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September 30, 2007

From the "When Hell Freezes Over" Department


Trying to rescue an old, dying portable USB drive. (Sometimes, an interface should look at "time remaining"—say, when "time remaining" exceeds 100 years—and change the status to "Forget it.")

September 29, 2007

Job Ad

Our department is recruiting this year. See the full ad at Clarkson's website for more info.

Assistant Professor: Communication and Media Studies

Technical and Professional Communication: Tenure-track position available at assistant professor rank beginning August 2008. Opportunity to teach and conduct research in technical, scientific, and/or professional communication. Will consider a wide range of specializations such as new media, gender studies, intercultural communication, design, organizational communication, and usability. Evidence of successful teaching, of scholarly ability, and an active research agenda necessary. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

Currently the Communication & Media Department offers a BS degree in Communication and, in conjunction with Clarkson’s Math & Computer Science Department, a BS degree in Digital Arts & Sciences. The C&M Department offers a broad range of communication courses including writing, speech, digital video, photography, environmental rhetoric, web design, 3D animation, digital arts, information architecture, new media design, and instructional design. C&M faculty are encouraged to achieve their personal and professional potential in a highly supportive and collegial department.

Walkman Mellotron

Brent Pettis and Eric Beug to construct a Mellotron with four used Walkman tape players (video covers theory + techniques for building).

[via MAKE]

September 26, 2007

Read/Write/Remix: Eduardo Navas Interview

Eduardo Navas, of Remix Theory, is interviewed at Serial Consign. Interesting.

[Click-through for the interview.]

And I do tend to organize my books like records. In a way, given my priority in writing these days, books are all over the place, while my records sit neatly in milk crates and against the wall. I actually only have a few of my records with me, most of them are in storage at the moment, and I pull them out as I need them according to what I’m researching. So, if you were to look at my place, you would see chaos, but I know exactly where the books are, and when I don’t find them where I left them (sometimes under three or four others) I freak out! If people were to see them they would not really get the system. Also, obviously, I have CDs and these are usually all over the place because I listen to them all the time. No system here, but whenever I have friends over, I’m able to discuss music and find stuff immediately. And of course there’s the mp3s. My ipod is crucial for me. Very convenient, but there’s something about not seeing an object, only a name on the screen when experiencing music this way.

But I think that this is common for anyone writing a term paper, master thesis or a dissertation. You end up living with books day in and day out. They become your friends and you know where you left them. I don’t have a specific archiving system. I usually arrange them by subject or a current argument I’m working on, in no particular order; often times, I arrange the books according to size and place them on the shelf according to how they visually complement other books. I really don’t think this is that special, and suspect that I share this tendency with the masses when it comes to making a mess of my books. Just about everyone has an idiosyncratic system for organizing collections. Especially now that we live with archives day in and day out.

[via Rhizome.org]

September 25, 2007

Music and Amnesia

At The New Yorker, Oliver Sacks discusses the case of Clive Wearing, a musician whose developing amnesia left him with only a few seconds worth of memory:

Desperate to hold on to something, to gain some purchase, Clive started to keep a journal, first on scraps of paper, then in a notebook. But his journal entries consisted, essentially, of the statements “I am awake” or “I am conscious,” entered again and again every few minutes. He would write: “2:10 P.M: This time properly awake. . . . 2:14 P.M: this time finally awake. . . . 2:35 P.M: this time completely awake,” along with negations of these statements: “At 9:40 P.M. I awoke for the first time, despite my previous claims.” This in turn was crossed out, followed by “I was fully conscious at 10:35 P.M., and awake for the first time in many, many weeks.” This in turn was cancelled out by the next entry.

Which looks alarmingly like my own notebooks.

[via Your Daily Awesome]

On Beyond ASCII

The ConScript Unicode Registry hosts the Seussian Latin Extensions: U=E630 - U=E64F:

The Seuss script is an extension of the Latin alphabet, proposed by Dr Seuss (Theodor Geisel) in his children's book On Beyond Zebra (New York: Random House, 1955; ISBN 0-394-80084-2). The letter names are those used in the List of Letters appearing in the back of the book, which lacks folios (page numbers), except for U+E643, which is not given a name, but is named for its constituent glyphs, as it appears to be a ligature.


[via Boing Boing]

September 21, 2007

Wind Farm

wind farm 2

One (of about fifteen) towers at a wind farm near Churubusco, NY.

September 18, 2007


Subtopia (subtitled "A Field Guide to Military Urbanism") posts a lengthy discussion (with pictures) of barricade-as-event at the recent G8 Summit:

So, even though neither you or I were there to stroll around the eerie evacuated streets, past the streamers of lightweight warnings and flexible blockades, or what we might call a temporary new aged market place of geopolitical medievalism, a few of our fellow bloggerades hunkered there down under did a more than brilliant job of covering this Subtopian escapade.

[via Super Colossal]

September 14, 2007

Flick, Scroll, and Virtual Objects

I finally replaced my ailing cellphone (held together by strips of yellow duct tape) with an iPhone. Which I like a lot. But I just noticed an oddity about the interface: The "flick" gesture on the iPhone that I use to scroll up and down pages has the opposite effect of the trackpad scroll feature on my MacBook Pro: To scroll down a long page on the iPhone, I put a finger on the screen and flick upward. In OS X, to scroll down a long page I put two fingers on the trackpad and move then downward. Either way is fine—in fact, I've been using the flick gesture on the iPhone for nearly a week now and hadn't even noticed that I was using a different gesture than the one I've been using on my computer for the last several years.

There are logical reasons behind either gesture direction. The iPhone's flick up corresponds to the realworld equivalent of moving a physical piece of paper up or down. OS X's flick down corresponds to re-centering a moving window over a static piece of paper (or, in a more recent/immediate precedent, corresponds to moving the on-screen elevator-in-scrollbar up or down in the supposed moving window over static object). I'm curious about the point at which the iPhone designers realized (and I'm assuming they did-they're apparently slightly intelligent and perceptive) that the conceptual models of the two spaces contradicted each other.

(I just realized that the iPhone's flick gesture might be modeled more on the "grabber" hand in applications like Photoshop (an application in which a user can use the grabber hand to move around iPhone-like, or the document window scrollbars to move more OS X-like. It's strange to watch the functionality of these virtual/spatial metaphors run into each other, like fast glaciers.)

September 11, 2007

Philosophy and Architecture

Ludwig Wittgenstein, having abandoned academia for three years in order to construct a house for his sister Gretl in Vienna, understood the magnitude of this challenge. "You think philosophy is difficult," observed the author of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, "but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect."

- Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

September 10, 2007

Keeping Notes

Kode Vicious at ACM Queue offers a rationale and some tips on keeping a debugging log.

What you really want is a way to remember what you were doing when you were doing it, and debugging is one of the best examples of this. Nothing is more annoying than to come back to a problem you were working on and not remember what you had already tried. Having to redo your experiments and measurements again is a hair-tearing experience, which is why I started shaving my head years ago - it's far easier than tearing the hair out. What is important is to realize that you are doing experiments and taking measurements, and that will lead you to your answer.

Real scientists, as opposed to lame hacks who claim to be scientists, know how to formulate ideas - called hypotheses - and test them. They write down each hypothesis, then describe the experiment and the results. They keep all of this data in logbooks or notebooks. One of the earliest examples of a logbook being used in this way by computer scientists was when Grace Murray Hopper recorded the first bug, a moth found in a relay of the Harvard Mark I computer, in the logbook that was kept in the machine room with the computer. Gone are the days when you can debug a program by pulling a moth from a relay, and, well, good riddance - I mean, ick! It is still a fine example of how one should proceed when trying to figure out a complex problem.

Speaking of examples, I will present you with one of my own from a kernel debugging session I was recently trapped - er, I mean involved - in.

I'm not detailed oriented enough (and perhaps not smart enough) to be good at coding, so I frequently find myself lost in tangled nest of error messages, patches, dump files, and—possibly worst of all—half-assed bits of code I wrote in an attempt to resolve the problem but that, because I can't remember exactly what I was trying to do when I wrote them, only add to the confusion. But several years ago I noticed that the more successful linux people I worked with tended to keep obsessively detailed logs of what they were doing when installing, patching, or debugging things. They entered dates and times, system versions, chunks of text copied from error messages, and other information into a log while they worked. Most of it they never used, but when they ran into a problem, they read back over their notes to see if they could find any clues. And sometimes, they did.

So I started keeping a system install and debugging log, either in a paper notebook or in a file on the system I was using. I've not succeeded in making myself obsessive enough about it, but it's a start. Did it solve all my coding issues? Not by a long shot; there's more involved in good programming than simply taking a lot of notes. But does it frequently rescue me when I've gotten myself into a corner? Frequently.

September 08, 2007

Design the copywriter's birthday card. They said.

A graphic designer makes a birthday card for a writer. Grudgingly.

[The comments section has some great material in it as well, especially the writer's card for the graphic designer.]

[via Noisy Decent Graphics]

Variations: Graphic Design Courses

Jessica Halfand does a quick survey of graphic design courses. The variation is interesting, both for its range of types of institution (from junior high through college) and the variation in approach (at every level). But what I liked was the triggering event for her article, her twelve-year-old son's decision to take a graphic design course:

I think his choice may have been inspired by the smart-alecky tendencies that befall many children of graphic designers: that is, he fantasizes that he will unsettle his teacher by impressing the class with his rarified knowledge of hanging punctuation, oldstyle figures and ligatures. ("If the teacher tells us to use Comic Sans," he whined, "I'll just lose it.")

[via Design Observer: Main Posts]

September 03, 2007

Pecha-Kucha: 20 Slides in 400 Seconds

Daniel Pink at Wired discusses (and demonstrates) Phecha-Kucha, a performance-art/presentation technique that involves 20 slides each displayed for 20 seconds (640 seconds total). Although invented by two Tokyo architects as more of a performance and competition, the whole thing cries out to be made a rule the majority of slide-based presentations.

People slam PowerPoint as if it were some irresistible force that turned the most eloquent speaker into a droning bore. But while PowerPoint certainly creates a framework for presentations that can easily become boring, I can't see any real correlation between "Boring Talks" and "PowerPoint" in my experience. I've seen a huge number of boring talks using PowerPoint, but also a much huger number of boring talks using 35 mm slide projectors, chalk boards, whiteboards, and just idiots flapping their arms around. (Invariably, in fact, I'm that idiot.) But I'm all in favor of people trying to do something interesting with their time, even if it's just imposing a new framework like Pecha-Kucha on their presentations.

Pink's demo at YouTube, btw, is a great discursion on how signs work.

[via Wired]