January 28, 2009

Scott McCloud on Comics at TED

Scott McCloud talks comics at TED. If you don't know who McCloud is and you're interested in comics, videogames, interactive texts, media theory, or pretty much anything, you should go watch. (Fucking brilliant.) Then go buy his books.

[via Drawn!]

January 09, 2009

Tec(h)tonic Shifts


The work/space weblog (and in general, including some of the sites I run) will be wonky for the next few days. I'm moving some things to a new registrar and other things to a new hosting service with better tech support. I'll post more details once I figure out what I'm doing....

December 11, 2008

Pantone's Color of the Year (2009 Edition)


In a surprise move, Pantone names "Pantone® 14-0848 Mimosa" (above) as their pick for color of 2009.

"The color yellow exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance," explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. "Mimosa also speaks to enlightenment, as it is a hue that sparks imagination and innovation."

Who am I to argue?


December 05, 2008

Tilt Shift Video Lagniappe

The only think cooler that tilt-shift photography is tilt-shift video. With monster trucks. (The Robosaurus is just plain overload.)

[via Super Colossal]

December 03, 2008

Star Wars + Everything Else

John Powers' dense, sprawling, provocative star wars: a new heap (or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Death Star) filters George Lucas' movie through Kubrick, Kandinsky, Diego Rivera, the Pruitt-Igoe low-income housing projects, Thomas More, Frederic Jameson, OMA, Jane Jacobs, Venturi, and more. It's sort of dizzying, in a good way.

Unlike the residential architecture of Robert Venturi, which invokes bygone palaces, Star Wars was not a retreat to the imagery of past. Lucas was not reacting against the dominant program of faux-industrial imagery, which Venturi righteously criticized. Venturi’s passive ambit of comforting the old with a palatial appliqué had nothing to do with the modernist compulsion to make it new. Lucas, like Smithson, Morris, and Jacobs, dug deep into the dominant ethic of rationalizing the inconsistencies and contradictions of modern senescence. Star Wars built on the radicalism and procedural logic of minimalism and made a bold visual assertion, proposing a future “drawn not from how it ought to be, but from how it is.” In defiance of conventional wisdom, Lucas revealed a place that was modern, but not new, a future long occupied, unfinished, worldly. Modernity is the presumption that the natural environment for man has yet to be built. Lucas was the first to imagine that future built environment as already old.


November 29, 2008

WKRP: Turkeys Away

Slightly late for Thanksgiving, but always amusing: A short clip from WKRP in Cincinnati's Turkeys Away episode.

Everything I know about radio production I learned from watching WKRP. Which, I think, annoys my station manager at WTSC. (YouTube upload from crystalcheats.)

November 17, 2008

The Subject of the Gym

At McSweeney's, Evan Johnston channels Slavoj Žižek in "Noted Post-Marxist Sociologist, Philosopher, and Cultural Critic Slavoj Žižek Welcomes You to the Gym":

In 1981, singer, actress Olivia Newton-John is performing in a musical video for her song "Physical." Olivia Newton-John is in the gym, not sweating, wearing headband and leotard, doing aerobics. Why is she not sweating? To answer this question, we need to reverse it and ask: Why are we not wearing a headband and leotard? And why are we sweating?

Then, I think, the meaning is clear. We are sitting in front of the TV, being couch potato, watching the illusion of nudity—which is the leotard—and the symbolism of discipline: the headband. She is doing all the work for us. She is getting physical.

With that in our minds, today we are going to do an upper-body workout with weights and the machines. OK!

November 15, 2008


Richard Devine & Josh Kay from surachai on Vimeo.

[via trash_audio]

October 29, 2008



Nearly a foot of snow last night. It's going to be a long winter.

October 16, 2008

When NSFW is Your Work

Putting People First links to several articles about the usability research that went into the development of Philips "intimate massager" products. Here, for example, is a clip from "The Birth of a New Category" written by the product team at Philips:

The delicate nature of the subject meant that exhaustive research was carried out. Early propositions were validated through qualitative testing panels, followed by quantitative testing on the Internet. More than 100 working prototypes were tried out in Austria by typical representatives of the target group. And testing wasn't limited to consumers; many different stakeholders from Consumer Lifestyle, Healthcare and Lighting became involved as well. Even financial analysts were consulted. "In my 25 years of business experience, I've never been associated with a line of products which has been so thoroughly vetted," said Jim Hey, Senior Vice President and Business Unit Leader for Health & Wellness.

[via Putting people first]

October 12, 2008

Slavoj Zizek: What is the Question?

Christopher Lydon's Open Source has an hour-long interview with Slavoj Zizek (which links to an overview as well as a downloadable mp3). Zizek, who Lydon rightly terms "the Elvis of the intelligensia," runs his usual adrenalin-fueled, contingency-filled theory-rant:

Dangerous moments are coming. Dangerous moments are always also a chance to do something. But in such dangerous moments, you have to think, you have to try to understand. And today obviously all the predominant narratives — the old liberal-left welfare state narrative; the post-modern third-way left narrative; the neo-conservative narrative; and of course the old standard Marxist narrative — they don't work. We don't have a narrative. Where are we? Where are we going? What to do? You know, we have these stupid elementary questions: Is capitalism here to stay? Are there serious limits to capitalism? Can we imagine a popular mobilization outside democracy? How should we properly react to ecology? What does it mean, all the biogenetic stuff? How to deal with intellectual property today? Things are happening. We don't have a proper approach. It's not only that we don't have the answers. We don't even have the right question.

What's not to like? See the wikipedia entry on Zizek for more background and links or the International Journal of Žižek Studies.

September 30, 2008

Fall Color

September 26, 2008



Dedicated readers (hi, dad!) will have, by now, noticed that I haven't posted anything for several days. This is due to a root canal I had Thursday morning. My dentist (healthy, clean-living guy that he is--there are issues of Adventure Cycling in his waiting room) told me, post-drilling, "When the anesthetic wears off, take whatever you take when you have a headache."

I now realize he meant, "Take whatever you take when someone has hit you in the head with an aluminum baseball bat," which is normally a high-grade narcotic that my medical caregiver prescribes to me.

So, not much posting until the tiny men in my skull stop kicking my front lobes.

[That is not, btw, my skull. It's a creative-commons licensed image by nullalux. I should have asked for my x-rays, since my dentist's office is weirdly mac-savvy and networked, with my x-rays being sent instantly to MacBooks in the exam rooms. Maybe this is normal.]

September 19, 2008


In my unrestrained optimism that I know how to use a soldering iron, I'm now working on a Thingamakit, which the company describes as a "noise monster." From what I can tell based on the audio samples on the web, the Thingamakit emulates a piece of expensive audio equipment that's been dropped several times. To me, this seemed interesting.

It turns out I should restrain my optimism. I'm currently in the middle of unsoldering most of the leads and testing the connections.

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 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]

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 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.).

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 04, 2008

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.

July 29, 2008

Tarantino's Mind


From the oddly named Hungry Man TV, the short film Tarantino's Mind. Nice.

A film buff tells a friend that he's finally broken "the code" - the mystery behind the character & story threads that bleed from one Quentin Tarantino movie or screenplay into the next. His friend is less than impressed. Starring Seu Jorge (The Life Aquatic) and Selton Mello (Tarja Preta). A short film by Brazilian directing duo 300ml.

July 24, 2008

Splicing News Stories


MSNBC appears to have unintentionally combined two unrelated news stories (a grizzly attack in Alaska and a woman committing suicide after her home was foreclosed on).

Or there's a very hairy Loan Officer with salmon on his breath somewhere in Alaska.

July 14, 2008

Back to the One-Way Web

My MovableType installation (which runs this weblog) is having issues with comments, so I've turned them off. Think of it as something like the times when you yell at stupid things on TV safe in the comfort of knowing that the people on screen can't actually hear you. If nothing else, you can picture thousands of spammers yelling impotently about viagra (a pun that was unfortunately accidental).

Useless Fact

Since it works over wifi and not bluetooth, the Remote app on the iPhone will control iTunes on the computer in my office even if I'm in the lab, around 300 feet away. (Possibly useful, I guess, as part of an elaborate prank.)

(BTW, the Remote app has my vote for the most useful development for the iPhone. 3G's irrelevant to me given the fact that I can barely get Edge coverage at my house; the nearest AT&T 3G is two hundred miles away.)



Video of a mesmerizing but seriously creepy flock of birds.

[via Boing Boing]

July 09, 2008

Dancing 2008

I linked to an early version of Matt Harding's website several years ago in an earlier incarnation of this weblog, but the current version is even better.

[via The Huffington Post | Raw Feed]

July 04, 2008

The Book of Accidents


The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale has 11 pages from The Book of Accidents: Designed for Children (1831), a scared-straight sort of primer for small children on all the ways that they might be killed.

The Bull is a noble looking but ferocious and terrible creature; and when provoked he assumes the air of sullen majesty, and often tears up the ground with his feet and horns. They should be carefully avoided and never teazed [sic] by children. These two boys here seen had been taking a short walk, and were crossing the fields together, when they were pursued and one of them overtaken by the ferocious animal. After taking the poor boy on his horns, he tossed him high into the air, and catching him as he fell, tossed him up a again and thus continued to do until left for dead.


June 26, 2008

Community Standards in the Age of Search Engines

Google has long been used as a method for gauging public opinion (I use it frequently decide on how to spell a word—the variant with the most hits wins). A trial lawyer in Florida is now using Google search data to defend a client against obscenity by defining community standards based on queries entered into Google by users in the defendent's community. As the New York Times reports,

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

This is why lawyers make the big bucks.

June 04, 2008

False Bus Stops for Alzheimer's Patients

According to the Telegraph, the Benrath Senior Centre in Düsseldorf set up a fake bus stop to help keep Alzheimer's patients from wandering too far. According to Franz-Josef Goebel, chair of an association that works with the Centre,

"They know the green and yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means they will go home."

The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.

"We will approach them and say that the bus is coming later and invite them in for a coffee," said Richard Neureither, Benrath's director. "Five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave."

Brilliant usability strategy, a distant relative to the reminders and other attention-grabbing artifacts most people create around themselves (post-its, notes on the fridge, marginal comments)—Alzheimer's is an extreme case, but not categorically different from more typical, routine memory loss and corresponding need for reminding.

[via The Morning News]

May 23, 2008

Where Ideas Come From

An overview to growing and harvesting creatives.

[via Noisy Decent Graphics]

May 21, 2008

Tom Waits, Interviewed by Tom Waits

Tom Waits interviews himself at Anti's website.

Q: What is up with your ears?
A: I have an audio stigmatism where by I hear things wrong- I have audio illusions. I guess now they say ADD. I have a scrambler in my brain and it takes what is said and turns it into pig Latin and feeds it back to me.

May 16, 2008

Terminal Jetlag

things magazine notes this odd story, a small chunk of an NYT article by Pico Iyer on jet lag:

One day in 1971, a woman called Sarah Krasnoff made off with her 14-year-old grandson, who was caught up in an unseemly custody dispute, and took him into the sky. In a plane, she knew, they were subject to no laws, and if they never stopped moving, the law could never catch up with them. They flew from New York to Amsterdam. When they arrived, they turned around and flew from Amsterdam to New York. Then they flew from New York to Amsterdam again, and from Amsterdam to New York, again and again and again, month after month.

They took about 160 flights in all, one after the other, according to the stage piece ''Jet Lag.'' They saw 22 movies an average of seven times each. They ate lunch again and again and turned their watches six hours forward, then six hours back. The whole fugitive enterprise ended when Krasnoff, 74, finally collapsed and died, the victim, doctors could only suppose, of terminal jet lag.

As Iyer notes, Krasnoff and grandson's story shows up in Jet Lag, a play by Jessica Chalmers. (Surprising that there's not already a DeLillo or Ballard novel or short story about about Krasnoff....)

[via things magazine]

May 13, 2008

Uncanny Graphic


Kottke has, I'm assuming, many interesting things to say about the above graphic, but for me the graphic itself is almost more compelling without any accompanying text. In fact, so far I've actually avoided reading any of the other material in his post because I'm guessing that the text will explain what the figure means, and I rather prefer the sense of wild possibility that the figure currently suggests to me. Some things are better left as mysteries.


May 08, 2008

Party Shuffle, Vol. 13

"Feb 14 3:41," Drive-By Truckers (A Blessing and a Curse)
"Cry Like A Baby," Kasey Chambers (The Captain)
"St. Jimmy," Green Day (American Idiot)
"Mansion On The Hill," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Weld (Disc 1))
"Saint Mary," Sparklehorse (Good Morning Spider)
"El Gusto," Los Lobos (Just Another Band from East L.A.: A Collection (Disc 1))
"Sligo River Blues," John Fahey (The Legend of Blind Joe Death)
"Dog Faced Boy," eels (Souljacker)
"Pyramid of Tears," Alejandro Escovedo (Live, Somewhere, Somewhen)
"It's All Over Now Baby Blue," Link Wray (Bullshot)
"The Farewell Bend," Frank Black (Live In Amsterdam [11.28.03])
"Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz," The Black Crowes (The Complete Tall Sessions)
"Ain't No Money," Rodney Crowell (Live at the Catalyst Club [4.6.01] )
"Mystery Train > That's Alright Momma," Warren Haynes, Kevn Kinney, & Edwin McCain (Live at the Bottom Line [2.15.97])
"White Line (version 1)," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Ragged Glory Outtakes: The Ranch Rehearsals)
"Wayfaring Stranger," Neko Case (The Tigers Have Spoken)
"My Heart," K's Choice (Almost Happy (Disc 2))
"I Fought the Law (Take 2)," Norm Chomsky (07.07.25 Practice)
"One," Johnny Cash (American III: Solitary Man)
"Devil's Sidewalk," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Greendale)
"As I Fall," Alejandro Escovedo (A Man Under The Influence)
"Rain On Tin," Sonic Youth (Murray Street)
"I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," Richard Thompson Band (Live In Tucson [9.25.07])
"Tony & Maria," Los Lobos (Good Morning Aztlan)
"Wild Honey Pie," The Pixies (Pixies at the BBC)

April 30, 2008

Wind Farm

Wind Farm

I drive up to Churabusco occasionally just to see the sprawling wind farm installed this year. Something like eighty three-hundred-foot turbines. The picture doesn't even come close to how disconcerting it feels or the scale.

April 25, 2008

Take That, Swan Lake

The Pixies as ballet.

[via Boing Boing]

April 21, 2008

"Charlie Rose" by Samuel Beckett

It could be just that I'm worn out by this semester, but this "'Charlie Rose' by Samuel Becket" video is amazingly funny.


April 19, 2008

Political Rhetoric + Media

I make it a policy to ignore most media coverage of politics, with the exception of meta-satire: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (Slight Return).

LINCOLN: Ahem, I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect slavery will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you love America this much (extending fingers), this much (extending hands slightly), or thiiiiiis much (extending hands broadly)?
LINCOLN: I think we covered this…
GIBSON: If I may interrupt…
LINCOLN: Please.
GIBSON: I noticed, Mr. Lincoln, that your American flag pin was upside down…
LINCOLN: Yes, the wind caught it. Now, as I was saying...
GIBSON: We get questions about this all the time over at Powerline and on Hannity’s talk show. Mr. Douglas has said this is a major vulnerability for you in the fall. So I’ll ask again – do you love America?
LINCOLN: (scowling with a forced smile). Yes.
GIBSON: If your love for America were ice cream, what flavor would it be?

[via Boing Boing]

April 15, 2008



April 13, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

(I have nothing to add to that title.)


April 07, 2008

Responding to Search Engine Queries (Vol. 2)

In which the author provides personal responses to search engine queries found in the work/space server logs.

03 Apr, Thu, 08:22:13 Google: background color of work space for best work

I decided to check in with the experts at Pantone, since any corporation that can build a multi-million dollar business on getting people to pay hundreds of dollars for chips of paint that hardware stores across the country give away for free must know something, right? They said it's Pantone 18-3943 (aka, "Blue Iris"): "As a reflection of the times, Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspect of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic." Cool.

03 Apr, Thu, 15:53:31 Google: johndan johnson
You know, there are a lot of days when I just want to throw in the towel and bag that whole "then a hyphen, then E-I-L-O ... no, O ... right, O-L-A ... No, the there are two L's, but there's an O in the middle. Right. That's close enough; most people don't even try to pronounce it. It's Finnish. You're welcome."

05 Apr, Sat, 05:30:14 Yahoo: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY WORK SPACE DESIGN?
I don't really mean anything; I just named the weblog "work/space" (note the slash mark--it's edgy) because I was surprised to discover that Boing-Boing, Gizmodo, and Bitch, PhD were taken and I couldn't come up with many better alternatives.

06 Apr, Sun, 10:34:26 Google: "parent directory " /color climax/ -xxx -html -htm -php -shtml -opendivx -md5 -md5sums
I have no idea what the hell that means, and I feel a little dirty just for reading it.

March 15, 2008

Responding to Search Engine Queries (Vol. 1)

In which the author provides personal responses to search engine queries found in the work/space server logs.

11 Mar, Tue, 13:16:27  Google: 3A

11 Mar, Tue, 17:09:44 Yahoo: on a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero meaning
If you think about this one long enough—could be seventy or so years—I'm sure it will come to you.

12 Mar, Wed, 17:15:12 Google: 3A
I said "Bingo" already. Come up and get your damned prize already.

13 Mar, Thu, 20:25:12 Google: "your company's app" and something happens
I think the site you want is

15 Mar, Sat, 07:29:38 Google: johndan eilola-johnson
I'm glad you asked that. It's "Johnson" then "Eilola," with a hyphen between them. So, "Johnson-Eilola," not "Eilola-Johnson." I appreciate you spelling "Eilola" correctly, though—that's rare.

15 Mar, Sat, 07:48:35 Google: johndan eilola-johnson
You're just yanking my chain now, aren't you? You're that damned 3A guy!

15 Mar, Sat, 22:41:18 Google:
Over there to the left a little—type the URL into that field instead. Happens to the best of us.

March 02, 2008

"A seemingly random collection of sounds..."

Finalists for the 1st Ballardian Home Movies contest. You'll have to hit the site for the actual movies (YouTube), but here are some various quotes from judges on the winning entries (which, perhaps not surprisingly, sound exactly like what I might predict reviews of home movies based on JG Ballard would sound like):

A static shot, half composed of white, with red material intruding beneath. A seemingly random collection of sounds from talk radio or television are heard, slowly snatches emerge. Mopeds, a body found on a golf course. Murder on the roads, in the suburbs. “They shouldn’t be here,” claims a politician or letterwriter and as if to answer the listener appears to move away

Machine noise, loud and abrasive. A tool kit, saws, cutting tools. The slow reveal of a pile of Ballard titles leads you to wonder if here JG’s works are being recut, sliced, diced and served again. The Day of Creation is the final title to appear. The maker has taken Ballard and chopped him up.

This film chases its own tail, eventually disappearing into the black hole of inner space. Utterly beguiling.

CCTV-positioned footage of a seemingly empty street lined by lock-ups hiding ephemera, memory junk, yesterday’s crashes. Daylight as harsh as the artificial strip lighting. In a denial of creation we return to the water from which we emerged.

[via notes from somewhere bizzare]

February 29, 2008

web zen: architecture


Web Zen this week covers architecture. Eyesore of the month, pop-up architecture from students at the Shimizu Lab, not fooling anybody ("a chronicle of bad conversions and storefronts past"), more. Above is Massaharu Asano's Ise Shrine from Pop-Up Architecture.

February 22, 2008

The Ambient Sound of Commerce

About a month ago, I was in the drugstore (a large, upstate NY chain) and suddenly realized I was humming along to a track from Wilco's last album, which had apparently replaced the usual muzak playing over the store's PA system. Later that week, I was in the grocery store and a cut off Spoon's latest album was on. Earlier today, I was in the same grocery store and track from Sufjan Stevens' Illinois was playing.

As you age, the probability of your music coinciding with the ambient sounds of commerce approaches one.

February 21, 2008


lunar eclipse  031

February 20, 2008

How to Behave in an Internet Forum

This 8-bit video covers all the basics of how to behave in an Internet forum (mildly NSFW).

[via boing-boing]

February 13, 2008

Science Experiments

Admit it: You've always wondered what would happen if you suddenly found yourself in deep space with only a large blob of free-floating water and a tablet of Alka Seltzer. (Much technical talking up until about the 60 second mark, at which point all hell breaks loose.)

[via The Mediaburn Radio Weblog]

February 11, 2008

Documentary: The Return of a Clockwork Orange

A FilmFour documentary/retrospective about Clockwork Orange, primarily interviews + film footage). (NSWF if you're offended ... OK, probably just NSFW for most of you.)

February 02, 2008

Ice Storm

ice (mono)

January 31, 2008

extend dendritic dynamics

The landscape urbanism bullshit generator constructs semi-random buzz phrases. Obviously satirical, but the output reminds me of Eno and Schmidt's Oblique Strategies for the theory set.


January 25, 2008

La Jetée ciné-roman

The book version of Chris Marker's remarkable Le Jetée is apparently coming back into print [spoiler warning—although for this movie, it's probably not an issue]. Marker's short movie, best-known probably as the inspiration for Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, makes 12 Monkeys and Memento look like Cat in the Hat. That complexity and indeterminacy is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. (I side with the former.)

[via Ballardian]

January 20, 2008

Firefly Amp (Potentially)

Firefly Amp (Almost)

In an ongoing effort to start things on fire figure out how electricity works expand my technical abilities, I'm building a Firefly tube amp, using John Calhoun's preprinted circuit board and instructions, along with something like 12,000 resistors, capacitors, tubes, and miscellaneous parts I don't know the functions of, ordered from electrical suppliers on the web. I have about four wires left to solder, but I'm avoiding those last steps because at this point, it's potentially an amp.

Bobby Fischer

A 1957 New Yorker article on a fourteen-year-old prodigy named Robert Fischer.

We sat down to watch what was going on. Young Fischer, whom we discovered to be a lanky lad with a mischievous, rather faunlike face, was playing against a stout, elegant man in his middle twenties—an Argentine named Dr. Dan J. Beninson, who, we were told, is scientific secretary of the United Nations’ Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. They were playing chess such as we had never seen before—making their moves with split-second rapidity, while exchanging banter with each other and the kibitzers, most of whom were of college age. Within a few minutes, they had finished one game and were launched on another, and Fischer was asserting, with a triumphant grin, as he pushed his queen, “You’re dead now.” “That’s what you think, Bobby, my boy,” Dr. Beninson answered, instantly bringing his bishop across the board—an unexpected stroke, apparently, since it caused young Fischer to clap a hand to his head and brought a burst of laughter from the kibitzers. Everybody seemed to be having a high time. Once, when Dr. Beninson lingered over a move for perhaps three seconds, Fischer threw up his hands in feigned disgust and groaned, “It’s no fun to play chess if you take all year over a move.”

There are a couple of other good Fischer links at the Kotke post I grabbed the above from.


November 26, 2007


I just spent 20 minutes locating and downloading six separate updaters for MS Office 2004 for Mac from Microsoft's website. I haven't even gotten to the "install and reboot" portion

Is this tortuous updating process (including at least one crucial update to plug a security hole) Microsoft's punishment for using a Mac? No wonder so many people run outdated and unsecure configurations on their computers.

Or maybe it's just me. I've also installed Windows on machines a couple of times recently and the process always included at least that much time trying to get automatic updating configured correctly. Which, in theory, would have automated updates if I could get it running. And maybe Apple's setup is no better for new users and I'm just thinking it's easy because I've been doing it for so long.

[Update: And like magic, two day's later a dialog box pops up on my computer to ask me if I'd like to install an Update to Mac Office 2004. Cool. If I'd known Microsoft was listening, I would have requested something more substantial, like a pony.]

November 24, 2007

Spam and Surrealism (The Comic Series)

Another Design Observer link: Tom Manning uses the chaff text in spam (those chunks of randomly grabbed, meaningless words inserted into spam email apparently to confuse spam filters) to create oddball, surrealist comics.

Every day for two and a half weeks this past spring, I decided to create a comic strip based on a spam text I received that day. My anonymous and presumably automated collaborators supplied the words. I figured out how those words might translate into a daily strip. The email subject line provided the title of the comic, and the author's name was that given by the spammer. The result is a modern kind of surrealism that is hard to imagine without the strange magic of today's technology. Enjoy.

[via Design Observer]

November 23, 2007

revolutionary illuminating magazine


Web Zen this week covers design, including a link to The Director's Bureau Special Projects Idea Generator (show above). Click the center button to randomize a three-word title, then tweak as necessary by spinning the rims of the individual words. Sort of like Eno's Oblique Strategies, but—oddly—both a little less random (you can tweak them) and a little less focused (you aren't directed to actually do anything besides name a project).

November 09, 2007

Circuit Bending Challenge Winners

GetLoFi has the top three picks from their recent one-day circuit-bending challenge. Above is Squelchbox's YouTube clip of the process (and results) of his work on a Talk and Learn. Strange. In a good sort of way. The other two picks also have YouTube clips at the GetLoFi post.

[via GetLoFi ]

November 07, 2007


I listened to part of this episode on mapping from This American Life a couple of weeks ago while driving into town on a Sunday morning, but forgot to post a link to the episode until I saw the post at Super Colossal. Among other things, the TAL episode had a nice interview with postmodern geographer Denis Wood (link to TAL Flickr set of Wood's maps; a link to the radio interview is in the Flickr set page overview section).

[via Super Colossal]

November 02, 2007

Product Design and Semi-Obvious Inside Jokes


Not so much inside jokes since they're pretty obvious, but one of the things I like about products designed for small, geeky user bases is their frequent use of ironic jokes. The FMR RNP preamp ("RNP" stands for "Really Nice Preamp") has in/out jacks on the back labeled "Guzintas" and "Guzoutas" (see above); the headphone gain knob on the Presonus FP10 goes to (you guessed it) 11.

They're not even really good jokes. And they're typically very small or otherwise obscured. The RNP panel above is on the back of the box; the label on the FP10's headphone knob is so tiny you have to squint to see it. Which (to me anyway), shifts them from unfunny into funny somehow. Or maybe it's just that they were so expensive (for my budget) that I'm looking for some reason to believe they're more sophisticated than they really are (or than I really am).

October 27, 2007

Mister Rogers Plays Video Games

Mister Rogers learns to play Donkey Kong. Really. "So he's a carpenter. That's why he'd be using a hammer, isn't it?"

[via metafilter]

October 12, 2007

Dylan's Competition for "Worst Interview Subject"

NPR's website hosts the video of their recent Sigur Ros interview, which even the hosts describe as "possibly the worst interview in the history of electronic media." And they have the video to prove it. (NPR claims they still love Sigur Ros, but advise you to "never invite them on your radio show.")

[via metafilter]

October 11, 2007

Magnetic Migration Music

Found/made audio objects: Magnetic Migration Music collects fragments of found audio tape from city streets in London and other locations, short impromptu interviews, and other audio ephemera. Sort of difficult to describe (even after having read the website and listened to sample assemblages), but interesting.

Have you noticed that there are fragments of audiotape flapping in the wind?

Strands can be found all over the world, in gutters, snagged on trees, wherever tape players have ventured it seems they have chewed, snarled and spat too.

These fragments create a shifting inaudible soundscape. Some of the strands have travelled far, they are worn and battered but can be re-spooled, and listened to.

[via things magazine]

October 06, 2007

Day Off

Trout Pond

Pond near Paul Smiths, NY.

August 31, 2007

Language Skills at Wikipedia

Learn Spanish at Wikipedia. (Don't try out the sample conversation on your Spanish teacher. Or customs agents at the border security checkpoint.)

August 19, 2007

Tango Lesson

Tango Lesson

August 16, 2007

Sub-Memory Check


Michael Roulier's Sub-Memory Check randomizes video clips and audio. Creepy, in a peaceful sort of way.

This film situates itself between sub-urbanity and sub-terranity, leading us from the gray dust of decomposition towards air and ozone.

(At Roulier's main site, after you click through the Flash intro, link to this piece is at the bottom left.)

[via LensCulture Web Log]

July 30, 2007

Found Objects: Square America


Square America is a found photography site compiled by one person. One weird (in a good sort of way) person. This is one of those sites that you can lose an hour or two in, without having accomplished anything particularly productive. And I mean that in a good sort of way. (Above is from SA's "Pleasures and Terrors of Youth" collection.)

Square America is a site dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage snapshots from the first 3/4s of the 20th Century. Not only do these photographs contain a wealth of primary source information on how life was lived they also constitute a shadow history of photography, one too often ignored by museums and art galleries. Or at least that's what I tell people- more accurately, the site is a catalog of my obsession with vintage photographs. For the last eight years or so I've spent countless hours digging through boxes of old snapshots at flea markets (mostly here in Chicago and in NYC) and too much money buying photos on eBay. The site is my attempt to create some kind of organizational framework, however idiosyncratic, for the sprawling mess my collecting has created. More importantly, now that the site is up I can tell people that I'm a curator rather than a collector.

Other collections include "The Book of Sleep," "Defaced," "The Road," and many more.

[via things magazine]

July 20, 2007


I drove down past the swamp to the end of our driveway this morning, and three kids were standing on the shoulder across from the end of the drive, looking at me as light rain fell on them. A girl, about twelve, and two smaller boys, maybe seven or eight. They were dressed in long, dark coats, and the girl wore a civil war-style cap. She held a sturdy, ten-foot stick like a staff, bark still on it. Near the top was lashed a shorter stick, to make a crude cross.

I stopped for a moment, while they looked at me. They turned and walked up the road to the right. I turned to the left and drove into town.

I have no idea what this might mean, but it creeped me out.

July 19, 2007

Mamadou Diabate Ensemble

Mamadou Diabate Ensemble  3

July 15, 2007



July 09, 2007

?, etc.

Neatorama's The Origin of Everyday Punctuation Marks. Short but useful trivia. Here's the entry on !

Origin: Like the question mark, the exclamation point was invented by stacking letters. The mark comes from the Latin word io, meaning "exclamation of joy." Written vertically, with the i above the o, it forms the exclamation point we use today.

Includes that "Artist Previously Known As" thing, which is now deprecated, since Prince went back to being Prince. (Someone needs to name that punctuation mark—I say we call it the Princemark, just to be recursive.)


July 06, 2007

(Massive) Multitasking in WoW

Kotaku has a brief article (and some interesting pics) about a couple who both play multiple Worlds of Warcraft characters simultaneously. Which isn't that uncommon, but the couple play a total of 46 characters at the same time. Gameslah (half of the boxing team) has a post on Dual-Boxing's forum with additional info.

I went through alot of hardware along the way. At first it was X-Keys and KVMs, then I went with Cherry programmable keyboards and KVMs. I never felt the urge to go monitor crazy -- like many boxers I focused my attention on a single screen, had another monitor locked onto another character, and finally the 3rd monitor cycled through the KVM.

If you count the number of PCs, you'll get 47. My girlfriend controls 23 and I control 23. The other one is a server. All but 2 of those pcs are diskless. It got to the point that updating 46 pcs just took too long, the hard drives added to the electric bill and generated heat, so I found a good PXE solution that works great.

[via Kotaku]

June 29, 2007

Video Setup

A Geek Moment

I spent an hour troubleshooting the shotgun mic > audio adapter > camera interface in order to track down a missing AA battery. (Click the image to go to the Flickr page with tech specs.) Perhaps I should have opted for the PXL-2000 rig.

June 18, 2007

Ted Nelson: 70

Mark Bernstein notes that Ted Nelson recently turned 70. Nelson was the visionary who gave us the word "hypertext" and was a major player in the 1960s-70s community that worked out some of the fundamental concepts and techniques that lead to the World Wide Web. (As Nelson and others have pointed out, the Web is cool and all, but it's a pretty weak version, both philosophically and functionally, of some of the early ideas.)

Bernstein's post has links to one of Nelson's recent lectures, including a podcast version.

[via Mark Bernstein]

June 16, 2007

Things I Don't Want to See on a Web Page That's Loading


June 14, 2007

Red Truck

Red Truck

(Yeah, I know it's a cliche: rusted old vehicle, weeds, wide angle. I still like it.)

June 08, 2007

OS X + Windows + Linux


I justify spending an hour on this today since the setup makes it more convenient to test web pages in different browsers on different operating systems: Parallels 3.0 running Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux within OS X. Windows XP is also good for downloading endless Windows updates and Ubuntu is good for making me afraid to install any updates whatsoever. (Probably not actually an issue for Ubuntu, but when I ran Red Hat linux several years ago, every fifth or six package install or update would give me a kernel panic that ended up with me wiping the hard drive and reinstalling.)

Parallels 3.0 is here ($79.99 or free, two-week trial); Ubuntu is here; you need to scavenge your own copy of Windows. Installing Win is covered in the Parallels documentation; Ubuntu installation to Parallels is covered, more or less, in a tutorial by Simplehelp here (Ubuntu install kept hanging, but after four or five tries it suddenly worked. No idea why. Which more or less summarizes my level of linux expertise.)

May 31, 2007

Wild Kingdom

Last night at around 1 am, some sort of bird orchestra set up in our yard. Underdog says they sound like Barred Owls [0.5 MB mp3].

May 07, 2007

Mental Health Day


Not getting much done in the way of work today. Technically, I'm "testing" new camera equipment for a documentary/research project. Which translates to, "Going outside and taking pictures of things."

May 03, 2007

Thoughtcrime: The Other Shoe Drops

A Houston-area student at Clements High School was arrested and later banned from attending graduation after creating a map for a videogame (apparently a "level" for a game like Quake, which is basically just a 3D architectural view of a building) based on his high school's layout:

The map the boy designed mimicked Clements High School. And, sources said, it was uploaded either to the boy’s home computer or to a computer server where he and his friends could access and play on it. Two parents apparently learned from their children about the existence of the game, and complained to FBISD administrators, who investigated.

“They arrested him,” Chen said of FBISD police, “and also went to the house to search.” The Lin family consented to the search, and a hammer was found in the boy’s room, which he used to fix his bed, because it wasn’t in good shape, Chen said. He indicated police seized the hammer as a potential weapon.


Speakers at the FBISD Board’s April 23 meeting alluded to the Clements senior’s punishment, and drew a connection to the April 16 shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in which a Korean student shot and killed 32 people.

[via Slashdot]

May 02, 2007

Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much

From a spam message I received today, advertising a product to increase a portion of my anatomy:

See WWW # [SITENAME] # NET. Replace # with .

This is like a rattlesnake trying to avoid being bitten by other rattlesnakes. (I had to remove the original sitename because I started getting hit by bots searching for that URL. Which, to run the metaphor into the ground, is like picking up a two-headed rattlesnake to show it to someone and getting bit. Twice.

April 22, 2007

On Words

Obscure but, if you're word person, fascinating trivia:A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia. Here's a tiny clip:


In the same poll, other American writers, poets, and critics responded with these selections: HOME (Lowell Thomas), CHATTANOOGA (Irvin S. Cobb), MELODY (Charles Swain Thomas), NOBILITY (Stephen D. Wise), VERMILION (Lew Sarett), GRACIOUS (Bess Streeter Aldrich), PAVEMENT (Arnold Bennett), LOVELY (George Balch Nevin), HARBORS OF MEMORY (William McFee), and NEVERMORE (Elias Lieberman). Louis Untermeyer responded, "The most musical words seem to be those containing the letter 'l'. I think, offhand, of such words as VIOLET, LAKE, LAUGHTER, WILLOW, LOVELY, and other such limpid and liquid syllables" [Charles Turner].

According to James Joyce, CUSPIDOR is the most beautiful word in English [Dickson].

In A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (page 86), Annie Dillard writes: "My friend Rosanne Coggeshall, the poet, says that 'sycamore' is the most intrinsically beautiful word in English" [Sarah Gossett].

A survey conducted in 2004 by the British Council which asked more than 40,000 people around the world to rank the most beautiful words among a list of 70 words found MOTHER first, followed by PASSION, SMILE, LOVE, and ETERNITY [Charles Turner].

The ten worst-sounding words in English, according to a poll by the National Association of Teachers of Speech in August, 1946: CACOPHONY, CRUNCH, FLATULENT, GRIPE, JAZZ, PHLEGMATIC, PLUMP, PLUTOCRAT, SAP, and TREACHERY.


April 20, 2007

zombieattack: Twitter Finally Gets Interesting

There's something odd about continually alerting everyone to your mundane activities ("reading journal articles," "rebooting computer," "listening to the pixies") via Twitter (those examples were all my own, btw, but typical). But zombieattack, apparently collecting living humans, friended me today, so I checked out their posts. It's a short story written in brief bursts. Posted in semi-realtime, it's actually pretty creepy to watch unfold.

The combination of the hang over and my healing arm is almost unbearable. I hope we can stay here for a while. 03:34 PM April 16, 2007

They couple says we can stay here for as long as we like, and we intend to, it feels so good to have people caring for us again 10:28 PM April 16, 2007

My arm has kept me up so i went outside to look at the sky, it is full of stars, is this a sign that things are going to get better? 03:38 AM April 17, 2007

After Lunch Matt and I decide to go get some food and supplies for both the couple and us. It is such a beautiful day. 03:18 PM April 17, 2007

We both wake up earlier today, we check around the house, its all clean, no signs of the infected or anything, things are getting better. 12:00 PM April 17, 2007

We buy a special surprise for the couple, just as a thank you doing all they have done for us. Time to get back before it gets to dark. 09:22 PM April 17, 2007

We're back at the house. We're about to go sleep. There is a noise coming from the couples' room. It's probably nothing. 02:34 AM April 18, 2007

April 19, 2007

Spring in the North Country (Almost)

leaf + snow

April 16, 2007

Plastic Dreams of Airports

Plastic Dreams of Airports

You write where and when you can. (Part of an unfinished novel.)

April 15, 2007

Norm Chomsky: Mediated


From a local newspaper (now I can quit my day job....): A picture of my band practicing, from a story about a local music co-op.

April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

Dammit. [NYT obit, LA Times obit, Reuters obit.]

Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.

Kurt Vonnegut, Interview,

[via, and a bunch of other wehlogs]

Pencils Made from Human Remains


Note to Underdog: I used to think that when I died, I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes dumped into the water supply for New York City, but I've changed my mind: It appears that I can have the carbon from my ashes made into pencils.

[via things magazine]

April 06, 2007


I usually try to maintain a relatively apolitical stance in my classes and on my weblog, but this was too good to pass up: YouTube video from CNN of Dick Cheney lurking in the bushes during a White House press conferences, dubbed with YouTube's "Creep". Such a simple juxtaposition.


April 05, 2007

DeLillo's 9/11 Novel at The New Yorker


The New Yorker has a lengthy excerpt from Don DeLillo's upcoming novel, The Falling Man, which features the attacks on the twin towers on 9/11 as a central figure. [ pre-order link]

Every time she saw a videotape of the planes she moved a finger toward the power button on the remote. Then sh kept on watching. The second plane coming out of that ice-blue sky, this was the footage that entered the body that seemed to run beneath her skin, the fleeting sprint that carried lives and histories, theirs and hers, everyone’s, int some other distance, out beyond the towers The skies she retained in memory were dramas of cloud and sea storm, or the electric sheen before summer thunder in the city, always belonging to the energies of sheer weather, of what was out there, air masses, water vapor, westerlies. This was different, a clear sky that carried human terror in those streaking aircraft, first one, then the other, the force of men’s intent. Every helpless desperation set against the sky, voices crying to God, and how awful to imagine this, God’s name on the tongues of killers and victims both, first one plane and then the other, the one that was nearly cartoon human, with flashing eyes and teeth, the second plane, the south tower.

He watched with her one time only. She knew she’d never felt so close to someone, watching the planes cross the sky. Standing by the wall, he reached toward the chair and took her hand. She bit her lip and watched. They would all be dead, passengers and crew, and thousands in the towers dead, and she felt it in her body, a deep pause, and thought, There he is, unbelievably, in one of those towers, and now his hand was on hers, in pale light, as though to console her for his dying. He said, “It still looks like an accident, the first one. Even from this distance, way outside the thing, how many days later, I’m standing here thinking it’s an accident.”

“Because it has to be.”

“It has to be,” he said.

“The way the camera sort of shows surprise.”

“But only the first one.”

“Only the first,” she said.

“The second plane, by the time the second plane appears,” he said, “we’re all a little older and wiser."

The image above is more than a little troubling, I realize, but it's also crucial to understanding the state of our world today. And if anyone, DeLillo can map out his postmodern terrain.


March 29, 2007

Spring in the North Country

The arrival of Spring in the North Country means short-sleeve weather (it's 42 F outside!), buckled asphalt roads from the freeze/thaw cycles, and expansion of the swamplands on our property.

swamp 2

March 27, 2007

Stripgenerator: DIY Comics

Collin vs. Blog laments the tragedy of a Saturday afternoon presentation slot at a recent conference—when composition teachers gather for conferences, Saturday afternoon is when everyone heads out to see the big city, making attendance at presentations in that time slot tend toward sparseness. (I have to admit, I didn't even check the conference program to see who was presenting that late in the week—apologies, because it sounds like it would have been worth attending.) But he mentions stripgenerator, a website that lets you compose simple comics using your own images or their supplied clip art and dialogue balloons—it's pretty cool. Just add wit, something I only have meager reserves of at this point in the semester.


March 11, 2007

Breaking Genre: Best Obit Ever

There need to be more obituaries like this one, from the Plattsburgh Press-Republican. Here's a small chunk (there's much more at the link above):

Seiden, Isabelle V.
PLATTSBURGH — Watch out heaven, a new angel is in town. Let's Party! Isabelle Seiden (Izzy) passed away quietly during the early morning hours on March 8, 2007, after raising hell for 82 years.

She was born on July 1, 1924, in Montreal, Quebec, to Stanislaus and Hazel Tremblay. She graduated from business college and worked for Singer Sewing Machine Company in Montreal as head of payroll until she married John W. Seiden in 1953. She became a U.S. citizen in 1957, after settling in Plattsburgh. The remainder of her working career was spent tending bar in most of Plattsburgh's hotspots. She was a very strong personality and being bilingual, she could handle herself in any situation. [...]

Izzy had a lifelong passion for the Montreal Canadian hockey team; as a matter of fact, as a young woman she wouldn't even date anyone unless they had season tickets. She loved knitting and making socks and hats for her family and for many years she knitted hats and mittens for hundreds of children in the community. She enjoyed many hours in her back yard and on her back porch feeding her squirrels and birds. Izzy loved her pull tabs but lady luck was not always on her side. As her memory began to fade, we frequently had to go find her because it was common to find that she had driven her car to Geoffrey's Pub or Mickey's to have a vodka with her friends (without plates, license, registration or insurance and unbelievably, she never got caught!) [...]

Chers amis: Telle est la vie. Telle est sa fin. Ce n, est qu un au revoir!

[via underdog]

March 06, 2007


Nihilism is best done by professionals.

- Iggy Pop

[via underdog]

March 03, 2007

The Principles of Economics, Translated

The Standup Economist riffs on Mankiw's 10 Principles of Economics. This is several orders of magnitude funnier than it sounds. (Youram Bauman's Standup Economist website is here.)


March 02, 2007

Infinite Loop

From Overheard in the Office:

Until You Whack the Sides of Their Heads, Engineers May Loop Indefinitely

Engineer #1: The error is not repeatable.
Engineer #2: Not repeatable?
Engineer #1: Not repeatable.

[via underdog]

The visual rhetoric of endangered species

Slate examines the lack of public support for one endangered animal, the aye-aye (a not exactly warm and fuzzy creature).

[via Treehugger]

February 27, 2007

If Sartre worked for Peugot Motors

I was intrigued by the title of this Ask Metafilter post, How do I know where my car ends and the rest of the world begins?"

Turns out it was just a question from someone who apparently tired of dinging up their car due to their poor depth perception.

[via Lifehacker]

February 21, 2007

Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong

Slightly late (10m or so) for Mardi Gras, but here's a clip of Billie Holiday singing "Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)", accompanied by Louis Armstrong and His Band (from the movie New Orleans (1947)).

February 17, 2007

Jean-Paul Sartre, 911 Operator

From McSweeneys, Jean-Paul Sartre if he worked as a 911 operator:

OPERATOR: 911. What is your urgence?

CALLER: Hello? What? Hello?

OPERATOR: Que voulez-vous? What do you want?

CALLER: I think there's an intruder in my house. Will you send the police? Please. Please hurry.

OPERATOR: Putain! I have said before, Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have. Hmm, I wonder how I feel about things he once had but now doesn't, or won't—I am referring to this intruder, bien sûr. Man is anguish. Doors open. Structures like poverty have the literal agency of the component, individual human being, but this class structure is a destine and we can speak cogently of social forces which bring to bear causality and turn us into esclaves—you know ... slaves. This is a truism. A must for humanité. Or at least for frère breaking and entering, non?

CALLER: I swear to God, man. You've gotta do something. Are you speaking French or something? Are you even listening to me, man? I think this guy may be coming up the stairs. Oh, God, I'm scared. Please send somebody.

OPERATOR: Appropriating by destruction. Such horror. But, as they say in greeting cards, À coeur vaillant rien d'impossible. What a load! But I don't mean to upset you, you know that, eh?

February 16, 2007

%CUSTOM_3 for %CUSTOM_4 per month!

From my In box today. (The [hidden] fields are my own obfuscation, but the %variables were in the original.)

From: [hidden]
Subject: You are approved!  Thu, 15 Feb 2007 21:39:04 -0800
Date: February 16, 2007 12:39:04 AM EST
To: johndan@[hidden]
You can receive %CUSTOM_3 for %CUSTOM_4 per month.
Please respond %MTG_TODAY. [url hidden]

Frankly, I'm a little insulted when people spamming me don't enough technical chops to handle their own spamming software. This is obvious usability consulting opportunity for someone out there.

February 15, 2007

Barry White, Performed by Gollum & Smeagol (YouTube)

A pretty bizarre (but extremely well done) remix.

[via Boing Boing]

February 13, 2007

After the Shock of the New

Ask Metafilter answers the question, what things become better with age and use?

[via things magazine]

February 08, 2007

The Good Citizen's Alphabet


Design Observer has posted a slideshow of the pages from Bertrand Russell's The Good Citizen's Alphabet.

[via Design Observer: Main Posts]

February 06, 2007

Golfing with Joyce and Beckett

Golfing with James Joyce and Samuel Becket (a short film).


February 03, 2007



Apparently, I have an alternate (and much taller) life in the NBA. Cool.

[via 我的回忆。。。]

Pretending Reality

To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.

— Jacques Derrida

[via underdog]

January 30, 2007

Love is a Mix Tape

Keith Harris reviews Rob Sheffield's mixtape-chronicled ode to his departed wife, Love is a Mix Tape. I haven't read Sheffield's book yet, but Harris' review makes it sound deeply interesting:

On his blog, New Yorker pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones has wondered when someone will title a review of Love Is a Mix Tape "The Year of Musical Thinking." And true, as with Joan Didion's compressed tour of Stygian dementia, Sheffield analyzes how death alters your consciousness, though with much deeper insight into the mystery of Missy Elliott's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)." And death lurks throughout Sheffield's '90s, as indicated by his brilliant reading of Nirvana's Unplugged—"Contrary to what people said at the time, [Kurt Cobain] didn't sound dead, or about to die, or anything like that. As far as I could tell, his voice was not just alive, but raging to stay that way." (Just as pertinent is an aside that Renee thought "Heart-Shaped Box" ripped off Blondie's "Call Me." It did. Never thought of that.)

(Oddly, I heard "Heart-Shapted Box" on the radio this afternoon on the way back from Burlington.)


January 28, 2007

Good Design

Usability guru Don Norman's weblog has a page dedicated to examples of good product design. I don't always agree with Norman's work on design, but I usually do. And his picks are no exception. Teapots, staplers, alarm clocks, coffee cups, and more.

[via Beyond the Beyond]

January 21, 2007

Designer is the New DJ

Grooveeffect looks at smallscale, web- and computer-enabled DIY clothing design and street culture and suggests that "the designer is the new DJ":

‘Street culture’ is the latest trend bubbling up from the underground, but you don’t need me to tell you that. This site is a testament to that, as are the dozens of other sites, blogs, and forums that spread news on the scene. The art, the fashion, the accessories – it’s everywhere. Fixie bikes are blowing up. Luxury streetwear is blowing up. Sneaker culture is blowing up. Graffiti culture is blowing up. Skating is blowing up (again).

The argument makes sense, particularly in areas of design that rely heavily on remixing (of which street culture is one). Adam Koford's "Have a Nice Che" t-shirt, featuring the icon smile face on the just-as-iconic Che image, for example, utilize standard images, a little computer image combination, and one of many websites that offer production and distribution facilities for micro-run items.


I'm not one of those who believes strongly in that whole "The Internet Democratizes Everything Completely" story. Having access to a printing press doesn't make you an author—there are still numerous forces that strongly determine what is popular, and access to publishing isn't a panacea. Big media, for example, still has a strong hand in structuring popularity (even for DJs). Access to the web opens the fashion industry to anyone—but you have to supply your own design smarts. Still, this does open up new possibilities for many people.

[via The Mediaburn Radio Weblog]

January 13, 2007

Gen Next: Social Gaming and Ethics

Clickable Culture points to a new Pew Research report on "Generation Next [PDF]" ("Generation Next" is apparently 18-25). The report's pretty wide ranging: 1. Outlook and World View, 2. Technology and Lifestyle, 3. Politics and Policy, and 4. Values and Social Issues. Most of the news I've read on this focuses on tech issues, such as this:

69% of Gen Nexters say new technologies make it easier to make new friends, compared to 53% of Gen Xers.
86% of Gen Nexters are at least occasional internet users, compared to 91% of Gen Xers, 73% of Baby Boomers, and 46% of Seniors.
51% of Gen Nexters say they sent or received an instant message in the past 24 hours, compared to 22% of Gen Xers.
54% of Gen Nexters have used a major social networking site such as MySpace, 38% say they use it once a day, 38% say they use it once a week. 44% have created a social site profile.
49% of Gen Nexters say they play console-based videogames, compared to 35% of Gen Xers, 13% of Baby Boomers, and 3% of Seniors.
36% of Gen Nexters say they've played videogames in the past 7 days (of that 36%, 51% were males).

But I noticed this fairly troubling chart:


So, Generation Next is much more interested in making friends online, way likely to communicate online, and plays videogrames. And is majorly profit-driven, fame-driven, and less likely to help people out, be a leader in their community, or feel spiritual. Damn, the luddites were right

[via Raph Koster's Website]

January 12, 2007

FedEx Bans Shipping Containers of Air

A graphic artist attempts to ship (among other things) some empty packaging samples to a potential client. Many of which contain air. Homeland Security paranoid hilarity ensues:

The FedEx guy then grabs cans of nitrogen (N2) and neon (Ne), with their store-advertised "purity" of 78.084% and 0.0018% respectively (which was our way of being clever about selling cans of normal air, since that's their percentage in the atmosphere—which, of course, was our way of making more money for 826 Seattle by selling products that cost almost nothing to produce). Here's what the atmospheric gas cans look like on the shelf:


FedEx guy: Nope. You can't ship these either.

Me: But... they're empty! It's just air. And... nitrogen? It's, like, almost 80% of the atmosphere. There's nothing dangerous about nitrogen, even if it were pure. FedEx guy: They look too much like bomb-making materials.

Me [going into dumbfounded mode]: Bomb... Neon? What? Is there anything here I can legally ship? How about this bottle of tap water?

I hand him a bottle of Certainty (tagline, "For when it's preferable to think you know more")[...]

FedEx guy: Nope. It still looks too suspicious, too much like bomb-making materials.

Me: But it's "Certainty." That's not even a thing. I just made that up. [That's not strictly true. It's a scientific term/idea, and we sell it alongside bottles of "Uncertainty." But it's like having a bottle labeled "Friendship."] FedEx guy: It's just too suspicious.

(826 Seattle, namechecked above, is part of David Eggers' nonprofit community writing center network, which everyone needs to support, 826 National.)

[via Boing Boing]

January 04, 2007

Archive: Skatepunk


To commemorate their 25th anniversary, the long-running skatepunk magazine Thrasher is posting their first 12 issues (staring in December 1981) online.

Interesting reading whether you're a real skateboarder, a poser, or just watched one of the versions of Lords of Dogtown.

One of my earliest near-death experiences, from around 1975: Holding on the seatpost of my friend's Schwinn 10-speed while I crouched on skateboard just to the left of his rear wheel, as he pedaled up to 30 mph downhill on Walnut St. He pulled off to the right halfway down the hill and I went straight. At some vague point just before the bottom of the hill, I hit a piece of gravel and the board (now far behind me) stopped abruptly. I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me, my nose about eight inches off the ground, for fifteen feet before I went down and ground asphalt through the shirt on my back for an additional ten feet. I ended up on my back bleeding, laughing, and crying about five feet short of rush hour traffic on Michigan Ave. Halfpipes? Who needs halfpipes when you have sheer clumsiness and stupidity for excitement?

[via Boing Boing]

January 03, 2007

Forgoing User Testing on the OLPC

A Yahoo News article about the One Laptop Per Child project seems to suggest that the interface for the $100 (ok, $150) computer (a) is a completely new, very powerful interface design unlike existing models such as Mac, Windows, or Linux UIs, and (b) was designed without input from users such as children.

Wayan Vota, who launched the blog to monitor the project's development because he is skeptical it can achieve its aims, called Sugar "amazing — a beautiful redesign."

"It doesn't feel like Linux. It doesn't feel like Windows. It doesn't feel like Apple," said Vota, who is director of Geekcorps, an organization that facilitates technology volunteers in developing countries. He emphasized that his opinions were his own and not on behalf of Geekcorps.

"I'm just impressed they built a new (user interface) that is different and hopefully better than anything we have today," he said. But he added: "Granted, I'm not a child. I don't know if it's going to be intuitive to children."

Indeed, the XO machines are still being tweaked, and Sugar isn't expected to be tested by any kids until February. By July or so, several million are expected to reach Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, Thailand and the Palestinian territory. Negroponte said three more African countries might sign on in the next two weeks. The Inter-American Development Bank is trying to get the laptops to multiple Central American countries.

This is going to be interesting. I think usability testing, especially observational usability testing in a little booth, has a lot of flaws, but it's frequently useful if taken with a grain of salt and used at the right points in the development process. It certainly needs to be augmented with a wide range of other user inquiry. But no input from the users? For such a high-profile project? Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

[via SIGIA-L]

Flash Game Developer/Player Site


Kongregate, a community site for publishing/playing/critiquing Flash games, is online. It's in alpha, but seems to be pretty stable; you can sign up here. The site includes a chat feature (located to the right of the gameplay window) for discussion/feedback. The games I've looked at so far are relatively straightforward, but interesting. And the social networking features of the site are promising.

[via Raph's Website]

January 02, 2007

Post-Apocalyptic Elmo

Video of a Tickle Me Elmo On Fire [Google Video, NSFImpressionableChildren]. (Note to parents: Don't give small children both animatronic toys and lighter fluid for Christmas next year.)


December 27, 2006

Not You

Well, maybe some of you. The first minute or so of this Amanda Congdon report illustrates why the "you" of Time's "Person of the Year" is a relatively small subset.

December 25, 2006

Water & Ice

liquid solid

More in the Saint Regis Falls set at Flickr.

Now The Hardest Working Man in the Afterlife


Although I was under the impression he was invincible, James Brown died today [NYT link]. Bummer.

[image from ABC/AU].

December 21, 2006

The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Things

Mike Rhohde's four-year-old son rearticulates Google Earth. You should read the full (short) post at his website, but here's my favorite line:

'Weeeyeeoo weeeyeeoo weeeyeeoo weeeyeeoo weeeyeeoo!'

[via Rohdesign Weblog]