the restaurant. (via eater)
"The only debate on intelligent design that is worthy of its subject". Hootingly funny. (And I have no doubt that someone from the other side of the debate could construct something equally as amusing, so...)
WSJ tech columnist Walt Mossberg on DRM: "media companies go too far in curbing comsumers' activities".
A Brief Economic History of the World, 10,000 BC-2000 AD, consisting of several PDFs. I only read the intro, but it seems pretty interesting if you're interested in such things.
Study: people eat more when food is close at hand and in sight and less when its farther away and out of sight.
Instead of state or federal boundries, the CommonCensus map is constructed by asking people what "cultural" part of the country they think they live in (centered around cities). A pretty cool idea but they've just gotten started and need more data, so cast your vote. (They're doing sports maps too...)
With AJAX MAssive Storage System (AMASS) a web page can store large amounts of data on a computer using hidden Flash applets. Brilliant hack, but seems like a potential security concern (an AMASS-like app could just fill up a hard drive without prompting, no?). I just looked at this briefly...would this allow one to run something like GMail offline? (I'm thinking not.) (via waxy)
MetaFilter's doing a unique fundraiser for Creative Commons (with Dropcash!)...they've taken two annoying MeFi users and put their banishment up to a vote...first person to get $500 pledged against them gets banned for a week.
I got an email this morning from a kottke.org reader, Meghann Marco. She's an author and struggling to get her book out into the hands of people who might be interested in reading it. To that end, she asked her publisher, Simon & Schuster, to put her book up on Google Print so it could be found, and they refused. Now they're suing Google over Google Print, claiming copyright infringement. Meghann is not too happy with this development:
Kinda sucks for me, because not that many people know about my book and this might help them find out about it. I fail to see what the harm is in Google indexing a book and helping people find it. Anyone can read my book for free by going to the library anyway.
In case you guys haven't noticed, books don't have marketing like TV and Movies do. There are no commercials for books, this website isn't produced by my publisher. Books are driven by word of mouth. A book that doesn't get good word of mouth will fail and go out of print.
Personally, I hope that won't happen to my book, but there is a chance that it will. I think the majority of authors would benefit from something like Google Print.
She has also sent a letter of support to Google which includes this great anecdote:
Someone asked me recently, "Meghann, how can you say you don't mind people reading parts of your book for free? What if someone xeroxed your book and was handing it out for free on street corners?"
I replied, "Well, it seems to be working for Jesus."
And here's an excerpt of the email that Meghann sent me (edited very slightly):
I'm a book author. My publisher is suing Google Print and that bothers me. I'd asked for my book to be included, because gosh it's so hard to get people to read a book.
Getting people to read a book is like putting a cat in a box. Especially for someone like me, who was an intern when she got her book deal. It's not like I have money for groceries, let alone a publicist.
I feel like I'm yelling and no one is listening. Being an author can really suck sometimes. For all I know speaking up is going to get me blacklisted and no one will ever want to publish another one of my books again. I hope not though.
[My book is] called 'Field Guide to the Apocalypse' It's very funny and doesn't suck. I worked really hard on it. It would be nice if people read it before it went out of print.
As Tim O'Reilly, Eric Schmidt, and Google have argued, I think these lawsuits against Google are a stupid (and legally untenable) move on the part of the publishing industry. I know a fair number of kottke.org readers have published books...what's your take on the situation? Does Google Print (as well as Amazon "Search Inside the Book" feature) hurt or help you as an author? Do you want your publishing company suing Google on your behalf?
Casual content creation OCT 19
Over on the Odeo blog, Ev talks about a potentially different type of podcasting, casual content creation:
But, personally, I'm much more of a casual content creator, especially in this realm. The other night, I sent a two-minute podcast to my girlfriend, who was out of town, and got a seven-second "podcast" back that I now keep on my iPod just because it makes me smile. I sent an "audio memo" to my team a while back for something that was much easier to say than type, and I think they actually listened.
A blogging analogue would be Instapundit or Boing Boing (published, broadcast) versus a private LiveJournal (shared, narrowcast). It's like making a phone call without the expectation of synchronous communication...it's all voicemail. I thought about doing this the other day when I needed to respond to an email with a lengthy reply. In that particular instance, I ended up sending an email instead because it was the type of thing that might have been forwarded to someone else for comment and returned, etc. But I can see myself using audio like this in the future.
 Integrated podcasting tools within LiveJournal would be huge, methinks.
The Onion AV Club explores the landscape of underrated media and comes back with The Underrated List and a whole decade-full of underrated movies. How can anyone have misunderstood Starship Troopers? It was so over-the-top.
The T'Wolves are all about Wally Szczerbiak this year. I'm not a Wally fan...I think he's selfish like Kobe and not nearly so good. The Wolves should be more concerned with Garnett...he was not in peak form last year.
Astrology is valid science? OCT 19
Not from The Onion: US biochemistry professor admits that astrology would be considered valid science according to his own personal definition. Said a spectator of Pennsylvania ID trial: "I can't believe he teaches a college biology class".
What do you do when you have OCT 19
What do you do when you have a 9-to-5 job and you need to prepare for an upcoming climb by spending weeks at high altitudes? You put your office desk into an altitude chamber.
Apple announces Aperture, professional-grade software for managing and manipulating photos. A little bit o' iPhoto mixed with Photoshop, it looks like. (Also, new Powerbooks...higher res, better battery life.)
Tumblelogs OCT 19
On my web travels the other day, I came across a new (to me) kind of weblog, the tumblelog. Here are a few examples to get the gist of what a tumblelog is: hit projectionist first and then Anarchaia (which seems to have been the first one), Church Burning tumblelog, Mikael's Tumblelog, and ones zeros majors and minors.
A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing...really just a way to quickly publish the "stuff" that you run across every day on the web.
Many of the tumblelogs I ran across seem to be powered by Ruby on Rails, itself a quick and dirty programming framework that emphasizes fast prototyping. You can kind of see how tumblelogging is the blog equivalent of Rails. Christian Neukirchen describes how he edits his tumblelog using a templating language called Vooly.
I like the idea of tumblelogging a lot; I've been slowly moving kottke.org in a similar direction for awhile. Different ways of displaying various types of content...remaindered links, regular posts, book reviews, and movie reviews are all displayed differently. I'm working on incorporating photo albums and perhaps a daily photolog...as well as a couple other different types of content. I've been focusing a lot more on the remaindered links (because they're more fun and closer to pure editing, which I enjoy a lot more than writing) and less on the magazine-like regular posts-with-titles. The further away from punditry I can get, the better it will be for all of us.
Gristmill reports on the sustainable food movement and its problem with class. "Demand for locally and sustainably grown food is concentrated in cities; but prices for farmland near cities are severely inflated by development pressure. Where farmland is cheap, people are poor and accustomed to industrial food. Where people are wealthy and attracted to healthy food, farmland is dear."
Aptronyms OCT 19
Aptronym "refers to a name that is aptly suited to its owner"...Ms. Banks who works in finance, Dr. Beach the marine biologist, Art Wolfe the nature photographer, that sort of thing. See also nominative determinism. (thx robert)
For some real controversy over evolution, check out evo devo, or "evolutionary developmental biology". Its proponents claim that evolution works primarily by changing when certain genes are expressed, not via changing genes themselves. Scientific American has more.
4000 year-old pot of noodles found in China, settling (for now) the "hotly contested" question of who invented the noodle.
In the five years since the sequencing of the human genome, "much of the data have little immediately useful meaning, and the research has produced only a trickle of medicine". And where medical science has failed, hucksters have filled the gap.
By watching tapes of old baseball games, a New York illustrator has discovered the secret of great pitchers. "Witte's scientific theory, the specifics of which he refuses to divulge, has something to do with how successful pitchers keep their gloves elevated at the start of their windups, let their back shoulders drop, and lift their front legs high."
Instead of emphasizing the animal, nature photographer Art Wolfe takes photos that show how animals have evolved to blend into their surroundings. Copies of Wolfe's book featuring these photos can be purchased on his site. (Also, what a perfect name for a photographer who takes artistic photos of animals.)
Twenty percent of the human genome is patented. I expect that someday in the future, my morning will be interrupted by a lawyer telling me that the company he represents holds a patent on the biochemical conversion of foodstuffs to energy suitable for powering a biological organism and that I should cease and desist eating my Cheerios.
Frans de Waal on low frequency audio as a social instrument: "The host, Larry King, would adjust his timbre to that of high-ranking guests, like Mike Wallace or Elizabeth Taylor. Low-ranking guests, on the other hand, would adjust their timbre to that of King. The clearest adjustment to King's voice, indicating lack of confidence, came from former Vice President Dan Quayle." (via mr)
In the New York media dictionary, "My time at mediabistro has been great and I'm very proud of what we've been able to achieve in these twelve months. I know the site will continue to flourish as a must-read destination for media professionals" is defined as "whew, I'm glad that's over with".
The first superhero? OCT 18
Out of a recent conversation popped this interesting question: who was the first superhero? After a short discussion and a few guesses (Superman, Batman, etc), it was agreed that this might be the most perfect question to ask the internet in the long history of questions.
The earliest superhero I could find reference to was Mandrake the Magician, who debuted in 1934, four years before Superman, who was probably the first popular superhero. Mandrake's super power was his ability to "make people believe anything, simply by gesturing hypnotically". Does anyone out there know of any superheroes who made an earlier media appearance?
There's a related question that has some bearing on the answer to the above question: what is a superhero? There have probably been books (or at least extensive Usenet threads) written on this topic, but a good baseline definition needs to acknowledge both the "super" and the "hero" parts. That is, the person needs to have some superhuman power or powers and has to fight the bad guys. But this basic definition is flawed. Superman is an alien, not human. Batman doesn't have any super powers...he's a self-made superhero like Syndrome in The Incredibles. Or can a superhero be anyone (human or no) that fights bad guys and is superior to normal heroes...the cream of the hero crop? And what about a costume or alter ego...are they essential for superheroism? These are all questions well-suited for asking the internet, so have at it: what's a good definition for a superhero?
And there's (at least) one more angle to this as well...where did the idea of the superhero come from? As Meg suggested to me at dinner last night, was there a cultural need for a superhero during a super-crisis like the Great Depression? Or did the idea evolve gradually from regular heros (cowboys, space cowboys, etc.) to heros who were magicians (with special powers...it's not that much of a stretch to imagine a magician possessing supernatural powers) to classic superheroes like Superman?
Time magazine asks Moby, Malcolm Gladwell, Tim O'Reilly, Clay Shirky, David Brooks, Mark Dery, and Esther Dyson about their views on the future: religion, culture, politics, etc. Gladwell: "If I had to name a single thing that has transformed our life, I would say the rise of JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. They have allowed us all to construct new geographical identities for ourselves."
Harsh review of the user interface for The Complete New Yorker. My experience was better (changing issues took me only a few seconds), but the interface does leave a lot to be desired.
Adult spin-off of Doctor Who being developed by the Beeb will have sex and swearing. Does this mean I can throw away my photo collection of Jo Grant posing nude with a Dalek? (second link NSFW)
Wikipedia has a list of made-up words and expressions from The Simpsons. "Cromulent" is my favorite and should find it's way into actual use. "Car hole" is great as well. (via bb)
This Bird Has Flown is a tribute album of The Beatles' Rubber Soul on the 40th anniversary of its release. Includes covers by Ted Leo, The Fiery Furnaces, and Sufjan Stevens.
Opening tomorrow at the Met Museum in NYC, an exhibition of drawings by Vincent van Gogh. October 18, 2005 through December 31, 2005.
Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox is about weblog usability. I actually think most of these are pretty good, but as with all such guidelines, they are made to be broken.
Time magazine has a list of the "100 best English language novels from 1923 to the present". I'm not much for novels, but I've read 11 of the works on the list.
Two of the biggest pessimists in the business, Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil, outline their case for not releasing the genome for the 1918 influenza virus. "The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous."
Tom Coates moves on from the BBC for a job at Yahoo! It's now official...everyone I know works at Yahoo!
Ah, summer OCT 17
Well, summer is definitely over in the eastern United States. The leaves on the trees are going or gone, sweaters and light jackets have started making their appearance, and everyone is sick of tomatoes but drinking apple cider by the gallon. As a goodbye to a great summer, here are a few photos I took over the last few months:
The above photo was taken near the end of the summer on Nantucket, just before sunset.
In the real world, the process of design depends on evolution: "To consider the iPod, it did not spring fully formed from the mind of a powerful Designer, but rather it represents one distinct point on a long evolutionary timeline." Intelligent design is bad science and bad design. That doesn't leave much.
Two Da Vincis long held in private collections to go on public display for the first time.
The right of Conde Nast to sell The Complete New Yorker (which is completely awesome from a content standpoint, BTW) without paying authors for republish rights is a gray area legally. National Geographic has stopped selling a similar collection because of the unsure legal terrain.
Thomas Keller gets the butter for his restaurants from 6 cows in Vermont. The woman who owns them sells more than 80% of her butter to Keller: "When you're small you can have a relationship with the people who buy your food. The reason I'm not big is because I'm a perfectionist. I've got to sell to someone who is the same way."
An excellent John Gruber piece on the life cycle of the independent Mac developer, using for an example Brent and Sheila Simmons, whose company Ranchero was recently sold to NewsGator.
Clive Thompson on Life Hackers in the NY Times. I'd informally heard about the benefit of larger screens on productivity (I feel more productive with a larger screen), but this article describes some study results: "On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly."
Winerd (wine + nerd, get it?) is a board game that involves wine tasting and looks like a cross between Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Asshole.
Turning the Tables OCT 14
Steven Shaw doesn't like a lot of food criticism and he's not shy about telling you why. In his opinionated new book (which, as a NYC food fan, I enjoyed thoroughly), Shaw devotes much of a lengthy chapter to skewering guidebooks like Zagat's and Michelin, starred restaurant reviews, and the undercover restaurant reviewer. Ruth Reichl, now editor-in-chief of Gourmet, recently recounted her experiences as food critic for the New York Times in her newest book, Garlic and Sapphires. Reichl employed a number of disguises when going to restaurants in order to ensure she didn't receive special service because of her job at the Times. Shaw believes this approach is flawed and serves to distance restaurants and their customers:
It sends a signal to the public that restaurants are out to deceive us, and that in order to expose them restaurant reviewers must act as undercover investigative consumer advocates.
He prefers an approach akin to other forms of artistic criticism, with the reviewer taking a more active role in being as close to the action as possible:
There is, to my mind, absolutely nothing wrong with a critic having ties -- close ties -- to the community about which he writes. In my opinion, it is preferable from the standpoint of providing the best possible coverage. To me, the primary function of restaurant criticism should not be something so prosaic as reporting on the average meal and labeling it with some stars. Rather, restaurant criticism should parallel other forms of criticism -- in art, literature, architecture, music -- such that critics are champions of excellence who promote the best within the industry while exposing the worst.
This probably sounds like a familar argument to many who follow weblogs and the ongoing conversation about the responsibility of bloggers regarding disclosure of junkets, gifts, free movies, & review copies of books, their relationship to advertisers, who their friends are, and so forth. It's a question of access vs. independence and objectivity. To get a story, some sort of access is often required, but then the reader might worry about biased reportage.
The key is trust (and I'm sure Shaw would agree with me here). Do you trust a particular source of information to balance her need for access to the story with the desire of her readers for her to remain as independent and fair-minded as possible? I believe that if we want better reviews, we need to be better readers and take a more active role in how we deal with information. Access isn't necessarily bad, but what individual bloggers/journalists do with that access can be.
And when reading, you should be asking yourself, is the writer being fair here? Have they been fair in the past? If the piece you're reading appears in the NY Times or the WSJ, how does the political orientation (if any) affect what gets printed in the paper? Are music journalists and bloggers biased in their reviews because they receive free review CDs in the mail? And if so, does that make the reviews completely worthless? If they don't disclose things like junkets, personal relationships to their subjects, and the like, does that completely negate the review? Or can you adjust your opinion of the reviews to get something worthwhile out of them anyway?
Dealing with information has always been an imprecise science; there's no such thing as complete objectivity. But as readers, we can encourage the writers whose work we read to be as fair as possible.
Disclosure: I purchased this book in a NYC bookstore with my own money. I have never met Steven Shaw, but I do enjoy eGullet very much. If you click on any of the links to Amazon in this piece and purchase merchandise there, I will get a small percentage (~5%) of the sale.
Librarian gets even with an annoying junk faxer and even gets the guy's airplane seized...and all the proceeds from the sale will go to the Leukemia Society.
Somehow I missed this when it came out, but last year on the 40th anniversary of the release of Dr. Strangelove, James Earl Jones wrote about his experiences in making the film. If you like the Kubrick, Coudal has a tons of Kubrick links going on today.
An index of mp3s of old OCT 14
Update: Sound America also has an extensive collection of TV themes in WAV format. (thx josh)
Right around 1985 is when American cuisine took hold in NYC...and with it came other changes. "It can be argued that fine dining finally lost its haughty attitude then, that cloches became less important than customer comment cards. A fascination with classic French cooking was forevermore trumped by an insistence on something lighter, more flexible and less hidebound. The trickle of a simpler sensibility from California became a tide. The glories of the Greenmarket took ineradicable root."
Cheap wine OCT 14
The Morning News lists some of their favorite wines that sell for under $10.
This comment from Nick Denton (and much of the rest of the thread) demonstrates why Gawker is still worth reading on occasion. It's disappointing Nick isn't more involved in the day-to-day of the Gawker sites...his writing is always more entertaining than his blog empire.
As I was poking around 0sil8 this morning, I ran across this list from 1998 of movies due to be released in 1999/2000. Some were released on time, some were never released, and others were released years later. My favorite is the Charlie's Angels speculation...with Jenny McCarthy, Jada Pinkett & Michelle Yeoh as the Angels.
Jason @ 37signals noticed a great feature of the new iMac with built-in iSight. The screen is the flash for the camera so just before you take a photo, the screen flashes a bright white. Fantastic.
A list of excellent hamburgers to be found in NYC. For more on NYC burgers, check out A Hamburger Today. I still maintain that NYC isn't a burger town, although with all the recent activity, it may be one soon.
Update: Dave says: "I was hoping to see permalinks to a reviews page for the movie, and an enclosure containing the trailer itself." Me too, but baby steps, I guess.
Timeline of video games, mostly business-related. But holy crap, Hunt the Wumpus (a game I had for the TI-99) was invented in 1973? Cool.
College football and network theory meet at last. In a recent paper, a pair of researchers have devised a ranking system based on network theory (with teams that didn't directly play each other, the theory determines who's the better team based on games played versus a mutual foe) that is more accurate than the current polling system used to choose a college football national champion. (via cd)
Esquire jumps the gun on the whole end of the year best-of lists thing and names their favorite new restaurants of 2005, with Danny Meyer's The Modern taking the top spot. Worth reading if only for the sidebar item on "wired and tired" dining trends.
Clive Thompson enjoys the miniest of mini games, one-button games (more here and here): "video games that have a single button to control all the action". Many of the mini games in Wario Ware use only one control and only last 3-4 seconds.
Further discovery of Homo floresiensis bones have strengthened researchers' argument that the so-called Hobbit is a new and distinct human species. More on Flores man at Nature, which is doing a weekly podcast now.
Peter Schjeldahl, in a harsh review of graphic novels for the New Yorker (with particular contempt for Harvey Pekar), suggests that the artistic breakthrough of graphic novels has occurred, been recognized, and "that a process of increasingly strained emulation and diminishing returns has set in", citing Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan as the form's peak. Here's a positive review of Ware's newest collection.
Inspired by Thomas Friedman's book, A.J. Jacobs outsources his life to India. He starts with his job but is eventually letting his Indian assistants argue with his wife, read to his son at night, edit his Wikipedia entry on his behalf, and even worry for him. Ben Hammersley also recently wrote about personal outsourcing.
Typographic dating game. Who will it be for the evening...Futura, Garamond, Bodoni?
Forbes has a list of 10 chef "tastemakers", including Thomas Keller, Alain Ducasse, and Grant Achatz.
John Gruber has a great bullet-point roundup of the Apple announcements today...mostly stuff that you won't hear about in the tech press. (If you're living in a shack, Apple announced video iPods, new iTunes, downloadable TV programs, new iMacs, etc. today.)
A single text link on the front page of wordpress.org is selling for $100,000 for seven days...for that you get only 17,000 daily pageviews. This Web 2.0 math makes 0.0 sense.
TED (the conference folks) have got themselves a blog. If you enjoy kottke.org, it looks like TEDBlog may hold your interest as well.
Here's the recipe for the sandwich that Adam Sandler makes in Spanglish; he was taught how by Thomas Keller. "I’m told that making sure that the yolk doesn’t break until you cut the sandwich is key."
QuotationsBook offers its quotations and search results via RSS. If someone were to write a plug-in for Movable Type for this, you could display related quotations alongside blog posts using tags (e.g. tag an entry with "friends" and you get a quotation about friends). Cool.
Evollucinations OCT 12
Is it strange that every time I go into my bathroom and look at the box of tissues sitting on the shelf, I see Charles Darwin looking back at me?
It does look like Darwin, yes? Or have I been reading far too much about science and evolution lately?
Note: My bathroom Darwin orchid has nothing to do with Angraecum sesquipedale, an orchid that Darwin discovered in 1850. At the time, he speculated that in order for the plant to be pollinated, a moth with a 12" proboscis would have to do it, even though no such moth had been shown to exist. This freakish moth was eventually discovered (not in my bathroom) in 1903, 20 years after Darwin's death.
Photo of Vermont foliage. "Among factors that combine to give Vermont an edge in the U.S.'s foliage sweepstakes are the abundance and density of broad-leaved tree species, each with a contrasting color scheme, and a climate inclined to bring out the best in all of them."
Gelf Magazine says "a new study uses shoddy stats to hold the movie industry responsible for society's poor health choice". "But even if we disregard the fact that people don't necessarily take their public-health cues from films like Scary Movie and Rambo: First Blood Part II, the study has serious flaws that undermine even its tenuous claim on our attention".
Edward Jay Epstein on why Pixar should make nice with Disney again. Bottom line: Disney owns the sequel rights to all of Pixar's films and Pixar can't afford to do battle against Toy Story 3 or The Incredibles 2 in future summers.
Lengthy interview with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service. Death Cab recently released Plans, their first major label record.
People are printing less photos at home on their inkjet/laser printers because of the high price of ink (and the low price of having them done at Wal-Mart, etc.). Ink costs more than pricey champagne and perfume, which is ridiculous. Printer companies suck...I just changed the ink cartridge in my HP printer and the wrapper said something like "this cartridge not licensed for modification", like they have some sort of control over what I do with their artificially expensive ink dispenser after I've purchased it. (via meg)
Investing is risky? OCT 12
Shareholder activists said Google's charitable commitment raises questions about whether this is an appropriate use of company cash or whether company founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page ought to make donations to their favorite causes personally. The foundation of Bill Gates, the founder and chairman of Microsoft Corp. and the nation's richest person according to Forbes, gave away more than a billion dollars last year to fight poverty, hunger and disease around the world. But Gates donates through a personal foundation, rather than through Microsoft itself.
"The board of directors should make it clear to the company's founders what should be personal and what should be corporate," said Patrick S. McGurn, special counsel to Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. "Google is spending shareholders' money, and it raises questions if there is not a valid corporate purpose."
Shareholder activists? You've got to be kidding me. You'd think that stock shareholders are a bunch of babies that need their noses wiped and hands held to go potty or something. If you don't want to support Google's philanthropic efforts and think that they're throwing your money away by doing so, there's an easy way to opt out: DON'T BUY GOOGLE STOCK. It's a free country and open market...vote with your money on what you think is a "valid corporate purpose". There are thousands of other companies to invest in that are doing other things, many of which operate exactly the same...nice and safe and by the book. The information on what these companies are doing with their shareholders' money is freely available...get informed about what you're buying. Given their P/E ratio, unique corporate approach, and incredible rate of growth, Google might just be the riskiest large-cap stock opportunity out there, but the potential upside (as well as the downside) is a lot greater than all of those companies playing it safe. As long as it's stated (and I believe Google certainly has made their views very clear), risk isn't something from which shareholders should be warned away.
A relativistic examination of gravity in the galaxy may indicate that the invention of dark matter may not be necessary to solve the not-enough-matter problem. "The motions of stars in galaxies is realized in general relativity's equations without the need to invoke massive halos of exotic 'dark matter' that nobody can explain by current physics."
Update: mjt has doubts about the paper referenced here and notes that there's other evidence for dark matter that is not questioned by the above study.
Wonderful interview of Milton Glaser by Chip Kidd from a couple of years ago. Touches on his iconic I [heart] NY logo, the updated version (which the NY Commerce Dept. tried to sue him for), and the economics of design. (via df)
Fire strikes Aardman Animations' warehouse and destroys entire history of the company, including sets and characters for Wallace and Gromit.
In addition to weblogs.com, Verisign's acquisition of Moreover was also announced this week. Two of the companies founders, Nick Denton and David Galbraith, have thoughts. Nick reveals that Moreover almost bought Pyra once upon a time, a little tidbit I didn't reveal in my piece on Moreover from a couple years ago.
VGMap is a library developed at Eyebeam that lets you overlay arbitrary data and graphics onto Google Maps with Flash. Since you can dump anything you want into a Flash movie, you're free to annotate Google Maps with anything you want, from audio clips to banner ads of businesses. As an example, they've overlayed the NYC subway onto a map of Manhattan.
Malcolm Gladwell's description of how Harvard decides on who to admit strikes me as similar to how many companies in the tech/web industry hire employees. "Subjectivity in the admissions process is not just an occasion for discrimination; it is also, in better times, the only means available for giving us the social outcome we want. The strategy of discretion that Yale had once used to exclude Jews was soon being used to include people like Levi Jackson."
The Onion: Project Manager Leaves Suicide PowerPoint Presentation. "We all got Ron's message loud and clear when that JPEG of his wife wipe-transitioned to a photo of her tombstone". (via mathowie)
Nimble companies like FedEx have helped stabilize the US economy by becoming more flexible. FedEx keeps 5 empty planes flying over the US each night to help fill in surprise delivery gaps as needed.
Andre Torrez: "Webloggers of 1999 don't equal bloggers in 2005". Agreed, but I also think the webloggers of 1999 are different too...the game has changed but so have the people.
Mark Simonson gives Gangs of New York 3 out of 5 stars for its use of typography. This is the latest in a series of posts about type in movies, starting with his original Typecasting article.
Solution for those scratches on your easily-damaged iPod nano: polish with Brasso liquid abrasive and seal with invisibleShield.
NYC's Bryant Park is getting an ice skating rink this winter. Admission is free. I can't imagine how long that line is going to be to get in.
I posted a link on Friday to an article discussing neat words in non-English languages (taken from the new book, The Meaning of Tingo) and cited the Dutch word "plimpplampplettere" as my favorite. The article says:
But it's those fun-loving people in the Netherlands who should have the last word -- the phrase for skimming stones is as light-hearted as the action: plimpplampplettere.
Several Dutch have emailed to say that there's no such word in their language. Language Log says we should take the book with a huge grain of salt:
De Boinod is no linguist (he's a researcher for the BBC comedy quiz show QI), but he claims to have read "over 280 dictionaries" and "140 websites" (or, according to his publisher's site, "approximately 220 dictionaries" and "150 websites" -- take your pick). It's safe to assume that the fact-checking for such books is rather minimal -- if a website says it, it must be true, right?
The lesson here is don't believe everything you read on the web about books based on what someone read on the web.
IT Conversations will be streaming presentations from PopTech 2005 live...Windows Media Player required. :( From Etech to the AIGA Design Conference to Web Essentials 05, more and more conferences letting those of us who can't attend listen in anyway.
Ill-timed Dairy Queen advertisement for their "Earthquake" dessert. Officials say that the death toll has reached 22,000 from the eathquake that hit the northern parts of India and Pakistan on Saturday.
Neil is compiling a list of notable musicians who blog...help him out in the comments. So far, he's got Franz, Radiohead, Shatner (!), Ted Leo, M Doughty, etc.
Joel Kotkin rebutts Richard Florida's argument that what cities need to thrive are "gays, twentysomethings, and young creatives". Florida's ideas, which are laid down in The Rise of the Creative Class and Cities and the Creative Class, have been adopted in cities around the world with, Kotkin says, little success. Kotkin stresses that "great cities need schools for families, transport that works, jobs for the middle and the aspiring working classes".
Scientists want to build an array of submillimeter telescopes across the whole earth to peer "inside" the massive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
Update: Many people wrote in to correct me in saying that "submillimeter" referred to the size of the telescopes...it of course referred to the EM wavelength. Me brain not working right.
They're building a Prada store just outside the town of Valentine, TX (population: 187) with no door. It's art!
Freakonomists Dubner and Levitt propose a solution for people who don't clean up after their dogs in NYC: a mandatory doggie DNA database against which sidewalk dookies are compared and fines mailed out for offenders.
Dave Winer comments on the weblogs.com/Verisign deal...odd omission of a link to my post even though he references it several times. Bad luck that I caught him traveling; if I'd realized that beforehand, I would have held off. Dave seems to trust Verisign to do the job; I think Verisign has shown itself to be an untrustworthy, terrible company.
Peak foliage map of the United States. This weekend is looking good!
Photo of Brad Pitt and Frank Gehry building an architectural model together. What, you didn't know that Brad really wants to be an architect?
Franz Ferdinand** has a blog and you
don't probably do too.
** The band, not the archduke.
Everything and Nothing rounds up a list of searchable versions of the work of that most famous of English wordsmiths, William Shakespeare. The public domain rocks.
The origins and common usage of British swear words. "Both Oxford and London boasted districts called 'Gropecunte Lane', in reference to the prostitutes that worked there. The Oxford lane was later renamed the slightly less-contentious Magpie Lane, while London's version retained a sense of euphemism when it was changed to 'Threadneedle Street'. Records do not show whether it was a decision of intentional irony that eventually placed the Bank of England there."
20 unusual non-English words sent in by readers of the BBC Magazine (in response to this article about a new book on unusual words). Plimpplampplettere, the Dutch word for skipping stones, is sublime.
What the hell? Almost 500 pounds of Legos up for auction on eBay. "This is my collection for the past 25 years, it's time to go." Bid stands at ~$6800. (thx, karl)
Weblogs.com sold to Verisign OCT 06
Boy, the scent of money is in the air these days. The latest report is that Dave Winer has sold weblogs.com to Verisign (
~$5 million is the figure being bandied about for $2.3 million). This is an interesting one because it seemed crazy (see below) when I first heard about it, but now that I've heard it from multiple sources, who knows?
Verisign is interested in blogs and RSS (another of their acquisitions in this space will be announced soon) and it's not hard to see why Dave would sell weblogs.com (the site needs some firm financial backing to keep from buckling under the ever-increasing strain of all those pings), but to Verisign? To me, Verisign embodies the idiocy and ineptitude of the BigCos Dave often rails against...the BigCo to end all BigCos. If true, those are some odd bedfellows indeed.
We're getting confirmation that the rumors about Verisign buying Dave Winer's Weblogs.com are true. The price is $2 million. What Verisign wants with Weblogs is another matter. Weblogs was one of the first, if not the first, centralized ping servers that blogs could use to alert the world to new content.
I like how when a weblog has two independent sources on something, it's a "rumor"...
Update #2: Verisign confirms the purchase.
Working offline OCT 06
Back when I wrote about how a WebOS might work (basically XHTML/JS web apps that run on the desktop as well), I got a lot of responses along the lines of: with internet access becoming more ubiquitous (broadband, wifi, wireless broadband, WiMax, etc.), there will be less and less need for applications that don't need a connection to the network to function. When you can literally get a fast, cheap internet connection anywhere, you don't need a version of Gmail that works offline and so that's not going to drive the development of this WebOS thing you're talking about.
I've been thinking for several weeks about why I think that's wrong and I've come up with a couple ideas.
1. Fast, cheap internet everywhere? Hoo boy, wake me when that happens...you'll likely find me driving my hydrogen-powered hovercar with ESP to my paperless office.
2. For many people, the more you get used to having access to your applications/data/etc., the more important that access becomes. Let's say 98% of the applications you use are entirely on the web (with no offline capabilities) and you're online almost all the time wherever you go. Then the network winks out for 1/2 an hour. Or Salesforce.com is down for a couple hours. That last little inch is going to be painful. And no use telling me that sounds insane because I've seen the madness and fear in people's eyes while they clutch their Crackberries, furiously reading email mere minutes away from the office and the full-speed, full-screen experience.
3. The offline thing is a good way for companies to bootstrap the WebOS. I think most people have a sense that the apps they use in their browser are more alive, more social, more connected, even if they can't articulate that feeling. And whether it's true or not (Gmail isn't actually more "connected" than Outlook), companies can market the "aliveness" of their web apps (even when they run offline) versus the "deadness" of desktop apps.
Scott Rosenberg on the Web 2.0 conference and the new bubble: "it seems likely that a certain number of people will get rich, a certain amount of money will be wasted, several important new companies and technologies will emerge and some indeterminate number of investors will be fleeced".
What's the funniest word ever? I don't know about funny, but I've always enjoyed saying "Goethe".
Weblogs, Inc. bought by AOL? If so, this is a perfect match.
Brian Greene on Einstein's most famous equation, E =mc^2. When he finally gets around to it in the middle of the article, Greene's got a pretty good layman's explanation of what the formula actually means.
September sales of SUVs were down sharply from last year. "Sales of F-Series pickup trucks plunged 30 percent. Sales of Ford's large SUVs, including the Ford Explorer and Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator, sank by more than 55 percent each. At GM, overall sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs dropped 30 percent." Most blame the $1/gal difference in gas prices from a year ago, but auto execs blame poor inventory after summer sales. Perhaps everyone went to the movies instead of car shopping.
Morfik seems to be working towards a WebOS like I wrote about in August...web apps that run on the desktop: "[Morfik's] technology combined with its tight integration of the browser, a database and web server, uniquely offers developers the opportunity to create web applications that run on the desktop after being unplugged from the web." They have a Gmail clone that works offline...keen to see how that works, exactly. (thx mike)
I know you've always wanted to play Memory with pictures of me from Flickr and now you can. Memry works with any Flickr tag.
Spam Stock Tracker tracked a bunch of penny stocks hyped by spammers to see how you would do if you bought them. Looks like a ~50% loss since May.
Friendster has a new feature...you can tell who has looked at your profile (feature is on by default and you can turn it off...if you're even aware of it in the first place). If I still used Friendster (not that I ever really did), I'm not sure how I would feel about this. On the one hand, you can tell if someone's interested in you (that guy you just met at the bar found your page as soon as he got home), but on the other hand, you might not want the girl you have a crush on to know you're obsessively reloading her page to check for updates. (Also, imagine if they added this to LiveJournal...)
Sweethearting, part 2 OCT 05
Got quite a few emails in response to my post on sweethearting/pinging. Several people mentioned pranking as a current implementation of this idea, a trick I remember using as a kid. You call someone and hang up after one ring..."prank me when you're outside my apartment and I'll come down". Pranking is typically driven by economics...you don't pay for a phone call that doesn't connect.
Gen Kanai asks: "why can't SMS do this?" It certainly can; if I were implementing sweethearting, I would piggyback it on SMS. But what I'm really concerned with (as usual) is the user experience. To send a blank text message to a specific recipient with my phone takes at least 6-10 keystrokes. I want to do it in two keystrokes and (in time) without looking.
 I received reports of pranking being used all over the world. It's called one-belling (or pranking) in England, people send "toques" (roughly "touches") or "sting" each other in Spain, Italians "fare uno squillo" (which Google translates as "to make one blast"), and in Finland it's called "bombing".
Update: In South Africa, they call it a "Scotch call".
Mark does the math for his mom: cable modem + Vonage is cheaper than local phone + long distance + dialup internet. Bottom line: switch to VoIP and get broadband internet access for free.
Andy Baio sells Upcoming.org to Yahoo! Congrats! I can't wait to see what he, Leonard, and Gordon do with the site on a full-time basis. And Yahoo! keeps swallowing my friends...
Regrading this: Summer Movies Other Than March of the Penguins That Conservatives Are Rallying Behind. "The Dukes of Hazzard: Not once is the word 'evolution' used in this movie. Many pundits proclaim this to be a tacit endorsement of intelligent design."
AirTroductions is a social networking/dating site for frequent flyers.
Freeman Dyson on his friend and colleague Richard Feynman for The New York Review of Books.
The Matthew effect OCT 04
Nick Paumgarten's Talk of the Town piece opens with an anecdote about the doorman's role in elevating the social status of their building's tenants:
When Peter Bearman, a professor of sociology, moved from North Carolina to New York, seven years ago, to take a post at Columbia, he found his new colleagues unusually arrogant and difficult, even for the Ivy League. After considering other factors, he laid the blame on the doormen in their apartment buildings. He reasoned that the doormen had an interest in elevating the status of their tenants in order to enhance their own status, and so they treated the professors like big shots -- for example, by addressing them as "professor" -- until the professors came to believe that they really were big shots. Bearman felt that he had discovered a previously unobserved variant of the Matthew effect, Robert K. Merton's theory concerning the compounding of iniquity among prominent and marginal individuals -- the rich getting richer, and so forth.
I'd never heard of the Matthew effect before, so I looked it up in Wikipedia:
In sociology, Matthew effect was a term coined by Robert K. Merton to describe how, among other things, eminent scientists will often get more credit than a comparatively unknown researcher even if their work is similar; it also means that credit will usually be given to researchers that are already famous...
Here is Merton's original paper.
Three weeks in, I'm quite enjoying Chris Ware's contribution to the NY Times Magazine The Funny Pages, Building Stories (pt 1, pt 2), maybe because I often imagine inanimate objects like buildings having personalities.
New York City, redemption, and the 2005 New York Yankees. "Jason [Giambi] was redeemed, and his legend is assured now as the star who wanted more, who lost everything to greed and arrogance, and who recovered his glory, which is now vastly more appealing for the fact that it's tarnished. It's a real New York kind of story."
Ning is a platform on which you can build your own social software...your own craigslist or del.icio.us. We were just talking about something like this the other day at Eyebeam, a MMORPG in which you write applications to adventure together or fight each other in a world instead of characters. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft should be kicking themselves that they didn't think of this...this is the perfect WebOS app, like Dashboard, Konfabulator, and Desktop, but multi-user and on the web. (via waxy)
Steven Johnson's thoughts on Web 2.0. He compares it to a rain forest, with the information flow through the web being analogous to the efficient nutrient flow through a forest. "Essentially, the Web is shifting from an international library of interlinked pages to an information ecosystem, where data circulate like nutrients in a rain forest." Compare with Tim O'Reilly's recent thoughts on the subject.
Tim Gasparak captured JJ Thomas catching same air over the streets of San Francisco on a snowboard. SF recently played host to extreme skiers and snowboarders flying down Fillmore Street on several tons of trucked-in snow. Tim's got more photos of the event on Flickr.
Some technical notes on how Tim Burton's Corpse Bride was shot and edited. They shot it with a Canon dSLR; they originally wanted to use a Nikon D2H, but the darks were too noisy. More Apple-specific info here. (via df)
Sweethearting OCT 03
Here's a feature I would like on my mobile phone: the ability to "ping" someone with 2 or less keypresses (something that takes around a second to do), even if the keypad is locked. The idea is that when I press a couple of buttons on my phone (say, 1#), a tiny content-less message is sent to the person corresponding to that key combination. On their end, they see something like "Jason pinged you at 7:34pm" with the option to ping right back. You'd have to set up what pings mean beforehand, stuff like "I'm leaving work now" or "remember to pick up milk at the store".
Pings would be perfect for situations when texting or a phone call is too time consuming, distracting, or takes you out of the flow of your present experience. If you call your husband on the way home from work every night and say the same thing each time, perhaps a ping would be better...you wouldn't have to call and your husband wouldn't have to stop what he was doing to answer the phone. You could even call it the "sweetheart ping" or "sweethearting"...in the absence of a prearraged "ping me when you're leaving", you could ping someone to let them know you're thinking about them.
This reminds me a bit of Matt Webb's Glancing project: I'm Ok, you're Ok. I guess you could think of pinging as eye contact via mobile phone...just enough information is conveyed to be useful, but not so much that it disrupts what you're already doing. Webb cites Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs:
Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs gives a good example of text messaging being used for this. He talked about kids in Sweden after a party. Say you've seen someone you quite liked and you'd like to see them again, but don't know if the feeling's shared. You'd send them a blank text message, or maybe just a really bland one like "hey, good party". If they reply, ask for a date. The first message is almost entirely expressive communication: tentative, deniable.
Matt does a fine job explaining why this stripped-down style of communication is sometimes preferable to more robust alternatives.
Steven Levy profiles Tim O'Reilly for Wired. Kind of ironic since O'Reilly Media has put itself in the middle of what's happening on the web, a position that perhaps should have been occupied by Wired, had they not sold all their online properties several years ago.
John Gruber is asking folks to renew their Daring Fireball memberships. Money well spent, I say.
With attendance up in September, the movie studios are beginning to admit that, gosh, maybe crappy movies are to blame for this summer's poor box office performance.