2004-12-23

The Spellcheck Lament

Jason Sutter:
"Blogger spell check thinks 'micromanagement' should be replaced with 'necromancer.'"

"What it lacks in ability, it makes up for with personality."

Been there!

I always get a kick out of seeing pictures of places I've visited, but with more and more folks sharing photos on the web, I'm increasingly finding that I've taken almost the exact same shot as somebody else.

For example, this photo of Berlin from Una Knox:

Berlin photo

Here's mine, from October, 1999:

Berlin, 1999/10/09

Another one from Pushkar Phatak, of Chicago at night from an airplane:



Here's mine, from November, 2002:

Chicago from above

Then there's Blogger user Engst's shot from the Communist Statue Park near Budapest:

Statypark

And mine, of Chandler, from April, 2000:

Chandler, near Budapest

More:
Update, 2008/06/24: my friend Chase posted some similar thoughts.

2004-12-19

On Books, Reading, and Ditch-Digging

Matt's recent post about books and reading mirrors my own experience:
"I love books, I love browsing stacks, I love libraries... I like collecting books, I always have a stack nearby to read, I love looking through picture books, and I love books even though I didn't really become much of a reader until the end of my college years."
Except for the part about college, I'm the same — I have two huge stacks to read here at my flat. One of the most satisfying things about finishing college, imho, was that I could read what I wanted when I wanted, without feeling guilty for skipping what had been assigned as homework.

Though I've only been keeping track of what I've read since July, 2000, my love for reading began in Middle School. My Dad had always been always an avid reader, and I recall hearing him utter this sagely advice on multiple occasions:
"If you don't start reading, you'll end up a ditch-digger."
The significance of this statement finally sunk in one day when we were driving up to Gramps' farm; I was looking out the window of the truck and saw the ditch going by on the side of the windy gravel road. I pictured myself shoveling mud and dirt and rocks out of that same ditch, day after day until the end of time, if I didn't start reading. I snagged Dad's copy of Jurassic Park as soon as we got home that day* and didn't look back.

Since then, I don't think I've ever *not* been reading. It got out of control earlier this year when I had like 6-7 books going, but I've decided to tone it down to just ~3. My new policy is:
Wrapping things up, Matt says:
"I'm going to take a holiday trip soon to a fairly remote location where there's not much to do besides read. I'm going to sit and read the only book I've wanted to read this year, and I have a feeling it might just be one of the last dead tree books I read for a long time."
I took that one to India with me and finished it just before our trek began — it's a damn good read. Ev dug it, and AdamB is digging it right now.

This Christmas holiday, aside from seeing family and friends back in Ohio, the thing I'm most looking forward to is reading. :-)


* I'm probably exaggerating here, and Dad, Mom and Jack probably recall my initial reading endeavors more clearly than me. Perhaps they could leave comments here if they've anything to add?

2004-12-18

AaronSw on 'The News'

Aaron Swartz, All News is Bad News:
"I don’t read any news. No newspapers, no newsmagazines, no cable news outlet, no news websites. What’s the point?"

"Most of the news is completely useless. How does it help to know that Kobe Bryant is entering a formal plea or that the mother of the Osmond family has died? These things aren’t interesting, they aren’t important, and they aren’t useful. Reading through them everyday is like some sort of intellectual busywork. “Gee, I read a whole day’s worth of trivia. I’m so well-informed!”"
Agreed.

Busted!

Best of Craigslist, Why I Hate Whole Foods:
"I hate the stupid -------- that can't pay attention to what they're doing when they're parking because they're too busy looking all conscious and hip in their biodiesel German car and shopping at Whole Foods and checking out all the counterculture wisdom on bumperstickers. It is NOT cool to just come to a complete stop in the middle of the street and ponder your life before you turn into the parking lot as though you've never been there before. I see you getting out of your car with your fabric Whole Foods shopping bag. Wake up and pay attention!"

2004-12-17

Free TiVo!

I just got back from the TiVo giveaway at their HQ — as of 11am, the wait would have been 5 hours. I figure I can get way more than $20/hour of work done here than the $100 a box currently costs...

The 2004-12-17 TiVo giveaway

I left my donation with them, though. :)

Update: some more folks are blogging about it:

2004-12-16

The Firefox Ad

The Firefox Ad

MacCarthy found me in the Firefox/New York Times ad — thanks mate!

2004-12-15

Defensive Design

A little while ago I read 37Signals' Defensive Design for the Web. It's a fantastic little reference, covering a whole slew of web design no-no's — I'm noticing all sorts of user experience issues these days that just irk me.

For example, Medium Footwear's online store. This is the 'shoe size' dropdown for the Olive Traditionalist:

Medium Footwear shoe size dropdown

What does this mean? None of these are my size (12). Does this shoe only come in these sizes? Or does it reflect their current inventory? If it's simply out of stock, why can't I just order it so that it ships when it's re-stocked? I emailed their Customer Service folks to check since I dig the shoe; here's their response:
"Eric - The sizes on the website reflect our current inventory. So, we are currently out of the traditionalist in olive in that size. We will be receiving more traditionalists on 1/15/05, but only in the colors chocolate and black. We have discontinued the olive color. Let me know if you'd like me to send you some retailers in your area that may have it."
While an excellent response (thanks Sherri!), this entire process could have occurred on the site itself with some good old fashioned Defensive Design.

Don't get me started on the fact that their entire site is in Flash, which means none of their content is linkable...

Weblog Spam Getting Worse

An email-announcement from my webhost:
"We have seen a significant increase in weblog comment spam lately. Movable Type installations seem to be the worst hit, but Greymatter is also affected. The increase in comment spam has been causing a lot of server instability. We have begun blocking connections from the IP addresses we have found to be the origins of most of the spam, but that will most likely only work temporarily. We request that everyone with a weblog application installed please do what you can to reduce the likelihood of your site being a target. Install any applicable anti-spam plugins or disable comments on your weblog altogether. Let us know if you have any questions."

2004-12-14

This one's for Goldman

More whale

Surfpulse reports on the whale carcass Bethany and I encountered at Pillar Point (Mavericks) this weekend:
"A large whale carcass washed up on the beach that's inside of the lagoon at Maverick's on the evening/morning of Saturday/Sunday, December 11/12, 2004..."

"All of the surfers left the water on Saturday when they realized that several white sharks were feeding on the dead whale that was drifting towards the peak from the north. Overnight, the carcass made its way into the lagoon, and it washed up onto the east end of the beach, at the foot of the breakwater by Sunday morning. Besides the strong, unpleasant odor on the beach, the dead whale is likely to be attracting more sharks than usual to the area."
[via Coastsider]

2004-12-13

Only in [God Bless] America

GoldToe.net:
"I saw this story on BoingBoing - Wal-Mart sells a CD with 'fuck' in its lyrics, Maryland family buys the album for daughter, Maryland family seeks "damages up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music."

"It's a great American moment, really. The combination of puritanical outrage coupled with down-home litigiousness."

2004-12-11

TerraPass

[also posted to the BiodieselBlog and EnviroTech]

Last week I heard from Adam Stein of TerraPass via email:
"The idea behind TerraPass is simple. TerraPass allows individual consumers to tap into the growing market for carbon emission credits traded by large companies such as DuPont and IBM. These markets are structured in the same way as as the markets for sulfur emissions that were so successful in reducing acid rain."
I promptly read through their entire site — the concept is fascinating. Their FAQ sums it up nicely:
Isn't buying a TerraPass essentially just a donation to preserve the environment?

Let's put that question in another context. Is cleaning up after your dog essentially just a donation? Is picking up your trash in the woods essentially just a donation? Cars make a mess; even if not as visibly as your dog. Clean up after your car.

Does TerraPass physically modify my car?

No. TerraPass is a market mechanism that tips the economic balance in favor of efficiency and renewable energy. This mechanism results in exactly counterbalancing the carbon emissions of your driving, without modifying your car physically.

Choice, and Photos on the Web

Ernie:
"A friend of mine accused me of "selling out," how I'm using Flickr when I previously worked for Yahoo! Photos. I don't think of it like that - Flickr has some awesome web services and RSS feeds that fits the needs of this website perfectly. Yahoo! Photos simply has a different demographic. Does Flickr sell 6x6" keepsake ceramic tiles with adorable children on them? I don't think so. Needless to say, I go to Y!Photos for all my ceramic-tile-with-white-baby needs."

JoelOnSalon

Scott Rosenberg posted a delightful interview with Joel Spolsky over at Salon. (yes, that Joel). Like Paul Graham, Joel writes brilliant essays about software and its development, subjects which never fail to fascinate me. Joel also knows AdamB from their time at Microsoft — I'll have to ask Adam if the thing about the guy on the airplane is true or not...

2004-12-09

What is SBC smoking?

Does anybody know what this is all about?
Project D.U.
"It's like being served breakfast in bed except there's no food."

We've cooked up a FREE Blog Reader that may taste like your average rss tool -- it's definitely not. It's preloaded with some of the best blogs on the web so you get up-to-the-minute posts from great sites covering Music, Sports, Entertainment, Travel, Gaming and Fashion.

Plus, it's customizable so you can build your own channels, add new blogs and other feeds, and create your own favorites icons. Yeah, you can change the color too.

The Project D.U. Reader has a custom-designed interface and an editor, me, who can point you to the best posts in the network.

No shirt. No shoes. No spyware.
It's... hideous.

2004-12-07

iSight Equivalent for Windows?

I'm in the process of hooking up my family members with these so we can do this. Unfortunately they don't all have Macs, so I'm trying to find the iSight's equivalent (is that even possible?) for Windows. AOL is recommending Logitech's QuickCam Zoom, but they've got others available too.

Epinions gives the QCZ 1.5/5 stars, while Amazon users give it 4/5.

Uhh...?

Anybody have any suggestions for me?

2004-12-06

Rumors

A little while ago my summer intern dropped by to say Hi (she was on Thanksgiving break), and mentioned something interesting — Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake is being made into a movie by Mira Nair.

Nair, of course, is the amazing director behind Salaam Bombay and Monsoon Wedding (among others). And The Namesake is a fascinating and engaging book I listened to via Audible a few months ago, before going to India.

Some googling confirms the rumor:
Can't wait to see how it comes out!

Buzz

Evan Martin:
"I cut my hair really short on Saturday and I have to say: I don't care if I look like a cancer patient (or Michael Stipe, which I've heard twice since), it feels so clean and comfortable it's more than worth it."
Yep.

2004-12-05

Mad Props

I spent most of the weekend working on a site for my cousin Sarah. These tools made the process way easier than it used to be:

2004-12-03

Quotes from BenH

Hammersley has some fantastic quotables in his latest Guardian piece:
"…so why has the podcasting meme spread so far, so quickly? The reasons are simple. Like weblogs, the dismal content really isn’t the point…"
and
"TiVo units in America and Sky Plus in the UK, have shown that the idea that programming has to be consumed in the order and time that the broadcaster assigns it, is nonsense."