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February 2004 Archives

February 1, 2004

Superbowl XXXVIII *yawn*

If ever there were a game that you should TiVo up for an hour, and then fast forward to the good parts, this was it. Three minutes of excitment at the end of the first half, about ten minutes of excitement at the end of the second half, with way too many CBS promos in between, and a lackluster set of commercials (Budweiser Donkey commercial made me laugh, as did the late Subway being bad commercial). Even the announcers were bored trying to come up with safe euphemisms for boring ("like two boxers feeling each other out"). I don't know how the players managed to play through all the frequent stops in the game. I nearly went mad watching the Patriots take five minutes to move a single yard (run - measure - run - measure - run - measure - challenge - commercial - first down).

Personally, I think Brady was a uninteresting/poor choice for MVP. It was the easy/safe choice, but he was hardly exceptional during the routine punt drills and flag throwing that occupied most of the game. Vinatieri couldn't get it because he missed the two kicks that would have made a close finish unnecessary. I personally thought it should have gone to Vrabel. Two sacks on defense, and a TD on offense. That at least seems interesting, even if it wasn't dynamite.

Update: Vrabel was also the player that knocked the ball out of Delhomme's hand in the first half, which led to a Patriot touchdown.

February 2, 2004

meme propagation

popout thumbnailOne of the things I was noticing in my feed aggregator was how the "visited US states" meme has been propagating into the various blogging communities I am part of. BP was nice enough to generate a thumbnail for me so that I could view this at a macroscopic level. (He used PARC's Popout Prism to quickly generate the image).

Unfortunately, there's so many other entries in the feed reader that the maps end up squashed, but if you look at the bottom, you can see the first cluster of maps, which is mine, then BP's two maps, and tonya's. After that, there is a slight lull. honeyfields and I bugged meta to do a map as well, so then you see meta's near complete map, followed by jrc's (who reads meta's blog), and ginfiend's (who also reads meta's blog). You can tell by the amount of red in the images that meta clearly wins the contest :). You can see the full feed here (link no longer valid).

popout exampleAs Popout Prism has this neat (and central) feature that highlights keywords in the thumbnail (example of this on the left), I was thinking that it would be interesting to integrate this feature into a feed aggregator. As people in your community start talking about visited states, orkut, or a party you went to the other day, you'd be able to quickly see how hot a particular topic was. If you aggregator was especially smart, it could show you a list of what topics seemed to be hot and let you click on them to highlight them in the thumbnail and on the page. If only there were a freely available server-side toolkit :).

Feed Updater III

Fixed some easy bugs in the updater. Some of the layout bugs have been fixed, and I also fixed a bug in a third-party date parser I was using. I also added a link at the bottom that lets you reload your profile, and all the LiveJournal feeds get to look hella cool with their own profile images.

I had a good discussion with daveXtreme on his smart bookmarks thread about aggregators, and more specifically, different techniques for informing a person when a comment has been added to a thread. daveXtreme's smart bookmarks suggestion is a browser-based solution, where the browser itself would change the appearance of bookmarks based on how recently they've been updated. It's a good idea, but it's also one beyond my abilities.

In our follow-up discussion, daveXtreme mentioned:

What I'd like to see in LJ is a special tab or something to switch between "Post view" and "comment view." Post view would work as normal, with newer posts appearing at top. Each post would have a little button I could press (or something, implementation would have to be worked out) that would add it to Comment view. Comment view posts would move to the top of the list whenever a new comment is added to them ("thead bumping") so that I can track discussions I'm intereted in.
This made me think more about different ways of displaying comments within the aggregator, as well as ways to indicate that you wanted to subscribe the a thread. I had been thinking mainly about the bookmarklets route for subscribing to comment threads, but I now realize that there are a lot of possibilities for including the subscription process on the aggregator page itself. I think there needs to be both, as it seems that the sites I comment on aren't ones that I would include in the aggregator (I use bloglines for my newsreads). The possibility of having separate posts/comments view also seems interesting, though, even in the posts view, I think I would want to see comments, but perhaps only the last n.

Another thing he proposed was:

Going with the Smart Bookmarks theme, this could happen outside of a webpage in a sidebar or drawer in your browser. You'd have a "My Threads" folder that would refresh whenever a new comment is left. This would have the advantage that a server wouldn't have to build a new page for each person's particular aggregated thead views.
I hadn't thought about doing a "mini" sidebar version of the aggregator, but now that I think about it, it would be very easy. As new comments are added, you would see a note in the "mini" view indicating this, with a link to the full comment/thread. Mozilla even has a feature where you can set a bookmark to load in the sidebar instead of the browser.

Trying to come up with a good domain name

As pqbon and I have started to become a movabletype hosting service, I thought it would probably be appropriate to come up with a good community domain rather than the vanity domains that he and I both have. Problem is, I don't know what to call it.


vanity-project (has to have hyphen)

hmm... how did meta's domain end up on that list?


Like the title of this entry implies, this Python script will scrape an entire Xanga feed and convert it into MovableType's input format. The intended audience for this script is people who are on Xanga, but either have or are in the process of moving over to MovableType.

I don't actually fall into the intended audience of this script, which makes it strange that I would write it, but I do have good motivations:

1) I needed to learn Python for work
2) I needed to learn regular expressions for work
3) I am going to reused this code to add in some new features to the feed aggregator so that it can display comments
4) MovableType is my uber tool, and everyone should be free to use it without cell phone number portability issues :)

I've only tested this on two Xanga accounts. If you have a really weird Xanga modifications, then this will most likely break. Version 0.1 contains one or two bugs, so the program will report ~2 errors when it's done. If there's interest, I'll put out a version 0.2 that fixes these bugs, plus any others that people find.

BTW - while I was injured I also taught myself a bit of Perl over the break, and then decided that learning Python and Perl at the same time was a really, really, bad idea.

So, without further adieu:
xanga2mt release 0.3

Update: upgraded to version 0.2, which fixes bugs with comment scraping

Update: upgraded to version 0.3, which contains a small fix to make the script compatible with more sites

February 3, 2004

Your own federal budget, 2005

What would you do if you had a year off from work? Well, in addition to building a plane, Paul also put together this neat little script that lets you see your tax dollars at work according to the Federal Budget 2005. Enter in your tax bill, and feel the pain.
Paul's Federal Budget 2005 Explorer

google, you're _too_ good to me

While I was sick, the traffic on this site suddenly quadrupled. Normally, this would be an exciting event for me, and make me wonder how I ever managed to be so clever, but it turns out that it was most likely because Google image search for "gollum" was returning a screencap off of this site (no, not the sketch you see here in this entry). Also, people were inlining the image in their Web pages straight from this site. It wasn't enough to hurt yet, but it was such a skew from the normal I had to take preventative action.

pqbon and this useful guide both deserve some Google juice; pqbon gets it for telling me that I could block the inlining practice using a .htaccess file, and the guide gets it for giving me specific instructions for using Apache's mod_rewrite to get it done. Two things that I wished the guide mentioned, though, were these two steps:

1) change AllowOverride None to AllowOverride All in httpd.conf so that .htaccess files are enabled
2) uncomment the load mod_rewrite line in httpd.conf so that the rewrite module is actually loaded

If this were four years ago when I was regularly editing httpd.conf, I probably would have remembered those two ditties, but my old age makes me forget things nowadays.

gollum sketchGoogle: It was an honor, really, to have such a cool search term top my lists. I brought back my Gollum sketch for this entry to keep me company now that all the Gollum fans won't be siphoning my bandwidth anymore. Please respider this page one last time, read my new robots.txt, and eviscerate that image from your brain.

Xanga people I don't even know: I'm sorry -- I know you can't upload photos, and I normally would't mind, but it was too much. Maybe xanga2mt will be of some use to you.

This page should show you what happens when you try to inline now: a tiny blue box.

February 4, 2004

mod_gzip on Windows

This one was a difficult one to Google through (kept finding old 1.3 Apache stuff), even though the process itself is pretty quick, so I thought I'd record what I did to get mod_gzip running on Apache 2.0.48 for Windows.

1) Downloaded the zip file with the built DLL from Index of /development/apache/httpd-2.0/win32/modules
2) copied into my Apache modules directory
3) copied the settings from my_cfg.txt (contained in the zip file) into my httpd.conf
4) Got a copy of zlib.dll. Placed this in my apache bin directory.
5) Restarted the server

Web Page Analyzer verified that gzip was working and also reports that I'm about 50K lighter on the HTML (20K versus 70K).

Personal update

As some of asked, here's a health update: I'm back at work now, and have been all week. I got a shot in my spine yesterday that's supposed to remove the inflammation, and I'll keep getting that shot about every five weeks. It's meant to treat the symptoms, but not much else. My doctor says that 90% of herniations heal on their own, but that the healing can take 9-12 months. Also, 'heal' doesn't mean that I'll regain feeling in the areas that are numb now.

Overall, things are pretty good, and I'm happy. I think I that my left foot today might even be a little less numb, though gauging level of numbness is a lot more difficult than gauging level of pain, i.e. IMHO, it's harder to tell how much something isn't there.

I have been expecting a reinjury like this for many years now, and now that it's happened, it's not as bad as it could have been. I think I'll escape this one without surgery, though I'm still uncertain as to which of my hobbies I'll have to give up. The snowboarding equipment is going to stay on the shelves for awhile, but I'm hoping to get on the bike soon as it shouldn't matter too much how numb my left foot is. Ultimate and racquetball might be a bit harder, as I haven't figured out yet how to train my muscles to react quick enough yet to the delayed sensations.

GoogleDot Effect

Yesterday I complained about the fact that Google image search for "gollum" was returning an image off my site. It quadrupled my outgoing bandwidth, but it was still within the capabilities of my DSL line. It could have been worse.

Take for example, these poor folks:
1) Google creates a Julia/Mandelbrot-themed fractal for its logo on its front page.
2) Google links this logo to an image search for "julia fractal".
3) Your site happens to be the top search result.
4) Abused by the heavy traffic, you put up a low-bandwidth page explaining your situation
5) Slashdot picks up the story, and links to you as well.

They are now the victims of the first ever "GoogleDot" effect.

The page they put up is here, but be nice and don't visit them for awhile :).

February 5, 2004

Community MT server coming to life

I kept talking about doing a community server, and, at last, it's actually breathing a bit of air. Granted, the breaths are more gasps right now, but with a little bit more CPR it should be healthy and on its feet. The final motivation came when I was talking to my friend Kenji, who was about to setup his own Web site. Both he and redchilipepper will be the guinea pigs for this, when everything is finally ready. The rest of us (pqbon, meta, and myself) will sit on our vanity domains and watch, as the following experiment demonstrates:

For now it's called, but the name will change as soon as I pick one from the list, or someone comes up with one that's absolutely brilliant.

All this happened with a ton of help from bp, who provided:
a) the server
b) apache config
c) mysql config
d) daily backup scripts

My biggest concern with a community server was making sure that the data was properly backed up out of the mysql database, and it turns out bp's server already has a rsync script running on it, that, with a bit of modification, should take care of the task quite easily.

So, in other words, I pretty much did nothing. And bp, I owe you a case of beer, or beer alternative.


I can feel my left foot. Needles in my spine rock!

February 6, 2004

headsets + computers

bp knows why I think this is important...</cryptic>
J : Da Blog: Apple Bluetooth Update

February 7, 2004


Following quickly on the heels of xanga2mt, I know bring you tripod2mt. As you might be able to guess, it will convert the contents of a tripod journal into Movable Type's import format. It's not quite as good as xanga2mt; it should get all the public postings off of your page, but it is not able to grab your comments.

The fruits of the labor from these two scripts is now online: honeyfields' xanga and tripod entries have now been copied over to the new community server that we're setting up. As payment, she is now our guinea pig.

This is probably the last of the scraping scripts, though I am helping cshell move her account over from blogspot. Although Movable Type has instructions for doing this, last time when we tried it with redchilipepper it didn't work so well. blogspot is also one of those annoying blogging tools that has no notion of an entry title.

Puzzle: ELEVEN

I was digging through my archives and found this is one that a nice girl named leahbraids gave me in 1997. It goes as follows:
You should be able to replace the letters such that the statement is also true numerically.

February 8, 2004


I'm still busy crawling through all my old backup CDs, which is my version of going through a scrapbook. I'm happy at some of the bits that I'm finding there, though I seem to be missing some old Photoshop experiments that I did in high school in college. I'm guessing these were on some old zip disks that I probably discarded :( .

sanctuaryI'm posting this entry because I found this old composition I did in high school, which was one of my first composition using Photoshop. I had just gotten Photoshop and had only used it for text graphics for Web sites, so this was the first time that I really played around with photos, feathering, and opacity. I submitted it to the school art magazine in order to get extra credit for my journalism course, but it was rejected.

I look at in now and go, "wow, I actually showed a bit of promise back then. What the hell happened?" As evidence (not of promise, but of lack of accomplishment):

Photo compositions in high school: one (not too bad for first attempt)
Photo compositions since high school: one (also in 97, and not as good)
though, in my defense:
Art classes in high school: zero
Art classes since high school: zero

Anyway, I still like this composition, though I wish I could find the original Photoshop file so I could clean it up and fix some of the poorer elements. I'm still glad that I stuck with my current career path, though first attempts like this wish I had more attempts to follow.

Done reminiscing

I spent a lot of time beefing up the memorylane page on the other half of this Web site. I managed to recover four Web pages, some I didn't even recall, from old backups.

The memorylane section was originally intended to be a non-professional portfolio of all the Web pages that I've done, from high school to present day, and it still is, but I also found that as I wrote entries for the pages along this timeline, it took on the more personal connotation of the title; as I wrote about my high school page, I wrote a little bit about myself in high school, and for various pages along the way I was able to share some short anecdotes and recollections. The CS Circus and Powered by Arrogance pages were real nice gems that get to see the light of day once more, while others like Storefront Media still remain mostly unearthed, and I still need to recover the NMAA page I did my sophomore year in college. With the exception of my senior year of college, there is at least one, unique Web site representing each of year of my life from junior year in high school to present.

It's a bit strange that the only recounting of my life so far exists in a series of Web pages, and slightly older generations may be shocked that I can recount between the last third to half of my life using Web pages dating back to ~1995-6. Regardless, I find it nice to be able to go back and watch my 'growth' and juxtapose it within a medium that was nascent at the time I started making Web pages and has since grown extremely rapidly. Even the design of the pages at various points serve as interesting landmarks demonstrating my own technical ability and also the current generation of Web page design.

The slow evolutionary chain and incremental dialogue on my life within those old Web pages is finally broken by this site, both in the sheer amount of content (approaching 900 entries) as well as complexity of design enabled by Movable Type and a wireless connection. This dramatic jump makes me wonder what future improvements are possible. Perhaps the next step is the new community server and aggregation tools I'm playing with, which will give me the chance to interrelate my life experiences with those I spend my life with and turn the Web page monologue into a dialogue. I don't know what results I'll achieve, but for the first time I'm starting to cross the line between publisher and toolmaker, and I'm rather excited by this.

BTW, If you go through the pages, you might even be able to find the only three photos of myself on this site that I know of, all from high school (one only shows me from the neck down holding a stapler to someone's neck).

Last post from memorylane, really

I keep finding really interesting things as I go back through memorylane, and this one really freaked me out. I had known that I had written this story, and I knew that it was very similar to the Matrix, but I had written it in 1996 for English class, long before the movie came out.

Much of the movie the Matrix is based on pop-sci-fi, so to find that the two stories share the same "simulated reality" premise isn't striking, but I even called it "The Matrix." There were also some other interesting quotes:

"How was he able to see through the Matrix?"

"Dozens of tubes and wires ran in and out of his body. Nutrients still poured in and out of his body, and an I.V. continuously released mind-controlling drugs into his system"

The antagonist in the story is very different (in fact, I'm not really sure who the antagonist is), so in the end the stories share as many differences as they do similarities, but I find it remarkable that the only story of mine that I've ever written for more than just a school assignment would be so similar to one of my future favorite movies.

I don't recommend reading the actual story, unless you like really bad high school SF motivated by a desire to play with different fonts, all laid out against a background that makes it hard to read, but here's the link:
The Reality

February 9, 2004

Ooo, pretty new toys...

Today was a good day in software and hardware:

Firebird is now Firefox, and version 0.8 is now available for download. Haven't noticed that much that's different, other than the new download manager. 0.7 was already really solid for me.
- Mozilla Firefox - The Browser, Reloaded

At last - something I've been waiting for ever since I saw the first demonstration images. There is finally an affordable consumer camera using the Foveon chip, which makes digital photos look a lot more like real film photos. This page explains the differences between Foveon's X3 technology and other digital cameras.
- A Gamble on a $399 Digital Camera

Keyword search is back on Technorati, which is better than Google when it comes to finding fresh blog entries.
- Sifry's Alerts: New and Improved! Technorati Keyword Search...

Finally, Thunderbird 0.5 (Mozilla Mail Client) is out. They haven't renamed it to Thunderfox yet I guess:
- Mozilla Thunderbird

Didn't know you could do that with CSS

I saw this interesting post over on Jon Udell's blog that shows how you can modify your CSS to automatically include images and text before or after a <pre> or <blockquote> tag. He even goes as far as to insert of the photo of the person who made the quote. I'll have to go through some of my old entries and see how this can be of some use. I also didn't realize that you can assign multiple classes to an element, which should help pare down the size of my stylesheet.
- Jon's Radio

It's official:

The MovableType folks seem cool with the name, and I'm happy because I was already becoming attached to it:
- Everyone: It's official

Guess I'm not the only one that thinks its cool

A week ago I posted about how it would be cool if there was "a feature where you can buy the drum + bass tracks (possibly rhythm track as well) of a song off of the music store and import that into Garage Band." Turns out that feature may be coming a lot sooner than I thought.

According to a posting on SH Forums, Damage Plan (aka Pantera) will be releasing alternate versions of their tracks on iTunes Music Store with different instruments removed. Hopefully other bands and labels will recognize the value and follow suit.

Say hello to my lumbar spine

spineGot a bunch of MRIs from 1999 in the mail today. I was going to scan a bunch of them in, but after my first attempt I decided that I'll stop with this one as the scanner has a lot of trouble with the film.

MRIs work by knocking around hydrogen and measuring their spin. In effect, then, what you see with an MRI is water content, which is good for imaging the body, as we're so full of water. The whiter something is, the more water imbued it is.

This image shows my lumbar spine. The spinal column is the long white thing on the right and the horizontal pancakes are the discs. There's two things you can kinda notice in this. First, right before the spinal column hooks off to the right, there's three bumps in it where the discs are intruding. You'll also notice that those three discs are darker that the ones above them; hence, they have less water. The three discs were "fixed" in 1999, but the bottom of the three is the one that's been giving me trouble again.

February 10, 2004

quick MRI peeve

I got another MRI today. Supposedly they take 45 minutes because they figure that's how long they can keep you there before you become really annoyed. They get as many pictures as they can in that fixed time period.

Anyway, my real peeve is that if you're supposed to stay absolutely still the whole time, why in the world do they make the thing sound like an alarm klaxon? And not just any alarm klaxon. This one sounds like the "RED ALERT! NUCLEAR MELTDOWN IN FIVE MINUTES" type of klaxon. Hard as you try, there's this natural Pavlovian response to go into flight-or-fight mode the minute you hear it.

If they did something as simple as made it loud constantly, rather than the repeating alarm-style buzzer, it would go a long way to removing this rote response.

Apology to readers: I am hoping your visceral response to to the blinking red text will help you empathize with my meaningless rant. However, I do apologize: this is the first, and hopefully the last, time I will use the blink tag on this site. I will note, though, I can think of no entry for which it's use is more appropriate.

February 12, 2004


meta's blogger or journaler? post got me thinking more about this site and it's intended audience. I've posted more about this in the extended entry, but I wanted to use the front page to ask this question, which is the reverse of meta's question:

What purpose does this site serve for you (blog/journal)? You don't have to answer in terms of blog/journal, simply state what do you want to see when you visit this site, and what don't you want to see. Be candid, and feel free to use examples. Negative examples are fine, though positive examples would be nice as well.

Continue reading "pensieves" »

February 13, 2004

get an iLife

I got meta a copy of iLife/Garageband for Valentine's Day. Before you criticize my romantic nature, she did say that "the most romantic thing [she] could think of was a scanner and some midi composition software," and she already has a scanner.

Now I just have to figure out how to sneak my guitar over to her apartment, co-opt her computer, compose and record my demo, and launch my music career. I'm sure she won't mind, and I'll even let her perform on a track or two.

February 14, 2004

zero-g water balloon fight

Not quite what the title suggests, but this should let your imagination run wild, and the videos were really cool.
- Did you ever wonder what it would be like to see a water balloon pop in space?

Book: Fast Food Nation

book image

(originally posted January 27, 2004)
In my post on Jennifer Government, I started off by saying "I seem to have a habit when I read books of reading two books in a row that are very similar in their themes." Well, I guess I can revise that to three books in a row in this case, and it's not a pleasant similarity.

I'm only two chapters into the book, but I stumbled upon an unpleasantness that makes Barry's Jennifer Government vision for the future seem all too real. In Barry's book, all schools are run by corporations like McDonald's or Pepsi, and the syllabus is entirely centered around preaching the values that the sponsor has to offer. Sounds pretty far-fetched, at least several orders of magnitude beyond the soda machine that my high school had. How wrong I was about the current state of the US educational system.

Fast Food Nation offers these examples of corporations using high school as advertising banners:
- A student was suspended for wearing a Pepsi shirt during "Coke in Education Day" at the school
- An agreement was made to open a Pepsi GeneratioNext Resource Center at an elementary school in Derby, Kansas
- Thousands of schools use corporated-sponsored teaching texts. Proctor & Gamble's Decision Earth teaches that clear cutting is good for the environment. Exxon's teaching materials inform kids that fossil fuels have caused few environmental problems and that alternate fuel sources are too expensive. The American Coal Foundation suggests that carbon dioxide might actually help, rather than hurt the planet.
- Fast food chains advertise on Channel One, which is broadcasted to eight million students daily.

Who knows what other sadly depressing insights this book will have in store for me...

Update: further along in the book now. Kenny with the herniated back sounds an awful lot like Boxer from Animal Farm, except for the part about the glue.

Update 2/14/04: done now. Learned a lot more disgusting facts. I wrote a brief review of the book in the full entry.

Update 2/14/04: don't know if this is real, but this seems like a appropriate reading to accompany Fast Food Nation. According to the site, which is claimed to be run by the guy who tested the American mad cow, the USDA has effectively stopped testing for Mad Cow in order to prevent the appearance of an epidemic. Just as disturbing is the assertion, which also appears in this MSNBC story, that the cow was not a 'downer' cow. This is important, as it is policy only to test downer cows for mad cow disease. The cow in question happened to arrive with a bunch of other downer cows, and the handler was impatient and killed it with the rest of the downers.

Continue reading "Book: Fast Food Nation" »

Sad news in cycling

Marco Pantani took a Tour de France of his own (first Italian to do so in 33 years) and was a daring in the mountains. The races I saw of his were great matches against Armstrong and provided a lot of excitement.
Pantani found dead, website reports

Feeds Project Mockup

I wrote most of the code that I will need to retrieve comments from Xanga and Movable Type sites (LiveJournal coming soon), though I haven't actually put it into the feed aggregator yet. For now, I leave you with a mockup, which uses a trick I learned from Jon Udell that uses CSS to insert photos for commenters. This is a nice effect (yes, I stole the idea from LiveJournal), as it helps me find comments by people I know pretty quick. The mockup was done by hand, and I stole all of the comments from a popular thread on metamanda's site.

The central idea with this mockup is that the comments appear according to when they were posted. This has pros and cons. On the plus side, it lets you see new comments really quickly, which is the central purpose.

It has the disadvantage that the comments are removed from context; it's harder to follow the conversation thread as it's occurring. I'm not as concerned with this as:
1) you can (and should) go to the actual entry to see the full comment thread
2) most people post comments in reply to the entry, not to another comment

Here ya go: Feeds Mockup. The mockup borrow's images from kottke for the quotation marks, which I will replace as soon as I have access to Photoshop, though I will borrow/steal the concept.

Comments are much appreciated on this. If you are offended by me using your photo from orkut to accompany your post, let me know and I'll remove it.

February 15, 2004

Movie: Lost in Translation

movie posterI saw Lost in Translation awhile back, and I was surprised to find that I didn't actually write an entry for it. I'm not going to take the time to write a full review right now, though maybe I will when the DVD arrives from Amazon, but I will take this opportunity to post this comment I left on Joi Ito's site on mobilizes against "Lost In Translation". The thread brings up the topic of rascism in Lost in Translation, and a petition by asianmediawatch to ask that Academy voters vote against it.

I spent half my life growing up in Japan and the other half in America. Thoughout I've been an American, struggling to understand and partake in the Japanese culture and ancestry that I share as a half-Japanese American.

I don't see LIT as racist. From a pedantic point of view the division is cultural, not racial. From a personal point of view, the disconnect that the main characters feel with the Japanese culture, and the lack of identification that Mimi cites, is one that I personally feel, despite the many years I have spent in Japan. My struggle to connect with the Japanese culture doesn't mean that I denigrate the culture, or that I have a condescending view of it. Similarly, portraying this disconnect that others and I naturally feel in a movie isn't automatically racist, nor does it display cultural elitism.

The important distinction is that, while stories like LIT can take the opportunity to portray one culture as being superior, LIT doesn't. If LIT had a scene where Bill Murray's character returns to America, and the American culture is elevated on a pedestal and portrayed as being superior, then I would change my opinion. Instead, LIT is filled with scenes such as Scarlett Johansson's character visiting Kyoto that are respectful, and it's clear that the characters' problems will not evaporate when they return to America.

I don't feel that my feelings are racist/cultural elitist, and I welcome movies that portray emotions that I personally can identify with. Petitions like this make me imagine a world where every movie is a tourism video instead of a story, a politically correct whitewash without any honest emotion or portrayals.

February 16, 2004

Simplified photo sharing

another link for bp:
Wired News: Share That Photo: Hit Save

Partial site redesign in progress

Despite many attempts, I was never able to erradicate the MovableType-ness of the current site design. There was also a whole lotta cruftiness and duplicate/dead CSS.

I've done a "partial" site redesign that I think, once and for all, will fix this, though it sacrifices the calendar at the top for now (I may stick it back in later). Also, the redesign is "partial" because I don't have Photoshop with me. Once I do, I think I will change the banner at the top. The redesign is sitting on my laptop, waiting for some final tweaks and feedback before it is deployed, but I've posted a screenshot below.

Comments are appreciated. Apologies for the low-quality screenshot.
screenshot of partial redesign

Site redesign launched

It seems appropriate that for entry 900, I should launch a new design. I know that it's only been an hour or so since I posted about this as a work-in-progress, but I got impatient and decided to give it a go. Pages other than the front page are still using the old design until I have enough time to go through and tweak their layouts.

February 29

Just wanted to say that I just realized that this will be our first leap year in eight years.

Update: I am so wrong. 2000 was a leap year. 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was a leap year because it is divisible by 400. The year is ~365.25 days give or take, so one out of every four centuries is a leap year.

February 17, 2004


I think the cortisone is giving me insomnia. Haven't slept right in at least a week, and I'm tired in a way that's resistent to caffeine: the caffeine just heightens my disorientation. It's bad enough being tired but not being able to keep the proper caffeine/blood composition is too much, too much I say!

February 18, 2004

Site redesign for is getting a slow face-lift. You can now see the most recent posts from members on the front page of the site. I am still figuring out the best way to also inline 1010/pqbon/meta/kwc/bp on the front page as well (it's a tad bit harder).

As you can see, the new face-lift includes user icons. honeyfields - you're gonna have to send me one of your own creation, given your mad Illustrator skillz :).

BTW - the icon for is picture I took of monks making a mandala. Somehow, I figure this was appropriate, even if our entries only disappear into the archives instead of forever.

Feeds Project: Update IV, "Powered by 1010 Aggregator"

This is possible the first useful application of the 1010 aggregator. The front page of is now powered by aggregator so that you can see all of the recent community blog entries listed there. The best part: it works just like a blogroll; you only have to had to add a single line of HTML to incorporate your feeds (see extended entry).

I'm really liking this, because it is a good counterbalance to some of the weaknesses of MovableType:
- no need to rebuild your MT page to see the latest feed updates
- all the work is done elsewhere
- your pages rebuild just as fast as they did before

Also, you can use CSS to change the appearance of the feed so that it matches your site.

The next thing on deck is to get it to display comments, which I've had code for but have still not integrated because of other pressing issues.

Continue reading "Feeds Project: Update IV, "Powered by 1010 Aggregator"" »

February 19, 2004

What's on your iPod

Here's one I've been meaning to do since I saw this on Neil Gaiman's journal, but my iPod wasn't charged. Put your iPod on random, and transcribe the first fifteen songs. Here I go. Out of 3399 songs, here are the first 15:

1. Happy Jack - The Who
2. Bulls on Parade (Live) - Rage Against the Machine
3. We'll Meet Again - Johnny Cash
4. Jessica - Allman Brothers Band
5. Love Reign O'Er Me - The Who
6. Take it Back - Pink Floyd
7. Big Cheese - Nirvana
8. You - Pearl Jam
9. Terrible Lie - Nine Inch Nails
10. 4 out of 5 - Soul Coughing
11. Easy Goin' Evening - Stevie Wonder
12. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now - B.B. King
13. Piggies - The Beatles
14. Angel - Jimi Hendrix
15. Rain Song - Led Zeppelin

I was hoping that this would show off something more eclectic on my iPod, but the odds were against it. I was surprised that The Who showed up twice, seeing as I only have one album of theirs on my iPod.

I did one more list just to see how random my iPod was. Results of that are in the extended entry.

Update: for those of you without iPods, the first 15 songs off your mp3 player (iTunes/Winamp/Musicmatch) works just as well

Continue reading "What's on your iPod" »

February 21, 2004

So fresh, so clean

My cell phone just went through the spin cycle. I'm waiting for it to dry to see if it turns back on, but I'm 99% sure that even if it manages to power up, it will be like Jack Nicholson at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I will have to do my dutiful role and smother it with a pillow, and find something large to throw through the window.

If you could please resend me your cell phone numbers, I would appreciate it. It will facilitate the education of the new cell phone, when I manage to purchase one.

At least it smells nice.

My name is...

We went down to Hollister Hills today to help pqbon with his first dirt bike race. All I have to say is, there was a lot of

Photo of the day


meta says I like take blurry photos. Also, whenever she takes a photo of a mundane texture, like a stretch of dirt, she calls the photo "ken-like." These accusations are 100% true. Todays photo postings should only reinforce that belief. This photo was taken at the dimly, but red, lit Make-Out Room in San Francisco while we were listening to some bands play.

February 22, 2004

For those of you who want an icon on

Multiple people (two), have asked me how to have an icon next to their feed on I initially put a guide up here, but I decided to move the entry over to
- Everyone: Guide: Adding/editing your own icon

GSM phone request

It looks like it will be a bit more expensive than I thought to replace my cell phone, unless I waiting three months. When I first switched to AT&T, their policy was that you could get a phone upgrade discount every six months. That has now been increased to nine months. I've only had my (broken) cell phone for six months now, so in order to not spend $200+ on a new cell phone, my best option is to wait.

My request to you all is that if you have a spare GSM cell phone that you're not using, is it possible for me to borrow it for the next three months? I'll make the same promise to you as I made to the pho list: I promise to take good care of it and keep it clean (without the use of laundry detergent).


Java generics tutorial

Generics (aka "templates" in C++) tutorial I'm gonna have to read when I finally start using Java 1.5. Java 1.5 Generics Tutorial

USPS kick off cycling season

Hey, it's cycling season again, so my readers can now groan as I post lots on lots of links to bike races :). I'll be friendly this time around and do some condensing for you all.

The season has already started well for US Postal. After winning the time trial on his new time trial bike (with adjusted position), Armstrong made good on his promise to work for teammate Landis, who won the overall title at the Tour of Algarve in Portugal. and trekbikes both have photos of the new time trial bike.

Notes on the Tale of Genji translation

Posting this to refer to, as meta's copy of Tale of Genji is sitting on the shelf.
- Gen Kanai weblog: translating the Tale of Genji

Cellular resurrection

My cellphone has miraculously started coming back to life, though, like me, it's a bit gimpy. The screen is every-so-slightly messed, and some of the buttons aren't working too well/not working at all, but I was able to make an intelligible phone call with it.

Part of the problem seems to be that the detergent fouled the contacts underneath the buttons, including the power button. I started pressing the power button in frustration and suddenly the phone turned on. Once the phone powered up, I discovered many other buttons were not working, but most of them were similarly fixed by sufficient pounding. So let this be your lesson kiddies: when something ain't working, banging on it in frustration is always is a good idea.

I'm still amazed that the phone is doing as well as it is. Time will tell if there is a small drop of water still in it that spoils the whole deal, but I retract my previous request for a cell phone. Those of you who know my previous phone know how sturdy it was, but I think that this little event with the washing machine may have given the Nokia 6800 first place in the ironphone competition.

Many thanks to Rosy, who was kind enough to respond all the way from Japan :).

February 23, 2004

tivo to go

I'm posting this b/c I would love for TiVo to add in DVD burning capabilities over ethernet without having to hack the TiVo. If you want these features, you should fill out this survey.

<bitter>I'm also posting this for a cryptic reason, similar to the cryptic reasons I've posted links in the past. </bitter>
- TiVo New Features Survey, February 2004

Analysis Mars Spirit crash

After some speculation from various circles, this article reveals what actually happened to the Spirit rover when it went dead for several days.
EE Times - The trouble with Rover is revealed

February 24, 2004

NYTimes on autism

Interesting reading, considering that a higher-than-normal percentage of the Bay Area is autistic, and that percentage will likely continue to increase:
- Lifting the Veils of Autism, One by One by One


Rosy posted an entry that records, in part, her visit to Hiroshima and the atomic bomb memorial there. This brought back a lot of memories of my visit to Nagasaki's memorial, and makes me wish that I hadn't lost all my materials from that visit when I moved from Japan. Luckily, parts of what Rosy wrote made me remember some of the similar things on display at Nagasaki.

One thing in particular that Rosy's entry brought back was the memorials of a thousand cranes. When sa got married and they told me that it was a Japanese Hawaiian tradition to make a thousand cranes before a marriage, I was confused. I had only heard of that tradition in the context of "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes," which is the story of a girl with Hiroshima-bomb-caused leukemia who believes that if she is able to make a thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish to be healed. While I guess a similar wish-making principle applies to marriage, the juxtaposition between terminal illness and marriage was a bit odd.

When I visited Nagasaki, cords of a thousand cranes where everywhere, honoring Sadako's spirit. Rosy managed to snap a photo of these at Hiroshima. You can compare that with this photo and this other photo from the wedding, which show a small number of the cranes.

February 25, 2004


We heard "Jolene" by the White Stripes on the radio and none of us knew what album it was on. I had heard the song before, but I wasn't sure why. So for those of you who were in the car, here are the details:

- Jolene was released as a b-side to the "Hello Operator" vinyl single
- Jolene was also a bonus track on a Japanese version of White Blood Cells
- Jolene is played a lot in concert, so I was probably remembering the song from the Berkeley concert

Jack White does five songs on the Cold Mountain Soundtrack (credited to him solo, not the White Stripes)

Update: alejandra points out that this is a Dolly Parton cover.

Free dinner

I'm currently at 922 entries (this is #922). At my current pace, it means that I should hit the 1000 mark sometime in the next 3 months.

To celebrate the monumental waste of time that is this blog, I offer the following contest to my friends:

Guess the date that I post entry 1000, I buy you a free dinner

As an aid, you should click on the "Monthly" link near the top of the front page. It has a histogram of my monthly posting rate, which should help guide your entries.

Contest rules:
1) Winner is the closest time, regardless of over/under.
2) Dinner can be anywhere, as long as it the restaurant is in Menlo/PA/MV/Sunnyvale.
3) Others may come to the dinner, but the contest only covers your meal (no silly gimmicks either :) ).
4) There must be at least five entries, as pools of four people or less are kinda silly.

Do not send me your times -- if I know your guesses, then people might accuse me of rigging the contest, especially if meta wins. Instead, post a comment to indicate that you're interested in the competition, and I'll figure out a way to collect your guesses without actually seeing them.

Escape from San Francisco

My commute to work this morning felt like a videogame.

Level 1: Acquire transportation
- Objective: Successfully navigate across 22nd Street, which has temporarily been renamed the 22nd Street River.
- Obstacles: Ankle-to-knee-deep water on 22nd Street.
- Mission status: Lost 10 health for water-soaked shoes.

Level 2: Maze
- Objective: Ignore parking tickets on car and navigate towards freeway.
- Obstacles: Flooded streets, in particular Cesar Chavez, which has been renamed Cesar Chavez River (22nd Street River has been renamed to 22nd Street Stream). Closed on-ramp at Van Ness (police cars). Closed on-ramp on Bryant (cleanup crew).
- Mission status: Successfully navigated to 280 on-ramp near 6th, or thereabouts.

Level 3: Low-vis driving
- Objective: Drive down 280 to 101 to Menlo Park
- Obstacles: Visibility intermitently shrinking to ~15 feet at points. Sudden stops on freeway at locations where the freeway is completely flooded.
- Mission status: Successfully navigated around several large puddles, made it to Menlo Park.

Bonus level: Deleting e-mail.
- Objective: Open up e-mail account and delete the 30 (and growing) e-mails because someone decided to open up a debate on gay marriage and social security.
- Obstacles: Potential for RSI from repeated deletion of e-mail.
- Mission status: ongoing

February 26, 2004

Animated gif for Kenj

Kenji was talking with me about animated gifs, as I guess he's planning on making some soon. Here's one that he can aspire to (made by someone who had too much time on his/her hands):
- animated gif

WARNING: the above link is the most frikkin' intense stickman I've ever seen. In fact, stay away from it if you're prone to seizures.

(via BoingBoing guestbar (Johannes Grenzfurthner))

February 27, 2004

TurboTaxDrain, California State Edition

Paul updated his budget tools so that you can explore California's budget now as well. It quickly puts into perspective how hard it is to balance the budget: 3/4 of the budget is split evenly between education and health & human services. If you cut education, you're damned for ruining the future of our children; if you cut health & human services, old people will beat you with their dentures.

As with Paul's federal budget explorer, you can input your own approximate taxes to see what leeches are sucking on them.

February 28, 2004


I don't like posting quizzes to my blog, but I have to post this one b/c meta was trying sooo hard to get this result intentionally, while I got it the 'honest' way on the first try:
Pig Pen
You are Pig Pen!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Targeted advertising

I just got my catalog from Anatomical (distributors of the fine Giant Microbes collection). On the the first page there is a poster for "Human Spinal Disorders" and on the back cover you can purchase a model of the spine, complete with herniated disc. I'll feel so much smarter now when I look at my MRI.

February 29, 2004

right vs. left (economics)

I've gotten into two arguments with people who insist that right-wing economics is defined as free market, and left-wing economics is defined as interventionist. I disagreed, and naturally long arguments ensued.

My initial position was that the terms are relative concepts that are historically mutable: they are a function of what utility function you're using, and whose utility you're maximizing. I even took (and still take) the position that free trade can be a left-wing economic position, so long as the reason for the free trade policy is to achieve income redistribution in poorer countries.

My position was changed slightly when Nate pointed out that the historical basis for the terms left/right originated during the French Revolution, when the aristocrats would sit on the right and the commoners would sit on the left. During this period, "right-wing economics" was actually synonymous with feudalism, and laissez-faire was a left-wing economics position. Over time laissez-faire has drifted to the right and pushed feudalism who knows where.

This made me think a little more, so I amend my definition now to state that right-wing economics is defined as economic policies that maximize the utility of the stronger property owners and maintain their purchasing power, whereas left-wing economics are economic policies that maximize utility for all individuals as a whole. A possibly current-day instantiation of this definition could be that right-wing economics favor pareto-optimal results, while left-wing economics favor globally optimal results. Note that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though in practice they frequently are, i.e. I get to keep my paradoxical assertion that free trade can be both a left and right wing policy, even simultaneously :).

This seems to be a historically neutral definition that encompasses present and past notions of left/right-wing economic policies, though it relies heavily on 'utility' fudge factor.

what is this?

This page contains all entries posted to kwc blog in February 2004.

January 2004 is the previous archive.

March 2004 is the next archive.

Current entries can be found on the main page.