November 2003 Archives

"Here's to the crazy ones"

The Guts of a New Machine

the publication of a pessimistic installment of The Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column pointing out that Apple's famous online music store generates little profit. The more interesting point, noted in the back half of the column, is that Apple doesn't expect it to generate much profit -- it's a ''Trojan horse'' whose real function is to help sell more iPods. Given that the store was widely seen as a pivotal moment in the tortuous process of creating a legitimate digital music source that at least some paying consumers are willing to use, this is an amazing notion: Apple, in a sense, was willing to try and reinvent the entire music business in order to move iPods.

No Tattoos Allowed!

Joi's Moblog: No Tattoos Allowed!

They actually have signage for that. Amazing.


Kate over at Montreal City Weblog points to some film footage Thomas Edison took in Montreal in 1901.

Watching it I thought to myself: "Could this genius, in his wildest dreams, for one second, conceive that here I would be, a mere century later, watching this footage, probably filmed a mere mile or two from where I now sit, using a handful of technologies that he himself discovered, sparked or improved?"

Looking around me, pretty much everything I see has been touched by Thomas Edison.

Thank you sir!

Craig's in town

craigslist: montreal online community
Note the RSS feeds for everything...
Thanks Stevey.

Ashcroft humor

US Attorney General John Ashcroft was visiting an elementary school. After 15 minutes speaking he says, "I will now answer any questions you have."

Bobby stands up and says: "I have four questions:
1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?
3. Why are you using the American Patriot Act to limit civil liberties?
4. Where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"

Just then the bell goes off and the kids rushed out to play. Upon returning, Mr. Ashcroft said: "I am sorry we were interrupted. I will answer any questions you have."

A little girl called Julie stands up and says: "I have six questions:
1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?
3. Why are you using the American Patriot Act to limit civil liberties?
4. Where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
5. Why did the bell ring twenty minutes early?
6. Where's Bobby?

via: Gen Kanai

Death by vodka - Russian dies after winning vodka-drinking contest

A vodka-drinking competition in a southern Russian town ended in tragedy with the winner dead and several runners-up in intensive care.

Relief from e-mail

For as long as I can remember, I've had my MUA (Mail User Agent... or email client) check my mail every two minutes. Yes, every two minutes. In hindsight, I realise that was insane.

So every two minutes I'd go look. Every two minutes, I'd delete Spam. Every two minutes I'd drop everything and read and often reply letters.

So about a week ago I set it to check every 30 minutes. What-a-difference. Holy moly. Life changing.

Similarily, I had decided a few months ago to not answer my home land-line telephone anymore. Cellphone calls only get answered if I recognise the caller, and I wish to speak to them.

I have half a mind to kill IM (Instant Messaging)... or at least cripple the alerts from the three IM clients I use constantly... But I won't. IM has become my prefered mode of communication, after F2F (face to face).

Oh sweet peace. ;)

Standards compliant Slashdot

Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards: A List Apart

Seems Mr.Frommelt already did the really hard part. Now somebody just has to implement.

Another worthy job would be to do the same for some of the more popular Wiki distributions. I've had to toodle with my share and lemme tell you: hacking HTML deeply embedded in 10-12 separate Perl or Python files is a royal pain the patoochus. ;)

/me goes to download MoinMoin... again...


One of the things Mike keeps trying to hammer into my head is location-based community communication tools... yeah something like that...

Or, something like this?
locative media lab blog
Link from Smartmobs

Electioneering, stats and the network effect.

What a seriously odd series of moments the last 72 hours have been.

Not five minutes ago I thought to myself "I'd like to see some visual representations of U.S. campaign stats. Like, where's the candidates money coming from, where are they spending it, where are they now, what are their itineraries, their timelines., etc...

Running though my RSS subscriptions, I came across this entry of David Weinberger's, in which he links to this map displaying where the candidate's funds are coming from. That takes care of request one.

Just before that, I checked my email for the first time today only to receive two separate emails, unrelated from each other (The emails that is - both senders I met in Boston and have shared meals and great conversations with and both of whom I now have very interesting friendships with), one inviting me to Burlington to hang out at Dean HQ and the other inspiring me with the clout to do just that, though why exactly I would want to is still somewhat unclear to me.

Last night, I fought back tears watching Josh Lyman on The West Wing be given back his "wings" and admitted back into the "war room". Don't ask. The night before I watched, enthralled, a documentary about the Kennedy brothers and their politics. Go figure. Not to mention the Gore Vidal interview on Charlie Rose which blew me away and off to the bookstore to buy his book. For some weird reason I also grabbed "Political Philosophy - A Short Introduction". Can't hurt.

Back to stats, similar to the MoneyMaps above, yesterday I cam across a project by Ethan Zuckermann, another fascinating person who was gracious enough to invite me along to a dinner he was having with Feedster creator, Scott Johnson. Ethan's project (one of apparently many many, GeekCorps being another) is "Global Attention Profiles":

A Global Attention Profile looks at how a media outlet pays attention to 180 different nations. Instead of comparing how many stories Google has on the Green Bay Packers versus the Dallas Cowboys, we compare Google stories on Sudan versus Libya versus Lebanon. The resulting data gives us a picture of how an individual media source, at a given moment in time, pays attention to different nations.

Brilliant! Can we get one of these maps displaying Attention Profiles for the candidates?!

Why do I care. Dunno. I guess I think things are still pretty sour in the world and anything helps... ;)

BlogMemory, categories, redesigns

I created a new set of default MT templates which I will use whenever I set up new blogs for folks (which seems to be taking up much of my time these days...). Last night I decided to bite the bullet and eat my own dog food and applied them to mine. Some issues to be resolved: box model hack advanced quantum mechanics math (hello IE 6! I hate you too.), font choices (meh), color choices (what's wrong with violet?!), etc...

Just now I was going through my categories, refactored some entries into more appropriate ones and deleted the never-or-too-rarely-used ones. While doing this, I of course "rediscovered" some old posts. Which got me... concerned... Hmmm...

This weblog is a mere one year old. It has about 500 entries. Not much by some standards, but it IS a heck of a lot of text I have written. Some of them are garbage, but some are, if I may say so, pretty good. I mean from my perspective anyways. I have some good ideas, no? ;)

So why concerned? Ok, concerned is the wrong word... It's just that, by the cheer action of "blogging it", I "forget it". Sort of. Not really but anyways. The good stuff isn't "earmarked" or "featured". It is lost in a mire of observations, link-dumping etc...

I wrote a few weeks back about splitting my blog into two, and caught some flack for it. There are many issues to doing this of course, but I really think it depends on what one is trying to achieve here... I'll make no bones about it: I want to 1- share bits of my life with anyone who so cares to follow along AND 2- share some of my deeper thoughts with some folks who don't necessarily want to wade though my daily flotsam. But I shelved the idea, temporarily, for deeper thought. I very much like categorisation (I am german afterall and as a child I had more fun putting away my Legos than actually building stuff with them...), but I also now have great misgivings about deep categorisation. (Insert huuuge discussion of search versus navigate.)

In any event, i will continue to ponder a "split" (the extreme implementation of which would mean an extraction of posts from here to the eventual "other" blog), and for now, the violet stays. :P

Gore Vidal on Charlie Rose, talking about Founding Fathers

Gore Vidal was on Charlie Rose last night. I had heard the name before but never clued in as to who he is. Turns out he is one of the preeminent American historians and social critics of our day. (Which means some probably consider him a quack. Too bad for them.) He was probably one the show to hawk his new book, Inventing A Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, but it was a rivetting interview nonetheless.

Following are some terrible quick notes I took. I say terrible because I cannot type for the life of me, nevermind do live transcription... These quotes are for the most part NOT verbatim. SEE THE EXTENDED ENTRY for an L.A. Weekly interview with Vidal for very much the same explosive comments.

  • Founding fathers feared democracy, created a Republic.

  • Franklin quote: "corruption of the people => ruled by despots"

  • Alien and sedition laws => Patriot Act, erased bill of rights.

  • Napoleon had "unhinged" these guys (Hamilton, John Adams)... they wanted to take over Mexico...

  • Adams countered war with France (Napoleon), Hamilton wanted to be Emperor of America.

  • United States of Amnesia

    American History least favorite subject in American education system.

  • "We are in steep slide into despotism, police state, militarized economy, President's intuition that some terrorist may attack."

  • "Propagandizing ourselves, taking over the world, for oil"

  • "Is Condoleeza Rice representing the interests of Texaco, the company she used to be a chairman of?"

  • What do you think Bush's speech to Saudi Arabia etc , how they should be more interested in Democracy...

    "Why should they if we aren't?"

  • "It is nefarious what we are doing with FBI & CIA to people of america, Patriot act... education, social programs, etc..."

Collaborative classnote wiki

Newfound friend Mike Lenczner has started up another project. (He already heads "Ile Sans Fil", a Montreal-based community Wi-Fi service, as well as running around tirelessly meeting with people to get all kinds of stuff going.)

Mike told me about his idea of a wiki where he could put his classnotes, and how he'd like to make it open to his fellow students to contribute to as well. We also talked about in-room IRC backchannels, etc. I told him he should go for it: "Build it and they will come." Apparently he's spoken to some of the school's bureaucracy and they brought up issues like the professor's Intellectual Property etc etc. I say to heck with 'em! Do it!

I'm watching ya Mike. ;)


Wired News: Will Microsoft Wallop Friendster?

Wallop is Microsoft's venture into the red-hot social-networking arena, using the common Microsoft tack of piecing together existing technologies and packaging them for the novice user. Those technologies include Friendster-style social-networking capabilities, super-simplistic blogging tools,moblogging, wikis and RSS feeds, all based on Microsoft's Instant Messenger functionality.


Joi posted something the other day which took two full days to get a mildly negative comment. It's not even all that negative really. The commenter very lightly and respectfully nudged Joi to censor himself.

The post quotes a protestant pastor who ended up in Nazi hands and was probably meant as a gentle reminder to keep our eyes and ears open about "what's going on"... you know... all that nasty stuff surrounding the U.S. and its current policies, both internal and foreign and at tthe border of both.

My comment, in reply, was as follows:

One of the most important aspects of remembering such things as the horrors of Nazi Germany is to pay special attention when one sees similarities to what allowed those horrors to happen.

Dismissing comparisons with Nazi Germany is far far worse than forgetting it outright.

Remebering is one thing. Learning and prevention is another. And cynicism in the face of possible recognition of patterns just doesn't help anything.

That said, 1- cynicism makes me ill, 2- censorship makes me ill and 3- databanks are useless without CPUs and software.

So I'm not going crazy

Apple - Support - iPod Service

If your iPod fails to hold a charge and it's more than a year old, you may need a new battery. Click Continue to order iPod battery service for $99 USD. This program is not available in Europe at this time.

Just barely over a year old and I could swear the bloody thing isn't keeping it up like it used to. Now it's offical. Gees.

I wonder if these might be better? I read a claim sometime ago that they hold up much better than Apple's originals...

Once every now and again

I find myself here.

Thanks Aaron.

Online travel booking

I don't understand. I must be missing something. All the advertising, all the hype, all the talk... How convenient and money saving, etc...

For example, online, I cannot find a flight to Tokyo for under $4000CND. $4000CND!! Who in their right mind would pay this?! A phone call to my travel agent gets me a quote of under $1000, taxes and insurance included.

I just did a search for a flight to San Francisco. Granted, I plugged in tomorrow's date for departure. Nothing under $2500. That's some mighty fine crack they are smoking! I bet I could show up at the airport tomorrow morning and pay 1/3 of that. Especially since it seems there are pleeenty of flights every morning on numerous airlines to San Francisco.

I hereby stand by what Nicholas Negroponte said years ago: online travel booking be damned; your travel agent will ALWAYS sort you out better.

About the previous post

The importance of web architecture, permalinks, etc.

In the entry immediatly preceeding this one (RowBoat: The Destroyer of Worlds) I link to a very heavy and striking Flash based presentation of a "multimedia" piece by Ryuichi Sakamoto (and others). It is the sort of thing I would like a copy of, or at least a permanent URI for.

However because of the way it is published, I can have neither. At least not without a lot of work...

So, there are a number of problems here:

  1. It is Flash.
  2. It is Flash called from within a Flash "launcher" meaning I cannot just suck down the actual Flash file.
  3. The URI for the page on which it appears is a very flakey "index2.html".

Discussing each "problem":

  1. Grabbing a Flash file requires looking at the source, knowing what to look for, grabbing the URI, entering it an application that does HTTP GET and saving it locally.
  2. Becasue the actual content is loaded only after clicking onthe Flash "splash", the URI for it is hidden inside the Flash "splash". It is extractable, but the same as above applies, after which I must crack the thing open in Flash MX, find the reference and go get that. I am betting that that isn't even possible actually... Not sure.
  3. "index2.html" is bound to change the next time Sakamoto's webmaster puts up a new fature, at which point a) my link breaks and b) I never see the thing again.

Of course, the artist's intent counts here. Surely Sakamaoto-san does not want just anybody to come and grab this wonderful piece and weave it into their personal experience of life. Is the intent here to feature the bigger piece, "-LIFE-"? If so, great.. I'll buy it... let's see, where is there a link to buy the full piece? Hmmm not there... Oh hum... Not worth the hassle I guess...

So, in the end... I thank you Sakamoto-san for sharing this, temporarily, and I deplore you for not allowing me the chance to have a copy, by hook or by crook.

It's a shame really... I know for sure that sometime down the road, this piece will come up in my memory and I will want to share it with someone, show them... "look, listen, isn't this something?", but alas I will not be able to.

And your raison d'ĂȘtre? Is it not one of the artist's reasons for doing the work they (we?) do precisely to move and affect the society around us?

I would want the fruits of my labor to be spread far and wide. Either for free or for renumeration... In this case you do neither.

You need to blog.
And you need a Web Architect to work along side the renowned Web Artist who makes your website...

The Destroyer of Worlds


Ryuichi Sakamoto - "Oppenheimer's Aria" from -LIFE-

"We waited until the blast had passed, walked out of the shelter and then it was extremely solemn. We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent.
I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita: Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him he takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another."
- J. Robert Oppenheimer

Somewhere in Mid-Pacific Timezone

That is where I seem to be right now. I wake up no earlier than noon. I do odd jobs, chores, tasks throughout the day. I cook; soups, roasts.. stuff.

Not until around 9pm EST do I feel the clarity of mind to sit down and get real work done. So I do that. Until 4-5 am. Everyday. Some evenings I'll go out for a drink or two. Alone reading or with a friend chatting. Get home and work. Till 4-5 am.

It is just... strange. Despite all the work I actually do get done, the fact that the daylight hours disappear without much productivity, like I am sleeping while awake, just feels... strange.

It's ok. For now.

Identity crisis

This weblog is experiencing a mild idenity crisis. Please stay tuned. We are on top of the situation (and I am well)... Just, bare with us.


(Hint: the decision is made: A second blog will be spawned to contain my "deeper thoughts" and RowBoat will go on to be my more personal "querky"... "stuff"... yeah... That's it... Redesign and refactoring coming soon.)

"Resitance is futile. You WILL be aggregated."
- The Blorg.

Newstrove News Search Engine

A news search engine which offers custom RSS feeds for topic searches (so you can track topics of interest to you).

Human genome anyone?

Ensembl Downloads

Ensembl presents up-to-date sequence data and the best possible annotation for metazoan genomes. Available now arehuman, mouse, rat, fugu, zebrafish, mosquito, Drosophila, C. elegans, and C. briggsae, Others will be added soon.

I am nowhere near capable of understanding the full significance of this, but it does seem monumental to me. I am, at this moment, downloading the 1.2 Gigabytes of flat textfiles containing the human genome.

At least Martha won't be alone...

Guardian Unlimited | Online | At home with the Führer

The story in the Guardian is as strange as the article it's about.

Trojan Games

Trojan Games

Quite something... watch the video coverage...

Holy Stylesheet!

CSS House (3D Border Demo 2) by Chris Hester

You may not be able to see this (depends on browsers) but here is a red brick house drwan entirely with CSS.
Link via Tantek

Layin' low

Not much to report really. I just rebuilt Joi Ito's Web with the new templates I have been working on. I'll be doing the same to Joi's japanese blog soon... maybe even later tonight.

At this point, not only does it look snazzy but it mostly validates. Why mostly? Well, Joi's got over 1500 blog entries (and over 6000 comments), and many of them contain <blockquote>s which are "illegally" used. Going through them manually (no other way) will be a pain in da patoochus

If anyone finds any validity or rendering issues please do not hesitate to let me know!

Crippled FTP in Panther

Why? Why do such a stupid thing?

Mac OS X 10.3 a.k.a. Panther allows you to FTP via the Finder. It makes it look like your are "mounting" the remote file system. Here's how:

Apple Key + K,, username and password

Works absolutely beautifully! Fast, fully Finder integrated. Yay! Oh joy! Not so fast. It's read only. Totally useless.

Why, Apple? Why do you make some things so good, and them some things in such a way that makes me want to get very violent with you. And i am not a violent person. ;)

Oh and while we're at it... why not let SFTP work? Make the world a better place!! And hello SCP?

End rant. I am not amused.

It is obvious fromt he comments below that some people don't get it. I was merely saying it is stupid of Apple to develop a feature (that SOME of us may find useful) and then to cripple it.

All you CL commandos: good for you. Not for me. Thanks.

P.S.: I currently use Interarchy for FTP and Fugu for SCP and SFTP.

PLEASE refrain from commenting unless you have insight as to why Apple woul ddo such a thing. Thank you.

Pulp fiction intertextuality

Film Review:Tarantino Interview

This interview was conducted in Los Angeles on August 28, 2003 during a press junket for KILL BILL: VOLUME ONE held exclusively for the Japanese media. In this one-on-one chat, Quentin Tarantino goes deep into the many influences for KILL BILL; it's mythology, and even the future for his characters beyond the two-part film. Originally conducted by Tomo Machiyama for Japan's Eiga Hi-Ho (Movie Treasures) magazine, Japattack is proud to present this interview for the first time anywhere in English transcribed from the original recordings. The usual spoiler warnings apply.