Entries for August 2003 (September 2003 »    October 2003 »    November 2003 »    Archives)


My soap-making friends Tam and Julie shouldAUG 31

My soap-making friends Tam and Julie should make Fetus Soap instead.

Wired News tracks down the source ofAUG 30

Wired News tracks down the source of the time machine spam.

Get prescription drugs online without having toAUG 30

Get prescription drugs online without having to go to the doctor. I'd like 10,000 orders of valium, please

barcode clockAUG 30

barcode clock.

Guns, Germs, and SteelAUG 29

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Jared Diamond has written a fantastic book that lays out in simple terms how Europeans came to dominate the rest of the world without resorting to racist notions of Europeans being intrinsically smarter or more gifted than the inhabitants of the rest of the world. Diamond's thesis is so simple and powerful, it seems, as Erdos would say, to come from "God's book of proofs". An illustration of this powerful simplicity is how the orientation of the continents affected the spread of domestication of crops, animals, germs, and ideas (which in turn influenced how fast difference cultures matured):

Why was the spread of crops from the Fertile Crescent so rapid? The answer partly depends on that east-west axis of Eurasia with which I opened this chapter. Localities distributed east and west of each other at the same latitude share exactly the same day length and its seasonal variations. To a lesser degree, they also tend to share similar diseases, regimes of temperature and rainfall, and habitats or biomes (types of vegetation). That's part of the reason why Fertile Crescent [crops and animals] spread west and east so rapidly: they were already well adapted to the climates of the regions to which they were spreading.

Large numbersAUG 29

Large numbers.

Browser-safe Web color palette declared deadAUG 29

Browser-safe Web color palette declared dead.

Craigslist has RSS feeds of some of its sectionsAUG 29

Craigslist has RSS feeds of some of its sections.

Britney and Madonna kiss open mouth withAUG 28

Britney and Madonna kiss open mouth with tongue. 50 million teen boys just exploded.

There's a tiny black hole where our mailbox used to beAUG 28

Meg's issue of Vogue arrived today and I about got a hernia carrying it up the stairs. The damn thing is more than an inch think and weighs about 5 pounds. Luckily I had the cover photo of Nicole Kidman to keep me company as I waited for the ambulance. (BTW, have you ever heard Kidman say "Baz Luhrmann" before? I saw a TV interview with her where she repeated his name about 4 times. It's just about the sexiest thing I've ever heard.)

Some guy ate a 20x20 at In-N-OutAUG 28

Some guy ate a 20x20 at In-N-Out Burger and has the photos to prove it. 20x20 = 20 beef patties + 20 cheese slices

New Wes Anderson film called The LifeAUG 28

New Wes Anderson film called The Life Aquatic starring Bill Murray.

Web standards and semanticsAUG 28

Following up on my last post (Standards don't necessarily have anything to do with being semantically correct), here's some further discussion on the issue:

This Validates!
On Standards and Semantics
Semantics and Bad Code
Semantic Markup

And Dan Cederholm takes a tentative first step toward the creation of a Am I the Semantic Web or Not? site with his first SimpleQuiz, the objective of which is to "ask some questions about markup and generate some discussion about preferred methods".

1977 interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger in which heAUG 28

1977 interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger in which he describes his wild lifestyle.

I'm so haaappppyyyy!!!! Wheeeeeee!!!!!!!AUG 28

I'm so haaappppyyyy!!!! Wheeeeeee!!!!!!!.

Troops in Iraq are dealing with temperatures in the 110sAUG 28

Troops in Iraq are dealing with temperatures in the 110s.

Soderbergh, Clooney, and the gang to make "Ocean's Twelve"AUG 27

Soderbergh, Clooney, and the gang to make "Ocean's Twelve". No foolin'

You can submit a PDF to AdobeAUG 27

You can submit a PDF to Adobe via the web or email and get it converted to HTML or text.

rating: 3.0 stars

Pirates of the CaribbeanAUG 27

If you'd asked me six months ago if I wanted to go see a Disney movie based on a Disneyland attraction, I probably would have punched you in the face. But Pirates is as good as you've heard it is. Depp gives a great performance as Jack Sparrow (I knew I'd love the film when Depp steps off the crow's nest of his sinking ship right onto the dock), and Keira Knightly, well, let's just say I've got a bit of a thing for her.

Standards don't necessarily have anything to do with being semantically correctAUG 26

Since the push toward good HTML/CSS/XHTML standards started a few years ago, browsers have gotten better at rendering standards-compliant code correctly and web designers have gotten better at writing standards-compliant code. Safari and Mozilla in particular have made great gains in rendering code correctly and folks like Todd Dominey, Dave Shea, Dan Cederholm, and Doug Bowman (the four Ds?) have built great-looking and usable sites with standards-compliant code and then told us how they did it all.

But what I feel like is being implied in the effort to get more people to embrace standards compliancy is that coding a page in valid XHTML with valid CSS involves improving the semantic meaning of the content...which is just not true. Take the following from an informative site on Standards-compliant XHTML:

Removing presentation from (X)HTML documents and using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to control visual design is a revolutionary approach for many. Designers will find good reason to separate style from content and abandon use of <table>, <font> and <center> tags to control visual design. For example, a single CSS document can control the visual design for thousands of (X)HTML pages. Updating a site with redundant, non-standard <table> and <font> tag hacks is a chore. With CSS, a few simple changes to the style sheet can refresh an entire site comprised of thousands of documents.

And from the XHTML basics page on the same site:

Tables: for data only
Back in the glory days of the Web, designers exploited the <table> tag to create grid-based designs. This was out of necessity because browsers simply couldn’t understand Cascading Style Sheets. Fast forward to the present; almost every current browser understands most of the first CSS specification and some of the second. Use tables for data only (think spreadsheets). Should you come in contact with someone using tables for presentation, firmly reprimand them and point them to this guide.

The trusty font tag
Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you ever use the <font> tag. It is antiquated, unsupported by the W3C, and makes for very unsexy (X)HTML. Condemn anyone using this tag and immediately contact the authorities.

Last time I checked (about two minutes ago...to see if I was actually correct), both the <table> and <font> tags are valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional tags and the <table> tag is a valid XHTML 1.1 tag. Documents with <table> and <font> tags are standards-compliant. And yet, we're advised not to use them. Rightly so, but not because they aren't standards compliant, but because using alternative methods (defining styles with CSS, making sure tags are semantically relevent to the text they enclose, etc.) is preferable for the reasons outlined above (among others).

Coding web documents in valid XHTML doesn't make them semantically useful nor does coding semantically correct documents mean the documents are standards-compliant; they are two distinct things but a powerful combination. As web designers, we need to be aware of what we're getting with standards compliancy and semantically rich documents and that one does not necessarily lead to the other. More importantly, we need evangelize effectively to clients and budding XHTML coders & web designers, telling them *precisely* what's so great about making sites standards-compliant and semantically useful and therefore worth spending money to redesign a site or time to learn valid XHTML/CSS.

Someone got fired for reading MetaFilter at workAUG 26

Someone got fired for reading MetaFilter at work. Are you happy now, Matt?

It's "weblog" not "web log"AUG 26

Dear New Yorker, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post and others**,

Please stop using the term "web log" to refer to a chronologically-ordered frequently-updated website. The correct term is "weblog". Furthermore, "blog" is not short for "web log", it is short for "weblog".

When dealing with words generated by the Internet, where people stick bits of different words together with reckless abandon, I can understand the need for high-quality newspapers and magazines to use the proper grammatical approach in dealing with compound words, hyphens, etc. At first blush, "weblog" appears to be a shortened version of "web log" which is in turn a shortened version of "World Wide Web log", in which case the usage the media has adopted would be more or less correct ("Web log" would probably be more correct). But the evidence doesn't support this:

1. The original spelling of the term is "WebLog" as seen on Jorn Barger's Robot Wisdom WebLog page from December 1997. It was never "web log". In subsequent correspondence (like this Usenet post from June 1998), Barger himself referred to his site as a "weblog" and sites like his as "weblogs".

2. After Barger's coining of "weblog", a few early bloggers preferred to use "web log" as an alternative (see Raphael Carter's Honeyguide Web Log from June 1998) but the majority use was and is "weblog" and the use of "web log" has waned (except for its misuse by the media, of course). A search for "weblog" on Google yields 4,620,000 results. A Google search for "web log" yields 383,000 results. The use of "weblog" is in the majority by an order of magnitude. The impact in the search results for "web log" due to its incorrect usage in the media is unknown.

3. Most of the citations for "weblog" and "blog" in the Oxford English Dictionary Online use "weblog", not "web log". The primary exception is the 1999-08-30 issue of TBTF, which appears to be an inadvertant misquotation by TBTF proprietor Keith Dawson. Courtesy of the Internet Archive, the original citation on Peter Merholz's site reads:

I've decided to pronounce the word "weblog" as wee'- blog. Or "blog" for short.

The use of "Web log" in TBTF is clearly wrong:

Seems [Merholz] decided one fine day that "Web log" ought to be pronounced "wee-blog."

While the "web log" spelling is an acceptable alternative to "weblog", it's clear from the available evidence that "web log" was derived from "weblog" (rather than the other way around) and its usage is comparatively minor, both of which naturally point to "weblog" as the primary usage in any newspaper, periodical or dictionary that values accuracy.

** Here are a few recent news articles that have used "web log" instead of "weblog":

Finding Comfort in Strangers With an Online Diet Journal (NY Times)
Huffington's prior punditry influences her campaign's tone (SF Chronicle)
Names & Faces (Washington Post)
Dispute exposes bitter power struggle behind Web logs (news.com)
Google News search for "web log"

List of courses available on MIT's web site for freeAUG 26

List of courses available on MIT's web site for free. Did I mention free? Free!

Claire Danes as Mirabelle in Steve Martin's Shopgirl?AUG 26

Claire Danes as Mirabelle in Steve Martin's Shopgirl?.

Complex net art diagramAUG 26

Complex net art diagram.

Trailer for The Matrix RevolutionsAUG 26

Trailer for The Matrix Revolutions.

Lots of free guides from the BBCAUG 25

Lots of free guides from the BBC on how to do journalism.

Panoramic photo from near the summit of the MatterhornAUG 25

Panoramic photo from near the summit of the Matterhorn.

A Fun Thing I'll Do AgainAUG 25

I have hauled in three bluefish from off the coast of Massachusetts. I have sat nervously in a powerless airport terminal for three hours with no food, water, or restroom and luckily getting on what was probably the last plane to Boston (apparently) because my arms are a little longer than the guy next to me. I have gotten gum on my shirt from the seal belt in the airplane. I have spent 7 consecutive days at the beach. I have finished half of a heavy nonfiction book and started another which I am now about halfway through. I have tasted a donut so hot and delicious that I burned my fingers eating it but did not stop to put it down. I have eaten foie gras creme brulee and heard tale of a foie gras donut. I have chuckled at conservative white men in pink shorts. I have flown co-pilot in a 10-seat Cessna. I have cheered for a Little League team from Saugus, Mass. I have browned nicely. I have seen more stars in one night's sky than in the last 7 years of living in large cities. I have not used a computer in over 9 days. I have consumed far less root beer floats than I would have liked. I have boogie boarded briefly.

Is this enough? At the time, it didn't seem like enough.

(With apologies to David Foster Wallace)

My foodie friends snicker at my fondness for iceburg lettuceAUG 25

My foodie friends snicker at my fondness for iceburg lettuce.

Techniques for editing Hot or Not photosAUG 25

Techniques for editing Hot or Not photos.

Lance Arthur gets 3000 spams a dayAUG 25

Lance Arthur gets 3000 spams a day.


KUDZU EAT KOTTKE!!. "KUDZU EAT ___!!!" is new "All your base..."

Excellent post at Gothamist about the blackoutAUG 25

Excellent post at Gothamist about the blackout.

Tuned out, dropped out, let's do the time warp againAUG 25

I'm back in NYC after being on vacation since last Friday and I feel like I've been in a time warp. Even though I experienced the blackout (power came back on about a half-hour before we left for the airport on Friday), I know nothing about what happened because I didn't read any newspapers or watch any TV while I was gone. I feel so uninformed about something I experienced. There's probably something to be said here about how dependent we are (or maybe it's just me, but I suspect not) on the media for contextulizing absolutely everything for us, even things we've experienced for ourselves, but I'm still in vacation mode so you'll have to fill in your own blanks. Nyah nyah.

French Paradox due to smaller food portions?AUG 25

French Paradox due to smaller food portions?.

Internet addicts and the power outageAUG 25

Internet addicts and the power outage.

rating: 4.5 stars

The Royal TenenbaumsAUG 24

I'm such a sucker for slo-mo, especially when Wes Anderson does it. Gets me every time. That scene where Margo gets off the bus to pick up Baumer at the dock? I could watch that scene over and over and over again.

rating: 2.5 stars

Old SchoolAUG 20

While this movie needed more topless women in pools of K-Y Jelly and Will Ferrell on the screen, it was still a pretty funny update of Animal House.

2003 NYC BlackoutAUG 15

The power went out around 4:10pm or so as I sat in front of my computer. I don't know the exact time because most of the clocks in the office are electric. Wandered around the 15th floor for a bit, looking out the window at people in the building across the street looking over at our building and down to the street. Reports via cell phone that the power is out in Brooklyn as well.

I grabbed provisions from the dark fridge (a bottle of water) and set off from 45th Street across town and down 30 blocks to 14th Street and into the Village...after 15 flights of stairs. When I emerged from the building, people were everywhere. It's midtown, so people are usually everywhere, but this was that times ten. I waded through the crowd down 5th Avenue to 34th Street.

Nobody knows what's going on. A red emergency vehicle is parked, the driver has the passenger side door open with the radio blasting the news out to a crowd of people. Everyone stands listening, heads cocked to one side, looking at the ground, straining for details. I join them for a couple of minutes. The radio says that the power is out. Duh.

I pass a woman saying to another woman that Madison Square Garden is on fire. Two minutes later, I walk past a very intact and very much not burning Madison Square Garden. The crowd is so dense that we're all shuffling along, no one getting anywhere fast. Someone bumps into the person in front of me. "Hey, watch where the hell you're going." People are little scared and seem on edge. I don't hear the word terrorism, but the air is thick with the thought.

I reach 18th Street. Some shops are open, most are not. The ice cream shop is doing good business. The owner of a bodega has barricaded the door with shelves of food and stands watch with him employees.

A block from home, I see a couple sitting outside at a restaurant, sipping Coronas, watching the world go by.

And now, I leave for the airport. I have no idea if we'll get there in time.

Fun with the Google calculatorAUG 14

Instead of replying to my endless queue of unanswered email, I spent some time last night playing with Google's newest toy, the Google Calculator. Maybe if people would email back solutions to arithmetic problems included in my email replies to them I would more readily respond to my backlog. But I digress.

After verifying that 2+2=4 (contrary to popular belief), I tried to figure out the largest difference between the smallest and largest units of measurement on a given scale, finally ending up with ~3.08 x 10^26 angstroms in a parsec (26 orders of magnitude difference). If you delve into the world of obscure metric prefixes, you can get up to 64 orders of magnitude difference....there are ~3.08 x 10^64 yoctometers in a yottaparsec. If you want to get really ridiculous, you can find out how many yoctometers there are in one vigintillion parsecs (~3.08 x 10^103 if you're curious).

That got me thinking...what's the limit of the Google Calculator's computational ability? 170! (170! = 1*2*3*4* ... *168*169*170) is equal to ~7.26 x 10^306, but 171! doesn't work. 2^1023 = ~8.99 x 10^307, but 2^1024 doesn't work. After some trial and error, the upper limit of the calculator is ~1.797 × 10^308...or basically anything less than 2^1024. My binary math is a little rusty, but that limit seems to correspond to 32-bit double precision real arithmetic. Which makes sense, but it would have been more fun if the limit would have been a googol (1.0 x 10^100). (Regarding other large numbers, neither googolplex nor infinity return calculator results.)

In addition to playing with big numbers, the calculator can help you finally figure out the number of drams in a pennyweight (~0.878 drams/pennyweight), rods in a fathom (~0.364 rods/fathom), or the speed of light in knots (582,749,918 knots)...but unfortunately not the mileage of your automobile in rods/hogshead.

Andy's got some more calculator fun going.

The Fakester Manifesto is an open letterAUG 14

The Fakester Manifesto is an open letter to Friendster listing grievances and asserting rights to create fake profiles on the system.

Boatmen, a spam poemAUG 14

alsop the mend
mescal hove cranks
pleader bender hying
tensest estimations horseshoer
bramble addicted illustrious
eventuality polygonal terrors
popularly maturity courtesy
excretion bergman horsefly
scopes advertisements terminated
eta hornblende crimson
adoptions metronome argive
boardinghouse posters hypothyroid
botany couching talker
administering hoydenish bourgeoisie
testifiers sawyer barnes
meeker savers admits
polygonal bateman bessel
schoolroom acts bouncing
bergman posers expeditions
teacart hypodermics audubon
ali takeover adventurers
bottoming sculptor bravo
telecommunicate acknowledge pledge
accumulator icebox exceptionally
tee expedient plungers tamely cradled boob
matrices exhausting sawfish at&t mechanics

remove mail

testings mended boundlessness
advertisement actinolite tainted
administratively meaningfully advanced
crashing body exceptionally
cortege courted arnold
cottony tattle humorous
midst illume covariate
scents imaginate expunging
adair bowler benson
boatload actively pouting
bookseller boom saturdays
creamer policed boniface
euphemism cretinous bonnets
actuators pragmatism sayings
scheme andersen crackling
poop pomade boasters
aegean mien mechanics
pragmatically bra plurals
exhortation plebiscite termed
hovers tension postmen
ibis tenable possums
executor cowboys hypothalamus
accesses telecommunication poles
scrutinize breakers mattered
schoolhouses meanwhile testes pluck porphyry expressively
temporary anheuser schoolhouse telescoped actuality

-- Gary Milano, webm@yahoo.com

Friendster is fighting the creators of fakeAUG 14

Friendster is fighting the creators of fake profiles like Jesus Christ and Smurfette. Friendster's gonna lose that battle

I don't think I even noticed howAUG 14

I don't think I even noticed how much of the RSS vs. P.E.A. conversation I was inadvertently inhaling until I passed out and puked random XML snippets with big chunks of bipolar nerd all over.... Stewart >= funny

Jack Black makes a Dorito Burrito on the Jenville ShowAUG 14

Jack Black makes a Dorito Burrito on the Jenville Show.

rating: 1.5 stars

InsomniaAUG 13

See the original Norwegian film instead. And Pacino's schtick is getting a little old.

A chap named Henry Raddick humorously reviewsAUG 13

A chap named Henry Raddick humorously reviews anything and everything on Amazon.

Selling outAUG 13

Jesus Jones' frontman Mike Edwards on selling out vs. cashing out:

We didn't hesitate to accept the offer [to play at a corporate conference] and I can't think why we should have. I recall from my music-press-reading days that accepting money from The Man is wrong but I can't remember why, or how it differs from signing a recording contract or playing a heavily sponsored festival.

Like other teens, when I was younger I formed a notion about the purity of art versus payment for art (this correlates inversely with the number of 15-year-olds paying mortgages) that made it an Offence In Rock to accept an honest month's pay for an honest three minutes' work. Even then there seemed to be some contradiction between punk ideology and the Great Rock'n' Roll Swindle.

See also Dave Eggers' famous sell-out rant in his interview with the Harvard Advocate.

Google has a calculator nowAUG 13

Google has a calculator now.

Tour Paris on a SegwayAUG 13

Tour Paris on a Segway.

rating: 3.5 stars

Pumping IronAUG 12

Pumping Iron reveals Arnold Schwarzenegger to be unusually suited for a career in politics...which makes for a fascinating documentary and which should scare the hell out of everyone currently living in California.

Will the "real press" make Arnold Schwarzenegger'sAUG 12

Will the "real press" make Arnold Schwarzenegger's past catch up with him?. Fan of Hitler, steroid user, cheats on wife, all-around jackass, and owner of the world's biggest inferiority complex

suck.com illustrator Terry Colon rides again at LafftrackerAUG 12

suck.com illustrator Terry Colon rides again at Lafftracker. Collaborative comics

BMW trying to cease and desist theirAUG 12

BMW trying to cease and desist their Mini Cooper fans into submission. BMW, next time save some trees and just send a letter saying, "Hi, we're a big dumb company that hates our customers."

And now we go to the man on the streetAUG 12

In reviewing S.W.A.T., Yahoo! member rufffryder22 blasts the movie critics who've given the film some not-so-good marks:

Let me start by criticizing the critics! They are an assorted bunch of failed writers or something who probably said the original Terminator sucked because it was too shallow and gave you only bang for your bucks....and look how popular Terminator is today! Dont believe these guys because these are the sort who would probably give a completely USELESS sleeper of a movie like Titanic(which had nothing to do with the REAL titanic sotry by the way)an A rating and yet find it hard to do so for an entertaining, action packed yarn.

I for one dont want REALITY per-se in my movies...I can get that outside in the real world. I have always gone to the movies to be entertained, to forget the world outside and hopefully always have the good guys win...THATS entertainment for me and if others have different opinions, fine.

Clint eastwood's spaghetti western's , bruce lee's first movies all had this same kind of crap written about them, which leads me to believe that its always been only probably boring old or middle aged white guys (who couldnt enjoy a movie unless it had sean connery and classical music in it or something) write these *****ty reviews.

With all the spelling mistakes, sketchy grammar and poor argument, it's easy to make fun of rufffryder22's review and side with the critics in saying Hollywood is producing a lot of crap these days. But the truth is Hollywood knows their audience very well (a cynic might say, "they should know their audience well, they created it," and that's probably true) and rufffryder22 represents a significant chunk of it. He's unknowingly quoting from slide #1 of the Hollywood Movie Producer's Powerpoint presentation:

Attributes of a Successful Blockbuster Movie
1. Entertaining
2. Make people forget the outside world
3. Always have the good guys win

When your audience is parroting your prime directive back at you without any prompting, you know you're doing something right.

David Sedaris on The Girl Next DoorAUG 12

David Sedaris on The Girl Next Door in the New Yorker.

BBC article on Julian Dibbell's effort toAUG 12

BBC article on Julian Dibbell's effort to make money exclusively from playing Ultima Online.

rating: 1.0 stars

Death to SmoochyAUG 11

This movie could have been great, but it's just average. Skip to the end to see the Nazi figure skating thing. Now that's comedy gold!

The Alto and, how you say, Graphics MouseAUG 11

A September 1981 article in Byte magazine describes the "Graphics Mouse" component of the Alto personal computer:

The mouse is a small box with three buttons on the top and several ball bearings on the bottom. A slender cable connects the mouse to the Alto keyboard (see photo 4). The buttons are named red, yellow, and blue, although the physical buttons are all black. The mouse is typically held in the user's right hand and rolled along the table on a soft piece of plastic that provides traction for the ball bearings.

Movement is detected by the motion of one of the ball bearings. The mouse reports changes in position to the Alto. From this, a cursor on the Alto display can be positioned. The physical position of the mouse on the table is unimportant, since only the change in position is reported. The mouse graphics interface is considerably more flexible and comfortable than a bit pad, joystick, or trackball. Many Alto programs can be controlled with the mouse alone independent of a keyboard.

And then there's this prescient bit at the end:

A stand-alone Alto is usable, but the best configuration is a group of Altos connected by an Ethernet system. Since the Ethernet system is a local network, a special device called a gateway was developed to allow local Ethernet networks to speak to other Ethernet networks or packet networks of other types. Many companies are researching network schemes that would allow packet transmission across cable-television lines. Since these cables are currently installed in many homes and buildings, it is not difficult to imagine a city with an "information grid," analogous to the electric-power grid that exists today. Combined with an electronic mail system (a prototype called Laurel is used on Altos today) the possibilities are staggering.

Staggering indeed. (via Muxway)

Condiment war in NYCAUG 11

Condiment war in NYC. Scroll for the photographic evidence

Amelie Poulainization of Montmartre in ParisAUG 11

Amelie Poulainization of Montmartre in Paris.

Weblog on NYC restaurants and foodAUG 11

Weblog on NYC restaurants and food.

Dave Gorman does comedy show called "Googlewhack Adventure"AUG 10

Dave Gorman does comedy show called "Googlewhack Adventure".

This guy's recording his penis enlargement attempts on this weblogAUG 10

This guy's recording his penis enlargement attempts on this weblog. Kinda disappointed that he didn't get the pills via a spam

A Mr. Pibb fan siteAUG 09

A Mr. Pibb fan site. Bow down in awe of the Pibb

Digitally retouching a bikini model's photoAUG 09

Digitally retouching a bikini model's photo. Check out the archive for more examples and don't believe anything you see in magazines

Dave Egger's favorite music albumsAUG 09

Dave Egger's favorite music albums.

Bush signs Executive Order that gives U.AUG 08

Bush signs Executive Order that gives U.S. oil companies free reign in Iraq. i.e. immunity from any sort of prosecution

Movie of someone solving the Rubik's Cube in 18 secondsAUG 08

Movie of someone solving the Rubik's Cube in 18 seconds. Quicktime

Rubik's Cube World Competition 2003AUG 08

Rubik's Cube World Competition 2003.

Google and the Fabulous GooglettesAUG 08

This Craigslist job posting (via Anil) describes a new initiative within Google called Googlettes:

What is a Googlette? It's a new business inside of Google that is just getting started – the start-up within the start-up. We're looking for an experienced, entrepreneurial manager capable of offering direction to a team of PMs working on a wide array of Googlettes. You will define Google's innovation engine and grow the leaders of our next generation of businesses.

From the description, it looks like Google is building a little Skunkworks to generate business ideas and leaders internally instead of relying so heavily on outside hires and ideas. Which is a fine idea.

But when I first read the description, I thought they might be doing something else that is potentially more interesting. Instead of generating ideas and people for internal use, what if they're incubating start-ups to spin off into companies of their own? Fast forward five years and instead of being a big huge company, Google is a big huge company at the center of a network of 10-20 large to medium-sized companies with similar goals, values, and business practices. Most of these spin-offs would be engaged in businesses similiar (and probably complementary) to each other and the Google Mother Ship, some of them maybe even directly competing with each other.

With the right balance of mutual effort and competition, the Google collective would be a formidable adversary for its competition -- a team of companies against single companies -- and would at the same time create an open business environment (say, the opposite of the current business environment in film, music, television, and radio) where competition creates more opportunities, value for customers, jobs, business, and innovation for everyone in that environment.

Again, I don't think that's Google's plan, but maybe it should be.

An open letter to Carly FiorinaAUG 08

An open letter to Carly Fiorina.

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster WallaceAUG 07

Sweet howling fantods! It's a new book by David Foster Wallace called Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity:

One of the outstanding voices of his generation, David Foster Wallace has won a large and devoted following for the intellectual ambition and bravura style of his fiction and essays. Now he brings his considerable talents to the history of one of math's most enduring puzzles: the seemingly paradoxical nature of infinity.

Is infinity a valid mathematical property or a meaningless abstraction? The nineteenth-century mathematical genius Georg Cantor's answer to this question not only surprised him but also shook the very foundations upon which math had been built. Cantor's counterintuitive discovery of a progression of larger and larger infinities created controversy in his time and may have hastened his mental breakdown, but it also helped lead to the development of set theory, analytic philosophy, and even computer technology.

Smart, challenging, and thoroughly rewarding, Wallace's tour de force brings immediate and high-profile recognition to the bizarre and fascinating world of higher mathematics.

It's from a new series of books called Great Discoveries that aims to "[bring] together renowned writers from diverse backgrounds to tell the stories of crucial scientific breakthroughs". I'll take more of that, please.

A LifeGem is a certified, high qualityAUG 07

A LifeGem is a certified, high quality diamond created from the carbon of your loved one as a memorial to their unique and wonderful life..

STD-ster, figure out where that awful rash came fromAUG 07

STD-ster, figure out where that awful rash came from. Friendster parody

Annalee Newitz likes to violate copyright everydayAUG 07

Annalee Newitz likes to violate copyright everyday.

kottke.org is the #1 result for "netscape ipo" Google searchAUG 07

kottke.org is the #1 result for "netscape ipo" Google search.

An attempt to repeat historyAUG 07

An attempt to repeat history.

Craigslist: The MovieAUG 07

Craigslist: The Movie. Wired News

Tom gets a ride in a TardisAUG 07

Tom gets a ride in a Tardis. Lucky bastard!

Refined RSS feedsAUG 06

I took a few minutes recently to make sure the RSS feeds for kottke.org are correct, validate, and such. In addition to a problem that Brent noted in my remaindered links feed, I've received several emails lately about my feeds not working in some RSS readers and aggregators. The MT RSS templates I was using predated the xml_encode attribute, so there was most of my problem right there (well, along with a lack of understanding of the intricacies of RSS on my part). So, with help from the RSS 1.0 spec, the RSS 2.0 spec, the default MT templates, and Brad Choate's Non-Funky MT RSS 2 Template, here are the RSS files for kottke.org for your enjoyment, approval, perusal, applause, and jeers:

RSS 1.0 with short excerpts
RSS 1.0 with medium-length excerpts
RSS 1.0 with full posts
RSS 2.0 with medium-length excerpts
RSS 1.0 feed of kottke.org remaindered links

As of right this minute, all of these feeds validate. When I get the chance to play around with a newsreader (I don't use them), I'll tinker a bit more to improve feed usability.

In the process of repairing my RSS files, I've gained a new understanding of the ongoing battle over RSS that has been going on since forever (it's the web version of the Hundred Years War). I'd never really looked at the RSS code or read the specs before, and I was struck by how much more human readable an RSS 2.0 file was compared to an RSS 1.0 file. Reading and then writing my RSS files, I "got" the 2.0 file right away, but I still don't really understand what the 1.0 file is all about...it felt a little kludgy and inelegant. I also got the sense that the 1.0 format is more usefully complex (powerful?) by default than the 2.0 format.

Obstensibly, RSS files are meant to be written by machines to be read by machines (robot to robot) so human readability shouldn't matter. But looking at the bigger picture, human readability of something like RSS can be important in developing new RSS-related memes (I'm using meme here in the traditional sense, not in the "it's on Daypop Top 40" sense that seems to have taken over the blogger mindspace). If hardcore developers of RSS readers and authoring tools are the only ones technically savvy enough to understand RSS files, the pool of potential memes is limited by the size and narrow focus (not to mention, for the most part, gender) of that group. But if the format is fairly human readable (more like HTML 3.2 markup than, say, Perl code), you're going to get more people from different backgrounds hacking away at it, coming up with new memes that could be useful in the long run.** From that standpoint, RSS 2.0 has the advantage over the more powerful but less readable RSS 1.0.

And just to keep completely rambling on and on, the above is what Dave was getting at with his comment about XML as a literary space (I think). Ben's rebuttal about namespaces and literature is an important point as well, but namespaces could be seen as locking things down too tightly: poetry only for poets, writing only for writers, code only for coders, etc. And if Shakespeare had been constrained by namespaces, how could he have made all those wonderfully bawdy puns? (<cock> Are we talking rooster or phallus here? Both! Take that, semantic web!)

** For an example of what I'm talking about, look no further than HTML. Like RSS, HTML started out as a fairly simple robot to robot markup language...there was no reason to be able to "view source" or edit the code by hand. It should have worked like:

human -> interface -> HTML markup -> browser -> human

with users never needing to see the HTML at all. Instead, browsers exposed the markup, because it was fairly human readable all sorts of people learned HTML by viewing source, those people hacked away at the code by hand, readers became writers, it got messy, and the web *exploded* in almost every way conceivable.

A Short History of Nearly EverythingAUG 06

A Short History of Nearly Everything

I've read so much about science that I was reluctant to pick up Bryson's book, but I'm a sucker for good but accessible science writing, so I forged ahead anyway. The beginning of the book was interesting but nothing I hadn't heard before, but once Bryson got to the more recent developments in everything from physics to evolutionary biology, I was hooked. I try to keep up with where science stands today by reading magazine and newspaper articles, but the big picture is hard to visualize that way. Bryson painted that big picture...the last few chapters of the book should be required reading for high school science students who may have learned that protons, neutrons, and electrons are indivisible or that Darwin had the first and final say on how evolution works.

rating: 2.0 stars

Kissing Jessica SteinAUG 06


The genetics that create tightly-coupled beehives andAUG 06

The genetics that create tightly-coupled beehives and ant nests can also form lazy anarchies.

Chubbygut details one man's weight loss effortsAUG 05

Chubbygut details one man's weight loss efforts.

The Way New YorkerAUG 05

Don't look now, but the New Yorker is quietly developing something of an internet beat with Rebecca Mead leading the way. Back in Nov 2000, she scooped many fine national publications with much shorter lead times with a story about weblogs. In a June 2003 Talk of the Town piece called The Way We Are, Mead profiled NY Daily News intern and Chinese native Simon Song, who -- until the publication of said piece quieted him -- posted his photos and observations of American life on his weblog. In the most recent issue (Aug 11), she mines convicted ImClone founder Sam Waksal's Amazon Wish List for another Talk of the Town piece speculating on his prison reading list. The New Yorker also covered Salam Pax's weblog (no article link available) shortly after the beginning of the Iraq war.

Shouldn't Wired, the New Yorker's sister publication at Conde Nast, be covering stuff like this? Seems to me that the NYer is doing a better job of uncovering the social aspects (you know, the important bit) of the internet and technology.

Howl is Rendezvous / Zeroconf for Windows and LinuxAUG 05

Howl is Rendezvous / Zeroconf for Windows and Linux.

Steven Levitt, king of the populist economistsAUG 05

Steven Levitt, king of the populist economists.

Michael Sippey misses the idea of WiredAUG 05

Michael Sippey misses the idea of Wired.

Lackluster crop of contest-winning Slashdot tshirtsAUG 05

Lackluster crop of contest-winning Slashdot tshirts.

Spam killing turns into competitionAUG 05

Spam killing turns into competition. Has anyone determined the theoretical maximum point value for an email message and what would that message look like?

Can you tell if these images are fake or foto?AUG 05

Can you tell if these images are fake or foto?.

Deep-frying your own chicken at KFCAUG 04

Deep-frying your own chicken at KFC.

rating: 2.0 stars

Terminator 3AUG 02

T3 was better than any movie made specifically for paying Arnold Schwarzenegger a lot of money has a right to be. And Claire Danes was in it, so that's good as well.

The feature list for TypePadAUG 01

The feature list for TypePad.

Topics on which Google thinks I am an expertAUG 01

Matrix Reloaded (#14)
Matrix Reloaded discussion (#1)
addicting games (#2)
Christopher Guest (#7)
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint (#2)
Gaetan Dugas (#1)
The Incredibles (#6)
September 11th photos (#3)
earthquake in Japan (#1)
Tom Hanks filmography (#2)
Calvin Klein dinnerware (#1)
NYC subway (#5)
Where is Raed (#4)
Daniel Pearl execution (#4)
Moby Eminem (#3)

The clearest evidence yet that Google is busted.

Buy a VW Beetle, get a free iPodAUG 01

Buy a VW Beetle, get a free iPod.

Somehow, MetaFilter is still capable of producing really great threadsAUG 01

Somehow, MetaFilter is still capable of producing really great threads.

New Yorker subscription stats, including demographicsAUG 01

New Yorker subscription stats, including demographics.

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