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Natural Selection 2003

I just read Bruce Sterling's artice for MIT's Technology Review Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die. It's a fun little piece that attempts to draw a bullseye on some technologies which we should be striving to eliminate or replace.

I generally agree with the list, though I thought the argument presented regarding DVDs was a bit weak - newspapers are flimsy too, but very popular & satisfying to many people - and I would add Car Alarms.

I thought I'd check the discussion and see what other people had suggested. This was my first experience of discussion on MIT Technology Review's site and the signal-to-noise ratio was incredibly poor. Most posters appear to have completely missed the point that Bruce wasn't saying, in most cases, that it'd be great to wave a magic wand and have these things vanish instantly, but that they should be targeted for obsolescence. There is almost no intelligent discussion there at all. I wouldn't be so disheartened if people disagreed and explained why without resorting to personal attacks against the author. Don't people know that weakens your argument?

When I went to add a comment to that effect, I discovered something which may at least partially explain the low caliber of discourse: the site requires a name and email address to post and they put your email address in your comment where it can be trolled by spammers. Thanks, but no thanks, Technology Review. I'll wait until you come up with a better way of "verifying" the legitimacy of those adding comments.

Posted on September 30, 2003 at 01:37 PM in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dreamweaver MX question 2003

I'm having a minor problem with Dreamweaver MX. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, it is inserting an old break tag < br > instead of a nice clean properly-closed XHTML break tag < br />. If I create new documents, it's fine, but when editing existing ones, it won't default to XHTML (at least for that tag).

Does anyone know how to bend it to my will in this regard?

Posted on September 30, 2003 at 09:38 AM in tools | Permalink | Comments (4)

I can support this guy. 2003

I just listened to Governor Dean's Housecall from earlier tonight. It was the largest conference call ever with people dialed in from house parties around the country.

The questions covered a nice range of what makes Dean distinctive and is a good introduction to the issues and style of his campaign. If you're curious to hear what he's about, it's a good place to start. (The slightly gushing introduction from Melissa Etheridge is very brief, don't worry).

If you like what you hear, read more about his stance on the issues, consider donating to his campaign, and stop by the booth at the Castro Street Fair this Sunday and pick up a window sign.

And, no, I don't just like him because he's a fellow blogger.

Posted on September 29, 2003 at 10:41 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Appearing in my new role as The Queen of Swag 2003

I'll be at Fray Day 7 San Francisco

Posted on September 26, 2003 at 12:46 PM in creativity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Things Learned Between 6 and 9pm on a Thursday Night 2003

  • Derek is always an excellent host.
  • One of the behaviors of an excellent host is to immediately offer the guest a beverage.
  • I will, even on an empty stomach, when offered a beverage in a bar, fall back on a standby like "Bombay Gin & Tonic, please. Thank you."
  • My commute makes me thirsty.
  • The snacks at Cafe du Nord make a good substitute dinner.
  • A gin & tonic on an empty stomach impairs the judgement just enough to prompt one to order a pear cider with said substitute dinner instead of a non-alcoholic beverage.
  • My friends are delightful, intelligent company and damned good looking, even without the benefit of the afore-mentioned beverages.
  • Armistead Maupin will high-five sassy Korean girls he just met, provided they tell him about doing shots with their grandmothers.
  • Lance has great taste.
  • When Lance recommends a cocktail, you should take his advice.
  • A Grey Goose Vodka Martini is a work of art.
  • It's fun to descend upon Sweet Inspirations with a rampaging mob of cake fiends.
  • A Grey Goose Vodka Martini, even a small one, has a kick on it like a mule.
  • It's a damned good kick.
  • When I get tipsy and my inhibitions fade away a bit, I will be more impulsive, prone to laughter, and generally vivacious.
  • Apparently, while intoxicated, my normally-somewhat-suppressed desire to repeatedly hug my friends goodnight comes out in full force.
  • Hugging Derek & Heather goodnight 4 times in 3 blocks (as we figure out we're actually not diverging but continuing to walk the same direction) is an excellent way to round out an evening.
  • I have great friends.

Posted on September 26, 2003 at 12:38 PM in friends & family | Permalink | Comments (5)

Blurring lines 2003

Is Neal Stephenson an author, annotator, or web-based service developer? His new project, MetaWeb, a wiki for participatory learning, is definitely making the boundaries quite fuzzy.

The Metaweb is a collaborative structure for learning. In our first phase, we are annotating the ideas and historical period explored in Neal Stephenson’s novel Quicksilver, seeding the Metaweb with an initial base of information. We are currently working on 108 articles, and hope you will expand and relate these and many other entries…
[from Many2Many]

I clearly need to catch up on my Stephenson reading and start playing with this fun stuff.

***

On the topic of blurring lines, I also enjoy the trend of films including features by creative professionals revealing more about how & why they do what they do. The extended DVD of Fellowship of the Ring is still the most outstanding example of this I've come across, but I'm finding myself surprised by this kind of content appearing in places I don't expect it. For example, Eddie Izzard's stand-up comedy performance film Dress To Kill includes a commentary track by him. Just Eddie chatting a bit about this & that and some of it's just crap and some of it's interesting from a technical point of view and some of it is personal. It's going to be interesting to see how growing up with these kind of resources affect the next generation of performers.

***

Yes, I am all about the meta.

Posted on September 25, 2003 at 12:35 PM in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why are you hanging on to that junk? 2003

Happy Discardia!

I've written a new, longer piece, on Getting Rid of Stuff, which I'd love to hear your reactions to. I was holding off on posting it, not 100% happy with how it came out, and then I heard Lance's voice in my head:

Just write.

Posted on September 23, 2003 at 08:11 AM in holidays | Permalink | Comments (1)

Essential Work Equipment 2003

In conversation with Chris last night about the guy at his new job who listens to music on speakers rather than headphones we determined that Chris and I have very different attitudes towards music at work. While we agree that you shouldn't subject your co-workers to music without all their consent and endorsement of your choices, he would rather work in silence while I would rather be listening to my music of choice on my headphones.

In fact, after a few moments thought, I realized that I'd rather have music and no chair than vice versa. Truly. I'd use a standing workstation before I'd give up the sanctuary and motivation that my music provides me.

How about you? Do you use music at work? Do you share it with co-workers or each listen to your own? What about in other contexts?

Chris is loaning me his iPod and I must say it definitely made my commute this morning more pleasant. Lovely to listen to Oasis instead of that damned "Battle of the Sexes" morning radio show game (bloody sexist claptrap!) Hmm, and all this time with headphones on suggests the next questions: what kind of headphones do you like? I can't wear those stupid ear buds (designed, like most headphones, for larger heads/ears than mine), so I'm using some Sony MDR-G52 back-of-the-neck kind on the commute because they're small and what I had on hand, but what I really like are my Sony MDR-CD180's at work because they're nicely padded & block out a lot of external noise. Any recommendations?

Posted on September 18, 2003 at 09:28 AM in music | Permalink | Comments (5)

Where's the old site? 2003

Should you for some reason wish to access the old non-TypePad version of MetaGrrrl.com, it's still over there at Hurricane Electric and you can get to it at http://216.218.166.103/metagrrrl/

Posted on September 16, 2003 at 11:26 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Minor Glitch 2003

Yeah, yeah, no stylesheet. I'm beta testing the new domain mapping and I think something went wonky when I republished.

It'll be back to normal soon. For now, eat minimalism, suckers!

(On the bright side, it's pretty cool that to see the separation of content & structure from presentation. Love that XHTML!)

Posted on September 16, 2003 at 10:28 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (3)

Spooky 2003

My Launch station just played the Warren Zevon song "Play It All Night Long", but somehow the vocal track wasn't there. It's not a bad mp3 on their side; I've rated the song before.

Given that Mr. Zevon recently died, I found it rather spooky for a moment.

Unfortunately for believers in ghosts & such, the whole creepy effect was blown by the next song having the same issue. Cool transmission error, though.

Posted on September 15, 2003 at 11:04 AM in music | Permalink | Comments (1)

A General in the White House? 2003

Michael Moore is requesting General Wesley Clark run for president. Seems a trifle surprising on the face of it for him to endorse a general, but I don't think it's that out of line from his worldview and Clark does sound like an atypical military man.

But he's still a military man. I'd rather have a doctor, thanks all the same. Maybe Clark could be Dean's VP?

Posted on September 14, 2003 at 12:07 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hot 2003

Too hot to move around. Too hot to answer email. Too hot.

Posted on September 13, 2003 at 02:47 PM in warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Publisher Survey 2003

There are 17 books in my cube at work. One of them is a present for my friend Ed and it's been sitting here for a week waiting to be mailed. Sorry, Ed. I'll make it up to you by asking a nice question you'll enjoy:

Who publishes what you use?

Of these 16 work-related books in my cube,
5 are from New Riders
3 each are from Peachpit (all Visual Quickstart guides) and O'Reilly
2 from Prentice-Hall
1 each from IDG, Artech, and McGraw-Hill

I've met the authors of 7 of them. My friends happen to do things that make my job easier.

4 of these books I have hardly used since I started here over a year ago. None of those 4 were published by New Riders, O'Reilly or Peachpit.

Posted on September 10, 2003 at 03:17 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (3)

I am a sucker for snide programmer humor 2003

From a programming change log:

After careful review, I have determined that it works better if TRUE has a distinct value from FALSE

Posted on September 10, 2003 at 11:10 AM in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lower than low 2003

Now you've probably all received spam like this before, but I found this one exceptionally clear in their obvious cluelessness about the Web (and therefore either representing an excitingly stupid company or just another tedious address harvesting effort by copraphagic spammers):

From: Kim Summers[email protected]>
Date: Wed Sep 10, 2003 7:52:16 AM US/Pacific
To: webmaster@[domain name]
Subject: [domain name]

I am contacting you about cross linking. I am interested in [domain name] because it looks like it's relevant to a site that I am the link manager for. The site is about services for attaining high search engine rankings through website promotion and optimization.

I keep the web address confidential and will send it to you only if you give me permission to do so. Just let me know if it's OK, and I'll send you the web address for your review. If you approve of the site, then we'll exchange links.

Looking forward to your reply.

Sincerely,
Kim Summers
[email protected]
http://www.link-builder.com
Experts in Quality Link Building

P.S. If for any reason you don't want me to contact you again, just email me and let me know that.

Okay, so let me get this straight; you're trying to use linking to build traffic to sites, so you're going to randomly mail millions of people (my ass I'm the only one who got this!) and then "keep the web address confidential". Uh-huh.

Such a shame that Kim's email address will get scraped from the page by spambots, huh?

Posted on September 10, 2003 at 08:03 AM in The Web | Permalink | Comments (3)

Happy Birthday, Cutie! 2003

The best damn search engine ever

We love you.

(Now here's the scary part: clever little Google's five now. Just old enough to head off to school and really get goin'...)

Posted on September 9, 2003 at 09:49 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (2)

Don't be suckered 2003

Lots of you probably already know this, but for those who don't, please be careful when you get email from someone you're using for a web service like eBay or Amazon asking you to update your personal information.

They don't ask for that stuff via email.

Pay attention when you get a request like this.

Today's claims to be from eBay. It looks like a block of text saying that they weren't able to verify my current information. There's a URL to click on: http://scgi.ebay.com/saw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?VerifyInformation

Sounds like a legitimate eBay URL. Malicious jerks couldn't spoof a page on one of the big guy's domains like that, right?

Not quite. What they can do is show you what you expect to see and hope you don't notice it isn't what you think.

I clicked on the header information in my email window (the from, to, subject stuff) and holding down the mouse, selected the whole message. The "text" and the link included in it are not text. They're an image and that image is actually linked to this URL:

http://211.217.224.102:4901/stats/

That page has some easily stolen graphics from eBay and asks the visitor to provide information such as social security number, passwords, credit card numbers and ATM pin codes. (No one ever asks you for the last one, people; if you lose it even your bank resets it!)

Note that it is not at eBay.com; it's just showing an IP address: 211.217.224.102.

So who are these assholes hoping to sucker some idiots into giving away the farm? The lookup service I performed a Reverse DNS lookup at takes a little trip to some server in Korea and then says there is no domain name associated with that IP address.

That ain't eBay, gang.

Posted on September 9, 2003 at 08:19 AM in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (7)

day off 2003

"PTO" [noted on old calendar]

Posted on September 8, 2003 at 12:00 PM in mundania | Permalink | Comments (0)

Worth Your Time 2003

I just got back from seeing Party Monster. I thought I'd enjoy the fabulous costumes and pretty boys kissing and endure the connecting bits. I did get some of the former to please me - though many of the costumes were more outrageous than beautiful - and pretty much none of the latter, but it turned out to be the masterful portrayal of the two main characters which leaves me strongly considering seeing it again. I really enjoyed Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin's performances. Green has more range than I realized and Culkin can be much darker (then again, if you're a millionaire former child star, perhaps playing someone who believes the world should be his on a plate isn't such a stretch...)

Reading the reviews on IMDB which range from "Excellent!" to "Sucks!" you get an accurate sense that this film isn't for everyone or perhaps even most, but I think it's very worth seeing and it certainly leaves me excited about what these actors will do in the future. It's playing at the lovely Castro Theater through Thursday, and even though I have stuff going on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, I will probably make time for it.

Posted on September 7, 2003 at 11:58 PM in movies & tv | Permalink | Comments (2)

Not the article I expected 2003

Chris said I might be interested in the latest essay from Clay Shirky, and he was right.

It wasn't what I expected though. I thought it was going to talk about the impracticality of micropayment solutions from some technical or business perspective. Instead, it's a much broader observation about fundamental changes in our use and production of content which render payment itself, regardless of size, undesired.

I need to read it again and let it percolate for a while, but it has brought to my attention the fact that what was really making me interested in micropayments was how fun a technical and user experience problem I thought it would be to solve. Reminder to self: cool tools which no one needs should be thought of as art projects.

Posted on September 6, 2003 at 05:38 PM in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thanks again, Pyra 2003

I haven't used Blogger for several years, having switched to tools over which I have a lot more nitty gritty control, but the tools I do use wouldn't exist if it weren't for the groundbreaking work of the team at Pyra.

Thanks again to Meg, Ev and pb for bringing us blogging without hand-coding; for setting an early high standard in the attractiveness of the interface design of weblogging tools; for the permalink; for the webcam fun; for sticking it out in a basement office with peculiar neighbors and long hours and no financial reward.

Lest some naive person think the new kids on the block don't know their roots, note that while setting up the new office for for Six Apart, the company that makes Movable Type and TypePad, Anil Dash, the Vice President of Business Development, wore a Blogger t-shirt.

Posted on September 6, 2003 at 04:12 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Down, down, down... 2003

My friend Meg is cracking me up.

Five or so months ago, Darin from darinsan.com emailed asking if I'd do a little "11 Questions" interview with him. I said, "sure" and then let the message sink to the bottom of my inbox (and by "bottom" I mean it was about 1500 emails above the darkest depths of my inbox, where those scary fish -- with horrible teeth and hangy things in front of their eyes -- live and use bioluminescence to highlight messages that have been there since 9/13/01).
I think we have a new status message for email accounts now:

Warning: Requires Bathyscape.

Posted on September 5, 2003 at 01:02 PM in friends & family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Picture of 2003 Nomination 2003

This picture by Dean Allen (of Textism) captures more of the magic of childhood than most any other I've seen:

Dog and child image copyright Dean Allen 2003

Someone should pay Dean some good money to use this on the cover of an anthology of children's literature. It's as good as that Sargent painting of the girls lighting Chinese lanterns in a garden.

Posted on September 5, 2003 at 09:28 AM in creativity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Normal Work Symptom 2003

Nothing is going particularly wrong today. No one is shouting at me. I haven't been in numbing meetings. I've been getting things done and some of them are even the things I planned to do today. I like my job. All in all, it should be fine.

Still, inexplicably, my brain has spent much of the afternoon going "Aaaaaaaaaah!!! Get me out of here!!! Waaaaaarrrgghhh!"

"Shhh.... Shhhhh..." I say.

It tries to command my body to bang my head against my desk or go drink margaritas.

*sigh* Problem brains.

Posted on September 4, 2003 at 04:36 PM in work | Permalink | Comments (0)

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