Entries for March 2003 (April 2003 »    May 2003 »    June 2003 »    Archives)


Thoughts from my first day of workMAR 31

1. I miss my iBook.

2. But I also missed Homesite. For my purposes, BBEdit is usable, but HomeSite kicks its ass all over the place.

3. Where to start with Outlook. I got so used to the many fantastic features of Entourage that Outlook (at least the version I'm using here) is almost unusable.

4. Why is the CTRL key all the way over there?

5. But damn, this Pentium 4 is fast. The iBook is downright pokey in comparison. Apple, your low-end notebooks should be 1GHz+...what's the hold-up?

5a. Ok, enough about the computer stuff.

5. My daily commute goes through Grand Central Station. I love Grand Central. Expect pictures at some point.

6. I am bad with names. I've forgotten all but three of the names of my new co-workers...I have only so many slots in my short term memory. Many weeks of "hey...you there..." to follow.

7. First day excitement and nervous energy dissipates by the afternoon, resulting in an afternoon crash into near-sleep. (Hearty lunch of soup may also have contributed to this.)

So, yeah, I got a new job. And this is probably the last you'll hear of it because work is one of the few things I don't talk about here. Postings may be light (and email replies will be really light) as I get adjusted to the new routine.

Free downloadable children's bookMAR 30

Free downloadable children's book.

"You can't sit around in bars and not smoke."MAR 30

"You can't sit around in bars and not smoke.". how sad and pathetic

I am worried about SalamMAR 30

I am worried about Salam.

First issue of MacWorldMAR 30

First issue of MacWorld.

Heard a rumor that Radiohead *and* BjorkMAR 30

Heard a rumor that Radiohead *and* Bjork will be playing NYC this summer.

The news in typeMAR 30

The news in type.

The ethics of war, the $75 billion questionMAR 30

The ethics of war, the $75 billion question.

Advertising slogan generatorMAR 29

Advertising slogan generator.

Doorway etiquetteMAR 29

Doorway etiquette.

Photos found in a thrift store cameraMAR 29

Photos found in a thrift store camera.

Free literary map of New YorkMAR 29

Free literary map of New York.

15 stories they've bungled alreadyMAR 29

15 stories they've bungled already.

Book cover designMAR 29

Readerville has a great thread in their forums called Most Coveted Covers, a frequently updated list of well-designed book covers. Related are Edward Tufte's book reviews, Book Design in Canada from Cardigan Industries, and an interview with Chip Kidd on Identity Theory.

Bush: "Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out"MAR 29

Bush: "Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out".

War is peaceMAR 29

From Emmanual Goldstein's book excerpted in George Orwell's 1984:

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed.

Breaking war stories from the comfort of an office chairMAR 29

Breaking war stories from the comfort of an office chair.

A party held on a London TubeMAR 29

A party held on a London Tube train, complete with DJ and tequila bar.

Building a better Google search queryMAR 28

Building a better Google search query.

Spirited Away out on DVD April 15MAR 28

Spirited Away out on DVD April 15.

Excellent article about finding office space in NYCMAR 28

Excellent article about finding office space in NYC.

Leonardo at the MetMAR 28

I'm not sure if the exhibition of his drawings at the Met were worth the 1.5 hour wait in the longest line I've even been in, but Leonardo da Vinci is a freaky super genius. The exhibition ends this weekend though, so if you're in NYC and haven't seen it (and don't mind waiting in giant lines), now's the time.

Gary Hart has a weblog?MAR 28

Gary Hart has a weblog?.

Lots of good links today on this weblogMAR 28

Lots of good links today on this weblog.

Six Feet UnderMAR 28

When we moved to NYC, we traded in our Netflix subscription for HBO and started watching Six Feet Under at the beginning of its third season. I liked the show right away, not only because the writing and acting are so good, but also because it made me uncomfortable (in a good way). I couldn't quite figure out the reason for that discomfort until last night's show. It's the tension between the public and private, introverted and extroverted, the quiet and loud...and it's so well done. Watching the characters who vent their energy by yelling or crying interact with those that keep their problems more hidden is fascinating and is rarely seen on TV or even in the movies. Great stuff.

A trip to the moviesMAR 28

When you see a bad movie or a preview for a bad movie, you might say, "what were they thinking?" Here's what they were thinking:

- Straight people acting gay are funny
- Gay people acting straight are funny
- White people acting like black people are funny
- Black people acting like white people are funny
- Old white people acting like black people are really funny
- Drugs are fun for awhile, but will eventually ruin people's lives in predictable ways
- Aliens are scary
- People will go see anything with John Travolta

Spirited Away back in US theatres, go see it.MAR 27

Spirited Away back in US theatres, go see it..

Wheelbarrow freestyleMAR 27

Wheelbarrow freestyle.

O'Reilly Emerging Technology ConferenceMAR 27

O'Reilly Emerging Technology ConferenceThe Etech conference put on by O'Reilly is coming up near the end of April and I'm already getting excited for it. Last year's was the best conference I've ever been to. In contrast to many conferences I've attended, the panels and presentations were just as valuable as the hallway conversations between panels.

This year looks very promising, with tracks on Internet applications, social software, nanotech and hardware, and the nebulous "untethered". And it's a bargain at ~$690 for all the panels when you use O'Reilly's Friends and Family discount code (et03ff) to get 30% off. See you there?

In a million years, only the tastiest cakes will existMAR 27

Some famous scientists and cakes:

Arthur C. Clarke: Today, cake... tomorrow, a chain of bakeries, stretching far across the galaxy.

Gregor Mendel: I have discovered if you combine the mixtures for madeira cake and fruit cake, there result a cake with no raisins, two cakes with some raisins, a fourth cake entirely composed of raisins, and a sudden influx of hungry visitors to the monastery.

Charles Darwin: In a million years, only the tastiest cakes will exist.

I'm surprised Werner Heisenberg was not on the list: You may observe the cake's position or note how fast it is consumed by your party guests, but not both.

Todd Levin on what the "it" isMAR 27

Todd Levin on what the "it" is that The Onion has.

Journalist Christopher Allbritton raises $10K from readersMAR 27

Journalist Christopher Allbritton raises $10K from readers so he can go report on the war from Iraq.

New UPS logoMAR 26

New UPS logo. this over Paul Rand's classic? blech.

Debunking usability mythsMAR 26

Debunking usability myths.

Rounded corners with CSSMAR 26

Rounded corners with CSS.

Top ten digital photography tipsMAR 26

Top ten digital photography tips.

Tivo reports Oscar viewing habitsMAR 26

Tivo reports Oscar viewing habits. introducing a new metric in celebrity: most paused

Chung dumped by CNNMAR 26

Chung dumped by CNN. never understood the big deal about her...she was never that good

Bit of the old buff and polishMAR 25

The endless tweaking that goes on around here continues, a substitute for the often-promised, never-realized redesign. A few changes:

- Multiple RSS files are now available on the archive page. You can now choose whether you want small, medium-sized, or full excerpts of posts in RSS. It's like Burger King: have it your way.

- Also available on the archive page are some (but not all) of the category pages, including my favorites Rip, mix, burn, Living in New York, Digital culture & society, and Ants, chaos, and cities.

- Per this conversation on managing my email, I replaced my email address in the sidebar with a link to this contact page.

- I updated the FAQ.

- I updated the about kottke.org page. It is now 50% more entertaining.

- A new bio, more serious than the last one. It's not all fun and games around here, dammit!

And rigged up some behind-the-scenes stuff that will hopefully make managing the site a little easier, including an upgrade of MT with the ability to -- ba bada ba! -- close threads. A godsend.

That is all, back to your waffles.

Tufte on Columbia evidence presentationMAR 25

Tufte on Columbia evidence presentation: "a PowerPoint festival of bureaucratic hyper-rationalism".

iPod software update fixes some battery problemsMAR 25

iPod software update fixes some battery problems.

Researchers find patterns in the sequence of prime numbersMAR 25

Researchers find patterns in the sequence of prime numbers.

CNN goes to font size 72MAR 25

CNN goes to font size 72.

Annoying hippie designers must dieMAR 25

Annoying hippie designers must die.

Components and widgets for Flash MXMAR 25

Components and widgets for Flash MX.

What NYC is reading, watching, and listening toMAR 25

Amazon's New York City Purchase Circle reveals what New Yorkers are interested in: kids, chocolate, Excel, jazz, Hotel Costes, Sex and the City, Christopher Guest, Robert DeNiro, Stephen Sondheim, Sesame Street, Tivo, and MP3 players.

Fluency in CaddyshackMAR 25

Fluency in Caddyshack. who says Americans are not bilingual?

A beginner's guide to TrackbackMAR 25

A beginner's guide to Trackback.

JFK speech from 1961 about US foreign policyMAR 25

JFK speech from 1961 about US foreign policy.

Making your protest signs more usableMAR 25

Making your protest signs more usable.

IndyJunior is a fully customizable map whichMAR 25

IndyJunior is a fully customizable map which you can use to easily display your geographic location.

I guess taking your site down makesMAR 24

I guess taking your site down makes it feel like you're helping somehow.

It's nice to see that dolphin from SeaQuest getting workMAR 24

It's nice to see that dolphin from SeaQuest getting work.

Remixed Requiem for a Dream soundtrack includesMAR 24

Remixed Requiem for a Dream soundtrack includes song used in LOTR: The Two Towers trailer.

The origin of the term "John Doe"MAR 24

The origin of the term "John Doe".

New Digweed albumMAR 24

New Digweed album.

Apple to preview new version of OSMAR 24

Apple to preview new version of OS X in late June.

Letting looseMAR 23

The ball and chain is out of town for few days so I did today what every red-blooded American male does in this situation: I went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond for fluffy, white bath towels and a bath mat.

You laugh, but in doing so -- and in accordance with my profession as a user experience designer (sounds good, doesn't it?) -- I've increased the user experience of the bathroom considerably. The towels and bath mat are so soft that we'll want to take showers and baths endlessly, thereby keeping us superclean. Since returning from the store, I've bathed 4 times already. I can't get enough!

Stereographs of Russia in 1902MAR 23

Stereographs of Russia in 1902.

More photos from the anti-war march in NYCMAR 23

More photos from the anti-war march in NYC.

Missile dick chicksMAR 23

Missile dick chicks. saw these gals at the march yesterday

My photos from the NYC protestMAR 23

It was such a nice, sunny day in New York yesterday that I went for a walk down Broadway with 200,000 anti-war protesters. After exiting the subway at Times Square, I joined up with the March for Peace and Democracy on 41st and Broadway. Because I went to observe rather than protest, I zipped along the outskirts of the crowd, taking pictures as I went:

NYC protest photos

The enthusiasm of the crowd was impressive; they really believe in what they were marching for. Despite the strong feelings, the march was peaceful until it reached Washington Square Park. The march permit expired at 4pm and police moved in to disperse the crowd. I didn't witness it, but some protesters maced or pepper sprayed the police and the police responded in kind and with arrests.

Albert Einstein's 1947 open letter to the UNMAR 22

Albert Einstein's 1947 open letter to the UN.

The Camera Clamp, mini camera tripodMAR 22

The Camera Clamp, mini camera tripod.

List of weblogs and diaries from embedded journalists in IraqMAR 22

List of weblogs and diaries from embedded journalists in Iraq.

"anyone who is 100% sure of the moralityMAR 22

"anyone who is 100% sure of the morality of their position with regard to the war in Iraq probably hasn't understood the issues involved". nicely put

One less view from IraqMAR 22

Kevin Sites, a CNN correspondent currently in Iraq covering the war, was "asked to suspend" writing for his weblog. It's unclear who asked him to stop. Most likely it was CNN, but could have been his wife for all we know. Many folks are disappointed because news from Iraq that is unfiltered by major news organizations is hard to come by and is a welcome addition to the regular coverage.

Some people in the discussion thread that accompanies his final post are flipping out a little bit...and unnecessarily so. If CNN did tell him to stop, it's not a case of corporate censorship or crushing the little guy (jeez, talk about paranoia). Kevin is over in Iraq on CNN's payroll and probably has a contract that doesn't allow him to report on the war for anyone else, even for himself.

Hopefully he and CNN can come to an agreement to let him keep blogging from Iraq, either on his site or on CNN.com. It would be a good thing for CNN to do to generate some goodwill among online news readers and to give an innovative, experienced correspondent a little freedom to explore new methods of war reporting.

There's an additional angle here concerning the nature of weblogs and other online writing. When looking at weblogs in a legal sense, is a weblog a personal diary or is it journalism? If Kevin's site is a personal diary, CNN might not have any right to make him stop, contract or not. But given his occupation and the simple fact that he is publishing information on an open network for anyone to read, that seems to make it journalism. As it stands now, many webloggers want the best of both worlds: the legal protection and benefits offered to journalists combined with the flexibility and freedom of keeping a personal diary. It will be interesting to see how (or if) this changes in the future.

CNN makes Kevin Sites stop blogging from IraqMAR 21

CNN makes Kevin Sites stop blogging from Iraq.

Paul is collecting protest coverage materialMAR 21

Paul is collecting protest coverage material.

What Slashdot has done to prepare forMAR 21

What Slashdot has done to prepare for increased traffic due to the war.

Note to anchors and reporters: stop smilingMAR 21

The TV coverage by the cable news networks of the war in Iraq is disappointingly shoddy. Somehow, they think we want to see green, pixelated pictures of trucks moving through an empty desert; endless grainy shots of Baghdad at night; choppy, pixelated live reports from embedded reporters; and the neverending analysis of the minutia of warfare. This is supposed to give us a sense as to what's happening and what to make of it all?

I've had the TV on all afternoon, watching it while I work. Right now, I'm watching tiny pixelated people moving around on the deck of an aircraft carrier. This scene imparts absolutely no information, knowledge, or perspective to the viewer. I understand that the assault of Iraq is important to cover, but what about the protests around the world, the terrorist suspects on the loose with possible dirty bombs, and the plans for humanitarian aid? Those things are just as important to the story, and the news channels have devoted about 2 minutes to covering them over the course of the entire afternoon, opting instead to fawn over U.S. military might, their tech toys, and, wheeee, look at us, we're embedded.

A lowlight from earlier was an enthusiastic Neil Cavuto on Fox News asking some jackass Congressman how he felt about what he's been seeing so far (this was after seeing the severe bombings in Baghdad). The grinning Congressman replied, "I'm very happy".

And just to be fair, a few good things about the coverage this afternoon:

- The live views of the bombing in Baghdad. As much as a grainy picture on television can, it gave viewers a sense of the scope of the bombing. Certainly didn't fill me with a sense of happiness as it did for that Congressman.

- Extensive coverage of the Iraqi ambassador's comments to the UN on MSNBC. Surprised me to see coverage of an alternative view of the war.

Top 10 most beautiful people in EuropeMAR 21

Top 10 most beautiful people in Europe.

AIDS/HIV in Zimbabwe, a QT photo slideshowMAR 21

AIDS/HIV in Zimbabwe, a QT photo slideshow.

Video footage from SF protestsMAR 21

Video footage from SF protests.

Some pics of the SF war protestMAR 21

Some pics of the SF war protest.

Daypop needs some financial helpMAR 21

Daypop needs some financial help. if you've used and enjoyed Daypop in the past, consider a donation

NYC peace march Saturday at noonMAR 21

NYC peace march Saturday at noon.

Donate to the Mirror Project Funding DriveMAR 21

Donate to the Mirror Project Funding Drive.

2003 Nation Magazine Award FinalistsMAR 21

2003 Nation Magazine Award Finalists.

Some benefits of exclusive custom typeMAR 20

Some benefits of exclusive custom type.

37BetterGoogleMAR 20


Developing Movable Type pluginsMAR 20

Developing Movable Type plugins.

If you can show me one USMAR 20

If you can show me one US representative who even reads, much less answers, his own email, I'll post a giant picture of him or her here.. Greg gets a great response from a British MP

And...action.MAR 20

Get a load of this March 4th posting from the TVBarn discussion list:

A senior producer who shall remain nameless, at a major cable television news operation based in the southeastern United States which shall remain nameless, told me today with a wry confidence I found quite amusing that the "the war is scheduled for the evening of March 19th."

The war pretty much began last night on March 19th. Coincidence or has this war been planned for weeks and was that information shared with the media? (thx Greg)

Update 3:20pm A kottke.org reader writes that a high ranking member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board says that the two week period from March 15-30 was scheduled months ago as the start of the war with Iraq. The RFPB advises the Secretary of Defense on the various U.S. Reserve forces.

Now seriously, where is Raed?MAR 20

When the topic of weblogs gets covered in the mainstream press, the question of trust often comes up. Inevitably, the comparison is to print and television media. Is the information you get from weblogs as trustworthy as, say, what you read in the NY Times or watch on CNN? Old media's quick answer is often "no".

But people gauge the trustworthiness of weblogs just like they do with newspapers, magazines, and television. Based on what's being said, how it's said, the accuracy of the information compared to other sources, the blogger's track record with similar information, and who else trusts that blogger, we can make pretty good decisions as to the general trustworthiness of a blogger and the specific trustworthiness of a particular post. And much of the time -- say, when Instapundit or Boing Boing are just linking to and excerpting stories from other online sources -- trusting a certain weblog isn't that much of an issue.

Trust becomes more important when eyewitness reporting is involved. Where is Raed? is the personal weblog of Baghdad resident Salam Pax**...or so he tells us. Other than what he tells us, we have no way of knowing if he's actually posting live from Baghdad or is running some elaborate hoax from the middle of Kansas (don't laugh, it's happened before). The site is hosted on blog*spot and is therefore practically anonymous.

Is Salam posting from Baghdad for real? I don't know, but if I had to guess, I'd say yes. There's a good way to find out for certain. Kevin (whom I'm pretty sure is real and blogging from Iraq), if you make it to Baghdad during the course of or after the war, look up Salam and tell us all about it, would you?

** Salam Pax is almost certainly a pen name. "Salam" (or more properly, "Salaam") and "Pax" mean "peace" in Arabic and Latin respectively.

Field reporters' weblogs from Iraq and other locationsMAR 19

Field reporters' weblogs from Iraq and other locations.

Slang dictionary at urbandictionary.comMAR 19

Slang dictionary at urbandictionary.com.

Former veep Gore joins Apple's board of directorsMAR 19

Former veep Gore joins Apple's board of directors. also advises for Google

Nipple scarves, the latest trend in JapanMAR 19

Nipple scarves, the latest trend in Japan.

Make fonts, not warMAR 19

Make fonts, not war.

NYC overrated & underratedMAR 19

NYC overrated & underrated.

David Sedaris 14 CD box set on eBayMAR 19

David Sedaris 14 CD box set on eBay.

$1000 prize in rock, scissors, paper competitionMAR 19

$1000 prize in rock, scissors, paper competition.

Tiny Bluetooth robotsMAR 19

Tiny Bluetooth robots. the future is finally here

FAQ for SARS (that new strain of pneumonia)MAR 19

FAQ for SARS (that new strain of pneumonia).

The warMAR 18

If you're a regular reader of my site, you'll notice that I don't write about current events or world news much. And in spite of the impending U.S. war with Iraq, I'm going to continue to write about other things because war & politics are a means to an end and there's more than one way to get there. That said, I've been keenly following the news and analysis since 9/11 about Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Iraq and wanted to put into words what I've been thinking about it. So, some random thoughts:

- Saddam Hussein needs to be removed from Iraq. The world will be a safer place when he is in control of nothing more than his personal free time. He has become a powerful multi-billionaire on the backs of the Iraqi people. The only way to remove him is with force; he's not going to leave by choice. Assassination is illegal and would result in political instability, so we need to go get him & his supporters *and* help stabilize the country while power is transferred to the people.

- The U.S. has done an absolutely awful job in explaining the reasons for this war to its citizens and to the other countries of the world. There's no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq; that's been a ridiculous assertion from day one. Saddam is dangerous, but he's not an immediate threat. And the argument that the U.S. has the right to go wherever they want and do whatever they want against the judgement of the rest of the world? The U.S. has always done whatever it wants in this regard, but it must scare the shit out of the rest of the world to hear it stated so clearly. The U.S. is the world's 800-pound gorilla, one that can be very petty, selfish, and stupid.

- The bottom line is, the U.S. isn't going to war with Iraq for altruistic reasons, no matter what we say. Everything the leaders of the United States have ever done, from the Revolutionary War right up to the present, they have done for money and power. Make the whole world a capitalist democracy and everyone benefits a little, but the U.S., as the biggest member of the group, benefits the most. That's what the American brand of capitalism is all about: we gain the support of the little guy by improving his situation a little so that we can improve our situation greatly.

The war with Iraq is a great economic opportunity for the U.S. and for the Republicans. Stability in the region makes for lower oil prices to fuel the U.S. and world economies. Iraq becomes another market for U.S. companies and, if all goes well, a blueprint for the friendly Muslim country. A quick war and lower oil prices will delight the stock market, which will hopefully kick start the economy. Success will breed confidence. Libya & Korea, you're next. By the time the election rolls around in 2004, the U.S. economy will be flying high on the great successes of our nation in war and economics. But only if the plan works.

- Just as unconvincing as Bush's flimsy arguments for war have been the arguments from the other side for peace. Talk about preaching to the choir. Your "blood for oil" and "give peace a chance" signs are as ridiculous and unconvincing as Bush's "well, they're evil" argument. War is bad. Duh. Any ideas as to alternatives? Praying, marching, and hoping for peace isn't going to get it done alone. Bush and the peaceniks are both equally at fault for not working hard enough at having a meaningful dialogue on Iraq, each side settling for lobbing rhetoric over the wall. Bush looks like a chimp. Great...now tell me what the fuck that has to do with anything. Blech.

- I think very little of George W. Bush as the leader of my country. He's uninspiring, unimaginative, not that intelligent, has no perspective on the world, operates in an extremely cloistered world of his own, and while I have no doubt that he's acting in what he thinks are the best interests of the country, his ideas about what those best interests are don't match mine. Bush is leading the U.S. like a large, soulless corporation, which if you know how I feel about large, soulless corporations, is about the most damning thing I can say about him.

- Journalism has always been -- and still is -- about money. Selling newspapers, magazines, fizzy water, cable television subscriptions, etc. Reporting and analyzing the news fairly and accurately is a secondary concern, if it's a concern at all. Believing that things have ever been otherwise is naive.

Most of the news you see on TV is marketing (at the local level, it's all marketing). Cable news networks have been selling this war for months. War is good for them and it's in their best interests to help egg Bush on. Brian Williams live from Kuwait is going to make more money for MSNBC than a report on the huge scam that is the American health care system.

Weblogs are supposedly the antidote to this. With some very notable exceptions (journo Kevin Sites blogging live from Iraq and this Iraqi's personal weblog), this just isn't true. Most webloggers "covering" the current situation are either peace advocates unwilling to enter into a debate (see above) or too busy whipping each other into a hawkish frenzy in the pursuit of getting linked, being seen, driving up page views, and trying oh-so-hard to scale Mt. Instapundit. (Probably going to get some mail about this one.)

- Everyone, from the U.S. gov't to France all the way down to little old me, is being hypocritical about this whole thing. I'm working on a theory: hypocrisy is natural and necessary, and we should stop treating it as a completely bad thing. People, corporations, groups, and countries can't be entirely self-consistent with their views & beliefs and still function.

It's all much more complicated than this. All the arguments out there for and against are necessarily shallow. We're getting very small pieces of the whole story from TV reports, newspaper articles, weblog postings, and magazine pieces. No one has the time to read or write a complete analysis of the situation (which would be a social, political, religious, scientific and economic history of the world from 5000 B.C. up until 2 minutes ago...basically all human knowledge).

Summing up, Bush bad, war bad, this war not so bad even though bad Bush reasons also bad.

Where ya from?MAR 18

Where ya from?.

MP Tom Watson's reaction to Robin Cook'sMAR 18

MP Tom Watson's reaction to Robin Cook's resignation on his personal web site. "Yesterday I ended up three down from Robin Cook when he made his resignation speech."

Al Qaeda training manualMAR 18

Al Qaeda training manual.

Five years!MAR 18

The first post to this weblog was made on March 14, 1998, making it five years old last week. I'm trying to recall where all that time has gone and figure out how it's possible that I have been writing here almost every day for the past five years. Five years! I've never had a job, girlfriend, car, or apartment for that long.

The strange thing is, I can't imagine ever stopping. I toyed with the idea of quitting several times over the past two years, but never could. Whenever the site gets stale or boring, it only takes a couple of days for something to happen that gets me all jazzed up about writing something for it again. It seems silly to think of myself 45 years from now, almost 75 years old, still posting away to whatever a weblog is in 2048, but if I were a betting man, I'd wager that kottke.org and I will be around for a 50th anniversary post. Stay tuned!

37signals down to three peopleMAR 18

37signals down to three people.

Extra value surfing, Mike tests out theMAR 18

Extra value surfing, Mike tests out the wifi @ McDonalds in NYC.

Just brown and waterMAR 18

French Week continues over at Idlewords, and Sunday's installment compares French & American school cafeteria menus, rightly blasting Americans for providing our children (widely marketed to us by our government and corporations as "our future") with substandard, unimaginative, unhealthy and corporate-controlled food. Here's a sample:

Finally, notice how hard it is to eat a healthy diet at the American school. You would be relegated to a ghetto of garden salads, 'soups of the day', and whatever nutritious innards you could pull out of the breaded main dish. The message American kids get is that healthy food is second-rate and tastes bad, that they should eat lots of meat, cheese and potatoes, and that eating fast food every day is a normal diet.

There is no suggestion (like in the French schools) that a palate is something that must be nurtured and formed over time. Instead, kids are taught to favor sweet, fatty, salty foods and treat eating as just another source of entertainment.

The process shows no signs of slowing, either. The current push for irradiating meat (under the euphemism of 'cold pasteurization') is an attempt by the beef industry to make meat safer not by improving hygiene at the slaughterhouse, but by rendering contaminated meat harmless. Presumably, it doesn't matter whether meat in school lunches has been in contact with cowshit, as long as it is no longer infectious.

Jimmy Corrigan vinyl figureMAR 18

Jimmy Corrigan vinyl figure. !!!

1898 x-rays of Nicholas II and his wifeMAR 18

1898 x-rays of Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, the last emperor and empress of Russia.

Yankee DutchMAR 17

Yankee Dutch.

War on Iraq Evite needs an updateMAR 17

War on Iraq Evite needs an update.

Why he writesMAR 17

George Orwell, in Why I Write, details four great motives for writing:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose -- using the word "political" in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.

Peace poster competitionMAR 17

Peace poster competition.

X-treem wine descriptions!!!MAR 17

X-treem wine descriptions!!!.

Reruns of Bloom CountyMAR 17

Reruns of Bloom County.

View the contents of your NYC closet on the webMAR 17

View the contents of your NYC closet on the web.

Why I am a Bad CorrespondentMAR 17

Why I am a Bad Correspondent. Neal Stephenson

Latest in NYC status symbols? These haveMAR 16

Latest in NYC status symbols? These have been around for years....

By failing to give Bush an exitMAR 15

By failing to give Bush an exit strategy, peaceniks are pushing him into a war. interesting theory

Blogs not media outlets?MAR 14

Blogs not media outlets?. this is actually a great question...when does a personal online diary become media? when it's convenient for whomever is suing or getting sued?

America 2.0MAR 14

Adam Greenfield, in a SXSW wrap-up, talks about a possible U.S. brain drain because of the government's efforts to control that which brings the most vitality and robustness to human society:

America hasn't had its Kristallnacht - yet - but even so the buzz around New Zealand in a few circles of my acquaintance is enough to put one in mind of the brain drain Germany bought itself in the mid- to late 1930's. And as Florida might have it, if I were a smart politician just about anywhere on the planet - one interested in economic vitality and quality of life - I might be egging the Ashcrofts on. All those smart Americans will be looking to settle somewhere that supports and encourages them in who they are, and they'll bring their truest assets, their creative minds, right along with 'em.

If I were a smart politician, I wouldn't merely be egging Ashcroft on, I would be thinking of ways to lure the American (and European and Asian and Middle Eastern and Indian, etc.) creative class to my country, creating a home of the more free, a land of more opportunity, a country for the 21st century just as America was for the 20th.

James Beard Journalism Awards 2003MAR 14

James Beard Journalism Awards 2003. where's SauteWednesday in that Internet category?

Raging platypusMAR 13

Raging platypus.

Pic of crashed helicopter that carried Jeff BezosMAR 13

Pic of crashed helicopter that carried Jeff Bezos. How did anyone survive?

Three iguanas and a bunny rabbitMAR 13

Three iguanas and a bunny rabbit. oolong 2, electric bugaloo

Ten reasons to love FranceMAR 13

Ten reasons to love France.

Opening and closing the feedback loopMAR 13

I receive great email from the people that read my site. Lots of links to interesting sites, books, music, articles, etc. People connecting what I write about with what they are thinking or reading. Thoughtful questions from enthusiastic beginners about setting up weblogs, getting into design, or making their own font. Contributions that add the depth and breadth of experience to my shallow, narrow observations. I get very little bad email.

As the traffic to this site has steadily increased over the past few years, my ability to keep up with my email has decreased. I've gone from answering all of my email almost immediately to answering all of it eventually to answering most of it eventually to now answering only some of it eventually. I could easily spend 2-3 hours a day answering my email, which, for a variety of good reasons, I don't want to do.

Now, I don't want to get less email, but I do want to set expections for people when contacting me so no one gets offended or upset when I don't respond right away or even not at all. To that end, I'm toying with replacing the email link on every page of the site with a link to a "contact me" page that lets people know all this.

I'm having a bit of trouble writing this contact page. On the one hand, I don't want to discourage people from writing with a lot of rules and warnings, but on the other hand, I want to set expectations and give people guidelines for getting in touch with me in the best way possible...remaining open while exerting some control so that the situation is manageable for everyone.

Any thoughts on this? Have you seen an approach to this type of problem on another site? Or is this just a natural trade-off that you just have to deal with?

The Brick Apple, Lego New YorkMAR 13

The Brick Apple, Lego New York.

Destruction of Lego WTC preceded 9/11MAR 13

Destruction of Lego WTC preceded 9/11.

The Man Who Ate EverythingMAR 12

The Man Who Ate Everything

His gastronomic rapacity knows no satiety.

The AAA is evilMAR 12

The AAA is evil.

Now do one about wikisMAR 12

As far as I can tell from my chair far from Austin, Scott's bet-winning song was the best thing about SXSW this year:

Sitting in Austin, knockin' back a Shiner
listenin' to a guy by the name of Dave Winer
an' he's talkin' 'bout RSS, XML and RPC
talkin' 'bout things that don't make no sense to you or me
so tell me now, friends, why ya gotta be a hater?
just because my site doesn't pass the validator?
but I'm gonna get it right, I'm gonna get it straight
gonna get compliant with Section 508

Can I get a yee-haw?

Epinions boughtMAR 12

Epinions bought.

Earn frequent flyer miles and get discountsMAR 12

Earn frequent flyer miles and get discounts just for eating out.

Login screen for NYC McDonald's WiFiMAR 12

Login screen for NYC McDonald's WiFi.

Jingo all the way, oh what fun it is to deride...MAR 12

I am almost irrationally enraged about this freedom fries business, to the point of wanting to do physical harm to Messrs. Jones and Ney if I ever see them in person:

French fries in the House of Representatives' cafeterias will now be known as "freedom fries" as part of a Republican protest at France's opposition to a war on Iraq.

Republican representative Bob Ney, whose committee is in charge of the eateries, said the action was "a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France".

French toast from now on will be known as "freedom toast".

But then I got to thinking, don't Congressmen (note the deliberate use of the masculine) have the right to blow off steam at the workplace just like everyone else? Maybe taking diplomatic pot shots at France on the eve of war is the House equivalent of shooting Nerf guns at each other over cubicle walls during the last big push before a product launch at a tech firm. As a taxpayer, I'm not going to begrudge a little tomfoolery on my dime as long as they're taking care of business in the meantime.

So what's the problem? It's the whole "you either wit us or agin us" mentality. If the US were a person, nobody would want to hang out with him (again, note the deliberate use of the masculine). You don't want to play on our team? Fine. We're gonna blacklist you, stonewall you, ridicule you, and basically make your life a living hell. Is this really how we want to represent ourselves as a country? We're running the world like the Mafia.

Oh, and if we're going to do this whole French bashing thing right, we need to nuke the Statue of Liberty. They sent it over here in 1886...there's probably thousands of French troops still hidden inside, biding their time, waiting to strike when we're all asleep. Goddamned backstabbing, ungrateful, cheese-eating (zing!), non-English-speaking traitors!

ps. French fries are from Belgium, not France. What's next, deporting the Pennsylvania Dutch back to Holland?

Weblog as journalismMAR 12

Weblog as journalism.

Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginityMAR 12

Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity.

Orchid Fever, the New Yorker article which eventually became AdaptationMAR 12

Orchid Fever, the New Yorker article which eventually became Adaptation.

BibleopolyMAR 11


3D QT movie of an x-ray view inside someone's mouthMAR 11

3D QT movie of an x-ray view inside someone's mouth.

US tax dollars at workMAR 11

US tax dollars at work. my level of disgust for my gov't is at 11 on this one

Gisele to quit modeling?MAR 11

Gisele to quit modeling?.

Building brand loyalty with emailMAR 11

Building brand loyalty with email. PDF, 53K

Sampling networks accuratelyMAR 11

Here are some lists of the top weblogs (as determined by counting inbound links):

Technorati Top 100
Daypop Top Weblogs
Myelin Blogging Ecosystem
TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem
Most Watched Blogs @ blo.gs**
Blogrolling.com Top Links**

** These two lists are not like the others and the discussion below may not apply. (Or maybe it does.)

They are all different. Why? Because each is describing a small part of the network as a whole -- with the possible exception of Technorati because its sampling size is relatively large -- much like Saxe's blind men trying to describe an elephant.

How did these lists -- which ostensively are trying to measure the same thing -- get so dissimilar? To add weblogs into the system, each probably started with small list of weblogs to seed the system, picking up other weblogs as each was scraped. That initial seed list pretty much determines how each map of the network is going to look. If you start with Scripting News and look at what it is linking to and what those sites are linking to (i.e. the two degrees of Scripting News), the popularity of SN is going to skew higher than its actual popularity because sites that SN links to are likely to link back to it.

So, my hypothesis is that because of the skew introduced by the initial conditions and the small sample sizes, all of these lists (except maybe Technorati) are pretty inaccurate. It's like the network effect squared or something -- the rich seem disproportionally richer because the network is being measured from their perspective (perhaps making this weblogs & power law business more pronounced than it actually is) -- but I can't get my head around it.

So here's my question for you. How do you construct a fairly accurate map of a network (the weblog universe in this case) with a sample size much smaller than the total number of nodes (weblogs)? Is it even possible? A random sampling would work, but how do you tell your spider to go find a random node when it can only find nodes though links from other nodes?

(I didn't have time to do 2000 words on this, so it's a little incomplete and thrown together, more of a starting point for a discussion than a statement of what I actually believe. I could be wrong about all this, but it seems like there's something interesting here.)

After the verbal hugs and virtual kissesMAR 11

After the verbal hugs and virtual kisses come the quiet claws.

Flash, usability, and information designMAR 11

Tufte et al on Flash, usability, and information design.

SETI@Home project identified 150 candidate signals thatMAR 11

SETI@Home project identified 150 candidate signals that need a closer look.

Putting the "you" in home improyouvementMAR 11

Meg and I are getting our NYC apartment fixed up and functional bit by bit. It's hard with work and so much to do in our new city -- not to mention the 300 cable channels (Tivo + IFC + Sundance + HBO = kiss your life goodbye) -- but we're getting there.

This past weekend we made excellent progress, moving the microwave off the kitchen counter to a shelf of its own, installing a new kitchen faucet that offers improved control and more room to manoeuver over our shallow sink, and putting in a new shower head.

Showering with our old shower head was like sitting down to dinner at a compulsive talkers convention; shit was spraying everywhere. The new head is shiny and big but relatively low-flow; it doesn't spray water at you so much as gently rain it down on you, real soothing-like. After a post-installation shower, I caught this reflection of myself in the shiny new head:

stop, shower time!

New evidence of crater left by dinosaur killing asteroidMAR 11

New evidence of crater left by dinosaur killing asteroid.

maps to help you find locally grown foodMAR 11

maps to help you find locally grown food.

Don't feed the IsraelisMAR 11

Don't feed the Israelis.

Pyramids from spaceMAR 10

Pyramids from space.

Jump the sharkMAR 10

Jump the shark.

Usability engineers? Where to start....MAR 10

Usability engineers? Where to start.....

US public turns to Europe for newsMAR 10

US public turns to Europe for news.

Bloggies acceptance speechMAR 10

Although I didn't make it to SXSW this year, I did prepare a speech in the unlikely event that I'd win one of these. Here it is, exactly as I'd written it in my notebook:

Wow, this is... Wow. Um, Jesus. I don't know what to say.

(pause, glance at award, release single tear from right eye)


First of all, I'd like to thank everyone but God. Without everyone but God's help, I wouldn't be standing here today.

(point everywhere but straight up)

I'm so honored to accept this lifetime achievement or best Honduran or power law-related weblog award. I don't quite know how I won this award without ever promoting myself in any way for it. Well, except for that $800 I spent to fix the nomination and voting process.

(laugh nervously, as if that's just a joke)

Heh, just kidding folks.

(look uncomfortable when no one laughs)

(somewhere in the audience, a cough)

Furthermore, I hope the question of my superiority over Matt, Heather, Anil, and Rebecca is finally settled once and for all. We all knew I was better anyway.

(laugh nervously again)

(audience doesn't seem to "get it", the mood shifts from embarrased silence to open hostility. matt looks pissed.)

Oh, and the war. I don't think there should be one, in complete agreeancement with what Fred Durst thinks.

(audience brightens at pop culture reference)

(pause, glance at award again, think that maybe i shouldn't have mentioned the bribing, better make another deft joke about it)

Um, that $800 I mentioned earlier, that, um, wasn't true.


Um, ...

(ok, close on a high note. more pop culture here, i think. that durst thing earlier was gold!)

You know that episode of the Simpsons where Homer wants to win the worker of the week award at the nuclear power plant and instead that carbon rod wins and Mr. Burns holds the rod up and everyone cheers? I feel just like that rod. Thank you.

(wild applause. everyone loves the rod.)

(rebecca, matt, heather, seething, are waiting backstage with respective entourages. anil is off in the corner looking cool in a white turtleneck sweater. pummeling ensues.)

(scream like a little child)

Not the face, not the face!! I'm too pretty...

(fade to black)

The tyranny of emailMAR 10

The tyranny of email. next article should be "Tyranny of Frames"

New Puma ads feature blowjob aftermathMAR 10

New Puma ads feature blowjob aftermath.

Adaptive Path's reading listMAR 09

Adaptive Path's reading list.

Baldie Michael Schmidt no longer bald!MAR 09

Baldie Michael Schmidt no longer bald!.

Enigma machine Java appletMAR 07

Enigma machine Java applet.

Doesn't Apple have any user experience folksMAR 07

Doesn't Apple have any user experience folks to take care of this stuff?. instead of leaving it to the engineers who are usually not so good at it

NYC in the snowMAR 07

New York City received a modest amount of snow yesterday. I grabbed a camera and shot some photos out the back window of my apartment and on the way to lunch.

New York City in the snow


Jupiter has 48 moons? Wow.MAR 07

Jupiter has 48 moons? Wow..

Camino 0.7 is outMAR 07

Camino 0.7 is out.

Catgirl is Braid Crazy!MAR 06

Catgirl is Braid Crazy!.

William Gibson is a Starbucks' fanMAR 06

William Gibson is a Starbucks' fan.

Where's David's doodle?MAR 06

In celebration of Michelangelo's birthday, Google has changed their logo to a bit of stone depicting the sculptor's best known work, David. In the tradition of covering the bare breast of a female statue in the Great Hall of the Justice Department and hiding Picasso's Guernica during Colin Powell's UN presentation in February, Google's resident logo sculptor appears to have chisled David's schlong clean off, leaving only a dark, fuzzy area.

What did Michelangelo do to deserve such shoddy treatment on his birthday? Surely a small, pixelated phallus isn't going to offend anyone or corrupt the young. Five minutes in Photoshop and David's dong is back in its rightful place:

David's doodle, back in action

The change is small (sorry Mrs. David), but the man's wang deserves to be shown in all its glory.

(Oh, and I derive much satisfaction in applying my years of graphic design experience to the task of cutting wee private parts from one tiny statue and pasting them on another tiny statue, thank you very much for asking.)

Bid on Enigma machine at EbayMAR 06

Bid on Enigma machine at Ebay.

Two man helicopterMAR 06

Two man helicopter. do not try this at home

Neal Pollack interviewMAR 06

Neal Pollack interview.

Chimera is now CaminoMAR 05

Chimera is now Camino.

Early web folk artMAR 05

A student of Clay's is compiling a catalog of "early popular web culture" and she needs our help (via bb). Let's reminisce...

Here's a few things I remember: that dancing baby, The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything, the $250 Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe spam, and URouLette. What do you remember?

Barbie's weblogMAR 05

Barbie's weblog. no, really!

The rise of "worse is better"MAR 05

The rise of "worse is better".

What is a third place and why are they important?MAR 05

What is a third place and why are they important?.

Google HacksMAR 05

Google Hacks.

Burton Amp - a jacket with controlsMAR 05

Burton Amp - a jacket with controls on the sleeve for your iPod.

Operation Troop Trax is sending music toMAR 05

Operation Troop Trax is sending music to US soldiers in the Middle East.

Good amount of material at Michael Chabon's web siteMAR 05

Good amount of material at Michael Chabon's web site.

Starting fires using an ice lensMAR 05

Starting fires using an ice lens. to make fire, the ice must be clear

New Macromedia site crashes my browserMAR 05

New Macromedia site crashes my browser. Flash and Chimera don't play well together

I am so proud to be an AmericanMAR 05

I am so proud to be an American.

iTetris, the Tetris that plays itselfMAR 04

iTetris, the Tetris that plays itself.

Cool bags at airbag craftworksMAR 04

Cool bags at airbag craftworks.

EasyRGB color harmoniesMAR 04

EasyRGB color harmonies.

new Radiohead on June 10MAR 04

new Radiohead on June 10. ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod woo hoo!

MetaFilter in the RuinsMAR 04

MetaFilter in the Ruins.

The SimulatorMAR 04

The Simulator. a classic from '97

The Press GaggleMAR 04

The Press Gaggle.

Nature's Klein BottleMAR 04

You've got to hand it to the ancients. They could tie someone's brain in a knot with the best of them. "If a tree falls in the woods and no one's around, does it make a sound?" Epimenides Paradox: "This sentence is not true." Zeno's Paradox. The Immaculate Conception. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does Adam have a belly button?

The ancients, however, would have been grossly unprepared for the greatest puzzle of the modern world:

Seedless watermelons.

No seeds? Then how do you grow them in the first pl...ow, ow, brain, ow, hurting, ow, melting, daisy, daisy, ow, ow. Luckily, modern science provides an answer to the riddle.

Tiny Japanese tykes on tiny Japanese bikesMAR 03

Tiny Japanese tykes on tiny Japanese bikes.

kottke.org in JapaneseMAR 03

kottke.org in Japanese.

Ung Lee, acclaimed young author, followed "greatMAR 03

Ung Lee, acclaimed young author, followed "great artists steal" too literally.

Just say no to whatever it isMAR 03

Just say no to whatever it is these people stand for.

War in our living roomsMAR 03

At the beginning of Glory, having never seen war before, Matthew Broderick's character, Robert Shaw, gets shell-shocked on the battlefield, unable to function with the reality of warfare exploding around him. In 1862, an educated man such as Shaw might have read books about war and seen pictures, but would have been almost completely surprised as to what actually occurs on the battlefield.

Today, potential soldiers have grown up watching increasingly realistic representations of war on TV, in full-color photography, at the movies, and in video games. Flat fictional representations of war still don't prepare people for what happens in combat, but it must be difficult to recruit someone who has seen the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket (although some may sign up because of such films). Maybe the depiction of war in media has something to do with the anti-war protests as well; seeing war -- even watered-down on-screen combat -- is making people think hard about wanting to send anyone into that kind of situation, regardless of whether ousting dictators is a good idea or not.

Adaptation on DVD May 20thMAR 02

Adaptation on DVD May 20th.

Kieslowski's Blue, White, Red finally out on DVDMAR 02

Kieslowski's Blue, White, Red finally out on DVD.

Verisign is a bad companyMAR 02

Verisign is a bad company.

Diary of a Start-upMAR 02

Diary of a Start-up. the history of ArsDigita

The Google Dance toolMAR 02

The Google Dance tool. search Google's beta servers for different results when they're updating their database

The style and class of vintage telegramsMAR 02

The style and class of vintage telegrams with the speed and convenience of email.

Archives    February 2003 »    January 2003 »    December 2002 »

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