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August 30, 2008

Email Overload


I spent the morning winnowing down my In box, but now Apple Mail tells me I have more than four billion messages in my In box that I need to deal with. Where to start?

As best I can tell, there are actually only around 20 messages, and the status line is an error. But I feel like I now have this enormous, heavy, dark cloud of incoming mail hanging over my head.

August 29, 2008

Network Paranoia

A week or two back, I noticed an oddity in the confirmation messages I get from PayPal after they've processed a funds transfer: Toward the end of the message, PayPal tells me that I can click on links in the message to see my monthly account statement. Here's a crop of what I see:


The messages are, as far as I can tell, legitimate PayPal emails--they come shortly after I actually log into PayPal and complete a transaction, and they're the only confirmation I get from PayPal that my transaction has completed. Does PayPal really think I'll click on a link URL that starts with SECURE.UNINTIALIZED.REAL.ERROR.COM? Perhaps this is some elaborate phishing scam, or PayPal checking to see how gullible is customers are. Or Apple Mail is processing the link in an odd way before displaying it. In any event, it seems to contradict all that advice PayPal and parent company eBay give users about avoiding scams.

I thought this might be a one-time thing, a bug in a server somewhere. But it's happened both times I've transferred funds in the last month. And I haven't, obviously, clicked that link. Ever.

August 25, 2008

Infoviz Art

Check out Slate's slideshow (with commentary), Infoviz Art:

Display an unwieldy mass of data in clever visual form and you may gain über-insight into questions you hadn't yet put into words. That is the promise of information visualization, infoviz for short. The field has long helped scientists, engineers, and businesspeople see the unseen as it emerges from complex data: Users may spot promising molecules for pharmaceutical testing, for instance, or pinpoint glitches in a supply chain. As infoviz has matured, it has also caught fire as an art form, its center of gravity edging further from the pragmatic and closer to the expressive or the whimsically profound.

[via Fimoculous.com]

August 24, 2008

If Only Because We'll Never Have to Hear Gilbert Gottfried Again

From Overheard in New York (including the subject line above):

Six-year-old boy: Words, words, words, words! One day, there will be no words.

Seven-year-old sister: That will be a beautiful day.

--2nd Ave & 7th St

[via Overheard in New York]

Typographic Zen

Web Zen this week covers typographic zen: the helvetica vs. arial videogame, typographic animations set to Dylan and Zeppelin tunes, Cooper Black: Behind the Typeface (a short documentary on Oz Cooper), and more.

August 23, 2008

Comic Sans as (In)Compatibility Test


In "Write Me a Love Letter in Mrs. Eaves Ligatures," Squid and Beer considers (based on personal experience) the use of Comic Sans in email .sigs as a serious romantic incompatibility marker:

I was having dinner with the aforementioned Matthew a couple weeks ago when this topic, and that of an ex boyfriend came up. “He signed his emails with Comic Sans,” Matthew said. I nearly fell off my precariously perched barstool. “What?” he followed, “I thought you knew and liked him anyway.”

[via Typophile]

August 22, 2008

Byrne & Eno

David Byrne & Brian Eno's new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, is streaming for free until the physical CD comes out this fall. It's very nice.

Artist Studio Tours

NPR has a video and slideshow tour of artists' studios and work at the 52 0 Street complex, a renovated warehouse in DC.

[via To the Beat]

August 21, 2008

Flickr Group: Great Diagrams

John Curran's Great Diagrams in Anthropology, Linguistics, & Social Theory Flickr group is interesting browsing. Appears to mostly be clipped from a wide variety of sources (a Far Side cartoon about anthropologists, the much-reproduced Post Modern Toasties, a model of face-work based on Goffman, etc.).

Pencil: A Mockup Plugin for Firefox


Pencil is an open source (GPL v2) sketching/mockup/prototyping environment that works as a plug-in for Firefox 3. Includes stencils (standard or custom), on-screen text editing, alignments, drop-in import of image and text, and image export for finished sketches (which, when combined with simple imagemaps, would make it a useful tool for generating interactive mockups).

August 18, 2008

When the World Was Cool

Society in Decline has a great Flickr set on old commercial signage, which might be used as evidence supporting Aaron Draplin's [nsfw] rant on contemporary graphic design

Sound Design: Short Index of Online Resources

W. Brett Latta at Create Digital Music overviews fifteen web-based resources for learning about sound design: Sections on fundamentals, sound for film, sound for games, and communities/lists.

[via createdigitalmusic.com]

Screen Real Estate: More is More

Stephen Malinowski at Cool Tools discusses the benefits of single large displays compared to two smaller displays. Purchasing two smaller displays has long been the economical choice—two 21" LCDs were much cheaper than, say, one 30" LCD. Malinowski notes that the price differential between the two is decreasing; he also notes the benefits of having a single larger display:

I found that once I got used to the idea that most things could be expanded to a size that required no window scrolling, I began to "think big" about a lot of things: my spreadsheets got bigger, my diagrams got bigger - and more unexpectedly: the size of the kind of thing I thought I could handle got bigger; and because I was much less often having to chop things into smaller pieces so that they could fit, things got simpler.

It's a no-brainer that more pixels is usually better than less for knowledge work, but the vertical (usually) gap between dual monitors makes it difficult to use them as a single space. Instead, multiple monitors are separate but tightly coupled spaces.

Here are the rough prices (via CDW.com and Dell.com) for some options:

Apple Cinema HD 20" LCD: $599
Dell EP207WFP 20": $229
Apple Cinema 30" HD: $1,799
Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC 30": $1,199

I'm not sure of the overall quality of the Dell displays above, since those are Dell's lowest-end versions of the displays in each size; the 30" 3008WFP is $1,9999. And as Malinowski notes, there's a fairly large pool of used monitors available at places like eBay to further reduce prices.

[via Cool Tools]

August 15, 2008

Plagiarism, Aggregation, Etc.

Chris Nelson at Pop + Politics discusses plagiarism, aggregation, attribution, and media, with lots of (attributed) input from reports and a link to Jody Rosen's "Dude, You Stole My Article" (which is itself worth checking out).

[via Fimoculous.com]

Understanding Space


Coign of Vantage: Rotate the 3D space until you have a perspective that matches the icon in the upper-right corner. Oddly interesting.

[via metafilter.com]

August 14, 2008



Haven't had a chance to work with it much yet, but Nodal looks promising. Free generative music software for OS X.

Nodal is a generative software application for composing music. It uses a novel method for the notation and playing of MIDI based music. This method is based around the concept of a user-defined graph. The graph consists of nodes (musical events) and edges (connections between events). You interactively define the graph, which is then traversed by any number of players who play the musical events as they encounter them on the graph. The time taken to travel from one node to another is based on the length of the edges that connect the nodes.

The Nodal site includes samples, papers, and tutorials.


August 13, 2008

Live! Nude! MacBook Pro!

Breaking It Down

For about six months, shortly after a quick cycle of hard drive upgrades, the keyboard and trackpad on my MacBook Pro have occasionally frozen. Last spring I backed it up and erased the hard drive, took it apart, checked all the connections, and restored everything. No luck. The lockups were getting worse, until last week it would sometimes freeze up through reboots seven or eight times before it'd boot in workable shape. Then I wiped the hard drive and rather than just restore the full drive from backup, I installed a new version of the system and only copied over the Documents folder, then went through the twenty-hour process of resinstalling programs from scratch, on the off-chance that there was a scrozzed prefs file somewhere.

No luck. So yesterday I wiped the hard drive again, reinstalled the OS from the install DVD, and today took out the forty-some tiny screws and re-seated all the connections. So far so good. But if that doesn't work, we're looking at using a hammer.

August 09, 2008

Summer Vacation


Given our hectic schedules this summer, we were forced to squeeze our summer vacation into about eight hours in the backyard this afternoon. All things considered, it was actually a pretty nice vacation.

August 08, 2008

Algorithmic Architecture

Architecture growing out of recursive 3D computer models. Interesting.

Modern buildings are designed rather like crystals, they are a repetition of components (periodic). Natural things, however, including DNA and medieval towns are more like aperiodic crystals, with variable repetition. To create these structures, requires an algorithm rather than a single equation (that was the premise of Stephen Wolfram’s self-published tome, ‘A New Kind of Science’). Whether this is a new kind of science is debatable, however, it is certainly a new kind of architecture.

[via Smashing Telly]

August 04, 2008

Legibility as a matter of perspective

Apparently using only paint and careful design, Axel Peemöller designed carpark signage that looks amazingly distorted and illegible—except for at specific vantage points, when large, colored letters spelling directions such as "In" and "Up" stand out like huge holograms for drivers.

[via Daring Fireball]

Finding that niche market

Cheese Curls + Limo Service

The back of a delivery truck in front of me at a stop light this afternoon: Jax Genuine Cheddar Cheese Curls and Girard's Limousine Service.

Ambient Lapse

Kyle McDonald at MIT has created a bunch of interesting audio/video/music Processing apps, including the Ambient Lapse program shown above (which uses both Processing and SoundStretch).

"Ambient Lapse" is a simple technique for capturing the ambiance of spaces, especially their color and spectral characteristics. It operates on a principle similar to long-exposure time-lapse, but allows exposures to overlap. Instead of producing momentary bursts of specific images, individual objects and well-defined perspectives, we're given vague impressions.

[via createdigitalmusic.com]

August 01, 2008

Color Design as Narrative Device: 101 Dalmations

AnaimationExpressions on color design in 101 Dalmatians, in what's projected as the first of an extensive series. (Disney, I think, is where I learned most of what I know about color design.)