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January 2004 Archives

January 1, 2004

Open Thread

Open thread for feedback of any kind.

USC wins Rose Bowl


Final 1st2nd3rd4thT 
 Michigan (4)007714 
 USC (1)7714028

There were two things I found funny about this game. One was a postgame quote from DE Kenechi Udeze: "People thought we were a 'finesse' line. Half of us on the defensive line can't even spell finesse. We were offended." The other was that this game was billed by ABC as embodiment of man versus machine, polls versus the BCS computer-generated standings. College football seems to be the last place where our fear of obsolescence by computer would turn up, but it has, and it's amusing, partly in a pedantic sense, as the role of a computer in this is mostly irrelevant. The BCS standings are a bunch of mathematical equations thought up by pseudo-statistician humans who are too lazy to work out their solutions on paper. The computer serves the role of the accomplice, accelerating the application of our own hubris, our desire to be able to perfectly categorize, rank, and file all that's under the sun (and stadium lights).

Watching USC play proves the adage that the really good teams create their own luck. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, the USC players were in the position to take advantage of it, from an errant Navarre pass bounced off of Edwards' foot into the hands of two waiting USC backs to the constant pressure from the corners that resulted in a USC player kicking the ball out of Navarre's hand as he dove past and other drops.

Nearly every aspect of USC's game was on fire. They lit up Michigan for nine sacks, tipped passes, knocked the ball out of Navarre's hands multiple times, blocked the field goal attempt on Michigan's first drive, punished Michigan's punt returner on his only return attempt, and even managed to complete a TD pass to their own QB.

Norm Chow seemed to have the pulse of the game -- USC went deep multiple times, and nearly every single time they pulled it off perfectly. The time of possession clock was heavily in Michigan's favor as a result of USC's efficient drives downfield. Matt Leinart hardly seemed a freshman as he was ranking up Carson Palmer numbers, and Mike Williams looked like an NFL player playing with kids. - NCF - College Football Recap

January 2, 2004

Johnny Five is Alive

After two trips to Fry's and about $500 is back up and running. I'm now on an Althon XP 2600 platform. I didn't want to take the time to figure out what exactly was busted to hell on the old platform (my hunch was either the memory or the memory controller on the motherboard) and I wanted to get things up again quickly, so I chose a mid-range upgrade that will probably be barely noticeable. The full list of improvements is:
- Althon XP 2600 (was Althon 1700)
- Gigabyte KT600 mobo
- 1GB of DDR PC3200 (DDR400) memory (was 768 PC2100)
- GeForce FX 5200 (I didn't want to do this, but the new board required AGP 4x/8x, and I figured at this point the money's already lost)

Windows is now telling me that I have to reactivate it. That's sad.

January 3, 2004

Foxtrot + BCS


January 4, 2004

Mushroom hunting

While we were back in DC, meta showed me her Autobon mushroom guide that she had used to go mushroom hunting when she was 12 (yes, she was a dork even in those early years). She brought it back with her so we went with Tom and Steve to try and find some chanterelles (morels are apparently not in season). No luck with the chanterelles, but it was interesting to see how many different types of mushrooms you can see in a small area without seeing the same one twice.

Now that we're back meta is busy identifying the mushrooms and I'm watching Iron Chef: Battle Matsutake, which my TiVo has recommended I watch. Now THAT is technology. Hopefully none of the mushrooms she's identifying are poisonous...

Update: turns out that the mushroom I found is deadly poisonous. Go me.

Congrats NASA

There wasn't much good news from space in 2003. There were record solar flares (cool images, but not good news), Columbia scattered over Texas, and Britain's attempt at Mars most likely a failure (unless a large crater manages to get out of the way of Beagle 2). Even SpaceShipOne managed to skid across the runway on landing. About the only good news was the new Spitzer Space Telescope, which promises to become surpass Hubble with the beauty and quality of its images.

Well, 2004 promises to reverse this chain of bad luck, and like any great NASA endeavor, it comes with cool photos as well. First, Stardust successfully rendezvoused with Comet Wild II, collected some particles, and snapped some pics. Also, the new Mars Spirit rover is currently trapezing across the red planet and sending back some nice photos. If you look carefully in the larger photos, you can spot Bill Nye's Mars sundial sitting on the rear solar panel.
panorama of Mars

Japan theme

Japan at NightI'm still refusing to watch the Last Samurai, partly because it's a rergurgitated flick clothed in samurai armor, and also because the phrase "Last Samurai" should never be associated with Tom Cruise. I have, however, watched Lost in Translation and Kill Bill, which I think were fun, good movies, though in very, very different ways.

The New York Times has used these three films to write an article on Japan in Hollywood, which is a nice casual read. It's difficult to see Kill Bill as a movie portraying Japan... it seems more accurate to describe it as a movie portraying Japanese cinema, a caricature of a caricature, though I did like the brief visit to Okinawa. Lost in Translation, on the other hand, I thought was an excellent portrayal of being immersed in Japanese culture for the first time. The article delves into the complaints about the movie being racist, but, to me at least, the movie hits far too close to home and lacks the condescending tone for that category.

One of the funniest parts of the movie for me was when Bill Murray does the celebrity commercial for the whisky. It still surprises me everytime I see one of the celebrity commercials on Japanese TV, and watching Murray act out this scene I can't help but wonder if the actors for the actual commercials suffer as much as he is. Speaking of which, I found a link to Japander on evhead today. You can check out all the silly Harrison Ford et al commercials there if you like.

I'll leave you with one final Japan-related link which I managed to spot today. It's the source of the image accompanying this article: Japan Nighttime Skylines (via Gen Kanai via MetaFilter) zeitgeist

Google posted their year-end Zeitgeist, which is always a fun perspective on the content the Web provides. The Tour de France made the top ten, woohoo! Orlando Bloom made #3 on the popular men search, which is partly due to the efforts of metamanda (I wonder if they know to combine "elfin nugget" with his results yet).

I'm going to demonstrate some bad manners and post my own year-end stats here, not as an act of self-promotion (because the numbers are kinda pathetic), but because this is entry #800, and if there's ever a time to draw attention to yourself, nice multiples of a hundred are it. Also, I find it interesting to see how the number of visits to this site is steadily increasing even though the set of regular readers has not. This increase in hits is 99% due to search engine links. Apparently Google thinks I am an expert on Khleo generics (~300-400 searches/month), and my article mentioning YzDocklet is quickly gaining steam. Also, 61 people visited my site last month because the "Redskins Suck."

Unique Visitors 2003
May 2003: 280
Jun 2003: 709
Jul 2003: 1542
Aug 2003: 2160
Sep 2003: 3251
Oct 2003: 4237
Nov 2003: 4914
Dec 2003: 6129

Top Fifteen Search Topics Dec 2003
khleo generics/movie holes 364
statue venus london 145
ipod stuff 135
yzdock 118 78

atari adventure 71
cool inventions 62
redskins suck 61
terrell owens sharpie 51
frank gehry disney 51

internet blockers 45
wireless power 38
callipygous 35
photo stitch 33
stupid stuff 25

USC is Number 1!

USC gets Number 1 in the media poll, splitting the title with LSU. The BCS gets one more year(?) before its contract is due, so it can't be said that USC killed it, but there will certainly be a lot of impetus for change over the summer, hopefully to a system that can actually be understood and explained.

I have a post about the Rose Bowl on my other computer, which is currently awaiting a battery charging. (Rose Bowl entry now posted under Jan 1). I didn't watch the Sugar Bowl, but USC's better :).

January 5, 2004


meta knows that I don't like this song, Cash or no, most likely because of an annoying Eagles cover of the song ruined it for me. Nevertheless, the tranquil serenity of a monkey on horseback is strangely enthralling.
The Big Smoker: Feature - Johnny Cash Desperado with Monkeys
(via A Whole Lotta Nothing)


One of my favorite new shows, thanks to Paul, is MythBusters which is on the Discovery Channel. It's pretty apparent that the show is in the Bay Area, but up until a post on A Whole Lotta Nothing I didn't know where. You can check out the link below to see where there located (not too far from meta) as well as see their portfolio of stuff they've done for movies/commercials/etc...
M5 Industries Visual Effects

Simple ontology design

What is an ontology and why we need it
This article was a good read for me because, while I have plenty of background with object-oriented programming, I needed a quick read to understand the subtle terminology and technical differences in the AI world. It's probably an even better read if you have no experience with designing object-oriented programming and want some simple guidelines.

January 6, 2004

GarageBand is swwwweeet

This might actually make me buy a cheap iBook:
- Apple - iLife - GarageBand

I really, really, really would have liked this a lot growing up, and it probably would have saved me a lot of money on amps and effects pedals.

Web Design reference

This looks like it will be a really cool resources to use when I finally overhaul the brittle and redundant CSS holding this site together:
- Web Design References
(via IDBlog<Gunnar<Zeldman)

Please, please, please let this be true

Gibbs Considering Return to Redskins (

I went to a chat session with Michael Wilbon and one of the people asked him "Did you ever think you'd see the day where the Wizards are the most stable team in the DC area?" DC is a football town, and Gibbs could bring all back together.

January 7, 2004


Gibbs to Return to Washington (

Hail to the Redskins...

January 8, 2004

First photo project

I originally got a camera because I was sad that everytime I tried to do a photoshop tutorial/trick/guide I had to use the stock art that came with the article rather than try and do something semi-original. I figured that with enough photos of my own I would have enough of a library to do just about anything. That was the idea, which I then forgot about.

(Skip forward three years) I decided that it would be good for me to go through my photos try to do a 2003 yearbook with my favorite photos as well as photos that would remind me of good memories. As I began assembling this, I realized that I have A LOT of photos. In fact, I have 3000 photos from 2003 alone, which comes out to eight photos per day on average (which is still strangely less than the number of songs I have in iTunes). So, at long last, I decided it would be time to do an art project with my photos. The project is going to be a linear sequence of 100 photos, organized into groups of ten. If I had more time and less RSI I would probably do something more interesting, but even this so far has been a lot of fun for me.

I'll post it as soon as I feel that I like the 100 photos I've chosen. Some of the sequences I really like, but some of the themes still feel weak or forced. I'm also leaving some photos that I would really like in there, though I did manage to include the very first and third photos taken with my digital camera in it. I guess I'll have to take more photos next year :).

January 9, 2004

Today's forecast


Moons of Mars

High-Resolution MOC Image of PhobosA post on /. asked why Mars Spirit wasn't sending back any night photos showing off Phobos and Deimos. I was intrigued enough to go investigate, and quickly found out why. According to the Phobos size comparisons page that NASA has, Phobos, the larger of the two Mars moons, is .006 times the diameter of our Moon. Deimos is .004 times the diamter of our Moon. The NASA page lets you view virtual size comparisons, and at first I thought it was broken because all I saw was an image of the Moon. I then realized that Deimos was the white pixel in the corner.

PhobosIt also turns out that there are photos of the Phobos and Deimos that were taken by Pathfinder. They aren't particulary interesting, though there are some nice photos of Phobos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor.
- Phobos Photos
- Deimos Photo

January 11, 2004

Law of Internet Invocation

metamanda reads John Scalzi's WHATEVER blog all the time, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this comment from Scalzi on Making Light (poppy z. brite thread)

Also, as a general rule, if you don't want someone to show up on your site, or in your discussion (or whatever), don't name the discussion (or whatever) after them (and especially, I would think, don't name them after authors, who are by nature curious about being fictional creatures in someone else's universe). Thanks to the twin powers of search engines and personal vanity, putting someone's name on something on the Internet is tantamount to inviting their presence, not unlike (depending on your perspective) invoking angels or demons. And we all know how much trouble that class of creature can be.

Henceforth, the above observation is to be known as the Law of Internet Invocation: "If you name them, they will come."

This is assuming no one else has yet made this observation (which I'm sure someone has). Posted by: John Scalzi on January 11, 2004 06:09 AM

I searched for "If you name them, they will come," and all I turned up was an Oct 2002 police report mentioning the names on a police warrant, so at the very least attributing this to Scalzi passes the Google Test, which does carry a certain level of omniscient certitude.

I found this quote to be serendipitous, given that metamanda's postings on her blog have summoned Scalzi, Paul Dourish, and others, which for me brings everything full circle. One of my postings attracted Eric Meyer's attention, but only due to it's incorrect attribution which he kindly corrected (by giving the credit to someone else). My postings have also managed to attract the attention of submitters to the Style Invitational, Khleo generics fans (but probably the man himself?), and who knows who else. Go Google/Technorati/Trackback!

Update: Scalzi's own post on the matter. Also, more on eponymous laws in the next thread.

While I'm on the topic of "laws"

Just after I made the previous post, I found this on Kottke:
What's Your Law?

There are a bunch of eponymous laws listed, some I recognize, some I don't. For example, there's Godwins Law (see below), which I seem to see mention on a daily basis now. Then there's Strogatz's Second Law of Doing Math (also see below), which I haven't heard of, but my bastardize corallary seems to backup my use of Google to verify Scalzi's quote :).

Godwin 's Law

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Strogatz's Second Law of Doing Math

To figure out if something is true, check it on the computer. If the machine agrees with your own calculations, you're probably right.

Unattributed Bastard Corollary of Doing Research

To figure out if something is true, check it on the Google. If the machine agrees with your own research, you're probably right.

January 12, 2004

Die Comment Spam!

After the most vicious attack to date, I finally caved in and installed MT-Blacklist v1.62. If the spammer were more intelligent, he should have stuck with leaving only one or two posts, as has occurred in the past. Instead, I was confronted with about 30 spams, which finally broke me. I should have broken much earlier, because MT Blacklist only took a minute to install, and would have saved me 10 minutes of deleting and rebuilding. It also seems really nicely designed.

Back from Tahoe

I'm back from Tahoe, were we went to Kirkwood and Northstar. I actually only snowboarded at Kirkwood, which was good as always. Due to a poor choice of sockwear and a mild sore throat, I decided to wimp out and watch football on Sunday. The consensus seems to be that Northstar has long lines and high ticket prices (though the long lines cleared up in the afternoon), so perhaps it was good that I sat on my butt all day. Jeff did 20k cross-country skiing marathon and did better than he expected, which was a bit of positive news from Sunday. I'll leave you with a view from Kirkwood:

Tahoe vs. Superior

Bryan and I were having a discussion as to the deepest lakes in the US, in particular the Great Lakes vs. Lake Tahoe. I did some Internet research b/c I thought it was cool to surf through bathymetric images of the lakes and wishing that I still had/knew how to use ArcView. Here's the stuff that I turned up (he was right about Lake Tahoe being deeper than the Great Lakes, though both of us forgot about Crater Lake).

Lake Depth:
- Lake Superior max depth: 1330 ft (405 m)
- Lake Tahoe depth: 1645 ft (501 m)
- Crater Lake (deepest in US): 1932 ft (589 m)
- Russia's Lake Baikal (deepest in World/Russia): 5371 ft (1637 m)

Lake Area:
- Lake Tahoe: 501 km2
- Lake Superior (second largest in world/US): 82,414 km2
- Caspian Sea (largest in world): 371,000 km2

I moved the bathymetry of the two lakes to the extended entry due to size considerations.

Continue reading "Tahoe vs. Superior" »

100 Photos: Prelude

I posted previously about a photo project that I was working on. The idea is that I have 100 photos grouped into ten groups of ten. It turned out to be pretty hard to squeeze every photo in, so I actually have ten groups of ten, with a two photo prelude. The 100 (+2) photos aren't the best photos that I took this year, but the grouping will hopefully be interesting nevertheless. I imagine my posting of the project will take up a lot of bandwidth, so I'll only post the photos in the extended entries.

Continue reading "100 Photos: Prelude" »

January 14, 2004

100 Photos: Set A

This is probably my favorite of the ten sets. I'm going to post each set in its own individual entry, and then I'll probably do all 100 in a single entry at the very end. That way, if you're actually viewing these, by the end you'll have all the images cached and they won't have to download :).

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set A" »

100 Photos: Set B

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set B" »

100 Photos: Set C

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set C" »

100 Photos: Set D

I cheated in this set and used a 2002 photo to lead it off.

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set D" »

100 Photos: Set E

As much as an arrangement of non-humorous photos can be humorous, this is my "funny" set. This will be the last set I post for now. F, G, H, I, and J can wait for another time.

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set E" »

January 15, 2004

100 Photos: Set F

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set F" »

100 Photos: Set G

Back into light...

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set G" »

100 Photos: Set H

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set H" »

100 Photos: Set I

getting hectic...

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set I" »

100 Photos: Set J

Calm restored... (The End)

Continue reading "100 Photos: Set J" »

100 Photos: Sets A-J

If you actually enjoyed the individual sets, then here's all 100 photos presented in their intended sequence. Like I mentioned before, I presented the 100 photos in sets of 10 initially to make it easier on the download. If you viewed the other 10 sets, then this entry should load immediately. (See the individual sets for photos indentification). My final comment is in respose to meta's question of whether or not I used software to find similarities between the photos: no, I did not, but I wish I did.

Continue reading "100 Photos: Sets A-J" »

"Friends" report

metamanda started playing around with RSS aggregation on her site, which reminded me that she got me a book called "Spidering Hacks" for X-mas at my request. I figured it would be a shame to put that to waste, so I've put together a program that periodically goes out to other sites and collects their RSS feeds. It's still in the development phase, but you can view a test run of it here:

1010 Feeds Project (disabled)

Still to-do:
- UI for adding/removing feeds
- allow different users, with different RSS feeds/user
- CSS stylesheet to make it pretty

Although the to-do list is short, it's pretty much the hard stuff that's left, so who knows if I'll get to it :).

January 16, 2004

Feeds Project Update

The 1010 Feeds Project made some gains today. Added in support for LiveJournal (RSS 2.0) and Xanga (decrepit RSS), so they should interleave in nicely as well.

Also, added in another feature such that the servlet loads the list of feeds from a URL, in this case, I had to do one more thing in MT to make this useful, which was to add a new index template and set "Link to file" to be "feeds.txt". This useful feature of MT allows you to synchronize the template to a file on the filesystem. A corollary of this is that you can use this feature to edit nearly any darn text file you have on your server.

The end result of this is that I can log into MT, edit the Feeds template, save, and then watch as my feeds are updated.

I still need to add in support for separate profiles, so that people can have their own customized "conversations."

Update: The feed aggregator is currently gummed up. Will have to debug it tomorrow (Tuesday) to see what's up. In the meantime, some more todos:
1) get comics feeds working (comic image + guess date)
2) include "Post Comment" for LJ/Xanga/MT if possible
3) attempt writing an mt-friends.cgi that allows you to list LJ/Xanga/MT friends
4) get site images working
5) write an example stylesheet
6) post the code

January 17, 2004

Fire! Fire!

Just found out that part of the main house of my fraternity in Boston burned. Structurally, the house sounds fine, but the lounge area on the fourth floor was burned to a crisp. Most importantly, no one was hurt. Given the cold weather, though, I can imagine what it must look like in there right now. CNN in fact had an image of a fire in New York that had been put out, and there were gigantic icicles over the firemen's heads. The cold weather seemed to be part of the problem, in fact. The sprinkler system had froze so there was nothing to put out the flames.

January 18, 2004

Book: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

book image

This is a wonderful book. As a comic book reader, I'm biased towards a story that uses the Golden Age (aetataureate) of comics as a backdrop for the story of the two cousins, Kavlier and Clay. Chabon makes excellent use of analogies between the cousins, their comic book stories, and world events as a tool for character development.

The book does have a high level of diction, at least to a illiterate fool like me, so I have made use of the extended entry to annotate some of the words/phrases that I had to lookup/translate. I felt more relieved at my ignorance when I discovered that at least one of the words was one that Chabon had made up (aetataureate). Nevertheless, the book is still remarkably easy to read. You never feel weighed down as the story gracefully moves you forward, assembling the strong character arcs Chabon has laid out.

My last comment before the extended entry is that there are too many unintentional parallels between my reading choices recently, which I blame all on Foucault's Pendulum. What are the chances that I would read two books that use Jewish tradition/kabbala, Superman, and World War II Europe? Honestly. At least there are no templars in this one (or so the templars would have me believe).

Update: Just found out on Newarama that Escapist #1 is due on the shelves in February. I'm hoping the image on Newsarama isn't the cover for #1, because it would be a shame to not try and recreate the Escapist punching Hitler cover that Chabon describes in the novel.

Continue reading "Book: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" »

January 19, 2004

Cool Mars Animation Video

This is a really cool animation of the Mars Rover from launch on earth to its mission on Mars. The level of technical detail appears to be high to me: they studied old Mars sunset images to get the correct blue cast, and you see a lot of the rover elements in high detail. I didn't realize how many rocket stages there were to launch the thing, and it's really cool to see the rocket get smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

One other note: the "American Beauty" music coupled with the camera on the rover make it seemly oddly anthropomorphic, and there are also the Johnny 5 resemblences.
Maas Digital MER Animation (medium) (via Kottke)

Feeds Project Update II

Some more updates to the Feeds Project. I still don't know what brought it to a grinding halt, but hopefully it won't happen again.

I made a couple other changes that should make the interleaving nicer. Most of the comics now interleave properly, and I changed the format of feeds.txt. If you look at feeds.txt you can see how it should be easier to import livejournal or xanga stuff.

I also shrunk the feed window to one week. It still astonishes me how long even 1 week is, so to spare my server bandwidth I might shrink it more.

Later this week I'll add in user profiles, so that you, too, can have your own feed list if you like. This is targeted mostly at MT people, as the current rigging is easiest that way. If you would like your own feeds list, post a comment below.

bp points out that bloglines already does a better job of feed aggregating, though that's not really a target for this tool. This is mostly meant to replicate the xanga/livejournal feed aggregators, which are better at promoting conversations across multiple blogs, whereas bloglines is good at allowing you to follow news sites.

January 20, 2004

Feeds Update III: Feeds! Feeds! Feeds!

**update**: removed dead links

Implemented profiles finally, though the work is only half done. The code is finally starting to look a little more mature, but the todo list seems to be growing rather than shrinking. Here are some sample feeds:

My Feeds

1010 Authors Feed

Comics Feed

January 21, 2004

wp on State of the Union

I liked this washingtonpost analysis of last night's State of the Union. It mentions of a list of things that weren't mentioned in the address:

  • The traditional long list of major new legislation.
  • Any mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Any mention of his big new space initiative.
  • An exit strategy for Iraq.
  • An explanation of the misleading statements in last year's State of the Union address.
  • Acknowledgment that U.S. inspectors have found no unconventional weapons in Iraq.
  • Any mention of Osama bin Laden.
  • A statement of sympathy for those who remain jobless.
  • Specifics about how to get control of the federal budget deficit.
  • Evidence that "terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world."
  • Any mention of that plan to spend $1.5 billion on efforts to promote marriage.
  • Any mention of the environment.
  • An expression of sympathy to the families who lost loved ones in Iraq.
  • Reaching out to Democrats.

tech reference (command prompt)

Needed this one for work to figure out that "&" separates multiples commands on one line.
The command prompt of Windows NT

January 22, 2004

Lyin' on my back

I managed to throw out my back coughing. Spent the day listening to my iPod, catching up on my TiVo, watching Run Lola Run and part of Bend it Like Beckham, and reading/finishing Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which I will eventually do a short blog entry on (read it, you can even download it for free). Luckily pqbon came home mid-noonish, found me incapacitated and starving, and fed me some grub. Alyssa also stopped by to drop off my laptop so that I can extend my presence beyond the walls of my room.

January 23, 2004

Book: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

book image

This book stands on the shoulders of the sci-fi authors that preceded it, and even manages to tip its hat to at least one (the Snow Crash parade). This is not to say the book is unimaginative. Rather, Doctorow takes samiliar SF premises and spins a dark-humored-but-fun yarn about an "ad hoc" named Jules who works at the Disneyland of the future, a future where money and death have been eliminated, and instead everyone is driven to elevate their "Whuffies" (peer respect).

In many ways, Doctorow's vision of the future is what would happen if you took the current social ecosystem of blogging and replicated that for all social interaction. Interaction is multimedia, occurring both offline and online simulatenously over multiple channels. "Whuffies" are much like your Technorati cosmos links or your Friendster list, and communities are fluid with quick shifting of allegiances like online communities.

His prose won't stand up to Stephenson or Gibson in terms of lyrical analogies or clever turns, but it flows well and pulls you through the book. I also give Doctorow extra props for (a) releasing the pdf of the book for free, and (b) being a regular contributor to BoingBoing, which quickly became my favorite filter. The dozen or so bucks I paid for the book was worth those two facts alone, and imagine my pleasure that the book was actually fun to read; I've gotten more than I paid for.

Lame update

I'm officially (in a technical sense) lame now. To follow the path of my gimpiness, here were the steps:

(1) develop sore throat
(2) sore throat turns into cough
(3) throw out back coughing
(4) pinched nerve in leg b/c of unhappy lower back muscles

So I'm currently laid up right now taking a bunch of pills...

Style Invitational 541

This week's Style Invitational was one of the funniest I've seen in awhile, IMHO. Entries had to use a title from the Washington Post and make it sensational.

"At a ceremony last night, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams switched on the newly restored, historic street lights" (Paul Kocak, Syracuse, N.Y.)

"French Fry Fire Damages Kitchen" (Milo Sauer, Fairfax)

"The Baltimore Orioles agreed to terms Sunday night with catcher Javy Lopez on a three-year contract believed to be worth $23 million" (Heather Abelson, New York; Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

Packers quarterback Brett Favre played the Monday after his father died. (Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

Sen. Bill Frist, a physician, tells of performing surgery on an orangutan at the National Zoo. (Robin D. Grove, Chevy Chase)

Kids were given free-admission buttons to the First Night Annapolis festival. (Dave Prevar, Annapolis)

New England 21, New York 17 (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Three landers are scheduled to visit Mars. (Bob Dalton, Arlington)

"Hokies to Face USC in '04 Season Opener" (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

The Style Invitational 541

January 24, 2004

my world

visited countries map
create your own visited country map


I had meta invite me in b/c I was curious. I'm also bed-ridden and am in need of any sort of activity that relieves my boredom. Orkut seems like a cross between Tribe and Friendster, with it's main advantage over the two being that it's really fast. Unlike Friendster, which takes a minute to load someone's profile, Orkut lets you hop around as fast as you can click. It also adds in the notion of karma (trusty/cool/sexy), which seems like a reasonable idea, but then you notice that a bunch of geeky, balding men are rated very sexy, and you have to wonder. (there's no disincentive to giving all your friends max karma)

Another thing we noticed is that the "fan" feature is kinda questionable. If you're already friends with someone, then it doesn't add that much to say you're a fan. If you're not friends, then it kinda comes off as creepy. As an example, meta and I noticed that someone had added himself to her fans list. We thought that was weird, so as a test I started clicking on photos of women I thought were cute. Sure enough, the guy was listed as a fan on all their profiles as well.

Orkut seems to be aware of the potential for these creepy situations, as the guy's profile has now been deleted with the useful message: "Removed by evil all-powerful Orkut workers."

meta's comments on orkut

January 25, 2004

Book: Jennifer Government

book image

I seem to have a habit when I read books of reading two books in a row that are very similar in their themes. Much like Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom, Jennifer Government takes the current trends of human development and projects them into the future. Instead of the technology-driven adhocracies of Down and Out, however, Max Barry's vision is a marketing-driven laissez faire extreme: individuals take on the surname of the company they work for, law is enforced by paid contract, and elementary schools are completely bought out by companies.

The story itself follows the line between amoral corporate ethical policy in a laissez faire world and capitalist anarchy, and as one would expect, Barry pushes the line as far as he can. There is a sad truth to some of the extremes Barry explores -- the idea of killing someone to increase demand for your product isn't too different from companies that dump toxins into groundwater or sell defective products.

My only real complaint with the book is that the characters are about as well developed as characters in a cheap thriller novel -- they serve to propel the story forward, and nothing more. Also, it relies on the remarkable coincidence that these unrelated characters suddenly become remarkably connected, so as to better serve the uniting of the plot threads.


The List

Tools for your blog

Time to clean off some entries on my blogroll, so here are some links to share:

Want a cool favicon for your Web page? Chami's FavIcon from Pics lets you upload any image you want to create your own.

Linking to a NY Times article? Well, there's two problems: (1) other people need to login to NY Times to view the story and (2) after two weeks the Times archives the story so the link becomes stale. Luckily, there's a workaround: the New York Times Link Generator will give you a link that should work for anyone, anytime.

On other thing you might need for your site: animated menus. If you want to do it pure text-style and avoid all the annoying image slicing, you can try one of these techniques:
- Pure CSS Pull-Down Menus
- SimpleBits | Mini-Tab Shapes

Finally, it's always good to learn by example, so here's one using everyone's favorite site: Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards: A List Apart.

Most of these links probably came from Zeldman.

All about RSS Feeds

I've been talking a lot about RSS recently in relation to the Feeds Project, so here are some related links.

In order to use a feed aggregator, you have to be able to find the feed. Here are two tools to help you (if the site is missing an obvious link and Google doesn't do the trick):
- BlogStreet : RSS Discovery
- - Welcome!

If you have no idea what I mean by "feeds" or "RSS," here's: All About RSS || Fagan Finder

Finally, if you're writing your own aggregator, you should probably pass this test suite (but I don't, yet):
- Aggregator client HTTP tests

and, if you're really cool, you can pass the autodiscovery tests for Atom (I'm not that cool):
- Atom autodiscovery test suite

January 26, 2004

Photo albums with GPS

The World-Wide Media eXchange: WWMX group at Microsoft has released a demo application that lets you create a photo album that interweaves photos, GPS coordinates, and text so that you can view your photos geographically as well as chronologically. Not too useful of an app for today's cameras, but could be a portent of things to come when GPS becomes an inexpensive add-on. Something like this would have been really cool for my Europe backpacking trip.

Example travel log:
Melbourne xmas 2003 (only works on IE due to invalid Windows-only paths)
(via The Scobleizer -- Geek Aggregator)

January 27, 2004


You'd think that now that I have all the time in the world I would be posting 100 entries per hour, but it seems that the number of interesting pages on the Internet is inversely proportional to the amount of time I have to surf the Internet.

TNH posted this entry comparing Lieberman to Palpatine. I still go for the Lieberman/Gollum similarity myself, though I guess evil emperor trumps gimp with severe case of multiple personality disorder.

As for my health, I'm no longer in any pain, but I can't seem to feel the left half of my left leg. It's rather disconcerting when all the spatial components of your brain know that your pinky toe is there, and your other foot can feel that your pinky toe is there, but there's only a slight tingle from the pinky toe itself. I did find out that the steroid that they're giving me is the same stuff Jerry Lewis was addicted to. Apparently it made him gain a lot of weight, so maybe I'll be really fat when you next see me.

January 28, 2004

Barcode 4-U

Jennifer Government would have found this barcode maker useful when she designed that barcode for her cheek. It does a lot of the basic 1-D barcodes, as well as some of the 2-D ones (pdf417), but no Dataglyphs. Note to Max Barry: 1-D barcode tattoos in the future? How 20th century.
- Barcode Maker

Cool stuff

New form of matter at really cold temperatures:
PhysicsWeb - Fermionic condensate makes its debut


Two apps for bridging newsgroups (nntp) into your news aggregator (rss):
- Bridging NNTP and RSS
- nntp2rss - access usenet newsgroups via RSS -
(via Scripting News: 1/28/2004)

January 29, 2004

Anybody want a peanut?

kwc: needles in my spine
metamanda: yay!
kwc: how sublime
metamanda: ew!
kwc: they do it everytime
metamanda: that almost rhymes

Blogger, finally

Blogger (aka blogspot) is finally allowing sites to publish their RSS feeds. This makes it a lot easier to find out when people on blogspot have added a journal entry.

Unfortunately, they only publish in Atom, which I don't support yet, but now I guess I have a reason. First, though, blogspot folks need to follow the directions below to turn on their feeds:
BLOGGER - Knowledge Base - What is Atom?


I've slightly updated the right sidebar of the site to use to manage my bookmarks more. is a site the manages your bookmarks for you (similar to blogroll). You visit a site, click on a button, and the site is added to your list. They'll even publish your list as RSS if you like.

What makes different from blogrolling is that it lets you tag entries, which makes a lot more sense than organizing your bookmarks hierarchically. This way, I can have a Jython link sit in both my "Python" and "Java" subsets.

This is part of my overarching scheme to push all Web-related content off of my desktop and back onto the Web, where it belongs. One of the things that frustrates me is that when I sitdown at a new computer, none of my bookmarks are there for me to use. Now, I have a semi-organized system that should eliminate this problem, and breaks down my bookmarks by task:
- daily news reads: bloglines
- sites to follow up on/sidebar: blogrolling
- filing cabinet for bookmarks/older links/links less frequently used:
- bookmark annotations/bookmark search:

January 30, 2004

my us

This isn't as cool, detailed, or information-rich as ps's visited counties map, but I went ahead and generated a visited states map just to check up on my progress. The influence of a southerly cross-country trip is obvious, and will hopefully be fixed sometime in the future. My criteria for filling in a state was that I had to have at least driven in the state -- airport layovers don't count -- but even that is fairly loose criteria.

visited states
create your own visited states map


Last night I started walking for extended periods of time again for the first time in nearly a week. It feels nice to be released from the confines of my bed, though I'm still not used to walking around on a numb foot.

Thanks to all of you who have helped over the past week, and those of you who took the time to come and visit. My days have been rather boring and confined, so to have someone stop by a say hey was a big lift. Also, special thanks to pqbon and meta who have kept me from starving and rotting.

Feature requests

GarageBand: now that you can send music to iTunes, why not have 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. It would make it a lot easier for guitar freaks like me to pick up a new song, and 99 cents would be dirt cheap. The marginal cost to the producer should also be near nil for most current bands given the digital mastering process. If they wanted to be really special, they could even distribute/sell amp and effects settings to make your guitar sound like the actual recording (Line 6 does something similar with their effects pedals).

Feed aggregator: I'm probably going to be adding a feature to my feed reader that lets you subscribe to a comments thread via a bookmarklet. If you make a post on another MT blog, it's kinda annoying that you have to keep going back to the entry to see if the discussion has been updated. This would allow you to keep up with the discussion in real-time.

January 31, 2004

Last thoughts on Orkut

As my confinement nears an end, and also as orkut has already burned up its entertainment value for me (copying and pasting from Friendster), here are my final thoughts. These were actually posted on danah boyd's blog, but might as well include them here. Although I've posted the comments here (slightly modified) as if there were a conversation, it's actually me posting to three separate threads of hers linked to below, but I've included/summarized her statements so that mine make a little more sense. If you read this, then you should probably read danah's full posts, as she's far more intelligent than me on these issues, and she's got a bigger orkut network. Also, I had to take her comments out of context in order to put mine in context.

apophenia: venting my contempt for orkut

danah:2) Are trustworthy, cool, and sexy the only ways that i might classify my friends? (Even Orkut lists a lot more in his definition of self.) And since when can i rate the people that i know based on this kind of metric
3) Explain to me why one must be a friend to be a fan of someone? The role of fan is inherently a power differential, not an equalizer. (Don't get me wrong: on Orkut, there's definitely pressure to reciprocate.) The people that i'm a fan of are not my friends; they're idols; they're people that i read on the interweb but do not know.

It is sooo weird to read which of my friends are a fan of me. Does that mean that the rest are only following social custom in linking to me? Does that mean that they don't really respect me? [Or does it mean, like it means to me, that it's too bloody weird to consider checking off that fan bit?]...

Me: The thing I don't get about the whole ratings system is that there is no reason why you shouldn't give all your friends maximum points, and you will give them high ratings, because they're your friends. It's like a bad implementation of Cory Doctorow's Whuffie -- but I'm not sure that I would want good implementation either unless that act of rating was implicit in some other action. Technorati ranking, for example, feels like a good system, even though it's one-dimensional, because my explicit action is one of linking, not rating. It also has more credibility than your # of friends, because it indicates that, not only do I know you, but I listen to what you have to say.

And fans? At first it seemed kinda of interesting, as well as appropriate for say someone like danah, or Joi, or Orkut, or anybody else that's prominent enough in a community. But for the other 99% of the people on orkut that spend their lives living below the radar, it comes across as weird, awkward, and stalker-ish: "Hi, you have a not-so-secret admirer."

apophenia: orkut pissyness, round 2

danah: What i'm fundamentally frustrated with is the fact that it does not go to the next level. It's more a slight variation on the rest. Only, with more explicit ratings of friends.

me: [trim] Personally, I don't think it will become useful for me until they operate seamlessly through my homepage. My homepage already has my resume, links to all of my friend's that have homepages, and all the "about me" that I care to share. The only features that Friendster et. al seem to add a way to link to friends that don't have homepages, a bunch of empty fields to fill in, and a relatively easy-to-use interface on top of that. I'm not sure these "features" outweigh the cost of the repetitive profile and network maintenance that YASN [yet-another-social-network] incurs.

It seems to me that sites like LiveJournal are infinitely more useful as a social networking service, and provide a compelling enough set of features that I would actually visit on a daily basis. It has a notion of friends (and allows it to be asymmetric in a non-awkward way), strong communication links within your friends circle, and discussion communities.

So, I, for one, believe the "next level" will be when we decentralize the social networks back into people's homepages, be it FOAF, LiveJournal/Xanga adding testimonials and new search features, a LiveJournal/Xanga/Friendster/TypePad/Movable Type/Tribe/Orkut/LinkedIn federation, or whatever technology comes along. Note that this lively discussion popped up here, on your homepage, not on your Orkut/Friendster/Tribe page. [ed: on second thought, decentralization seems to be the "next next level." Simply moving the social networks back onto people's personal Web space seems like a leap in itself.]

apophenia: what is beta in the context of social software?

Me: I think in the context of social software:
beta = not making any money
beta = business plan, please backstage coming up

I've been wanting to do this for awhile after I read Brad Choate's Doing your whole site with MT. I already abuse Movable Type's powers to run my reading list, movie list, and wimpy powerpoint, so running everything on seemed pretty appealing (and useful too). It means that I can edit any page on my Web site from any Web browser, and it also means that I can use MT's templating powers to make design changes across the entire site.

You can see my results here. I chose the low-fi look as the content on it is mostly supplementary, like an appendix versus that actual book. Most of the content there is summarizations of posts to the '' category on this blog.

Here are some example pages:
About me
About this site

The nice, id-free URLs are a result of Brad Choate's tutorial.

MTMacro on this site

As I was putting up the new site stuff, I decided to collect some of the old category entries and summarize some of the macros that I use on this site for anyone who's interested in using the MTMacro plugin. It's one of the most important plugins on this site for keeping links up-to-date and keeping archive pages low-bandwidth.
Macros on this site

what is this?

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

December 2003 is the previous archive.

February 2004 is the next archive.

Current entries can be found on the main page.