As I sat at my computer last night, a cry arose from outside the window. A woman, distressed about something. Figuring it was just a television, reveler from a nearby party, or someone facetiously wailing about trivial things to a friend on the phone, I ignored it and went back to my work. But they continued, the distressed cries. I began to catch snippets of her lamentations:
"Sebastian...why...don't leave me...accident...don't die...can't live without you..."
Concerned, I got up and went to the window in the living room. I could hear her more clearly here, talking to herself or maybe to God. Her dog Sebastian had had an accident of some sort. The woman was almost hysterical at this point, so it was hard to tell what had happened or if Sebastian was alive or dead.
Thinking that the dog had fallen out a window into the space between my building and the next (about an eight to ten foot distance), I opened the window and stuck my head out to investigate. No sign of Sebastian. I could hear the woman even more clearly than before, still repeating the same words over and over. I strained out the window, trying to locate her apartment; she needed some help from a calm party, someone who could call 911, 311, the emergency pet hospital, or whatever one does for critically injured pets. The sound bounces around so much between the buildings that she could have been anywhere, my building, the building across the way, even in the buildings behind ours.
I was about to put my shoes on to see if I could find the woman somewhere in our building when I heard dialing. She'd finally snapped herself out of her hysteria and was calling a friend. The conversation calmed her; after a couple sentences, her distressed voice lowered and I couldn't hear her anymore. A few minutes passed, my heartrate slowed, and I heard a buzzer (on the floor below, I think) and then running up the stairs. As the woman answered the door and let the person in (her friend? a paramedic?), I heard very little, just a "hi, where is he?"
A lot of people in NYC live alone, and all they have to keep them company sometimes are their pets. Sounds silly to some, but a person can love a pet as much as they can a person, and their death is no less shocking and painful. I hope Sebastian is alright; it sounds like that woman really cared about him. Makes me sad thinking about it. Hope he's OK.
Michael took some photos of Manhattanhenge. The sunset aligned with the street grid in Manhattan last week.
Excerpt of The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. "...large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant -- better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future"
The Frontline special on the music industry covered a lot of ground, perhaps too much for just an hour. The main theme of the show was that music hasn't fared too well as an industry. Media companies, including the big five record labels and the radio station chains, have lost touch with their customers, marketing what will sell instead of providing a good product. Big media blames the industry downturn on free music availability on the Internet, but as Michael "Blue" Williams, Outkast's manager, puts it, the labels have gotten lazy and are pushing out crap; he says if the labels "started putting out good records, quality records, the public will buy".
If you missed it, don't worry; the entire episode is available on the PBS Web site in either Windows Media or Realplayer format**. Also on the Web site are all sorts of additional interviews and information.
** Go PBS for putting episodes online. As taxpayers, the shows are ours anyway...we should be able to choose when and how we watch them. This way, we don't need to go downloading illegal copies of missed episodes of our favorite shows.
(Oh, and I tried looking for the weblog world's reaction to the show, but all three of the blog search engines I tried -- Daypop, Blogdex, & Technorati -- were down, so you'll have to dig that up on your own. Will someone make a reliable weblog search engine that doesn't suck? Hello, business opportunity!)
Computer gamers are professional athletes in Korea. Some players are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, wear uniforms, and have rabid fans.
After not having a computer monitor at home for the past year and a half -- I've been using the laptop screen instead, which has been a little sucky for doing design -- I went out and splurged on a 20" Apple Cinema Display. Jesus, what an amazing monitor; I concur completely with Justin's Apple display lust.
The first thing I did after getting the monitor hooked up was fire up kottke.org in Safari. At this point, I'd like to apologize to those of you who visit my site with a Mac and an Apple display (or a similarly bright and crisp display). Holy burning retinas! Seeing that yellow green color at the top of the site was like staring directly into the sun. When the page first loaded, I recoiled, fliched my head to one side, clenched my eyes shut, and threw my hand up in front of my face to prevent any permanent damage to my retina. My efforts may not have been quick enough...when I closed my eyes to go to sleep that night, a bright white bar bounded by a dotted line beneath pulsed on the inside of my eyelids, delaying my slumber for quite awhile.
What Else Happened in America While Lewis and Clark Explored the West. "For each day of the Lewis and Clark expedition two hundred years ago I post, on the corresponding day in the present, a little summary of what the expedition did on that day and also a little summary of something else that happened in American history on that day."
iTunes playlists by celebrities can suck. But mostly celebs listen to what everyone else listens to.
Fermilab building a 500 megapixel camera. That's equivalent to an image 28,000 by 18,700 pixels or 32.5 x 21.6 feet when viewed on screen at 72 PPI.
Wired profile of Nick Denton and Gawker Media. Nice to see some of my work featured in Wired, the print version even uses Gawkeresque date tabs as story illustrations.
Overview of a chat with Malcolm Gladwell. Avec pictures; Malcolm's hair is headed from afro to Kenny G.
Syllabus for college course on McSweeney's. texts include those from Eggers, Wallace, Lethem, and Lydia Davis.
Alison Lewis' Think of Me rings keeps you connected with loved ones. Touch one ring and the ring on the other wearer glows and heats up.
Audience, Structure and Authority in the Weblog Community. Cameron differentiates between link types to better analyze authority in the blogosphere.
Picturing Business in America, Hedcuts in The Wall Street Journal. Great Smithsonian exhibit on the WSJ's black and white portrait drawings.
Jane Jacobs, when asked about the potential negative effects of computers on communities and neighborhoods, replied that the opposite may be true; that navigating the Web shows people how networks function and how to think in a more non-linear fashion:
[There is] a very persuasive argument that the computer, in the form of things like the World Wide Web and the Internet, is actually [giving] people firsthand experience with use of a Web and making virtual changes in a Web-like way. This is not real. But after all, quirks and quarks and atoms are not real, for all we know. But thinking of them, picturing them and seeing the world with these things, really illuminates our understanding. It may be untruthful and it may be wrong, but usually, each of these things gets a little nearer the truth. So this Web-thinking in the place of the mechanical, cause/effect kind of thinking is certainly closer to the truth. The use of the computer [may be] indispensable to this, both for the complications we have to understand and have begun to understand and also because of a different notion this gives people. You know it's always been available to people that they be hermits. But think of how few of them have been. So, no, I don't think the human race will suddenly be smitten with an overwhelming urge to become hermits because of a new machine.
I'm on a bit of a Jacobs kick right now, reading Dark Age Ahead and poking around online for essays and interviews I've missed.
Look for a slew of books from bloggers in the next few months/years. West coast bloggers write tech books, east coast bloggers write novels.
Last week's season finale of The West Wing was on smack dab in the middle of game 6 of the Timberwolves/Kings series. I opted to watch the game instead of the Wing. Of course, since NBC wants to make their media artificially scarce, the episode wasn't replayed later in the evening nor will it until later in the summer (if you haven't seen it, it's new to you!). This weekend, I found a torrent for the finale...without commercials and in letterbox no less. A couple hours of downloading later and voila, my own personal rerun.
As I walked to the subway through the crowds in Grand Central Terminal last night, a police officer yelled out to a young man accompanied by his mother, "hey, you gotta take that cap off in here!" The youngster, startled, tugged on the bill of his Red Sox hat, looked at the now-grinning cop, and smiled broadly, realizing he'd been had. "That's worth a summons around here, ya know," the cop continued, chuckling along with boy, his mother, me, and a few other folks within earshot. In stark contrast, that same morning at the Times Square subway station, commuters gave a wide berth and apprehensive looks to a hulking police officer holding the leash of the biggest German Shepherd I've ever seen.
Swirling, swirling, swirling. I almost fell into a trance watching this.
Anil is moving to San Francisco. I don't know why 6A wants to close their New York "office", but oh well.
On my way to lunch the other day, I noticed a new exhibit at the Annex of the NY Transit Museum in Grand Central: New York: The Ride, Subway Cartoon and Cover Art from The New Yorker. That's two of my favorite NY things together, so I swung by for a look today. It's a tiny exhibit and takes only 5-10 minutes of your time, but if you're in the vicinity, it's worth the effort. Here's my favorite piece, Hell: The Fifth Avenue Entrance by Mick Stevens:
Here's the description of the exhibit:
Throughout the years, cartoons and cover art from The New Yorker have brilliantly captured this city, its hopes and aspirations, its people and their foibles, and their daily routines. Subway humor has been a staple of The New Yorker since the magazine's 1925 inaugural issue.
While offering an entertaining survey of subway satire from the 1920s to the present, the exhibition also explores changing perceptions of the subway over the course of nine decades. Original artwork, reproductions of The New Yorker covers and cartoons, and original magazines, whose subject matter is the subway system and the people who ride it, are on view.
The exhibit continues through July 18.
Jane Jacobs on The Greening of the City. Urban ecology is on the rise; I heard a similar talk about animals in the city at Poptech last year.
Frontend Editing for MovableType. I've been doing this for more than a year now and always meant to write it up...but now I don't need to.
Designs for Working, a New Yorker acticle by Malcolm Gladwell from a few years ago, draws parallels between good office design and the ideas in Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities:
The task of the office, then, is to invite a particular kind of social interaction--the casual, nonthreatening encounter that makes it easy for relative strangers to talk to each other. Offices need the sort of social milieu that Jane Jacobs found on the sidewalks of the West Village. "It is possible in a city street neighborhood to know all kinds of people without unwelcome entanglements, without boredom, necessity for excuses, explanations, fears of giving offense, embarrassments respecting impositions or commitments, and all such paraphernalia of obligations which can accompany less limited relationships," Jacobs wrote. If you substitute "office" for "city street neighborhood," that sentence becomes the perfect statement of what the modern employer wants from the workplace.
Jacobs' book is pretty much a must-read for anyone constructing environments for social interaction (cities, offices, software, restaurants, libraries, etc.).
101 Ways to Save Wired. An oldie from the Stating the Obvious archive.
Do Penis Enlargement Pills Work?. Penis enlargement blogger concludes that pills (when combined with exercise) do work; he got 1.1 inches bigger in 16 weeks.
My dream of distributing couch potato behavior has been realized by Simon Thornton: Sending Live Television Via iChat. Simon says:
However, if you just so happen to be someone that has purchased an analogue video -> DV (firewire) converter box in the past, such as the Formac Studio, you might be suprised to learn that when it's plugged in it is presented to the Mac (and specifically the iChat application) as a perfectly valid firewire input device. In other, shorter, easier, words: you can use your converter box to stream live video from something - oooh, let's just say your Sky Digibox for example - to someone else using iChat anywhere else in the world. If you happened to have one of the outputs of your Sky box (it has two) connected up to the inputs of your converter box, you might see how this could work.
Fantastic. No wonder the entertainment companies want all sorts of DRM built into everything.
Yesterday was a wonderful day to be in New York City. After a warm, sunny walk through Central Park (you can rent small remote control sailboats at the Conservatory Water!), we went over to the Whitney to take in the 2004 Biennial. While I didn't like many of the individual pieces, the show as a whole was worth seeing, if only to check the pulse of the contemporary art world.
I'd love to point you at some of the pieces I enjoyed, but of course the Biennial Web site is in Flash, rendering individual artist biographies and artworks unlinkable. I know artists have a fear of functionality, but you'd think they could make an exception in this case. Anyway, I dug up a link to one of my favorite pieces from the show, Hamburger Hill by Barnaby Furnas. The bullets tear his Civil War-inspired paintings apart in straight lines -- looks just a bit cubist to me -- flattening several minutes of action into one still frame. Wonderfully active, vibrant, and visceral.
PulpFiction is a new Mail.app-like newsreader for OS X. Now available for purchase; does filters, labels, AppleScript, Atom, flags, etc.
In response to concerns by their customers (as well as non-customers, Slashdot readers, and pretty much anyone with a blog and an opinion), Six Apart has modified the pricing structure for the Personal Edition of Movable Type 3. A couple of quick thoughts on this:
1. Six Apart is listening to their customers. Based on the specific concerns of their customers, they updated their pricing in just two days time. That Six Apart has sincerely listened to their customers in the past and continues to do so as a quickly growing company seeking to sustain itself is worth some goodwill on our part toward 6A. Many other companies wouldn't have bothered.
2. The tiered personal pricing still doesn't make sense. Mena writes:
Our best explanation for the tiering is that we feel a personal user who sets up weblogs for 50 of his friends should pay more for a license than one who uses only one weblog for himself.
Someone hosting 50 people should pay more, but that should be handled as a non-personal situation on a case-by-case basis. What I feel is happening instead is that 6A is offloading a business problem of theirs that concerns only a small portion of their user base (i.e. the folks hosting 50 friends on one install) to all of their customers. Because of a few potential offenders, customers have to deal with pricing tiers, definitions of weblogs and users, keeping track of how many active weblogs and users they have, upgrading their licenses when they add authors or weblogs, etc. We shouldn't have to do that. I don't want to get out my credit card every time I want to add a guest author to my weblog. Do I get a refund if I purchase a 13 weblog/13 author license but 10 of those authors and 7 of those weblogs are inactive after 90 days?**
The solution is to make it as straightforward as possible for customers. In addition to the free version (1 author, 3 weblogs), offer the Personal Edition for $70-$100 for unlimited weblogs and authors with the condition that too many (10? 20?) "weblogs for friends" will be considered non-personal use of the software and will be subject to extra fees. That way, the customer's ownership of the product is vastly simplified and the burden of dealing with the non-personal use of the Personal Edition shifts back to 6A where it belongs.
** The license states that after 90 days of inactivity, weblogs and authors don't count toward the pricing limits.
Dumb Slashdot thread on MT new pricing structure. Sometimes I think the Web's primary function is aggregating stupidity.
In all the hullabaloo about Six Apart's new pricing structure for Movable Type (check out the announcement from Mena -- with what has to be a record 373 Trackbacks -- for some idea of what people are whining about), the best and most concise comment I've seen comes from Dave Winer today:
Yesterday we saw people complain about spending $60 for a big useful piece of software like Movable Type. I paid $60 for a cab ride in Geneva. A good dinner is $100. A hotel room $150. You want the software, find a way to help companies like Six Apart instead of making them miserable. You've now got the tools to communicate. Use them well. Use them better.
The bottom line, as Dave suggests, is that MT 3.0 is worth charging money for. Period. The fact that it was free up until now is largely irrelevant...except that for 2 1/2 years Six Apart has provided people with a very powerful, flexible piece of software for free and will continue to do so in the future. Those bastards!
The one thing I do think 6A got wrong is the pricing structure for personal users. Tiered pricing of software based on the number of users was designed to make sure large companies paid more for software than did small companies...so that a company like Wal-Mart pays $3 million for a database application for 20,000 users and a smaller company like Nantucket Nectars pays $30,000 for the same software with 250 users. The same pricing structure doesn't make sense for personal users. I know they priced it that way so that someone can't install MT and then host weblogs for 50 of their friends. I can understand that...that seems like an abuse of the "personal" license to me.
But in my case, I have 10 weblogs and 22 authors on my MT install. All of those weblogs are primarily mine except for one group weblog (which is not public at this time). All of the weblogs can be found on one domain (no subdomains), although some are password-protected. Most of the authors in the system are part-time...they aren't actively posting to weblogs nor will they in the future, but they need to remain in the system to retain authorship of their posts. By my reckoning, I'm one person using MT in a exclusively personal manner to maintain one Web site. But looking at the pricing chart, there's not even an option on there for me and the highest option they do offer is $190 for 9 users and 10 weblogs. How much would 22 authors (and counting...) cost me? $250? Or would I have to move to a commercial license for $700?
Why not make the personal edition a flat fee of ~$60 for unlimited users and weblogs (in addition to the free version with 1 author/3 weblogs)? Here's the reasoning. Tiered personal use (per above) doesn't make much sense. Trust that people using the personal edition will use it in a personal way. The guy offering 50 of his friends MT weblogs on subdomains isn't going to pay for MT, not what you want him to pay anyway. If people start using it in that way, suggest an upgrade to the non-personal edition might be appropriate. If they refuse, they weren't going to pay you anyway.
In exchange for lowering the price on the high-end, you get community goodwill and, more importantly, you get people using your software in a freewheeling way. When people, particular the power users that will be attracted to MT, have the freedom to use your software however they wish (and not having to choose, for instance, between paying $50-$90 extra and not having guest authors on their site or not starting that extra weblog to keep track of the books they've been reading), you get a picture of what your software is really for. And since MT is ultimately the backend for TypePad (a for-pay service), that knowledge is valuable. My feeling is that susidizing freewheeling personal use of MT is an investment that will pay off handsomely in the future.
In the meantime, I've got options. My copy of MT (v2.63, for which I donated $45) isn't any less flexible or powerful than it was yesterday. It works just fine for my current needs, it will continue to work well into the foreseeable future, and I remain a satified customer of Six Apart.
Instead of eating lunch today, I skipped it to fight hunger and donated the money I would have spent to City Harvest (I rounded up to $10). Not that it was that simple. I had good intentions this morning in deciding not to eat at noontime, but then my stomach weighed in with something along the lines of, "but...you're hungry, stupid." To appease my appetite, I devised a seemingly clever plan: I would both eat and donate.
However, upon further reflection, that seemed like cheating. The idea behind Skip Lunch Fight Hunger Day is to go hungry so someone else may eat, not to just donate money. So, I ended up skipping that second lunch as well and donated $20 to City Harvest: $10 for the original skipped meal and another $10 for the meal I tried to sneak past my conscience. Luckily I stopped thinking about planning -- and subsequently donating the necessary funds for -- further lunches or I could have put quite a dent in my bank account by the time dinnertime rolled around.
French man authors a 233 page book without any verbs. "The verb is like a weed in a field of flowers. You have to get rid of it to allow the flowers to grow and flourish."
A few digital photography hacks. The camera strap tripod idea is genius.
Another big game for Kobe after a day in court. It would be interesting to get a psychologist's take on what that might say about his guilt or innocence in the case.
As promised, I've done away with all but one of my RSS feeds for the main weblog. The RSS feed for kottke.org is located at http://www.kottke.org/index.xml (RSS 2.0 format, if that matters), contains all posts except the remaindered links (rl feed here), includes only a short excerpt of each post, and contains no HTML, not even links (except for the book posts).
You shouldn't need to worry about this, but I've used Apache's mod_alias module to automatically and permanently redirect your newsreader from the old feed URLs to the new location. You shouldn't have noticed a thing (PulpFiction handled it like a champ). Apologies if your newsreader didn't make the transition as smoothly as I intended it to...it probably doesn't handle 301 redirects properly (i.e. it's busted). If your newsreader didn't handle it well, please update the RSS URL for kottke.org to http://www.kottke.org/index.xml. Thanks!
More on Blogger's redirection of links within comments. The redirects combat comment spam and ensure PageRank fairness.
More on Flickr's photo annotation. They're working on importing/exporting JPEGs with annotations intact.
The knuckleball is getting its groove back. Red Sox GM and Moneyballer Theo Epstein currently has two more knuckleballers in the pipeline with which to torment the Yankees.
New version of the excellent They Rule. Create your own diagrams a la Mark Lombardi.
Doug Bowman on the Blogger redesign. The "publish thoughts, get feedback, find people" explanation of blogging on the front page of the site is as good as I've seen anywhere.
New version of Blogger launches. With new features -- like comments and single page archives -- and the now-ubiquitous double drop shadowed design.
First season of Dukes of Hazzard on DVD. Looks like Knight Rider and A-Team DVDs are available as well. What, no Diff'rent Strokes?
The Great Mahakali Write-A-Thon. Contestants have 58 hours to write an entire novel. Takes place next weekend (May 14-16).
Wired News on Sam Arbesman's Memespread Project. Boy, is my wishy-washy rambling ill-suited for quoting or what?
Pablo Picasso. His Garcon a la Pipe just sold for $104 million at auction.
This seems familiar:
It made Feynman think wistfully about the days before the future of science had begun to feel like his mission -- the days before physicists changed the universe and became the most potent political force within American science, before institutions with fast-expanding budgets began chasing nuclear physicists like Hollywood stars. He remembered when physics was a game, when he could look at the graceful narrowing curve in three dimensions that water makes as it streams from a tap, and he could take the time to understand why.
Surely the cartoonist knows the French word for pen.
Jason is the 24th most common male name in the US, but there are also about 2550 US women named Jason. There were 4 Jasons in my 11th grade World History class. The teacher resorted to pointing and calling everyone "you".
50 big moments in the 50 years of pop history. A bit Brit-heavy, but then so is the history of rock and roll.
The younger generation of New Yorker cartoonists. I want to see some of Sam Brown's explodingdog goodness in the NYer.
Why is morons.org a Google News source?. Surely if they let them in, they should be relaxing their policy about not letting any weblogs in.
Richter magnitude scale. Another page I read said a 12.0 would "fault [the] Earth in half through center". Soon to be a major mini-series event, I'm sure.
Overheard at work today regarding the number of mail accounts on our system:
We've got more email groups [eg. firstname.lastname@example.org] than we do user accounts [eg. email@example.com], by a factor of more than 2 to 1.
Bit of a lesson in that statement for software developers, I think. If you've got N users on your system, those N users can form ~2^N groups. For example, a system containing 50 users can form ~1,120,000,000,000,000 groups for a total of ~1,120,000,000,000,050 different entities in the system. If your feature set, interface, and performance metrics only cater to the 50 users, you're ignoring most of the possible entities. In developing software, build features for groups and watch your garden grow.
Note: this also easily applies to mp3 players (N songs, 2^N playlists), weblog software (N posts, 2^N "categories"), and newsreaders (N feeds, 2^N feed collections and/or N posts, 2^N post collections).
Another note: thanks to Stephen, Simon, and Graham for correcting my poor back-of-the-envelope math. It's 2^N, not N^2.
My week-long stint as Eyebeam's reBlogger is over. Thanks to all those who sent in suggestions for reBlog feeds and to Eyebeam for letting me play in their sandbox. I had to use an RSS reader for the week (oh, the humanity!), but it was interesting to have to read and filter content I don't normally pay that much attention to. Taking over for me will be the lovely Andrea Harner, photographer, exclamation point fan, and friend to animals everywhere.
Netflix Flash movies. If you're epileptic, you'll want to skip this.
Matt takes the greatest photoblog photo of all time. Ingredients: closeup flower shot, the NYC High Line, mirror shot (in the sunglasses), and Jason Kottke (holding the sunglasses).
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