December 31, 2004


Mappr [sic] pulls images from Flickr (using Flickr's publically available API), makes guesses about the geographical location the image was shot in (using text from user-written tags at Flickr and some guesswork), then places the photos on a zooomable/clickable map.

[via xBlog]

Posted by johndan at 04:41 PM | TrackBack

Shelley Reviews John A's Albums of the Year

Shelley, a character in the web comic strip Scary Go Round, reviews the top twenty albums as selected by the strip's creator, John Allison. (As the site warns, "Shelley is not a musicologist." Maybe not, but she's a hoot.) Here's Shelley's writeup of Number 11 (my favorite album of the year), Wilco's A Ghost is Born

Wilco is a band for people who think they are intellectuals about music, the Wilco man is always unhappy so his songs start very quietly in order that people don't wake up with a start. It is all for nothing because halfway through someone will play a guitar solo with a chairleg.

Which is exactly why I like it.

[via Metafilter]

Posted by johndan at 04:00 PM | TrackBack

December 30, 2004

PayPal & Tsunami Relief

I was going to send some funds from my PayPal account into a Tsunami Relief Effort, but I discovered that none of the major charities or sites providing links to charities--including PayPal--accepted PayPal payments. Maybe I'm in a negligible minority here, but this seems like a no-brainer. (I would normally just use my debit card, but I lost it last week; it's cancelled now, but I haven't received a replacement yet.)

I've googled numerous sites that claim to accept PayPal funds for the tsunami disaster relief, but none are organizations I know much about.

So now I'm just stuck wishing for sunshine and occasional fresh rainwater.

Update [12.31.04}: Someone mentioned that accepts PayPal donations to forward to AmeriCares. I don't know anything about the site, but it looks legit (there's a long discussion of the site on Fark, and links from several other websites as well as a link to coverage by local newsmedia). Digging around, I found a link to Architecture for Humanity, which is raising funds (and donated labor and materials) for reconstruction efforts; they also accept PayPal.

Update 2 [12.31.04]: PayPal apparently accepts donations via their "Donate" button the main page. I'm not sure if this is new, or if I just missed in during my first go-round. More likely the latter (in which case I'm the "no-brainer" I alluded to above...).

Posted by johndan at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

Alternative Film Guide

CinemaMinima links to The Alternative Film Guide, a useful resource for anyone who wants to view beyond the mainstream. Somewhat dense screen layout, but worth digging through.

[via Cinema Minima]

Posted by johndan at 10:23 PM | TrackBack

Free Mackie Tracktion Download Ends 12/31

Created Digital Music posts a reminder about the upcoming deadline (12/31) for those of you who want a free copy of Mackie's Tracktion, an OS X and Windows application for audio recording and MIDI sequencing. Here's a quick description from Mackie's website:

Tracktion is a radical new type of music production software -- giving you a clean, intuitive, and clutter-free interface without losing professional features like drag-and-drop editing, a built-in sampler, VST plug-in and virtual instrument support, track freezing and more... all right at your fingertips. Tracktion's project archiving features make organizing your projects and collaborating with others simple and fast (especially over the Internet). Put simply, Tracktion gives you all of the tools you need in a way that lets you focus on being a musician. Plus, Tracktion now includes Mackie's renowned Final Mix Mastering Tool Kit, making it even easier to get that polished CD-ready sound.

The free version available now is apparently full featured and not time-limited; after 12/31, trial versions are crippleware.


Posted by johndan at 04:37 PM | TrackBack

Under Sunset

the sunset...

This pic, by Flickr user Esthr, is featured in the Flickr Blog. Eerie.

[via FlickrBlog]

Posted by johndan at 04:19 PM | TrackBack

Deleuze & Guattari

Clay Spinuzzi provides a very useful recount of his attempts to read Deleuze and Guattari's One Thousand Plateaux, an extremely important and nearly impenetrable work on post-lacanian psychotherapy, literature, war, politics, botany, and pretty much everything. It's heavy slogging (D&G's book, not Clay's observations), but in the long run, really worth the pain (if you're interested in heavy duty postmodern theory) (and who ain't?).

[via The Eyes of Texas are Upon You]

Posted by johndan at 04:04 PM | TrackBack

Apple & Tsunami Relief Effort


Apple has converted the main page for their website to a list of resources for donating to the tsunami relief effort (removing all product advertising, with the exception of two recall notices at the bottom of the page). Of course, it's not completely altruistic (a motivation I'm not sure I really accept anyway--even Mother Theresa says she's interested primarily in religious conversion): they have a large Apple logo on the main page, which will build their whuffie. Still, a nice move.

[via Posted by johndan at 03:24 PM | TrackBack

Life Interrupted

The Seattle Times posts an article bemoaning cognitive overload in the information age. Mostly, it reveals that many people still haven't figured out how to work effectively within such contexts, and that they're applying industrial age practices and standards in ways that don't necessarily make sense. I mean, there's some truth to the matter--most of us do get more information than we want, and often struggle to cope with it.

Levy understands the ambitiousness of his plans to insert balance into the American imperative of productivity. The author of an evocative book, "Scrolling Forward," in which he examines how documents and information have morphed in the digital age, Levy meditates daily and, as a practicing Jew with a rabbi for a wife, honors the Sabbath, keeping unplugged one day a week. Yet he is also an "e-mail junkie" and will rush back to his inbox, thinking he might find great news or something that needs urgent attention — even though what often waits is SPAM.

So while the article spends a lot of time casting cognitive overload in unremittingly negative light, I agree with the notion of balance: We don't need to be connected 24/7. And I purposely spend time offline, backwoods camping (so I'm not tempted to bring my laptop or cellphone), meditating, or reading print. But the article fails to ask whether or not information overload is ever productive, or if different people cope with masses of information differently. I've watched and talked to enough people (as part of my research) to know that there are lots of people who thrive on information overload, at least some of the time. It's not a black and white issue, and portraying it that way prevents us from seeing richer possibilities.

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 03:03 PM | TrackBack

Really Speed Up Firefox?

A warning from Mozilla on the "Speed Up Firefox" tips posted in Datacloud earlier. Apparently some of the tweaks may prevent Flash pages from loading in certain cases, and while the tweaks may get some screen content loaded more quickly, it may also slow down full page loads.

Still, it seems in general that Firefox is working more quickly than it was previously. And I haven't had problems loading Flash-content pages ... yet. But given that I was working unscientificially--I made a bunch of different tweaks at the same time, including cleaning caches, I can't be sure what the improved speed is due to.

[via boing boing]

Posted by johndan at 09:31 AM | TrackBack

December 29, 2004

Geek Nostalgia

Infoworld reports that the Commodore (the brand, anyway) has been sold. I had thought the brand's mindshare was pretty much dead, but Yeahronimo, Inc. thinks otherwise: they paid more than $US 32 million for the rights to the name.

Maybe they're banking on nostalgia. The fact that this story is news at all--to numerous websites--says something about how strongly people feel about developing technologies they used in their youth. (My first computer, in 1983, was a C64. Completely useless to me in the three years I owned it, but I spent a lot of time programming sprites to dart around the screen, thinking one day I'd build the next Defender.)

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 11:10 PM | TrackBack

sIFR for Anti-Aliased Browser Text

Metafilter reports (and discusses) Mike Davidson's sIFR, a public-domain Flash component that lets web designers anti-alias browser text in any font.

There are some drawbacks to sIFR: it doesn't work on clickable text links and normal copy/paste functionality doesn't work. But it's still an interesting option if you can work around that (in, for example, headings and other display text situations).

Update: CheekyGeek noted (in an obnoxious comment that I deleted) that follow-up discussion at the mefi link above indicates that the earlier discussion about flaws with sIFR aren't accurate. (Note to CheekyGeek: I'm just posting links as they come in; this isn't a newspaper.)


Posted by johndan at 04:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Creative Commons For Science

Slashdot discusses Creative Commons For Science. Here's an intro from the Science Commons website:

The mission of Science Commons is to encourage scientific innovation by making it easier for scientists, universities, and industries to use literature, data, and other scientific intellectual property and to share their knowledge with others. Science Commons works within current copyright and patent law to promote legal and technical mechanisms that remove barriers to sharing.

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 11:50 AM | TrackBack

December 28, 2004

Rage Against the Machines

(Hey, that's their title, not mine.) Technology Review posts an article on Kent Norman,a U of Maryland cognitive psychologist who studies people who destroy their own computers (usually in rage). As one subject explains,

"I was on deadline, it was 3 in the morning, the job was due to my client at 9AM and I was freaking out about how I'd ever get it finished in time," says Manhattan graphic designer Jim Heedles "Of course my laptop picked that moment to start acting up. I just snapped.

"I started slapping it around, and the next thing I knew it was on the floor and I was yelling and kicking and stomping on it. I cracked the case, but the innards survived, thankfully. I felt a lot better afterwards, and I even made my deadline."

C'mon. You know you've come close. Norman also has a website with instructions for destroying your computer (including pictures and video) for those who'd like to properly, say, make barbecued [computer] mouse burgers. Sort of the information age equivalent of smashing your guitar.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 09:03 PM | TrackBack

"Zealot of Seriousness" Susan Sontag Dies

The NYT reports that Susan Sontag died today at age 71.


Posted by johndan at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

Looking Back at Videogames

EMG posts another installment of Child's Play, in which kids comment on old video games.

EGM: Now imagine you've reached the 10th stage [of Galaga], and you're on your last life. Once you die and you put another quarter in, you don't just continue from there--you start all over.

Parker: Are you serious?

EGM: Yep. When you lose all your lives, you have to start over. You don't keep going.

Parker: And you guys back then were OK with this?

[via Foe Romeo]

Posted by johndan at 09:35 AM | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

The Nine Souls of Wilde Cunningham

Cool article at New World Notes on nine severely disabled people in a care center who play the character Wilde Cunningham in the online game Second Life. Individually, the residents didn't have the ability to interface with the game effectively, but coordinated their abilities in order to participate online as a collaboratively constructed player, with the help of a lilone (a caregiver at the center who runs the keyboard, entering decisions made by the group).

"Micah and Charlene could use the mouse," lilone replies, when I ask her if it's possible for each member of wilde to enter Second Life directly, perhaps with their own individual accounts. "John and Nichole could, but wouldn't alone. Micah can't read. Charlene has one hand, but can read." She shrugs. "None of them, really."

Their solution, for now at least, is lilone effectively acting as their interface: she sits at the keyboard, with the wilde group gathered in a semi-circle in a cramped care center room, peering over her shoulder and into the monitor, at the world inside.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 11:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Speed up Firefox

Free Republic discusses a couple of quick configuration changes that can help speed up Firefox, the Open Source Internet Explorer/Safari alternative. The tips are suggested for broadband users only, since the modify how many simultaneous requests the browser makes on opening pages and other configuration issues that assume a high-speed connection. I didn't do any empirical testing before applying the config changes, but the browser seems faster. Could be just wishful thinking.

Note: If you're using a Mac one-button mouse or trackpad, substitute [ctrl+click] for "right click" in the instructions.

[via Daypop Top 40]

Posted by johndan at 03:21 PM | TrackBack

December 26, 2004


Written By, the online magazine of the Writers Guild of America, West, provides famously unproduced tv and film scripts, including Charlie Kaufman's "Depressed Roomies" [pdf link] and Lem Dobbs' "Edward Ford."


Posted by johndan at 01:10 PM | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

Pulp Christmas

Pulp Christmas [3.8 MB .mov]

Posted by johndan at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

December 24, 2004

Academic Qualifications

This morning, Underdog picked an empty diet pepsi bottle up off the floor and put it back into the jumbled mound of returnables that's waiting to be taken back to the store. She looked at me and said, "You know, these really need to be put in some sort of container so we're not tripping over them all the time." I looked up and offered, "Good idea."

She gave me The Look.

Unable to respond with a Look of my own (I think it's a gendered ability), I said, "I think at least one of those bottles in there is a diet coke bottle that you left on the counter last week."

Underdog looked down at the scattered empties, then back at me. I said, "I don't need actual evidence; I just need to create a credible possibility of evidence." I smelled victory when she rolled her eyes and opened the door. "I have a degree in rhetoric!" I gloated.

She paused, stepped back into the room, and kicked the bottles all over the front hall. "My degree in bitch beats your degree in rhetoric," she explained, then went back outside.

(Our daughter thought this was so funny she didn't complain when I made her pick up all the bottles and put them in a bag.)

Posted by johndan at 01:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

"Electric Christmas Acid Test"

The Morning News provides a glimpse of Christmas in Hell Christmas in a neighborhood where people have entirely too much electricity and artificial spirit (accompanied by an even more frightening frightening photo gallery).

Posted by johndan at 08:43 PM | TrackBack

Party Mix, Vol. 9

Posted by johndan at 07:59 PM | TrackBack

December 22, 2004

Switch 2 Letters: Satan!

The "Scared By Santa" gallery offers children reacting predictably to that scary stranger in the red suit.


[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 10:22 PM | TrackBack

MT Upgrade

The editing interface for Datacloud went haywire last night, but it appears to be functioning again. In the middle of this (as an attempt to fix it), I've upgraded to MT 3.14. When I post this, I guess I'll find out whether or not the upgrade reset or broke anything major....

Posted by johndan at 09:36 PM | TrackBack

December 21, 2004

Stability of Optical Media

The Library of Congress and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have published the results of a long-term study on the stability of optical media (CDs and DVDs) exposed to various levels of light, humidity, and high temperatures [105k PDF link] in the September/October NIST Journal of Research.

Preliminary results show a lot of variation in long-term stability of DVDs and CDs, primarily due to differences in quality of types of dye used in manufacturing media. But as the authors point out, although they were able to identify specific types of dye that appear to be more stable, they can't recommend specific products (and it's difficult to find out what specific dye composition is used in any specific product).

[via Macintouch]

Posted by johndan at 12:15 AM | TrackBack

December 20, 2004

The Anthropology of Gadgets

Not exactly groundbreaking news to those of you who have long known about the importance of anthropological/ethnographical work in technology design and use research, but New Scientist posted "Anthropologists to Beat Gadget Rage" to their website. Namechecks Malinowski and Suchman. Some new (to me) info on Richard Harper's work at Vodaphone.

[via ACM TechNews]

Posted by johndan at 04:31 PM | TrackBack

Thurber, Hemingway, and St. Nicholas

The New Yorker's web archive has the text of James Thurber's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas (In the Ernest Hemingway Manner)," from a 1927 issue.

What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”


Posted by johndan at 03:12 PM | TrackBack

Subverting Objects of Violence

Subverting Objects of Violence, an art installation "that focuses solely on objects that either subverts a violent one by playing with its perceived function or vice versa." A sculpted ceramic grenade (in an attractive gift box), a looping strand of decorative barbed wire, a post-apocalyptic Hello Kitty 'bot, and more.

(Hello Kitty always struck me as fundamentally creepy, though, so the rearticulation of it in a bombed-out virtual cityscape makes it symbolically safer.)

As Gizomodo commented, the only flaw with the site is that it includes only a small number of images of the objects, with very short commentary.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 02:51 PM | TrackBack

December 19, 2004


Eigenradio samples multiple radio stations, extracts key frequencies, overlays the samples, then plays them back. Cool. Includes a downloadable holiday album as well as live streams.

(The name of the radio station comes from the mathematical concepts of eigenvectors and eigenvalues. The definition of an eigenvalue is based on the concept of an eigenvector, which is a vector that is changed in length but not direction during matrix transformations. The eigenvalue, then, is the amount that the vector is changed. In other words (letters), Ax = cx for a square matrix A, non-zero scalar x, and eigenvalue c.I knew that undergraduate minor in math would eventually come in handy. (Of course, I still needed to get some help from google. And even then, I'm not guaranteeing my definition.) But you don't need to understand any of this to enjoy the music.)

[via philoblog]

Posted by johndan at 02:14 PM | TrackBack

Realtime Traffic on Yahoo!

A poster at Slashdot reports that Yahoo! Maps will soon be offering realtime traffic conditions on their maps. I'm of mixed emotions about this.

Let me end with a 90-degree tangent by saying that I hate the fact that writing anything about Yahoo! requires me, through its devious use of punctuation, to act as if I'm I'm really excited to be talking about Yahoo!

I have nothing against Yahoo! personally, but I'm this close to automatically replacing the "!" with "(you suck)" every time I write it, just to subvert their little plot. Maybe I can start a meme: Yahoo(you suck).

It's got legs, I think; it's probably even a trademark infringement or something. (Note to self: Check on whether or not Fair Use-type provisions exist for trademarks.)

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 12:29 AM | TrackBack

December 18, 2004


The Webcomics Examiner Advisory Board selects the Best Webcomics of 2004. I've never heard of the organization, but they have a keen eye for stunning artwork.

[via daypop top 40]

Posted by johndan at 10:10 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2004

Falling Fast

I use WeatherMenu to keep an updated temperature in my menubar so that I can figure out how much wood the fire is going to need before morning.


Looks like this weekend is the annual shift from "a little wood" into "more wood." In late January or early February, we move into "I wish we'd put more wood up this year."

Posted by johndan at 11:46 PM | TrackBack

Christmas Letters to Christopher Walken

Brandon Bird, an artist in residence at Cornell's arts dorm provides some Christmas Letters to Christopher Walken. Here's a sample letter, written by Noah from NY:



Posted by johndan at 02:32 PM | TrackBack

Camels and Duckies

Software developer Joel Spolsky provides a long, useful, and funny answer to the question, "How much do I charge for the software I developed?"

The answer is really complicated. I'm going to start with a little economic theory, then I'm going to tear the theory to bits, and when I'm finished, you'll know a lot more about pricing and you still won't know how much to charge for your software, but that's just the nature of pricing. If you can't be bothered to read this, just charge $0.05 for your software, unless it does bug tracking, in which case charge $30,000,000 for it.

Spolksy then proceeds to provide a basic economic framework for pricing software (which will also translate to similar products), then interrogates that framework to note contradictions and holes.

[via daypop]

Posted by johndan at 01:36 PM | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

Turning an Argument Against Itself

Aaron Swartz remixes Tufte's anti-PowerPoint Screed as a PowerPoint-style set of headings and bulleted lists. Very effective. (There are some interesting comments on Swartz's post over at Thinking About Computing, which is where I snagged this.)

I mean, yeah, there are some awful PowerPoint presentations. But that are lots of awful books, too, and no one's talking about rejecting literacy.

[via Thinking About Computing]

Posted by johndan at 09:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004


Office Olympics.

The site I found this at didn't have anything to add beyond the site title; I tried to come up with something witty, but realized that I couldn't come up with anything funnier than the site itself.


Posted by johndan at 11:19 PM | TrackBack

Logic Gates

Low-tek Geekiness: Logic Gates made of Legos.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 11:16 PM | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

Now Listening

Update: Adriaan caught my trackback and helped me correct a few mistakes in the post below, so I'm making some notes here rather than editing the post directly. (a) It's spelled "Adriaan" (actually, I made this change direct); (b) the new version of Ecto (v. 2) is already available--I'm checking it out right now, and I'll provide an update here once I've had a chance to use it. (Adriaan was kind enough to supply me with an additional trial license to Ecto since I forgot to give it a good test during the initial trial period after I downloaded it a month or so ago.)

As you may or may not have noticed, the right-hand sidebar says I've been listening to Grandmaster Melle Mell and The Furious Five (with Mr. Ness and Cowboy's) "Beat Street" for, like, a week solid. Not true.

I'm actually listening, right now, to Kasey Chamber's "Guilty As Sin"--she's sort of a cross between Lucinda Williams, Patsy Cline, and Irisi Dement (I've heard other people make this comparison as well). Oddly, she's Australian. Or maybe that's not so odd. Audio and video clips available at her website.

Kung-Tunes, btw, has been orphaned. Adriaan Tijsseling, the programmer, has moved onto bigger projects, like weblog tool Ecto (I currently use a competitor, MarsEdit, but I'll take another look at Ecto when the new version is released--Andriaan's summary of new features looks interesting). I wish he had more time to devote to K-T, but the move is understandable. But at least he's released the code for other people to develop.

Posted by johndan at 10:57 PM | TrackBack

Virtual Worlds/Material Currencies

Here's an interesting example of the crossover between "real" worlds and virtual. MMORPG Project Entropia (which is a multiplayer online games whose economy is actually based on realworld funds--it's not Monopoly money) just held an auction for a virtual treasure island that netted $26,500. Here's the description of the island from the auction page:

A large island off a newly discovered continent surrounded by deep creature infested waters. The island boasts beautiful beaches ripe for developing beachfront property, an old volcano with rumors of fierce creatures within, the outback is overrun with mutants, and an area with a high concentration of robotic miners guarded by heavily armed assault robots indicates interesting mining opportunities.

The most extraordinary feature is a gigantic abandoned castle overlooking the island.

It is suspected that the island is the infamous “Site A”, where the original colonist arrival took place. The various findings in forms of old equipment suggest this even more. A broken down teleporter and some space ship docks have been discovered as well. Site A was, according to Imperial records, abandoned after the continent was deemed too wild and dangerous for the first phase of planetary colonization.

What's really funny about this is the fact the money is one of the least concrete, material things in our culture. Money, like language, operates as a consensually shared hallucination (to use Gibson's ubiquitous definition of cyberspace)--there's no concrete connection between a material object and its economic value. That's why cultural theorists defining postmodernism draw so heavily on economic theory--the breakdown of language and the breakdown of traditional capitalism are essentially the same thing. But it's interesting the number of posts following up at Slashdot ridicule the person who bought this virtual island for so much ("real") money; but there's no real reason, from a postmodern/capitalist standpoint, why a virtual island should be worth more than, say, a Picasso sketch or a diamond ring.

Even things that seem like they have "inherent" worth are, due to their circulation in the economic system, relatively arbitrarily valued. This doesn't mean, btw, that this relativity means there's no connection between object and value, only that it's dramatically contingent. As Stuart Hall put it, "no necessary meaning" doesn't mean "necessarily no meaning".

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 08:02 PM | TrackBack

Justin King Video

I don't keep up with emerging acoustic guitarists, but I found a link to this QuickTime clip [7.1 MB] of Justin King (note: the second link really bogged down my browser; the first link is fine, aside from loading a 7.1 MB video, but you've been warned).

Apparently, he practices more than I do.

[via digg]

Posted by johndan at 01:27 PM | TrackBack

Dog as Realworld Test Situation

This, compiled at Metafilter, looks handy for those of you with pets who think "Chewing Up Your New Shoes" = "See How Much I Want You To Be At Home 24/7?": Lab-Tested.

Just which toys, bowls, crates, etc. can stand up to the tender attentions of a young and determined Labrador Retreiver?' A Consumer Reports-like website for testing stuff to see how it will stand up to a big dog. My favorite item. What a neat way to write your dog off as a business expense!"


Posted by johndan at 01:26 AM | TrackBack

Google Suggest: The Literature Game

There's been a lot of buzz about Google Suggest lately: the beta site offers a drop-down menu under the search-entry field that offers per-keystroke updated suggestions about your search as you type. But here's a variation: start typing a literary quotation and see how many letters you have to enter before you start getting productive-looking hits.

I got as far as "all her fav" before finding Camper Van Beethoven's "All Her Favorite Fruit" (maybe not literature to you, but it is to me), to "my god" before I hit links to sites on Kubrik's "2001: A Space Odyssey," and to "till hu" before I hit the quote from Eliot's "Prufrock"--although the top hits on that one were to an Australian movie that quotes the poem as its title.

It's sort of a Web-populist view of culture, I assume: the more highly ranked Google sites with portions of quote will rank more highly. If nothing else, the type-ahead technology makes it easier to look up quotes. (And if you're like me--and I know you wish you weren't--I frequently am reminded of a fraction of a quote somewhere and I head to Google to track it down. Underdog thinks this behavior is extremely funny, in a pathetic, obsessive-compulsive sort of way.)

Posted by johndan at 01:16 AM | TrackBack

December 13, 2004

Clinical Neurologists

Mil Millington, author of "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About" among other things, is now looking for a clinical neurologists to offer advice about a new book he's working on:

As you know, I finished Book 3 a while ago. It's not out until autumn next year, but the ceaseless, cruelly abrasive nature of novel writing is such that I'm already having to start work on Book 4. Now, naturally, being Mailing Listers, you all effortlessly attain a base level of intelligence and handsomeness that pops you straight into the 98th percentile of humans presently living on the Earth. What utterly delights seven to nine of my toes, however, is the fact that experience has shown me that on the Mailing List there is sure to be at least one specialist in anything I could possibly name. If I ever need to speak to, say, a paleoclimatologist, or a ship mechanic, then there will certainly be one among your number. Whatever I might, for some reason, need to explore - the details of farming practices in New Zealand, what one sees looking down a particular street in Hawaii, how it feels to be the only sixteen-year-old girl in Louisiana to have read a book, etc. - I know that, were I to ask, then the unfaltering pool of eliteness that is the Mailing List would be able to answer my questions. Well, for Book 4, it turns out I'd like to ask a few rather specific things about neurology (as Book 4 partly involves that much-overlooked area, 'the comedy of serious head injury'). So, are there any clinical neurologists out there who'd be so kissable as to drop me a line if they're prepared to submit to a little interrogation? If you're game, please give me a shout at: Multiple thanks.

If that sort of dark humor is your thing (I know it's mine), check the short list of things that he and his girlfriend have argued about. Here's a few:

Posted by johndan at 10:03 PM | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

1980s TV Commercial Archive

An archive of 1980s TV commercials.

Your chance to revisit the California Raisins.

[via Cinema Minima]

Posted by johndan at 12:39 PM | TrackBack

Space Odyssey

A website with scanned images and HTML reproductions from the original printed program for Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Posted by johndan at 11:50 AM | TrackBack

December 11, 2004


There's a jar on our porch (which I think Underdog left out there after she used it in the house to capture and release a spider), and I keep taking pictures of it in different light and with different cameras. (I'm of the "If I keep buying more technology, I'll get better" school. All hail capitalism.)

This one is during late afternoon, with a Holga camera and Illford HP5+ film. The shot would be completely devoid of interest but for the halo, which I only saw after the film was developed; the viewfinder on a Holga is more or less useless, given that it's not through the lens and is apparently composed of pieces of broken soda bottles near the Holga factory in China.

I just developed several rolls of film from the Holga, but I'll avoid posting all of them at Datacloud (as I did in my excitement over my first two rolls last month) to spare those of you who aren't interested in my fumbling photographic skills. But if you're amused, check my pages at Flickr.

Posted by johndan at 08:15 PM | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

Wet Snow

Wet snow falling here all evening, after a day of freezing rain.

More like this at Flickr.

Posted by johndan at 11:25 PM | TrackBack


From NPR's Morning Edition, a bizarre small-plane landing [realstream at that link]:

A small plane lost power in Texas, so to survive, the pilot aimed for a highway. He managed to land on the roof of a moving tractor-trailer. The plane fell off the side of the truck, but the passengers were unhurt. The truck driver says he never heard or felt a thing. Police later found skid marks on his roof.

[via NPR's Morning Edition]

Posted by johndan at 11:19 PM | TrackBack

Party Mix, Vol. 8

"Steeple Of Knives," Robert Pollard, Waved Out
"Livin In A Zoo (remix)," Public Enemy, Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age
Mr. Soul," Neil Young, Live 9.22.1992
"La La Love You," The Pixies, Doolittle
"God Save The Queen," Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks
"Jabberstroker," Guided By Voices, Sunfish Holy Breakfast
"Whiskey Ships," Robert Pollard, Waved Out
"Black Wings," Tom Waits, VH1 Storytellers
"Want More," Bob Marley & The Wailers, Rastaman Vibration
"What Else Is New," Tom Waits, Tales From the Underground Vol 3
"Moonshine Whiskey," Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey
"Folly," Camper Van Beethoven, Cigarettes & Carrot Juice - The Santa Cruz Years, Vol. 3
"Shot in the Arm," Wilco, Live in Germany (7.9.99)
"Woman Driving, Man Sleeping," The Eels, Souljacker
"Washing Machine," Sonic Youth, Washing Machine
"St. Catjean," Cracker, Live at the Filmore
Posted by johndan at 07:58 PM | TrackBack

Web Zen

Chaos Kitty's collection of eclectic links this week focuses on literary zen.
Posted by johndan at 11:36 AM | TrackBack

December 09, 2004

Web Design Trends of the Future

Forty Media offers up their predictions of web design trends for 2005. Brown, they say, is the new, new blue (red was apparently 2004's "new blue," but red is going to become the old new blue).

My own prediction? The resurgence of the <blink> tag.

[via daypop top 40]

Posted by johndan at 10:59 PM | TrackBack

Online Etymology Dictionary

An online etymology dictionary. Here's one entry:

1631, from Fr. computer, from L. computare "to count, sum up," from com- "with" + putare "to reckon," orig. "to prune." Computer used for person, 1646; mechanical calculating machine, 1897; and electronic machine, 1946 or 1941. In the modern meaning, "programmable digital electronic computer" is from 1945 (theoretical sense is from 1937, as Turing machine). ENIAC (1946) is usually considered the first. Computerese first recorded 1960.


Posted by johndan at 07:15 PM | TrackBack

The History of Online Comics

An eight-part history of online comcics. From Lascaux forward. Lots of cool links, too.


Posted by johndan at 05:16 PM | TrackBack

Django Reinhardt

An NPR story on jazz guitar god Django Reinhardt [realstream availalable at link]

[via NPR's Talk of the Nation]

Posted by johndan at 05:15 PM | TrackBack

Foul Pitches

Apparently real inquiry letters received by, well, apparently someone in Hollywood who is in a position to receive really bad script summaries from people looking for contracts. Includes gems such as,

Deerly Beloved: Comedy. When a deer crashes her wedding, a jappy New York advertising executive must go into the Connecticut woods and retrieve her wedding ring (which is around its antler). With her womanizing sports agent fiancé in traction and 48 hours until deer hunting season begins, she turns to a local bumbling policeman for help.

[via Cinema Minima]

Posted by johndan at 05:14 PM | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

What It Looks Like Inside My Head

I looked at myself. Thirty-five years old. What was I? A journalist? Well, I used to have the gift for a story, that's what I was told, but these days, what was a story anyway? Who could know? A series of broken gestures lost on the way from here to there, and all the meanings set adrift, dreaming. Adrift and dreaming, and yet.

- Jeff Noon, Falling Out of Cars
[amazon UK link (not available at amazon in the us); powell's link]

Posted by johndan at 10:52 PM | TrackBack

Eastgate's Birthday

Mark Bernstein announced that Eastgate Turns 22 on December 9.

I've been using Eastgate's products for nearly my whole adult life--starting with hypertext-authoring environment Storyspace in the late 1980s, continuing through numerous literary hypertexts including Michael Joyce's "Afternoon, A Story", to my current obsession with Tinderbox. (In an email to Mark today, I guessed that I've referenced Eastgate products on nearly half of my professional publications since 1987 or so.)

You can send them a birthday card at this email address:

[via Mark Bernstein]

Posted by johndan at 10:20 PM | TrackBack

IP Lawsuit Insanity

Gizmodo reports on the latest, nonsensical IP industry lawsuit: the maker of a very high-end DVD jukebox company, who had bought licenses from everyone that might sue them over their product, is being sued by one of the companies that actually issued them a license:

Kaleidescape makes a DVD jukebox that copies movies bit-for-bit to an array of hard drives. This isn't a cheap bit of hardware—we're talking like $27k for a low-end version that stores 160 movies. In fact, a large portion of the cost is actually the licenses that Kaleidescape has to pay to various copyright cartels to legally provide the service. So these aren't devices that are purchased by basement-dwelling nerd pirates who are trying to beat the system. These are for people who loves movies who happen to be flush with cash, built by a Canadian company that has gone out of its way to work around our arcane and barbed copyright legislation. And then they get sued.

The people who buy these things aren't looking to pirate DVDs. Even if that was their goal, there are enough apps out there that would let them pirate DVDs for way less money, even if you add in the cost of hardware dedicated to mass-producing DVDs for sale. These are people with too much money who don't want to have to get up to put in new DVDs.

As Gizmodo puts it,

Gah, my head asplode.

[via Gizmodo]

Posted by johndan at 10:02 PM | TrackBack

Juvenile Humor: The Remix

I found this Samuel L. Jackson-related site a year or two back--basically, it's a page full of buttons you can click on to hear various SLJ lines from movies (heavily leaning toward Pulp Fiction). Looking for something else today, I found myself back at the site and realized that it's part of a much larger project: a bunch of similar pages for different actors.

But here's the interesting part: there are also extended versions of some pages that offer much larger selections of audio files from the actors, with the quotes categorized roughly by parts of speech. And the site's owners apparently use these archives to make prank phone calls. Funnier still is that people respond to the remixed live calls as if they're talking to a real person. Well, at least to a real person that they really hate, which might explain their responses: illogical situations call out for illogical responses.

Posted by johndan at 09:34 PM | TrackBack

Top 10 Words of the Year

CNN reprinted Merriam-Webster's Top 10 Words of the Year. Yeah, I know I'm a little late commenting on this. I've seen lots of weblogs that commented on the fact that "blog" shows up in the number one spot, but (the other) Michael Moore pointed out to me that entry ten is a little bizarre: "defenestration" (the act of throwing someone out a window).
Posted by johndan at 08:56 PM | TrackBack

Fahreneheit 9/11

Continuing a long, relatively uninterrupted string of posts having little to do with technology and culture, Fahrenheit 9/11 has been nominated for a People's Choice award. You can vote here. (I would apologize for the political post, but I assume if you read Datacloud even sporadically, your politics align somewhat with mine. And if yours don't, you can go to the site and vote for a different film.)
Posted by johndan at 06:59 PM | TrackBack

One K

This is Datacloud entry number 1,000.
Posted by johndan at 03:57 PM | TrackBack

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

John Lennon was killed twenty years ago today.
Posted by johndan at 03:36 PM | TrackBack


You are my "pronoun problem."

- Underdog

Posted by johndan at 01:17 AM | TrackBack

December 07, 2004

Email and Literacy

This c|net article on "illiteracy" in the workplace namechecks all the usual suspects: SMS and IM, lack of punctuation, overabundance of punctuation, email. But the article, as usual, oversimplifies the issue. That's not to say that there aren't huge groups of working professionals with extremely poor communication skills. But I'd hardly lay this problem at the feet of things like IM or SMS; it's a lot more complicated than that.

Or maybe more basic: nearly all of the examples quoted in the article are effective communication in some other context (like an informal IM to a friend). And while the article agrees that those examples reflect the fact that many people apparently transfer SMS and IM skills over to things like professional email or memo writing, it fails to question why these people are falling back on inappropriate contexts and rhetorical skills in the first place. A recruitment director quoted in the story, for example, comments ironically on the fact that the examples come from "highly educated" people--no one asks the big question: Didn't these people write things besides IM and SMS while they were in school? Of course they did. Was attention paid to that writing (and the problems with it) before the person was granted a degree? Apparently not.

[via Slashdot]

Posted by johndan at 09:45 PM | TrackBack


jperkinson posted this pic at Flickr.

[via Flickr Blog]

Posted by johndan at 12:07 AM | TrackBack

December 06, 2004


There's been a lot of discussion in both web and digital media about Wikipedia perhaps having some quality control issues. There's clearly some weight to these accusations: the Wikipedia entry on "prosumer" references Datacloud.
Posted by johndan at 11:31 PM | TrackBack

Flickr Interview

Engaget interviews Caterina Fake of Flickr. She points to some interesting Flickr groups, including Squared Circle, whose members post pictures containing (as you may have guessed) circles inside of squares. The slideshow is cool.
Posted by johndan at 06:53 PM | TrackBack

Visualizing "Giant Steps"

Tommy Flanagan provides a visual explanation of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" [Flash].

[via metafilter]

Posted by johndan at 04:21 PM | TrackBack

Artists and Musicians on the Net

Slashdot reports on the results of a Pew Internet and American Life survey of musicians and artists on their use of the Internet, with special attention to filesharing's effects (or lack thereof) and other issues of commerce. The /. article includes links to PDF files with results of the survey and an NYT article summarizing the results. As the NYT article says [free reg. yadda yadda yadda],
Without questioning the convictions of artists who feel strongly one way or another, however, the Pew survey appears to show that the creative set is both mindful of the benefits the Internet promises and ambivalent about the abuses it facilitates. "The overall picture," said Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Project, "is that the musician-artistic community has a much wider range of views and experiences than folks who watch the Washington debate about copyright might imagine."
[via /.]
Posted by johndan at 04:11 PM | TrackBack

December 05, 2004

The Holy Grail of Spam


Hormel Corp. will be releasing special edition, Holy Grail labeled cans of Spam to commemorate the opening of Monty Python's Spamalot in NYC and Chicago later this winter. The first 100 ticket purchasers will receive free cans.
Posted by johndan at 12:31 PM | TrackBack


this week [Real stream available at the webbsite] covers Melville's Moby Dick: Laurie Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Led Zeppelin, Rockwell Kent, etc. (Much more interesting than I thought it would be.... Until now, Melville to me was mostly Moby's great-great Grandfather.)

The MP3 Experiment

Charlie Todd's MP3 Experiment: a live performance of mp3s, listened to via headphones. Inspired by The Flaming Lips' 1996-97 Parking Lot Experiments and 1999 Headphone Concerts. Apparently somewhat interactive.

The lights go down, a video projection cues the audience to press play on their mp3 players simultaneously, and the show begins. The mp3 track is an intricate mix of music and instructions from an unknown voice.


Posted by johndan at 01:10 AM | TrackBack

a jar

a jar

Posted by johndan at 01:08 AM | TrackBack

Condensed Cartoon History of Iceland

The Condensed Cartoon History of Iceland. Pretty much what it says.


Posted by johndan at 01:07 AM | TrackBack

December 04, 2004

The End of Web Design

StrangeBanana: Automated web page design. Some of them look pretty goofy, but I have to say that most are better than about 90% of the personal pages I see on the Web. It appears to be a level above templates: the designs are based on algorithms rather than static layouts, so at least there's a little randomness built in. [via the ID Discuss list]
Posted by johndan at 09:52 PM | TrackBack

Cen'Art Chill-Out

After posting earlier today a link from, I was wandering around in the audio section and found this Cen'Art compilation, which I'm listening to right now:
Cen'Art is a compilation of downtempo, ambient, chill-out tracks created especially for the restaurant/lounge/art gallery of the same name, located in Barcelona, Spain. In addition to having rooms full of comfortable lighting and poofy cushions for sitting, Cen'Art (the place, not the album) also hosts DJ performances, live music, kitchen art, and other activities. Check it out if you're in the area!
Great late-night (or otherwise) music, if you're into that "down-tempo, ambient, chill-out tracks" sort of thing. Right now, Ender's "On the Ocean Train" is playing, an oddly relaxing mix of hollow, compressed, and echoing percussion; plucked, struck, and bowed cello; piano; and assorted other instruments.
Posted by johndan at 01:09 AM | TrackBack

December 03, 2004

Night Work


Posted by johndan at 11:14 PM | TrackBack

Up, Up, and Away

cluster balloon flight

Kids, don't try this at home!

[via /.]
Posted by johndan at 10:51 PM | TrackBack

AV Geek

The always interesting Internet Archive has a collection of AV Geeks films, curated by Skip Elsheimer.


Posted by johndan at 05:42 PM | TrackBack

December 02, 2004

The Blog That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Xeni Jardin at BoinBoing follows up on the MSN Spaces report I cited earlier with the results of a very twisted experiment on the automated filter that MSN Spaces uses to prevent users' blogs from having obscene titles [link NSFW if (a) your co-workers read over your shoulder, and (b) they have no sense of humor].

[via Dan Gillmor's ejournal]

Posted by johndan at 10:45 PM | TrackBack

Datacloud Referrer Log

Referrer logs tell you how people ended up at your site, listing, for example, the Google search terms that lead them to you.

I skim through the Datacloud referrer log occasionally to find out how people are ending up here. (And I'm sure many visitors ask themselves the same question.) Sometimes, the search strings tell fragments of sad little stories, like this one, from someone who ended up at Datacloud based on a Google search:

what are the warning signs in macintosh if machine is broken
Posted by johndan at 04:42 PM | TrackBack

MSN Spaces (Soylent Green is People!)

Boing-boing assembles a set of opinions on Microsoft's new weblogging product, MSN Spaces. Here's one striking bit, noted by asciident (and forwarded to Bb by Paul Pellerito): The bottom of every page includes the fact that the user's weblog page is copyrighted by Microsoft. That claim is backed up in the MSN Spaces Terms of Use:

For materials you post or otherwise provide to Microsoft related to the MSN Web Sites (a 'Submission'), you grant Microsoft permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSN Web Sites, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Microsoft will not pay you for your Submission.
Pellerito adds, "Makes me wanna yell STOP! Soylent green is people!"

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 03:58 PM | TrackBack

Moleskine at Octolan

Extremely cool (paper) journal entries at Octolan from Beleg, who uses his Moleskine journal for sketches and notes, then uploads scans of selected pages.

I bought a Moleskine journal last spring when I went offline for a month and have been using them since. I have to say, the journals are a little addictive. I raved about them then (twice, actually) and I'll reiterate that praise after nearly a year of using them. They're small (I use the 5x7 model, but a 3x5 pocket size is also available) extremely well designed (including features like stitched bindings so that they lay flat, a ribbon for holding your page, another elastic band for holding the journal shut when it's not in use, and a small accordion pocket inside the back cover for holding small slips of paper, guitar picks, etc.). You can buy them in the US from MoleskineUS; Eastgate is now carrying them as well. (Yes, that Eastgate--the influential hypertext software/publisher; Mark apparently has a fine eye for writing technologies of all types. I should put a plug in here for their Tinderbox application--the most powerful and fluid note-taking/arranging/visual thinking app on my hard drive.)

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 03:09 PM | TrackBack

Ten Most Persistent Design Bugs

Interface guru (and Mac interface pioneer) Tog on the Ten Most Persistent Design Bugs. Includes issues like grayed-out menu items that don't tell users why the items aren't selectable

I can't count the number of times people have asked me why they're not able to select an item in a menu--the graying of the text is great solution to the problem of distinguishing items that can be selected from those that can't, but solving that specific problem is only part of the larger issue. Users frequently need to know why an interface is pushing them in a certain direction, and how they could change it.

Tog proposes making the grayed items clickable so that they'd reveal an explanation of what's going on and why. This way, the grayed text would still indicate that the item is disabled, but also provide a link to more info. Simple, elegant, and informative at multiple levels. Interfaces are full of too many design hacks that work by solving isolated, rather than contextualized, problems. (For more on this, you can see several older pieces in the "Decontextualization in Technical Communication" section of my Read page.)

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

Posted by johndan at 02:29 PM | TrackBack

Lexis-Nexis Per-Article Service

News archive 800-pound gorilla Lexis-Nexis is now offering a la carte service. Searching is free; charges apply to individual articles downloaded.

Charges range from $3 to $10, depending on the database being searched. News, for example, is $3, while business research ranges from $3 to $10 depending on the article. (They've also, btw, trademarked the name "AlaCarte!(tm)")


Posted by johndan at 12:25 PM | TrackBack

Back in the Saddle

Looks like Datacloud is operational again. I'm not sure exactly what the error was; at some point yesterday, I backed up all the entries and configuration files, then re-installed MovableType and restored everything. Still no luck. So at some point late last night, I threw in the towel and emailed tech support, asking them if they could restore the relevant directories from a backup of a week or so ago; I figured I'd lose about a week's worth of entries, but I didn't have any more time to spend debuggng things. Then this morning at around 7, it became apparent that my semi-random tweaking in search of a fix was headed in the right direction: I started getting status updates tellng me that comment spam was rolling in.... I called tech support at 8 to have them cancel the restore. Apparently, I've developed a symbiotic relationship with comment spam.
Posted by johndan at 09:48 AM | TrackBack