Great Mac app: Precipitate

Stuart Morgan's Precipitate is good software—it gives you Spotlight access to all your Google Docs docs, runs invisibly, and Just Works.

My only complaints are that it doesn't yet support multiple accounts, and doesn't auto-update. Fortunately these are already on Stuart's radar.


Big Words

Originally uploaded by shaderlab
Me looking for @ceedub, after his USF graduation a few days ago. With Big Words, @dom's rad new iPhone app.


Domainr Update

Last night we pushed a big update to Domainr, then had the best horchata north of the border from Marta's Kitchen. In short:
  • IDN support so you can do ☺.com , 丿乀.com and ☃.net
  • .com/net/org support, Domainr's most-requested feature
  • better status for wildcard domains
  • full registrar support for the entire domain namespace
Ceedub and Ydnar are true hax0rs.


Jim Sinegal rocks

Costco knows wassup.
"There's no sense in me BS-ing you. The reason we did it originally was exactly as you're suggesting -- to save money. We put the skylights in so that we didn't have to turn the lights on. But of course it's also environmentally correct. We also recycle all the boxes that the goods come in. And we're working on how we can simplify packaging and save on fuel. We just reconfigured our cashews. They were in a round canister, and we put them in a square canister. It sounds crazy, but we saved something like 560 truckloads a year of that one product. That's significant savings."

Family Guy

Norman Lear, on Seth MacFarlane: "I can't think of anybody doing a better job right now of mining the foolishness of the human condition."


Soul is Bulletproof

From Adam P via email:
Hello All:
As we're still reeling from the recent voter turnout and election results, this mass email may seem insignificant, but I had to promote the creative work of my friends' third anthology, Soul is Bulletproof: Reports from Reconstruction New Orleans .
The volume is $18 and available through NOLAFugeesPress.
It is a powerful collection of truths and satire from this past year of NOLAFugees writing, an alternative perspective on happenings and slow change in the New Orleans area.
Thanks for reading this and hope you're well.



We just shipped the thing we've been working on for a while—dig it!


Banksean Speaks the Truth

Here and here. And a bonus pic!


Sergey Blogs!

It's great to see Sergey finally blogging. I remember walking into a meeting with him many moons ago and he started things off by saying, "I'm thinking about starting a blog."

"Nice!" I replied. "What are you gonna write about?"

"Sewers," he said. "I think they can solve the last mile problem."

And TiSP was announced shortly thereafter. Heh.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb is my Hero

Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan are essential reading, as his latest piece on Edge, The Fourth Quadrant:
"Statistics can fool you. In fact it is fooling your government right now. It can even bankrupt the system (let's face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system)..."

"The current subprime crisis has been doing wonders for the reception of any ideas about probability-driven claims in science, particularly in social science, economics, and 'econometrics' (quantitative economics). Clearly, with current International Monetary Fund estimates of the costs of the 2007-2008 subprime crisis, the banking system seems to have lost more on risk taking (from the failures of quantitative risk management) than every penny banks ever earned taking risks."
[via beckmart]



I can't get over how fracking good The Hood Internet's Mixtape Volume II is. Eternal props to Ydnar for the pointer.



"Homme commented that playing in the desert 'was the shaping factor for the band' noting that, 'There's no clubs here, so you can only play for free. If people don't like you, they'll tell you. You can't suck.'"
[via C]


On Side Projects

Chris is spot-on, here. Way inspiring, too.
"You should always have a side project... Side projects give you an outlet, provide a useful distraction, let you explore new ideas, learn new concepts, and generally give you the freedom to be unaccountable. You don't have to worry about your boss, or your coworkers... Just have some fun. Treat yourself."


"Reality Mining"

Clive Thompson in Wired:
"Almost every time he analyzes a group, Waber discovers that the super-connector — the crucial person who routes news among team members — isn't the manager. 'The manager is almost always peripheral,' Waber says. 'It's some random guy.' And that person is usually overworked and overstressed. He isn't given enough support to fulfill his role, because nobody in the firm knows he's doing it in the first place. If you study the org chart, the higher-ups are in control. But if you study reality, those same managers barely know what's going on."
This is so true it hurts, and echoes my experience. Alas.


"This accessory is not made to work with iPhone."

My first-gen iPhone (purchased with @cw on opening day '07) has recently begun incessantly displaying the above error, despite not being plugged into anything. It's sort of annoying, and apparently other people have been seeing it too. It feels like it's gotten worse after updating to the 2.0 firmware. Here's what I've found from digging 'round the tubes:

Apple Support Forums:
  • "I have cleaned the dock with compressed air, vacuum, toothbrush, and whatever other small things I could get my hands on."
  • "Make sure there is no lint, moisture or other debris in the dock connector port on the iPhone."
  • "Get a hair dryer and run the air through the connections on the top (remove your SIM ) and bottom (the part that plugs into the docking station) of your iphone for 5-10 min. Take care not to over heat the iphone too much!" 
  • "I had the exact same problem with my 1st iPhone. I took it back to the apple store and they replaced it right away." 
  • "A while back a coworker of mine told me he had to pop out the sim and put it back in to fix that error on his phone. I dont see how that could be the cause but what happened in his case was that he dropped his phone and that message came on. Reseating the sim fixed it in his case (maybe it got knocked loose). Might be worth a try."
  • "I've also seen reports that plugging and unplugging headphones in will remove this issue. YMMV."
  • "I have the same problem. After having the iphone in my bathroom the message appears almost every 4 seconds. I think some condensate got into it."
MacRumors Forums:
  • "Finally found on a Apple forum that lint can build up on the connector, dock, or cable and cause this error to pop up all time. Try cleaning the connector using keyboard air spray or was the cable and connector pieces. That should do the trick."
  • "spent about five minutes with a needle cleaning out the dock and the dock connector. I also blew on them a lot. Problem solved. I would assume if certain pins aren't making contact, the iPhone's not sure what it's plugged into—but as long as the two or three pins carrying the power supply make contact, it will still charge correctly. So, in short, just clean it a little. It wasn't too bad." 
  • "It is likely the error is caused by a shorted circuit in the dock connector. I have sourced a replacement dock connector and a company that will do the replacement."
Alas though, none of the above have solved the problem.

Update, a few days later: the problem seems to have fixed itself. Perhaps whatever condensate had accumulated, has passed.



Anni just got an awesome writeup in the Merc! You should totally order some of her goodies the next time a special occasion comes 'round — I highly recommend the bonbons and handmade marshmallows.

OMG Bananas

This is really scary (I <3 bananas, and they're a staple in the smoothies I make for breakfast), but the book looks like a great read. And it's Kindleable.

[via Salim]


How Times Change

50 years ago in Burma:
"The Sixth Buddhist Council was inaugurated at Kaba Aye in Yangon (formerly Rangoon, Burma) in 1954, 83 years after the Fifth Council in Mandalay. It was sponsored by the Burmese Government led by the Prime Minister, the Honorable U Nu. He had previously authorized the construction of the Mahā Pāsāna Gūhā, a great artificial cave built from the ground up and completed in 1952, to serve as the gathering place, much like Rajgiri's Sattapānni Cave in India had housed the First Council immediately after the death of the Buddha. This new "cave" measured 220' by 140' inside and could seat 10,000 people..."

"The complete traditional recitation of the Theravada Canon took two years, from 1954 to 1956. The Pali Tipiṭaka and its allied literature in all the diverse national scripts were painstakingly examined, their differences noted, necessary corrections made, and all the versions collated."
Note: there have only been 6 councils in the past 2500 years, and a full third of them took place in Burma.

Of course, we all know what's going on there today...

[bonus: photos from the month I spent there in 1/2003]



I got a Kindle a few months back, thanks to thumbs-ups from Sippey and Ev. Per David's request, here are a few thoughts:
  • I mainly got it to more efficiently annotate the books I read. I'm always taking notes and highlighting passages that resonate with me, but when I'm done reading, books go back on my shelf and I rarely pick them up again (though my mind continues referencing them, likely inaccurately). So I've taken to typing my notes into Google Docs so that they're searchable (and less Bus Factor-prone), but this takes lots of time. Thankfully Amazon's engineers store Kindle annotations in an ASCII file, which means I can easily copy/paste my notes into Docs. And unless I'm mistaken (which is likely), they also back up this file via the Whispernet, further bus-proofing it.
  • So far, reading and highlighting seem to be the only user-facing features I'm using. I do the other stuff (listen to audiobooks, search wikipedia, etc.) on my iPhone.
  • Buying books for it couldn't be simpler — a single click on Amazon's site and the book appears on the Kindle a few minutes later. It's indistinguishable from magic.
  • I've also started reading PDFs on it (such as Getting Real, the SVN Book and Producing OSS), which have long been languishing in a "to-read" folder on my laptop. This alone makes it a worthwhile purchase, and I wish there was a bookmarklet to send anything web-based to it. Leonard? ;)
  • Apple's spoiled us with good design, which makes bad design all the worse. Apologies to those involved, but I just find the Kindle's design terrible. It's nearly impossible to hold it without accidentally clicking a button (page forward/backward on the sides, volume on the bottom), and it's practically all angles. And why a Back button?
    • However, the vertical scroller is way cool.
  • You can't really charge it via USB, which I discovered on a recent week-long trip where I didn't bring along the AC charger.
  • I wish I could lease it from Amazon, rather than own it. When an improved next-gen model is available, I'll certainly upgrade, so what to do with this one? With iPods, I can always find a family member or friend to give my older one, but I doubt any of them would be interested in an old Kindle...

Overall, I'm satisfied with it and use it every day to read, think and annotate. Looking at all the books on my shelf that I still intend to read, I wish more of them were available electronically, because they mean that much more reading, highlighting with a pen, and typing up my notes...

Some other folks' thoughts on theirs:


REI Rocks

<3 REI. All reward/membership/affiliate programs - airline miles, Amazon Associates gift certificates, credit card points, etc. - should work like this:


Desert Island Series

My friend Matt introduced me to the desert island concept back when we were at Miami, and it's stuck with me ever since. The constraints it imposes are what make it so interesting - Matt's primary use was musical, i.e. a desert island album is one that can be played in its entirety, and you never feel the need to skip a track. Further, it's an album you'd like with you should you ever find yourself stranded on a desert island.

I keep a little log (in Docs) of my desert island music, books and movies, as my list evolves as I grok things new to me. Since I read more books and listen to more music than I watch movies, their lists are a bit more substantial. Here's where they currently stand, in reverse chronological order from when they made the cut:



Joshua Davis is my hero

This Wired article (about Titan Salvage saving the Cougar Ace) is an utterly thrilling read. I love stories like this, and Joshua Davis has been responsible for the bulk of the ones I've read in recent years. I reckon it'll make a bitchin' movie, too.

Bonus: BoingBoing's got a followup about Mazda destroying the ship's cargo.



  • VHS or Beta: first encounter with them, they were solid and rocked. And they're from Kentucky! Viva la midwest
  • Kavinsky: great DJ dancing
  • MGMT: sleepy at first, but they saved the best for last
  • Boyz Noize: more great DJ dancing
  • Kate Nash: was running low on energy when they started, but they grew on me
  • Hot Chip: more great dancing, need to check out their latest album
  • Kraftwerk: my first encounter with them; I think they were just IMing up there
  • Yelle: OMGZ!!! this was hands-down the best show we saw
  • Prince: I only went because @anildash would kill me if I didn't go
  • Stars: first time seeing them live, loved them
  • Gogol Bordello: second time seeing them live, not much different from my first time at last year's Coachella
  • Metric: pure awesomeness
  • My Morning Jacket: solid and rocking; also from Kentucky
  • Roger Waters: EPIC; was my first time seeing any Floyd live, and was smiling ear-to-ear the whole time
  • Justice: crazy hella fun dancing to cap off a wonderful three days
The LA Times has some solid Coachella coverage, as does Sir Tony Pierce.

[sidenote: I'm still amazed that one can purchase DRM-free music from all these artists at Amazon (and probably elsewhere) — the music industry has come a long way.]


Clay Shirky:
"So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project--every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in--that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus."
Am definitely looking forward to reading his new book.


ydnar + me

ydnar + me @ Coachella


Cabel Sasser is my Hero

Steven too. I've been a fan of theirs since their earliest days (has it been a decade already?), and am a registered user of just about all their apps. Cabel's blog, of course, is just as fantastic as his work. And it turns out he's as great a presenter as he is a writer. Check out his utterly-entertaining C4[1] prezo:


Salmonella Dub

I've been a fan of these kiwis' music since I first heard of them while backpacking around New Zealand in 2002. Heal Me is their first new album since 2004, and it's exceptional. Other favorites include Inside the Dub Plates, One Drop East, and Mercy.


<3 Paul Graham

Some gems from Paul's recent piece:
  • "A job at a big company is like high fructose corn syrup: it has some of the qualities of things you're meant to like, but is disastrously lacking in others."
  • "If people have to choose between something that's cheap, heavily marketed, and appealing in the short term, and something that's expensive, obscure, and appealing in the long term, which do you think most will choose?"
  • "An obstacle downstream propagates upstream. If you're not allowed to implement new ideas, you stop having them. And vice versa: when you can do whatever you want, you have more ideas about what to do. So working for yourself makes your brain more powerful in the same way a low-restriction exhaust system makes an engine more powerful."


Five Years - Next!

(this is an abridged version of the email I sent to my co-workers)

After college I spent all of 2002 backpacking around the world, logging into Internet cafes in different cities to update my weblog about the trip. In early 2003 I'd just gotten back online in Thailand after spending a month without Internet access in Burma, and I read news of Google's acquisition of Blogger. This'll sound way geeky, but it really felt like one of those, "Where were you when ___ happened?" moments. Overnight it legitimized and validated what a small-but-growing number of people like me were doing back then - publishing and sharing our thoughts and lives on the web.

My friend Katie was working on AdWords at the time, and I emailed her right away. "Katie — lemme know when Blogger starts hiring! It doesn't matter what for — I just wanna work on it!" I'd been a Blogger user since 2000, and had just moved to my Aunt's couch in Woodside after my travels wound down (meaning: I'd spent all my cash on the road). Katie invited me to lunch at Charlie's (at the original GooglePlex), and showed me the little room in Building π where the Blogger guys were hacking away on their laptops. We bumped into Shellen in a snack room, and I interviewed with the team a few weeks later.

I joined Google in April, 2003 as a member of Blogger's Support Team — we answered lots of email tickets, and built out a fantastic Help site. I took on additional responsibility whenever I could though - Jason Goldman asked me to help with some project management, starting with our first pass at localization. I lead the testing team when Kimmy went on leave. I made lots of mocks with Biz. I helped with several acquisitions, and liaised with Karen to help with PR's corporate-blogging efforts. I represented Blogger and Google at several conferences around the world, speaking about the democratization of the web and our efforts to spread web publishing far and wide.

I became Blogger's Product Manager after Goldman left Google in August, 2006. I'm rather atypical as far as Google PMs go — I studied Classics in the mid-west, and aside from the learning-by-doing I'd done thus far at Google, I had no prior experience with software engineering. I'm incredibly thankful to have been given this opportunity, and trusted with the role.

April, 2008 marks five years for me at Google, and it's time to move on — April 11th will be my last day working here. I've worked with an amazing group of people, and couldn't possibly list them all here. Y'all know you who are — thanks for your mentorship, excitement and energy! I'm especially proud to have been involved with a few specific projects:
  • i18n: Blogger is available in 40+ localizations, including three Right-to-Left languages and transliteration in 5 Indic dialects. Given that at heart I'm a backpacker, global reach and accessibility was always near and dear to me.
  • Play: an incredibly simple yet slick photo scroller, showing in real-time the photos people are sharing on their blogs. It's a fascinating way to observe humanity's pulse, as events happen at micro- and macro-levels around the world.
  • OpenID: Every Blogger-hosted URL can be used as an OpenID anywhere on the web, and Blogger can accept OpenID-signed comments from any other service. Commenting is just scratching the surface of what OpenID will ultimately enable.
  • ???: all the awesomely exciting stuff that's currently in the works, due to ship throughout 2008 and beyond!
What's next for me? I enjoyed (beyond words) the freedom I experienced during my Jan-Feb sabbatical, as well as hearing about all the neat webby things people are doing. New web APIs seem to be popping up every few days, and they're just itching to be tinkered with. I'm looking forward to collaborating with friends on interesting projects, and I'm available for consulting. Eventually I'd love to settle down again with a small, focused team to build something nifty, but there's no rush.

Fred Brooks sums it up well:
"Not only is the end not in sight, the pace is not slackening. We have many future joys."
As do Stewart Brand and Steve Jobs, as my Mom thinks I'm crazy for leaving one of the best companies the world has ever seen:
"Stay hungry, stay foolish."


Well Duh

Slashdot | The Reality Distortion Field Is Real: "Researchers at Duke University subjected participants to subliminal images of the iconic Apple and IBM logos (during what subjects thought was a visual acuity test), and those who were shown the Apple logo generated more creative ideas after the test than did those who were shown the IBM logo."

(emphasis mine)

Blogger and OpenID

For fun, here's some background on Blogger's OpenID functionality.

I first heard about yadis on a Shasta trip with BradFitz & co back in 8/2005, and immediately knew it was something I wanted in Blogger. We'd be able to accept signed comments from other services, our URLs could be used to sign comments elsewhere on the web, and lots of other hotness would probably reveal itself over time.

I invited Brad to Mountain View to tell us about it, and more people dug the idea after seeing his presentation and chatting. The timing was unfortunate though — we'd just gotten started rebuilding Blogger on new infrastructure, which included migrating user accounts to Google Accounts — so OpenID wouldn't have made the prioritization cut anytime soon. Still, I spec'd out a few possibilities in our wiki, started an internal discussion list for folks interested in OpenID, and that was that for a while.

Fast-forward to 8/2007, when Ryan Barrett emailed us that he'd been tinkering with a Blogger/OpenID implementation in his 20% time. He was essentially done coding the backend functionality to accept signed comments, but wanted some frontend/UI input. Josh whipped up some quick mocks for how it could work, and Ryan put up a test build for us to play with — signing a Blogger comment with my LJ was geeky-exciting!

By then BradFitz had joined Google, and he came to some of our meetings so we could bounce questions off him. When we talked about using Blogger URLs as OpenIDs (functionality then yet-to-be written), Brad volunteered a chunk of his 20% time to help code it. We were hoping to ship both halves together, but kept them decoupled in case of delays (like UI iteration, QA bug-finding, production adventures, etc.). It also helped having an Eng Manager who's stoked on OpenID.

The response thus far has been quite positive, and 692's been doing awesome work carrying the torch. All your URLs are belong to yadis!



Society for the Abolishment of the Penny

This all makes perfect sense.


Michael Pollan at Stanford

Michael Pollan gave a talk at Stanford a few nights ago, about his new book. Here are my notes:

Nutritionism premises
- the nutrient is what's important
- we need experts to help us understand them
- at any given time, there are good and bad ones (historical: oat bran, betacarotines, omega 3s, etc)
- the point of eating is health

- reducing foods to nutrients hasn't worked very well
- digestive system has as many neurons as the spinal cord
- nutrition science has a *long* way to go
- nutritionism did rise to solve a very real public health problem: western diet-related diseases
- science will eventually figure this out, but eaters don't need to know the science to reduce disease and be healthier
- we've turned diseases like diabetes into a lifestyle (ads for diabetes gear on primetime TV, etc.)

- relying on science hasn't worked thus far, nor should we rely on MP
- prior to science, we had culture to understand these things
- last 1/3 of book explores various cultural rules for eating
- examples: don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, or anything with more than 5 ingredients; shop the perimeter of the grocery store; don't eat food that won't ever rot ('cause mold and bacteria aren't even interested); don't shop the super market (go farmers market instead)
- eat until you're full, eat slowly
- "defending food and meals should not need to be done"

- supporting local food isn't just about energy and carbon footprint - it's fresher, tastier, keeps land from being developed, supports local economies
- we have to keep fighting for a transparent food system, and we can't depend on the government to make it happen (sugar/UN/WHO/Dubya example)
- we're not connecting the dots between food problems and health problems
- "1 cheer for meat eating" regarding whether or not to eat animals; in some narrow bioregional and evolutionary contexts, it's ok
- some folks do really well eating lots of meat (like the Masai, but they get lots of exercise), but there are many factors affecting it (how it's raised, cooked, etc); grass-fed beef doesn't compete with humans for nutrients
- eating 20% less meat (per person) saves as much carbon as downgrading from a sedan to a hybrid
- eggs: cage-free is the first priority, pastured is ideal (they eat grass and bugs); ask at farmers market if they cruise on grass or dirt