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


Brian Greene on Quirks & Quarks

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 28, 2002

Listen to Brian Greene, author of the excellent The Elegant Universe, talk about superstring theory. (via this great thread at aov)

And Aaron notes that there's tons more to listen to in the Quirks & Quarks archives.

Online conflict resolution

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 28, 2002

"Collected on this page are some techniques to resolve conflict. Since conflict is a natural part of life, most will likely apply in any context. However, certain forms of conflict are unique to online community, so some will likely only apply in that context."


posted by Jason Kottke Feb 27, 2002

Happy birthday, Mom!

Hawking lecture transcripts

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 27, 2002

Transcripts of some public lectures by Stephen Hawking.

I just about suffered a

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 27, 2002

I just about suffered a heart attack this morning. A 40Gb drive on my Linux server somehow unmounted itself between reboots. To my untrained eye, it looked like all my wonderful data (including some not-backed-up design work I'm doing for a client) had been banished to the land of wind and ghosts. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed before I was able to commit seppuku with the hard drive platter, and the drive was remounted with little effort. Long story short: if backing up files were an Olympic sport, I'd have the gold medal no problem right now. Triply redundant backups aren't too paranoid, right? Right?!??!

Weblog as a barometer of company health

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2002

You can roughly determine the emotional health of a company by how often their internal weblog is updated.

Java-powered sites tend to suck

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2002

Ecommerce sites that are slow, time out a lot, throw bad errors, and are generally not very pleasant to use tend to have URLs containing "jsp", "servlet", or ".jhtml". Perhaps that's an unfair generaliztion to make because sites using Java on the back-end can be implemented and designed properly, just like with any other programming language, but there seems to be a strong correlation nonetheless. The evidence mounts: Avis, Enterprise, National Car Rental.

The trials on online car rental

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2002

I just booked a rental car online. With possible exception of Alamo, all of the online reservation systems for the major rental car companies suck. All of the systems more or less worked, but they were all slow, clunky, and had major usability issues.

Avis was the worst of the bunch. I typed their URL into my browser and got the following message: "Your session has timed out for security purposes. Please click on any link to restart." My session? I've never been to your site before. And click on any link? Well, the most prominent one is that stupid DoubleClick banner ad, would you like me to click on that one? Oops, I'm off somewhere else. Come on Avis, I just want to rent a car...I could care less about your stupid sessions.

What is real? 415 564

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2002

What is real? 415 564 1347.

Steven Johnson on "Emergence"

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 25, 2002

The folks at O'Reilly Network talk with Steven Johnson on "Emergence" (who will be keynoting at the Emerging Technology Conference this spring). Since reading it last fall, I keep coming back to the ideas presented in the book in the context of weblogs.

Take the universe of weblogs as a complex system. What, if anything, is "emerging" out of that system? One possible answer is that the collective act of weblogging is producing a basic form of journalism, which you might call "bottom-up journalism" or "peer-to-peer journalism".

It works like this: individual webloggers, each acting in their own self-interest (the "simple-minded component parts" Johnson refers to), post bits of information to their weblogs.

Then the feedback loop starts. Readers and other webloggers take those initial bits of information, rework them, and feed them back into the system in the form of weblog posts, email feedback, or comments on individual weblog posts. Rinse. Repeat.

At the end of the line, in some instances, you eventually get a story that has been collectively edited by the system. Repeat this process millions of times a month with hundreds of thousands of participants, and you'll get a few such stories a month.

In the end, at this stage in its development, it's difficult to say whether the network of weblogs is emergent or not. Is the whole smarter than the sum of its parts? Is some higher level of structure or intelligence coming out of these 500,000 monkeys at their typewriters?

On the specific question of journalism, is the weblog network efficient at journalism? Probably not right now, but maybe that's not the point. I have a hunch that weblogs are not "for journalism", in the same way that the Internet is not "for business", but that they will have an important role to play in the informal movement, filtering, dissemination, and refining of information.

What are your thoughts?

Storytelling by Tood Solondz

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 23, 2002

Storytelling, the latest from Todd Solondz (who brought us Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse) is a movie in the same vein as his previous two films, as well as films like American Beauty and Rushmore, and even similar to Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The characters in these works are all dysfunctional from the point of view of mainstream America, even though they are all arguably a part of that mainstream. And even though the characters in these films are all performing these weirdly depraved acts (with Happiness on the depraved end of things and Rushmore more on the weird end), it seems more human to me than some rah-rah patriotic war film with Mel Gibson or Denzel's latest recycled plot.

Gosford Park

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 23, 2002

David Denby at the New Yorker describes Gosford Park perfectly: "Altman achieves his dream of a truly organic form, in which everyone is connected to everyone else, and life circulates around a central group of ideas and emotions in bristling orbits." It's not a movie for everyone (don't go if you don't like meticulously paced films without explosions), but I can give you no better recommendation than the fact that TV Guide and Time magazine both panned it.

10,000,000th Blogger post

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 22, 2002

At some point today, someone posted the 10,000,000th post to a Blogger-powered weblog. Who was it? Were you close?


posted by Jason Kottke Feb 20, 2002

Excerpt from Stagette:

"As we approached Nob Hill, Fratboy One told the cab driver to pull over at an all-night grocery. He and Fratboy Three ran out of the cab to buy some beer. The cabbie turned around to talk to me.

'Those boys crazy. You seem like nice Asian boy, not like them. You are Filipino?'


'I have many Filipino friends," said the cabbie, who was Chinese. "They all musicians, like you. But that not your real job?'

'No, I'm a computer programmer.'

'That nice job, even in hard time like now," he said, nodding. "You friend with these crazy gwei lo?'

'No, I met them tonight.' 'Duuuuuuude!' Fratboy One yelled, coming from the store holding a 24-pack of Sam Adams over his head. 'Let's roll!'

'And gwei lo say we can't hold liquor,' muttered the cabbie."

What a great story.

MIT has an opening for

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2002

MIT has an opening for a Nuclear Reactor Operator. (via tom)

Kottke.org remixed

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2002

kottke.org remixed by Google. I got this idea from David Gallagher. What's that name again? That's right, David Gallagher.

Word has it that the

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2002

Word has it that the Musee Mechanique is closing this fall...which is sad because it's one of this city's treasures. (via megan)

It looks like I have

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2002

It looks like I have a fan in Georgia. The eApps site looks familiar somehow, although maybe it's just the Silkscreen all over the place. (thx chris)

I've received a couple emails

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 18, 2002

I've received a couple emails and viewed a few weblog postings about the upcoming special "time event" occurring in two days: the palindromic symmetry of 8:02pm on February 20, 2002, 20:02 on 20/02 of 2002 (2002 2002 2002), using the international date/time notation. The email goes on to say that the only other time this has occurred is at 10:01am on January 10, 1001 (1001 1001 1001), and that it will never occur again.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the symmetry here, but it looks like there are 2 more instances of this:

- 11:11 on 11/11 in 1111
- 21:12 on 21/12 in 2112

After 2112, this event will never occur again because for this trick to work, the first two digits can never be bigger than the 23 hours in a day (22/22 and 23/32 are impossible day/month combinations).

Science vs. humanity

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 17, 2002

U.S. Tightening Rules on Keeping Scientific Secrets. Ignoring for a moment that keeping scientific secrets is nearly impossible, this article raises a larger question:

"Is science more trouble than it's worth?" That is, do science's potential detriments outweigh its positive contributions to society?

Up until now, the answer seems to be a resounding "no". But the world, she is a changin'. For the first time in the history of the world, a very small group with some scientific knowledge (learned, stolen, or acquired...doesn't matter how) can destroy a large chunk of the world's population (millions, if not billions of people) before anyone could stop them. Can science, politics, religion, psychology, etc. keep up with this new threat or do we need to throttle science back to avoid a potential Armageddon?

The Secret Lives of Numbers

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 16, 2002

The Secret Lives of Numbers is a wonderful piece of digital art (or is it artistic mathematics?) akin to Powers of Ten (DVD) or John Maeda's work.

Photoanthropological Look at Bachelorhood

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 16, 2002

A Photoanthropological Look at Bachelorhood. Many things about that seem familiar to me.

Mixmatcher helps you share and

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2002

Mixmatcher helps you share and discover new music through theme-based playlists.

Overheard conversation at the Olympics:

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2002

Overheard conversation at the Olympics: "Me: [smarty pants] Actually, I think she led Lewis and Clark across America. Stunningly beautiful Italian media woman: [stunned] She led Superman across America?!?"

Quantum theory of laundry

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2002

The quantum theory of laundry: "the disappearance of entire loads can be explained by the existence of the finite probability that all of the socks in the main compartment have taken on the wave function of the lint trap and subsequently turned to lint. This further implies that instead of accusing someone of stealing your socks, running the machine while empty for long periods of time will increase the chances of retrieval of most of the socks".

Mid-Tokyo Maps

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2002

Mid-Tokyo Maps makes excellent use of Flash to communicate lots of information effectively and is a very pretty site to boot. (via josh)

The Geography of Hip Hop

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2002

A fly (mad? dope?) map of hip hop artists from The Geography of Hip Hop.

Mining Wired Magazine

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 13, 2002

Some stuff gleaned from the February 2002 issue of Wired:

TinyApps.org has links to a bunch of useful Windows software that is smaller that 1.44 Mb. The system section seems particularly useful.

Winning photographs from the 2001 Visions of Science Photographic Awards. The close-up images are amazing.

RND#: "The RND# project, which will ultimately comprise 100 short films, explores our increasingly bizarre dependence on and relationship with technology."

I love the cover done by Patric King for The Ever-Expanding, Profit-Maximizing, Cultural-Imperialist, Wonderful World of Disney.

Short pieces on my shower

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 12, 2002

I hate my shower. Hate, hate, hate. First it's too hot, then it gets cold, and then without warning, it stops flowing entirely. Worst shower ever. I want everybody to know just how bad my shower is. To that end, I've commissioned a number of artists and writers of various talents and interests to produce several pieces on the subject. Some of them are as follows:

   - interpretive dance: "Getting Out of the Way of the Cold Water Very Quickly"
   - an up-with-science book written for ages 8-14: "How the Water in the Shower Can Still Be Hot When the Cold is Turned All the Way Up and Other Seeming Paradoxes in Science"
   - painting: "Scalding Flesh"
   - weblog: "Jason vs. His Shower, A Very Special Warblog"
   - major motion picture: "Dude, Where's My Hot Water?"
   - autobiography: "The Shower Always Gets Cold When It Comes Time To Rinse The Shampoo From My Hair"
   - a collection of short stories: "Pointy Nipples and Other Tales of a Cold Shower"
   - short story from the above collection: "I'm So Cold That My Genitals Have Sucked Up Into My Body Cavity"
   - tombstone epitaph: "Friend to All, Except His Shower"
   - essay: "Living with Low Flow in a High Flow Society"
   - porno movie: "Sex, Interrupted"
   - a paper to be submitted to a referred scientific journal: "Foregoing Classical Phase Transitions: Achieving Temperatures in Liquid Water of Above 212°F and Below 32°F"
   - television miniseries: "Not Without My Shower: Courage in the Bathroom"
   - pop song: "I'm Too Hot For You, Baby"
   - a Broadway play: "Some Like It Hot, But Not That Hot"
   - Star Trek episode: "The Trouble with Showers"
   - rap song: "My Motherfucking Shower Sucks, Yo"
   - a volume from the Hot and Cold series of children's books: "Why is Mommy Shrieking in the Shower?"
   - classical piece: "Shower Screams in E-Flat Major"
   - article for a plumbing magazine: "Practical Plumbing Tips: Routing Cold Water Through the Hot Water Pipe and Hot Water Through the Cold Water Pipe."
   - an opera: "L'acqua, è Troppo Freddo"

Am I obsessed with my bad shower? I believe so.

Which Office Space Character are You?

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 11, 2002

Must resist urge to post "Which Office Space Character are You?" quiz. If I were to post it however, I might also tell you that I ended up as Peter Gibbons. (This a good place to mention that if you haven't seen Office Space, you really should.)

Islamic weblog

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 11, 2002

An interesting Islamic weblog/site at zhikr.org (looks like IE 5+ only, unfortunately).

A list for McSweeney's

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 11, 2002

For McSweeney's: Names of the Most Popular Colors According to the Color Marketing Group's 2002 Color Forecast. The original list is good reading as well: "Purples and browns are still the biggest story with 'bi-polar' purples moving both bluer and redder" and "Blue is trending towards green".

Developing a personal schema

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 09, 2002

I need some advice. I've been trying to develop a personal schema/taxonomy** and I don't really know where to start. I'm not looking for tools or anything like that, just some general advice. I guess another way to put the question is: if you had to organize all the stuff that a person comes into contact with, how would you do it? Do you have any experience in doing this, say, within the context of The Brain, a Wiki, or categories for a personal weblog? How did you go about doing it? Got any advice?

** After asking a few folks what the difference between a schema and a taxonomy is, I think what I'm really looking for is a schema of my world, that is, a system of describing the people, places, and things that I come into contact with. Once I develop that schema, I can then use it to build a topic map. (And even after all the searching and asking I did, that's probably not really what I'm talking about here, but all the info I could find on these subjects was very specific (mostly related to XML) whereas I'm thinking about this stuff in the most general sense possible.)

Hello world joke

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 08, 2002

Line from an upcoming dot com movie starring Tom Cruise: You had me at "Hello, world." (I know, I know, you're not laughing because it's not that funny, but this *killed* at lunch the other day. Killed!)

Critical IP sucks.

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 08, 2002

Critical IP sucks.

Jason's helper monkey

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2002

Brian writes: "I read your post about having a monkey help you use your computer, thought of Homer and decided I had to give you a helper monkey."

a boy and his helper monkey

(This was unexpected: A Google search for Homer turns up a bunch of links on the Greek poet and an Alaskan town of that name, but nothing on Homer Simpson, which is odd because this is the Internet, the place of a billion and one Simpsons references.)

A Web copy style guide.

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2002

A Web copy style guide.

GiveQuick is back online. GiveQuick

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2002

GiveQuick is back online. GiveQuick allows Web site owners to easily donate their affiliate revenues to various non-profit agencies.

What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier by James Gleick

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 06, 2002

James Gleick, one of my favorite authors (his biography of Feynman is as fine a book as you'll find about science), is coming out with a book in May entitled What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, which sounds a bit similar to Michael Lewis's Next: The Future Just Happened. Gleick is a great author, very adept at making complex issues understandable to the reader. Too bad his personal site hasn't been updated with information about the new book.

From what is on Gleick's site, it looks like the book will be based on some articles he's been writing recently: Patently Absurd, Connected: Life in the Wireless Age, Stop Me Before I Shop Again, and Love, Microsoft, among others. I liked this passage I found in an article he wrote in 1994 for the NY Times:

"The hardest fact to grasp about the Internet and the I-way is this: It isn't a thing; it isn't an entity; it isn't an organization. No one owns it; no one runs it. It is simply Everyone's Computers, Connected. It is the network of all networks — the combination of all the large and small university, government, and corporate networks. It extends to individual PC's at the end of the line, like shacks at the ends of dirt roads not far from the turnoff to U. S. Route 1."

Similar to the Shredder, linguasso

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 06, 2002

Similar to the Shredder, linguasso "creates totally random works of art, composed of text and based on varying emotions [that have been] put into a small library."

Wow! A Chris Ware lunchbox!

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2002

Wow! A Chris Ware lunchbox!

Paul's snapGallery lets people (well,

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2002

Paul's snapGallery lets people (well, Windows people) easily create online photo galleries, à la iPhoto.

Prada's new store

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2002

Some thoughts on the new Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada store in NYC: Prada, Property, Praxis. Having checked out the Prada store on my visit to NY, Adam is spot-on with his analysis, but perhaps a bit too hard on Prada regarding the store's shortcomings and (potential) failures. I read an interview with Miuccia Prada right before my visit to the store and she seemed to be aware of the limitations and the risk involved with many of the features, saying (I'm paraphrasing from memory here) "The store has many new features and technologies that haven't been used in retail spaces before. If they don't work, we'll try something else." via bs.

Is human evolution over?

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2002

Is human evolution finally over? The argument here is that evolution is not a huge driving force in the development of humans anymore because of globalization, the quickening pace of man's control over his own evolution (as opposed to the slow pace of natural evolution), and the fact that no one in the West dies "naturally" anymore (evolution thrives on the death of the "weak" and the survival of the "strong"). It's a fascinating theory, but I suspect that it'll prove false. Funny thing about nature...it almost always wins.

The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 04, 2002

Christopher Alexander, the author of A Pattern Language (among other things) has a new book coming out soon called The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. This book sounds *huge*. via Ed.

IFILM has all the 2002

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 04, 2002

IFILM has all the 2002 Super Bowl ads archived, but if you don't have time to check them out, it's probably just as well...none of them were that good this year.

I'm honored to be the

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 04, 2002

I'm honored to be the first guest curator for the Mirror Project. My gallery? Movie auditions for the part of "Serial Killer #1", some unsuccessful.

Nutshell (from Mr. Torrez) is

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 04, 2002

Nutshell (from Mr. Torrez) is a most useful browser toolbar helper. It's a search box that sits in your toolbar with shortcut searches to Google, Amazon, Dictionary.com, IMDB, and Daypop. I've been using it for the last few days, and it kicks ass....75% of my online researching right in one search box.

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