Entries for January 2002 (February 2002 »    March 2002 »    April 2002 »    Archives)


The Hobbit

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 31, 2002

Read The Hobbit for the 4th or 5th time a few days ago. I hadn't noticed before how spare the book is compared with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, hardly any mythology in it at all.

Great, now I have to get a monkey to help me operate my computer? I'm having enough trouble with my mouse.

Math rock!

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 31, 2002

I learned about a new subgenre of music at dinner the other night: math rock. Math rock? At a concert, does the band play for a few minutes and then people start yelling out answers?

"No dude, it's 812,839,327...that was a factorial chord, not a cosine chord!"
"Hey, that guy's using a calculator! Poseur!"

Or is less competitive? "We're gonna slow it down for a bit and play 1/pi to the 427th decimal point and follow that up with the Fibonacci Sequence."

From the goofballs that brought

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 31, 2002

From the goofballs that brought you Cinnamon Challenge 2001, comes Horseradish Challenge #1 and Horseradish Challenge #2. How this man can continue to eat this stuff and live is beyond me.

Listening to the user

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 31, 2002

Google tweaked their news headlines page, incorporating some of the changes I suggested a couple of weeks ago (mockup). Google is impressive; they do more than "focus on the user", they listen to the user as well.

A rundown of the most

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2002

A rundown of the most popular photos on Yahoo! Italy as of 5:30 PT today: upskirt, topless w/ thong, koala ménage á quatre, upskirt, cleavage, cleavage, gay PDA, jesus, countryside, cleavage.

Seinfeld as modern art? "I

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2002

Seinfeld as modern art? "I quickly saw how a significant part of it was created along those lines: tableaux of human fecklessness imagined and presented with an adamantine clarity no less intoxicating than the smooth stone of 'Apollo and Daphne,' the riotous imagery on the dominant wall of the Sistine Chapel."

For all the Web designers

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2002

For all the Web designers out there (are there any left?), a list of stock photo places on the Web.

More on the Jones Diner

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2002

More on the Jones Diner in the NY Times: The Fate of a Fabled Greasy Spoon Raises Questions About Landmarking. via David and Rebecca.

Snippets from an entertaining spam:

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2002

Snippets from an entertaining spam: "If you are not the manager at your restaurant, please ignore this message" and then "All singles love group dining and are eagerly waiting for someone to organize."

Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics: "This

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 29, 2002

Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics: "This book shows biologists with little or no programming experience how to use Perl, the ideal language for biological data analysis." via /.

Helping the EFF

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 28, 2002

Inspired in part by Rusty's donation, I've decided to donate my Amazon Associates revenue for this quarter (Jan-Mar) to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. My Associates revenue came to about $275 for Q4 2001, but hopefully it'll be more this time around. So for the next couple months, if you see me link to something you'd like to buy at Amazon, a portion of the purchase price (5-15%) will go to the EFF.

I'm donating money to the EFF because I'm concerned ("upset" would be a better word) about current copyright laws, the U.S. patent system, and the like, and the (grossly understaffed and underfunded) EFF is fighting to do something about these issues. If you're interested in helping out, here are some things you can do:

- Support the EFF through membership or donation.

- Volunteer with the EFF. They are looking for media people, research assistants, & Perl/CGI folks for a variety of projects.

- If you have a weblog and link to books, movies, or music at Amazon, why not donate your revenues or link to Amazon using the EFF's Associates code ("electronicfro-20")? Using the EFF's code is easy: here's a link to Amazon's front page and here's one to EFF board member Larry Lessig's new book, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World. Me donating my little bit of revenue is one thing, but a whole lot of weblogs donating their revenues...now that would be something else. Let's go!

Exploring Emergence

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2002

Exploring Emergence (mit Java!): "In this [active] essay, we will explore the idea of emergence. We will examine how objects and patterns can arise from simple interactions in ways that are surprising and counter-intuitive. We will present examples with simple squares that turn on and off, but the underlying ideas will provide you with a new perspective for thinking about many phenomena in the everyday world." via MeFi.

Pine tree #45197.28

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 27, 2002

The issues discussed in The Test Tube Forest, an article on genetically modified trees, are going to become more and more important as genetic engineering becomes commonplace. Yet, I don't really see anyone doing anything about it...this type of thing will most likely just slide under the radar of most people (myself included). I'm not entirely sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with our short attention span (i.e. how does this directly affect me, right now).

Impromptu Friday chat experiment: join

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2002

Impromptu Friday chat experiment: join me at 4:30pm PT today in the Chat Circles chat room. Chat Circles is an interesting experiment in online communication spaces, but it'll be fun to see if it actually works in practice. (Java required...users on Macs may not be able to participate)

Update: Ok, the Chat Circles thing is garbage, so we're all chatting over here instead: Chatty Chat @ 4:30pm PT (Flash required). Further update: I'm done chatting for the evening, but you can still go check it out if you'd like. The source code for the chat app is available as well (scroll down a bit).

Star Guitar video

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2002

The Star Guitar video by the Chemical Brothers (from their new album) is brilliant. Matching images to beats is nothing new, but analog/digital mix here is way fun.

NY subway good, MUNI sucks

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 25, 2002

A study in contrasts: using the well-oiled NY subway for a week and then coming back home to SF, where I beat a MUNI train walking 7 blocks up Irving...by 2 whole blocks. The MUNI would be a lot more useful if the trains all ran underground and it covered more than 25% of the city.

Sippey is doing some brilliant

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 24, 2002

Sippey is doing some brilliant things with his new weblog. I haven't yet cracked the code that unlocks the sweet, sweet text hidden within, but I'm working on it. All hail Sippey, inventor of the first fUncrypt-a-blogflogthingblogfrogblog!

Jones Diner

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 24, 2002

Anil has some thoughts about Jones Diner, my favorite NY restaurant (having been to a total of about four), and points to a Village Voice article about its possible closure.

Meg and I saw a "don't close us down" petition on the counter when we stopped in last week, but I didn't know the story behind it until I read the article. I hope it doesn't get shut down. Jones Diner is part of that neighborhood's culture and history. Cities need places like that...they add diversity, character, culture, and history to the neighborhoods in which they are located.

Andrew Glassberg, one of the folks trying to build an upscale modern diner in place of Jones Diner, asserts "we are all about eggs and burgers [and we] want that classic diner feel". He's missing the point; it's not just about the type of food or some carefully crafted & marketed "classic diner feel", it's a lot more than that. When we were there the other day, about five minutes after we had ordered, a man walked in with hellos to both men working behind the counter, obviously a regular. Four minutes after that, way before we got our food, the man dug into a turkey dinner which he hadn't ordered, but which they knew he wanted anyway. That's just a taste of what places like Jones Diner give you in the context of a neighborhood that a modern diner just can't.

The Word Spy for today

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2002

The Word Spy for today is "precautionary principle", a topic I wrote about a few days ago.

Terrorism, Nonlinearity & Complex Adaptive Systems

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2002

Terrorism, Nonlinearity & Complex Adaptive Systems: "The events on 11 Sep 2001 were a tragic, but decisive, reminder of the emergence of a formidable new kind of 'enemy' in the world; an enemy that is widely dispersed, decentralized and whose many destructive parts are autonomous, mobile, and highly adaptive. The need for developing new complex systems theory inspired analytical tools and models for understanding the dynamics of this threat (and for providing insights into how to combat it) has never been greater."

An intriguing idea about brute

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2002

An intriguing idea about brute force implicit calculation training from Stewart: "Get some person. Write a program that displays a single digit of pi at a time and advances by one digit every time the spacebar is hit. Sit the person in front of the computer and get them to guess what the next number will be. Have them hit the spacebar. ('2?' 5. '7?' 1. '8?' 3. '4?' 4. (Yay!) '9?' 2. And so on ...) Have them do this all day every day for, say, 20 years or so. See if they eventually get the knack of it, or at least get significantly above chance at guessing."

Roger Wood designs some amazing

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2002

Roger Wood designs some amazing clocks...they're like the drawings of Chris Ware in 3-D (Exploding Alarm Clock is a favorite). Someone get this guy some gallery space, a piece in a major national newspaper/magazine, or an exhibition in a modern art museum.

Black Hawk Down

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 22, 2002

Black Hawk Down is one of the better movies I've seen in the past year...highly recommended. It's not for the faint of heart though. It takes the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and runs with it for 2 whole hours. Intense, but worth it.

My first choice for my

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2002

My first choice for my "right now" word, "listen", was taken, so I went with "distributed" instead.

Here is New York

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2002

Uncomfortable juxtapostion: visiting the new Prada store in SoHo followed by a visit to the Here is New York photo exhibit. Shopping has always made me uncomfortable, but I felt positively unclean after coming out of the exhibit, like I needed a shower.

BTW, if you have any WTC photos, you might want to contribute them to the Here is New York project. Having experienced the exhibit, I can say it's for a good cause.

Yummy potato salad at Jones Diner

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 19, 2002

We had dinner at a very nice French restaurant a few nights ago, but the best food thus far in NY was at the Jones Diner. Best potato salad I've had in a long time.


posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2002

Ok, now I'm really off to NY.

Worst museum Web site ever**:

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2002

Worst museum Web site ever**: American Museum of Natural History. It looks like it was built in the gold rush days of 1997-98: graphical text that should be HTML text, slow loading, information overload, distracting animations, &c. Companies like Studio Archetype and Agency.com made a lot of money producing state-of-the-art sites like this that now feel extremely dated compared to the Keep It Simple Web of today, epitomized by Google, dictionary.com, Amazon, Yahoo!, weblogs, and even the SFMOMA site, which makes good, balanced use of both images and text.

**In my experience with museum Web sites, which, I must admit, is far from extensive. But still.

Describing God to a world without religion

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 15, 2002

Never mind the rest of the article, this is the best line from this Independent interview with Jonathon Ive, the designer of the new iMac:

"He often struggles for words, sounding like a man trying to describe God to a world without religion."

Unless you've got good preachin' skills, that pretty much sums up what it's like being a designer. For me at least. Your mileage may vary.

Off to NYC

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2002

And I'm off to New York City for a few days. NYC is one of the last few places in the U.S. (along with LA) that I haven't visited but am interested in visiting. I'm taking my computer along, but I'm not sure if I'll be updating or not.

i was a 20-something dotcom

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2002

i was a 20-something dotcom dethroned ceo that went to work the counter at mcdonald's: "i got a job at mcdonald's to help get back in touch with the real world. also, after over 6 grueling years in the internet whirlwind, i wanted to experience a profitable, well-oiled, multi-billion-dollar machine."

Justin Hall is holding an

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 14, 2002

Justin Hall is holding an essay contest called the Links.net Mileage Giveaway: "Submit a proposal describing your trip. Specific itineraries could be appropriate, but wandering is welcome as well. Travel dates should be flexible. And then, describe what the web would see of it. Pictures, sounds, text, whatever. Consider yourself a foreign correspondent, and you're making your own article assignment."

The precautionary principle

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 12, 2002

Precautionary Principle: "It doesn't sound like a revolutionary idea. Indeed, it sounds like common sense: better safe than sorry; look before you leap. But, in fact, the precautionary principle poses a radical challenge to business as usual in a modern, capitalist, technological civilization."

I'm all for analyzing risk and then plunging forward, but I hope the precautionary principle catches on more here in America, especially when dealing with important irreversible (or nearly irreversible) processes like growing of genetically engineered foods in the wild and constructing black holes in laboratories. The level of technology available to humans has always been ahead of our understanding of it, but with the tools of modern physics, quantum mechanics, and biotechnology available to us, the level of possible danger** is rising more quickly than even the technology.

** It's easy to be all doomy and gloomy about this, but the level of possible goodness arising from our increasingly powerful technology is rising quickly as well...so all hope is not lost yet, I guess.

The opening title for this

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2002

The opening title for this week's episode of Futurama says: "Hey TiVo, suggest this!"

Proposed Google News redesign

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 11, 2002

Holy design issues, Batman! Google's news headlines page is a great idea, but it's impossible to scan quickly. Perhaps something like this quickie redesign would work better.

More impromptu Internet art exhibits

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2002

More impromptu Internet art exhibits: temp.jpg, image1.jpg (via Luke), webcam.jpg, and DSCN*.jpg. Put together your own exhibit and share it with us.

If we assume that fame

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2002

If we assume that fame has the same rate of inflation as the US dollar, Warhol's 1968 15 minutes of fame now lasts around 75 minutes. Fame lasts longer, but is worth about 5 times less than it used to be, minute for minute.

Cory is having a bit

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2002

Cory is having a bit of an email go-round with the manager of the DoubleTree Club Hotel in Houston over this Yours is a Very Bad Hotel PowerPoint presentation. While I'm not sure that publishing the contents of private email without permission is right, I love it when people (like Mr. Joseph Crosby of the DoubleTree Club Hotel Houston) get all hot and bothered about their names and the names of their businesses appearing in publications when there's not a whole lot they can do about it.

Computer and Cyberspace Addiction.

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2002

Computer and Cyberspace Addiction.

Claire published a novel in

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2002

Claire published a novel in French called Loose Lips (don't know what the French translation is), a roman à clef offering "a unique insight into the culture of the CIA". Attempting to drum up support for a printed English version, she's made the first chapter available online in English while the rest is available for a small fee.

Impromptu Internet art exhibit

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 08, 2002

An impromptu Internet art exhibit: a Google image search for webcam32.jpg.

My Top Ten Media List for 2001

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 07, 2002

In no particular order, these are some favorite things that I watched, ate, saw, attended, etc. during the year 2001:

1. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. I know I said these were in no particular order, but Jimmy Corrigan was my absolute favorite thing from the past year, deserving of Nobel Prizes, Pulitzers, and any other literary prizes people bestow upon things these days. Moving, meticulous, graphically rich, exacting, retrospective; it hit all of my buttons three or four times, right in the middle.

2. Radiohead concert, Oxford, UK, July 7. Through a series of happy coincidences, I got to see Radiohead in a rare hometown show *and* then got to hang out at the band's afterparty. The concert was awesome; they even played Creep for the first time in years as a third encore in the pouring rain for 40,000 screaming fans. On the 4am bus ride back to London to catch my 8am flight at Heathrow, I sat staring out the window at the English countryside, smiling and tired, that sort of smiling and tired you only feel after you've experienced once-in-a-lifetime experiences because you're so glad and thankful not to have missed it.

3. Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth. A friend of mine showed me some excerpts from this book in Harper's magazine, figuring (correctly) that I would be into it. I purchased the book pretty much right away after that, and read it on the way to/from work over the course of a few days. Laugh, turn the page. Laugh even harder, turn the page. Put book down cause I'm laughing so hard that I physically cannot read anymore. Repeat.

4. Machu Picchu, Minneapolis, MN, July 28. Machu Picchu is this little Peruvian restaurant in Minneapolis that no one really knows about but is my favorite restaurant of all time. When I went back to Mpls. to visit some friends and family last summer, a few of us went there for dinner. I don't know what it was exactly, but the food was better than ever that night. I had dinner at a lot of nice restaurants in 2001, but that meal beat them all soundly.

5. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. I read a lot of great science books this year, and The Elegant Universe sticks out as the best. The first half of the book explains the principles of modern physics and quantum mechanics so clearly that just about anyone can understand them, which, having read many books and textbooks on the subject, is no small feat. I hope Greene continues to write such clearly written books about science.

6. David Foster Wallace. 2001 was my year to discover David Foster Wallace. He was probably old hat to many of you, but he was brand spanking new to me. In making this list, I couldn't decide on a favorite piece of his: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Infinite Jest, his Tense Present from Harper's, or his 9/11 article The View from Mrs. Thompson's in Rolling Stone magazine. Infinite Jest was probably the best of the bunch since I didn't understand a lot of it, but my favorite was A Supposedly Fun Thing...; it made me laugh and think at the same time.

7. Iron Chef. As with DFW, I was relatively late in discovering Iron Chef, but it quickly became one of my favorite things to watch on TV. I'm not exactly sure what it is about the program that I like so much, but it's been months since I first watched it, and there are no signs of my enjoyment of it letting up anytime soon.

8. Vanilla ice cream with aged balsamic vinegar, Acquerello, San Francisco, CA, June 20. Aged balsamic vinegar is amazing. It's one of those foods you never see because it's somewhat expensive, like the more well-known foie gras, truffles, or caviar. It also tastes a lot like concentrated maple syrup, as if the potency of unconcentrated maple syrup isn't enough to melt your teeth. Best. Dessert. Ever.

9. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson. Johnson's book doesn't cover a whole lot of new ground (what does these days?), but it ties several things together and gives the reader plenty to chew on. The most thought-provoking book I read all year.

10. The Louvre. There's not a whole lot I can say about the Louvre; it's all been said already elsewhere by many more articulate than I (or is it "me"?). Almost more impressive than the collection is the building itself. Almost.

Tied for 11th: List magazine, Charles Rogier XI B&B in Antwerp, the whole Las Vegas experience, Absolute Powerpoint by Ian Parker, Fast Food Nation, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, first class to/from Paris on American Airlines, Peopleware, Amnesiac by Radiohead, The Mythical Man Month, The Great Bear, Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, The Best American Science Writing 2001, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Castro, Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros, and The Social Life of Information.

There are no first-run movies on list...nothing I saw last year was that good or seat-shakingly entertaining. The list contains nothing from the Web either, which is odd considering I spend about 1/2 of my waking life glued to my computer. No individual thing on the Web grabbed me as that significant or interesting; the Web is more of a slow burn for me, I guess. Either that or I don't consider it to be media...something more useful maybe (whatever that means).

Note: The definition I'm using for "media" is quite loose and basically includes anything that was prepared or manufactured for an audience (movies, books, magazines, restaurants, concerts, museums, theatre, Web sites, music, &c.). Some of the items on the list were not published or produced in 2001, but I really don't care.

A 3D XML navigator, built

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2002

A 3D XML navigator, built in Flash.

Things uttered to me on

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2002

Things uttered to me on the phone recently: "please tell me you haven't been hacked" and "she need to get up outta there and get her ass ova here".

The Ten Worst Corporations of 2001

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2002

The Ten Worst Corporations of 2001: "Southern dumps more money into the political process than any utility, according to U.S. PIRG. In the first six months of the 2002 election cycle, according to U.S. PIRG, Southern has outdistanced every energy company in the United States, including the profligate political spenders in the oil and gas industry. The company spends millions on lobbyists, and employs nearly a dozen outside lobby firms. It runs a network of political action committees to funnel money to candidates, and is a major donor to political parties. Its campaign cash targets key members of energy and environment committees, who work hard to deliver the goods." (via bb)

The dumbest girls in the

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2002

The dumbest girls in the world: "Maybe we're the ones that are boring because all we do is sit around and get high all the time. Like we don't do anything except take drugs and they go out and do all of this other stuff."

Waiting in line

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 05, 2002

Any time I go to the Metreon, people are queued up to buy movie tickets. From the length of the line, I would assume that people spend 10-15 minutes in this line, waiting to buy tickets from the cashiers. I wonder why none of them realize that a mere five feet away from them are 3 automatic ticket dispensing machines with no waiting (and four more upstairs by the theatre with no waiting). Theories: 1. People are stupid; 2. Poor design: machines look like ATMs, not like ticket dispensing machines; 3. People distrust the machines; 4. People want to use the cashiers instead of the machines so that the cashiers aren't downsized and replaced with more machines; 5. Unfamiliar person-to-person interactions are preferable to unfamiliar person-to-machine interactions because they are easier to troubleshoot; 6. People don't like using credit cards for small purchases (via jk); 7. People prefer to pay cash (via fk).

New music

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2002

I heard a song at a club this summer, but didn't know what it was or who did it. It's been bugging the crap out of me ever since. Thanks to a trip to ye olde music shoppe today, I finally figured it out: Another Chance by Roger Sanchez. Also picked up some Plaid and Marumari. It's been such a long time since I've heard good new music; feels good to be back in the groove a little.

Also, I'm not sure how it's really pronounced, but I want to pronounce "Plaid" so that it sounds like "played" and not "plad". It seems better that way.

Mark and I went to

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2002

Mark and I went to check out the Artist's Books in the Modern Era: 1870-2000 exhibit at the Legion of Honor. My favorite piece was Bart van der Leck's illustration and typographic treatment of Het Vlas by Hans Christian Anderson (5th item). The book was published in 1941, but the type and illustration feels like part computer desktop and part rave flyer.

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