Today was the first real spring-like day in New York this year, so Meg and I celebrated by exploring the High Line. I took some photos (click on the photo below for more):
The High Line is an elevated railway that has fallen into disuse and disrepair, currently running from 33rd Street to the Meatpacking District on the west side of Manhattan. Before setting off, we checked on the Web for directions on how to get up there and found that some friends of ours, Jason, Alison, and Jake, had documented their High Line excursions, complete with directions. If you're interested in trying it yourself sometime, I would note that the south entrance/exit to the High Line appears to be closed (new fence, locks, barbed wire), so prepare for a round trip back up to 33rd Street.
God has been on my mind of late as I'm 1/3 of the way through God, A Biography, which has been excellent thus far. And so I was quite interested in checking out The Passion of the Christ to see if Gibson had come up with any new perspectives on the death of Jesus or even if it was an entertaining (in the broadest sense of the word) portrayal of the event. Sad to say, he has not. All the violence, which wasn't really that bad (certainly not the most violent movie ever), numbed me to the emotion of the whole thing - much like Tarantino's movies do for others -- leaving me only the movie itself to consider. And the movie was just ok, certainly nothing special.
A note on the crowd at the film, which was, due to the nature of the film, more interesting than what was happening on the screen. Two men of the cloth sat in front of me (affiliation unclear); they whispered to each other for much of the film, discussing what they saw.
Before the movie started, the woman of the couple beside me said to her husband, "you know, I'm going to have to see this again. My mother and my sister want to see it." He asked her, "are you going to buy the DVD too?" "Yeah," she said. After a short silence, her husband says, "honey, you know this is just a movie, right? It's not church."
Many people cried during the whipping and cruxifiction scenes...and there was a baby that cried periodically throughout the film. No children in the audience as far I could tell. At the end, lots of clapping...the audience clearly enjoyed the movie.
Track a stolen laptop with a customized default browser home page. One could even set up a service that would do the same for anyone who wanted to do something like this.
I went and checked out the NYC photoblogger event at the Apple Store in Soho last night. A huge crowd assembled to watch presentations by seven NYC photobloggers. Among the highlights:
- Khoi's presentation of Infrangible. A man after my own heart, he still hand-codes his site for each entry, nesting tables within tables and thumbing his nose at structured data. Databases are for suckers! He also does not resize large photos (like this one) to fit on the screen all at once, the idea being that the photo won't have the same impact at 400x600 that it does at 740 x 1113.
- Mike's photos of abandoned subway stations. I loved hearing Mike's story: he's got a cheapo camera and is a self-professed bad photographer, but he loves to shoot, is striving to improve, and, judging from the audience's delighted reaction to some of his photos, his approach to photography is definitely interesting.
- The topic of retouching photos in Photoshop came up several times. Most of the presenters adjust their photos in Photoshop for brightness, contrast, color correction, etc. Purists would argue that this is cheating. I liken the Photoshop retouching stage of the digital photography process to the darkroom stage in analog photography. Ansel Adams performed extensive manipulations of his photographs in the darkroom and few consider Adams a cheater. Khoi had an interesting comment along those lines, saying that the photo out of the camera has to have "it" regardless of any correction done after the fact in Photoshop. In my experience, good photos can be made great in Photoshop, but no amount of manipulation can turn a poor photo into a good one.
- Adam and Scott's description of the simplicity of fotolog.net. You upload photos, your friends upload photos, and the interface allows you to quickly jump from the photos of one friend to the next, keeping up with their visual lives. No need to call it social software or justify how useful the social network is. fotolog.net is elegant in its simplicity and it works. End of story.
- A tantalizingly short look at Eliot's photo management system.
- And across it all, the *barest* of impressions that photologging is an art form unto itself, that it's not just photography + blogging. I'm not sure yet what makes it a unique thing, but the combination of the relative inexpensiveness of producing digital images in mass quantities (with a digital camera, it costs as much to take and store 1000 photos as it does to take 1 photo) and cheap, easy methods of publishing them to the Web has a lot to do with it.
Most of the crowd stayed the whole two hours...which is amazing. After it was over, some of us moved along to a nearby bar to socialize which, according to Jake's introduction to the event, was the real reason for the whole thing in the first place. I only stayed for a bit before hunger and tiredness got the best of me, but it was nice to briefly meet and chat with some of the presenters before racing off to dinner.
Paul Ford on the word "consumers":
The word "consumers" makes me sad for this world. Whenever someone tries to convince you of advertising's nobility, remember that word -- the industry looks at you and sees not a human, but a gobbling creature with money to spend.
I can't recall where I heard this, but my favorite definition of a consumer is "a wallet with a mouth".
The Passion of the Christ opens today, rating of 50 on Metacritic. Ebert loved it, gave it 4 stars, but called it the most violent movie he'd ever seen.
kottke.org is grey today because I believe that musical sampling without prior consent of the copyright holder should be legally allowed because it does our society more good than harm.
Late last year, a DJ named Danger Mouse took The Black Album by Jay-Z, mixed it with samples taken from the Beatles' White Album, and produced The Grey Album. He sent the album to a few folks and now -- blame the Internet -- everyone has a copy.
EMI, one of the big five record companies, parent of Capitol Records, and owner/controller of the Beatles musical catalog, sent Danger Mouse a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that he had infringed on their copyright of the Beatles tunes in question. (Jay-Z, on the other hand, released an a capella version of The Black Album so that precisely this type of sampling/remixing would occur.) Andy Baio and several other people posted MP3 copies of The Grey Album on their Web sites and were also sent letters by representatives of EMI ordering them to remove the songs from their sites.
Believing that "the record industry has become a huge drag on creativity", music activist group Downhill Battle organized Grey Tuesday (Feb 24) and urged Web sites to turn grey and/or host MP3 versions of The Grey Album. I'm not hosting any of the MP3 files (you can find the files on these sites), but I have turned the site grey for the day to show my support for more permissive copyright laws. Instead of locking creativity up, I say set it free and see what happens.
Meg and I have been enjoying a small wedge of Cahill's Irish Cheddar for the past week. It looks a little strange and is made with Guinness Stout, but it's actually quite darn tasty (and fun to look at after the initial what the...?). We first tasted it at Meg's parents' place last year and were happy to run across it at Gourmet Garage in the Village. I'm not sure where else it is available in NYC (or in other places), but if you're a fan of the salted, pressed milk curd (and who's not?), you might want to give your favorite cheese shop a jingle and enquire after their supply of Cahill's Irish Cheddar.
Amazon wishlists now sortable by wish priority. Priorities range from "must have" to "don't buy this for me".
On heavy rotation on the iPod and iTunes lately have been Talkie Walkie by Air, Permission to Land by The Darkness, and Belleville Rendez-Vous from the Triplets of Belleville soundtrack. Nothing in common there except for the listener. (Oh, and The Grey Album by Danger Mouse.)
Nice fluffy article in the NY Times about the design process that led to the TiVo remote control, complete with a thumbs-up (bing!) from usability quote-whore Jakob Nielsen. I like TiVo and all, but why does tech journalism have to be so soft all the time?
The TiVo remote has a really huge, much-discussed design flaw, namely that you cannot tell which end to point at the TV unless you look at the remote or take a few seconds to feel for the buttons in your hand (if the room is dark). I've been using TiVo for almost 4 years now and while I've learned to look at the remote before I pick it up, the symmetry problem still gets me more than it should.
Here's another pitch that the Times let sail by in the article: "TiVo holds four design patents on the remote's basic shape and key layout." Say what? Trademark maybe, but how do you patent the shape of a remote control? By now, this question has a fairly pat and dissatisfying answer ("well, the busted and overworked patent system let us so we did"), but I'm tired of seeing patents like this given credibility by being mentioned in big newspapers.
Update: Neil sent me a link to the USPTO's guidelines for granting design patents. Here's their definition of design:
A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture.
If businesses buying design don't have any idea what design is, I guess you can't expect the US gov't to have any better understanding.
New movie reviews from Ebert and Roeper. "Our thumbs are higher than I was that day!"
Reader Jason (no relation) just alerted me to CSFB removing the Thought Leader Forum piece by Paul DePodesta which influenced my recent post about innovation. It seems that DePodesta's recent hiring as the GM for the Dodgers prompted the move, perhaps because they don't want Paul giving away too many trade secrets. (What's next? A Moneyball recall?) The version in Google's cache has been updated already and I can't find the article on the Wayback Machine...does anyone have a copy from their browser cache that they can email to me? The filename is "depodesta_sidecolumn.shtml" from the "csfb.com" domain. Thanks.
Update: A copy of DePodesta's Thought Leader Forum article is available here. A similar article, mentioned in the ESPN piece above, is available here. Thanks to Jason and Richard for the links.
Further update: Paul emailed me and asked me to remove the articles from my site, which I have done (I'm leaving the links to the offsite versions). Nothing to do with the Dodgers...he personally wants to keep a lower profile these days.
The trailer included on the DVD looks strikingly contemporary (pounding music, hundreds of cuts, very MTV) and must have been every bit as jarring** as the film to watch in a 1970s movie house.
** So jarring was the film to British audiences that after a short release, Kubrick withdrew the film from the theatres and it wasn't seen again in the UK until after his death.
This Safari caching bug still hasn't been fixed. It bit me yesterday and I almost lost an entry.
Bad editing, weak musical score, mediocre acting from good actors, no sense of humor, obvious plot "twists"...everything about this movie was phoned in. City by the Sea is a good example of bad Hollywood filmmaking.
Nuts for trucks. HOTTT REAR BUMPER NUDITY!!!
Stunning photo of Chicago from Lake Michigan. Take a look at the rest of the 2004 World Press Photo Contest winners while you're there.
People have been asking (not really), so I thought I'd let you know that MetaFilter, Megnut, and A Whole Lotta Nothing are down because of a bad computer fan. No ETA as of yet on when the box will be back up. Matt Haughey was unavailable for comment due to laziness on my part, but if he were available, he'd probably say something like, "you tell those ungrateful bastards that I'll order that new fan when I'm damn good and ready."
Update: Matt clues us in about the recent outage at status.metafilter.com.
Kelly Heaton's Live Pelt. A woman's coat made from 64 Tickle Me Elmos "trapped" on eBay.
When's the last time you used an imagemap?. Just wondering if there's any reason to still use them.
On the packing of M&Ms into a space. I spent a couple of years in college studying the packing fractions of atoms in glass.
Paul DePodesta is the assistant GM for the Oakland A's, a team whose winning ways have been documented in Michael Lewis's excellent Moneyball (my review). DePodesta took part in CSFB's 2003 Thought Leader Forum, presenting his ideas on The Genesis, Implementation, and Management of New Systems. He starts off talking about the situation in Cleveland, where he worked before going to the A's:
Despite this situation, I was grappling with a significant issue: the Indians were very successful at this time. We kept winning the division year after year, selling out every game in our stadium and the owner took the team public at one point and was making more money than any other owner. Thomas Kuhn wrote in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, "As in manufacture so in science-retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it." There was no crisis in Cleveland, at least not on the surface.
Success breeds complacency and isn't conducive to creating an atmosphere of critical analysis or innovation. Peter Merholz riffs about this in the context of user experience on the Web:
One of the most annoying realities of a user experience professional's life is eBay, because it seems to flout everything we stand for. The Web's most popular 'pure play' sports a remarkably unwieldy and unattractive design. eBay is wary of changing it because, hey, we're making money, right? Yet I wonder about the untold billions more eBay could reap if it tightened up its experience. Yes, initially there would be a lot of grousing, and probably loss of revenue, as people adjusted to the status quo. But overtime, the site's ability for higher productivity on the part of its users would lead to greater activity, and more sales.
As to why established systems (like eBay's Web site) have problems making large-scale changes, DePodesta quotes Thomas Kuhn as saying:
The emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity.
No one at eBay wants to lose their job. This applies not only to corporations, but also to other systems. Paul Hammond recalls a recent conversation with Matt Webb about Web design patterns, particularly as it relates to weblogs:
[Matt] argues that we've reached the point where website design is just iterating on the same handful of design patterns, and the gains made with each iteration are slowly lessening. If we were to start somewhere else, even if that something was rubbish, there is the potential for subsequent iterations to be significantly better.
The only problem with this idea is that the sites will suffer in the meantime. But even this isn't an issue on a personal site...
You're certainly not going to fire yourself if your personal site underperforms because you're trying something innovative, but there are other barriers. For many, innovation isn't a priority; people just want to write or share their photos. Or they don't want to lose their audience (if that's a priority) or have their friends get confused. And innovation is hard...the tendancy to follow others or to observe best practices is strong. But it would be fun to see if the introduction of some different web design patterns can do for the Web (or even just eBay) what Beane and DePodesta did for the Oakland A's.
More than four years ago, I ordered a CD from buy.com. The album was a new release and widely available everywhere, but it took them two months to process and ship the order...and then it never actually showed up. I haven't shopped there since.
This morning I got an email from buy.com announcing their "NEW Cellular Store", one of many I've gotten from them since that initial shopping experience despite never opting in to any of their mailing lists. Every time I get one of these emails, I think of my bad buy.com shopping experience, reinforcing my low opinion of them and my decision not to patronize them in the future, not to mention eventually prompting me to tell thousands of people about it here. Perhaps not the result they were after with their email marketing.
Rosecrans illustrates the importance of location for some NYC dwellers (you know who you are) by the number of steps he has to take to reach various destinations, entertainments, services, and delectables from his desk:
Niman Ranch cheeseburger: 110
Coffee shop: 141
Cheese shop: 153
Nearest subway platform: 305
Manhattan (Union Square): 433
Drycleaner (good): 961
For some New Yorkers, many of the things on his list are even closer than that: 8 steps to the phone and 9 to the door after the delivery guy rings the buzzer. With cabs and Towncars, both the well-heeled and those not so fond of hoofing it are able to reach any destination in the five boroughs and beyond in less than 100 steps. In these cases, it's not so much about steps as dollars.
As I walked past Bryant Park yesterday at lunch, I wondered how Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, gets from her office in 4 Times Square to Bryant Park for the Fashion Week festivities. It's only a block, less than a 2 minute walk, but she also has the option of taking one of the sleek black cars parked at the rear of the building on 43rd Street. Factoring in the stop lights, one-way streets, and Midtown traffic, the drive must take 5-10 minutes. My best guess is that Anna is not a steps kinda gal and opts for the Towncar.
I know you're all on the edge of your chairs waiting for word about my 52 magazines in 52 weeks effort, and I shall not disappoint you on this fine, sunny day in NYC. So far, I have read copies of Wired, Print (2 issues), Prospect (a UK monthly), nest, Vogue (blech), and Juxtapoz (tied with Vogue for least appealing magazine so far). And I've just started Herbivore, a magazine of vegetarian culture. I suspect that reading it will make me think of SF, but not in the most pleasant way.
Polymath. A person of great or varied learning; one acquainted with various subjects of study.
Cigarette lighter for your PC. Fits right into a drive bay.
Reading this Salon article on sports video games brought back a ton of memories from college. I never got into Madden properly, but I played a ton of Tecmo Bowl, Tecmo Super Bowl, and NHL '94, the latter of which is, in my estimation, the best sports video game of all time (with which Stewart would agree, I'm sure). A quote from the article:
[Bo] Jackson isn't the only athlete to have achieved fame for his video game likeness. Then-Chicago Blackhawks forward Jeremy Roenick's ability to fill the net and make Wayne Gretzky's head bleed in the "NHLPA '93" game was immortalized in the 1996 cult film "Swingers."
Roenick was good in '93, but with the much-improved gameplay in NHL '94, he was a monster. He was blazingly fast, had a quick stick, could stop on a dime, had the hardest shot in the game, and was easily capable of racking up 15-20 goals in three 5-minute periods. But he also had an unfair advantage over other players in the league because the Blackhawks were such a great team. Players like Steve Yzerman, Pavel Bure, Teemu Selanne, and Alexander Mogilny matched up well with Roenick skill-wise, but their teams just weren't as dominant overall. Not to mention that you couldn't taunt your opponents with new Roenick-related lyrics to Pearl Jam's Jeremy (GarageBand karaoke version coming soon) as easily while piloting Bure or Selanne through the heart of their defense for a completely demoralizing goal. Oh, the sting of being taunted with ad-libbed Pearl Jam.
The article also links to an article by Bill Simmons for ESPN Magazine about video game football. Near the bottom of the piece, there's a list of the top video game football players of all time, on which is Randall Cunningham at #3:
The best video game QB of all-time. You could roll him out to either side, scramble for first downs, throw 70 yards with him, avoid sacks...and he never self-destructed like he did in real life. Regardless of how his NFL career turned out, he'll always have his video game career to fall back on.
Based upon my experience with Cunningham in Tecmo Super Bowl, I'd put him at #1. The Eagles, who were not a great team in the game, were unstoppable with a properly coached Cunningham at the helm, mainly because he was a double threat at all times. He had the arm of Dan Marino and the wheels of Bo Jackson. If all the receivers were covered, you could just take off running and get a first down every time.
My sophomore year in college, a group of friends and I played an entire Tecmo season and I luckily drew the Eagles out of the hat during the team selection process. With a near-guaranteed first down (or touchdown) every time I had the ball, I rampaged through the regular season with a perfect record and a ridiculous quarterback rating only to buckle under the pressure in the playoffs. In the next season we started (but never finished), the Eagles were not included in the hat. Go, Randall!
Shortest Wiki contest. Now do one with a NotSoRidIcuLousName.
Story in Time magazine about Thomas Keller's move to NYC. Call me naive, but shouldn't there be a big disclaimer that his restaurant is opening in the Time Warner building?
The first bit of this NY Times article, Yours Not So Truly, J. Goodspam:
Purposes L. Xylophonist sounds like my kind of man. Unique. Creative. Focused, with a hint of formality.
There is no way to be certain that Mr. Xylophonist is, in fact, a mister. Actually, it is a pretty safe bet he is not a person at all. The fact that his name appeared in the return line of a piece of unsolicited e-mail almost assures that he is not.
Mr. Xylophonist wrote trying to sell some pamphlet about maximizing profits on eBay. Or maybe that was what Beiderbecke P. Sawhorse was pitching. It was definitely not the one from Marylou Bowling; she wrote to tell about "Government Free Cash Grant Programs." Then again, that might have been from Elfrieda Billman. As for Usefully T. Medicaids and Boggs Darrin, they both wrote about cheap drug sales, no prescription needed. (Of course.)
Alongside those missives from friends and that drudgery from the office is a cast of e-mail characters with fantastic names promising all manner of stuff for sale. Frequently the promises are bogus; virtually all of the names are, too.
Sounds a lot like a half-written post I was crafting for kottke.org, something along the lines of how spam had made email fun again, with emails from such flamboyant characters as Bloomfield O. Schoolboy, Conquest M. Accompaniments, Paperboys J. Mercantile, and (just this morning) Poop J. Guadalcanal and subject lines so interesting (amicable calliope, opacity applause circumcircle, exultant rodgers impromptu boot, chivalrous patent respiration gutenberg insure) that it set me imagining how fascinating those emails could have been had they matched their subjects.
But that was before MyDoom hit and shat all over my inbox with 800 messages a day that haven't been getting filtered by SpamAssassin. Spam is back on the naughty side of the my naughty/nice list. Radioisotopes J. Borgia can go to hell, and I don't care if he does want to chat about "benedictine racetrack degas grapevine".
 I'm contemplating changing the name of this site to "Half-written post" because, man, I have a whole bunch of them.
 Here's the full list of names I was keeping:
Apologist P. Fulfillment
Credibility C. Bolero
Anastasia M. Mayo
Bloomfield O. Schoolboy
Radioisotopes J. Borgia
Leadership C. Reformulates
Haddock B. Genially
Noose V. Acclimation
Paperboys J. Mercantile
Conquest M. Accompaniments
Eurodollar H. Bawls
Internal Q. Tridents
More good names here and here.
 And a list of some of the interesting subject lines I noticed:
occipital hell kiss cowl fussy
affinity imperate certiorari etiquette
handline fall cacao inflame
opacity applause circumcircle
benedictine racetrack degas grapevine
logarithmic gong roster complementary
hood sinai drosophila piquant cereal
arteriole condone hannibal gluing
debauchery disney goose
chivalrous patent respiration gutenberg insure
millard demurred hornet
figaro cobweb carcinogenic pellagra
bullhead geyser chart
commission metzler heel
exultant rodgers impromptu boot
flat tire ferronatrite euphorbium enwood crottle
 Although I have to say that a recent favorite spam subject line is "are you satisfied with the smallness of your love muscle?" which seems to be the spam equivalent of "when did you stop beating your wife?"
I love what the judge had to say to one of MGM's lawyers in the MGM vs Grokster case:
Let me say what I think your problem is. You can use these harsh terms, but you are dealing with something new, and the question is, does the statutory monopoly that Congress has given you reach out to that something new. And that's a very debatable question. You don't solve it by calling it 'theft.' You have to show why this court should extend a statutory monopoly to cover the new thing. That's your problem. Address that if you would. And curtail the use of abusive language.
The audio transcript is available on MP3 and is in the public domain, which means you can share it with your friends, share it with strangers with P2P software like Grokster, or do a remix of it with GarageBand and release that into the public domain (which you could then share with your friends or strangers however you see fit). Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have a collaborative culture instead of a culture dictated to us by Universal, Sony, EMI, Time Warner, and BMG? (link via bb and Copyfight)
Heather is mothballing Jezebel after 8 years. I should probably do the same for 0sil8 one of these days...
The Legend of Zelda map. I prefer my tattered childhood copy, but in its absense, this will have to do.
Make your LiveJournal into a book. Where's the MT plugin for this?
Guidelines for preparing practice versions of standardized tests. "For math questions, use the term 'number cubes' instead of 'dice.'"
Anthropomorphic states and provinces. "Idaho seems to have a thing for Canada"
A few British schoolchildren were recently asked to share their thoughts on a few classic rock songs from Zepplin, Hendrix, Nirvana, et. al. with predictably amusing results:
"I don't like it. It's worse than football. My dad watches football all the time and I have to leave the room. My dad went to watch football in Australia." (Cream, Sunshine Of Your Love)
"This isn't singing, it's just screaming." (Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song)
"It's making me think about doing bad things like putting snowballs down my sister's back." (Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit)
If you like this, you may also enjoy what kids think about classic video games, fifth graders' drawn interpretations of Radiohead, and some movie reviews by kids. (link via dg)
On my way back to the office after lunch, I heard a whistle from far down the street. A second later, I heard another. Whistle after whistle sounded, each closer than the next. It was only when I saw a man in uniform checking the parking meters down the block that I also noticed several whistling men heading for their not-so-legally parked delivery trucks.
Try as I might, I can't recognize Al Pacino in the first two Godfather films. I look at Michael Corleone and the closest I can get to a recognizable Hollywood actor is Matthew Broderick.
See all the ads from the 2004 Super Bowl. Can we kill the "Super Bowl is all about the great commercials" meme now?
Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's boob. A mistake? I think not...unless Janet normally wears pasties on her nipples.
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