Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Gar, why am I still awake?

I guess this time I can blame it on jet lag. I'm still adjusting after a fun-filled vacation in (an admittedly rainy) San Diego. Chargers game, disc golf, climbing, running, bowling, basketball, chilling, Lord of the Rings, the Ali G movie, Matrix Reloaded (finally), Mexican food, chain restaurants, pizza, video games, Legos, chess (haha, Paresh!), Scrabble (damn you, Eric!), poker, shopping, friends, babies, wives. Who knew San Diego could be such fun?

Fun with match.com data

After Martin noticed this article about dating preferences in Yahoo!'s most popular articles, I browsed my way over to match.com's PR site, which informs us that "Although only 43% of singles said they are confident they will start off 2004 with a romantic midnight kiss (with men being more confident of this than women), singles are united in their desire to be kissed gently..." The research area is also pretty interesting.

(On semi-related notes, check out this interesting use of the Amazon API to measure subject popularity and the Times articles linked from the recently updated Metabuzz.)

Friday, December 26, 2003

Why don't they teach you anything this useful in DARE?

Who knew that too much sugar with your liqour makes you sick?

"The sugar load is very problematic because it is very hard for the liver to metabolize a lot of sugar and alcohol at the same time," he said. "Of course, people are drinking more, with all these terror alerts going around. So I tell my patients to be pre-emptive. Drink a lot of water and take a Tylenol before you go out."

Friday, December 19, 2003

Whither Thinkquest?

So, I was looking through the Thinkquest site since my brother was thinking of participating, and I'm left wondering what happened to the poor thing. It's now run by Oracle, the big scholarship prizes are gone, and the whole thing seems to have a little more corporate feel to it than it used to.

On the other hand, it is nice to see that the library is well groomed, with nice descriptions of each entry. And it is good that the thing is still going on. I need to go back and clean out the vulgar comments put into the discussion boards we had in our entires. Teachers keep writing to complain that they can't link to the sites because of all of the crap people have written into them....I wish I had though to build more robust maintenance tools into it, but I always underestimate the number of stupid and immature people on the Internet.

I also took a look at the most recent grand prize winner, which actually has some fun little applets on it. The quiz says I'm 61% left brained and 57% visual.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Hehe, cute

just click

(and, from Sarah, this is even worse)

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Amazon to the rescue

I swear I keep finding more interesting things on Amazon's guides and lists every time I look. This time, when Googling ideas for present ideas for an 11-year-old girl (who Suzie paired me with through Operation Santa), I found this and this. Fascinating. Maybe someday Amazon will just pick presents out automatically. I'd pay for that. ;-)

Random culture consumption update

I finally finished American Pastoral. It's a bit on the depressing side. Certainly makes one not want to have kids. (And it is nice to know I wasn't alone in thinking that certain parts dragged. ) I do love Roth, though. He's just so...right. Now to mentally answer the questions in this discussion guide....

Also saw the Matrix in IMAX at the Aquarium. It was better than I'd been lead to believe, although I imagine it would have made more sense if I had bothered to see Reloaded. The IMAXness was fun but not as mind-blowing as I'd hoped...the screen is big and ultra-clear and the sound is good.

Last weekend, saw Last Samurai, which was not as good as the reviews said, though entertaining.

I really need LoTR to come out...it's time for a quality movie.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Wow

For anybody who missed it (bad you!) Remail was on Slashdot. Pretty neat. The feedback is surprisingly heartening.

Monday, December 1, 2003

Awesome

Eyeglasses.com has the feature I've always wanted from glasses shopping....virtual trying-on! Actually, I've always thought a regular store could do the real thing with a digital camera and a screen, but virtually placing the frames is extra efficient.... Now to find a picture I can try this out with.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

An early Christmas

I feel like I'm drowning in fun new stuff.

The headphones showed up today, and they have a very nice crisp sound, though they'll take some getting used to.

And I'm in love with Speakerboxx* (especially "The Way You Move," which I will forever associate with my first night at Toad's...). A guy in line for Toad's Friday (a night on which we were unable to get in...damn them) tried to convince me that The Love Below was the superior album, but I'm always partial to albums that make good running soundtracks.

Speaking of running, I finally went to Marathon Sports, which I should have done a long time ago. The nice man looked at my terribly pronating tendencies and hooked me up with a pair of compensatory Brooks. The difference is amazing.

To round things out, I checked out new books from the library (having finished Kavalier & Clay a while back) and went glasses shopping (I'm being pushed in a rectangular plastic direction) and got most of my hair shaved off.

In any case, I'm off to Columbus...where it is apparently consistently below freezing. I knew I should've gone to Florida.


* Follow this link...it's a pretty cool review aggregator!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Paris Hilton

The buzz aggregator says that, this week, Paris Hilton was the top query at both Yahoo and Lycos. Sadly, Google hasn't updated Zeitgeist in the past 2 weeks, so we can't tell what's going on there. I just thought this was interesting. Plus, if I put "Paris Hilton" in my blog, there's a chance that desperate, porn-thirsty searchers will end up here instead. Poor things.

New headphones

So, I ordered Shure e2c headphones after my third pair of Sony MDR-A35s in as many years had one ear stop working when the cord got yanked. I'm a little wary about owning a $99 pair of headphones, especially for running (we are talking, after all, about the guy who broke 2 minidisc players and an mp3 player in the past 5 years), and the noise blocking seems to verge on dangerous for running on streets (assuming, of course, my knees are ever up to it again). Maybe I'll get another set of Sony's for running, but recommendations on iPod lounge and Joi Ito's blog (which turned into a fascinating impromptu customer relations forum) have me pretty convinced. Score one for decentralized product reviews....where's my review search engine when I need it? I'll report back on how they work once they turn up. (And Shure turns out to be very good at responding to private queries, too: when I asked about the sweat tolerance of the e2cs via email, they wrote back the next morning explaining "the E2C earphone has been tested extensively in environments where the product is exposed to sweat for extended periods of time. Workout
conditions are actually very similar to live performance conditions.")

Speaking of distributed reviews, Seb points to work on a format for marking up reviews in RSS.

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Why I woke up before 8 on a Saturday

I woke up early Saturday to attend the attend day 2 of the Multiples of 1 conference, and it was well worth it. What a cool conference, although it's sort of tough to describe what it was about. A recurring theme was the difficulty and power of creating an open platform that allows for unexpected uses while providing sufficient constraints. Perspectives included the way conflicts were resolved in the Linux kernel, how Zipcar maintains order with minimal rules, the relationships between people and their electronic devices, how collaborative tools are often subsconsciously effective, how workplaces are changing physically, how wireless networks can scale indefinitely with a cooperative design, how markets are just one way of exchanging data.

Thursday, November 6, 2003

If you thought you were cynical about romance...

...get a load of this article (via danah): "Moreover, dating is often a bloodsport driven by egos and sexual appetites." Of course, watching Average Joe has (surprisingly) convinced me it's true....(and, yes, you read that URL correctly, there is a realitytvworld.com. it's like heaven!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

For my adoring fans...

...who were kept in suspense during my authorial delinquency, I ended up being an iPod for Halloween. I printed out big versions of the controls, display and Apple logo and pasted them on not-too-big pieces of posterboard and hung em over my shoulders. It received rave reviews. And some mockery. One person thought I was a condom, but he might have been drunk. Sadly, there are no pictures, but needless to say, it was not as elaborate as this.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Halloween

So, I'm trying to come up with a Halloween costume (still open to ideas!). Current options include pirate and Vijay Singh. These are already remarkably better than the past few years, which have included: guy-resembling-the-stuffed-penguin-that-resembles-Sarah, guy-in-Naomi's-black-dress, and, my personal favorite, guy-in-orange-shirt-with-purple-stripes-and-black-hat. Mike and I went to Boston Costumes (open till midnight this week! what a scene!) where he was inspired, though I was not (the $600 velvet cape was tempting). The web wasn't much more of a help; I found out that I should not be Spongebob, since that's this site's top costume this year. Hmm. What a pain! Maybe I can just go as an alcoholic candy fiend.

Monday, October 20, 2003

If you can...

... go see Love Object. It's about this guy who gets a RealDoll (you must, by the way, spend some time on this site...it's fascinating and disturbing, just like the movie) and the, um, interesting effects it has on his real-life romance.

Crap

Just when you thought it was okay to be 5' 5"... (Next thing you know, I'll be masturbating animals for a living!)

Friday, October 17, 2003

Oo neat!

At long last, our big project from this year has a decent web site!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Leafter is the best medicine

Eddie sent this to me. Can't imagine why.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Back from Aspen (sadly!)

Thanks to Aaron, an incredible weekend in Aspen. Hiked to Crater Lake at the Maroon Bells and biked the Rio Grande Trail and hiked to Grizzy Lake. Beautiful! Exhilirating! Pictures to come.

Yay

I finally found a setlist from the R.E.M. show last Sundayhere:

Begin The Begin / So Fast, So Numb / These Days / Drive / Animal / Fall On Me / All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star) / Bad Day / The One I Love / Daysleeper / Electrolite / (Don't Go Back To) Rockville / Orange Crush / Losing My Religion / At My Most Beautiful / She Just Wants To Be / Walk Unafraid / Man On The Moon // Life And How To Live It / Exhuming McCarthy / Final Straw / Imitation Of Life / Permanent Vacation / It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Now if they would just hurry up and release their new album. Harumph.

Monday, October 6, 2003

On the other hand, I love living near Fenway Park

There a bunch of drunken people running down the street. I wonder where they're going? (Postscript: Aaron went and discovered the beginnings of a riot, though he left before things turned ugly.)

Friday, October 3, 2003

Wow, Boston REALLY sucks

So, you, my dear reader, might be wondering, why is Kushal home before bars close in Boston? Well, because Hurricane O'Reilly's decided that it didn't want to let people in after 1. Why? No answer! So stupid! We were following Aaron's cousin to his friend's birthday party, but, alas, the bouncer and manager were far too proud of their power to take our money. This is vaguely analogous to the asshole at the Playwright in New Haven during senior week: "You go to Yale? You should know better than to bring a fake ID to the hottest club in New Haven." I think I would rather be unemployed than be a bouncer. To derive self-worth at the expense of other people's pleasure, that's pathetic.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Climbing sticks

NYTimes: "The study, which included a small number of men, found that both men and women were dissatisifed with their social lives. Instead of formal dates, students attend parties in large groups, followed by "hook-ups," which the study described as fleeting, alcohol-fueled sexual encounters. "

This is reminiscent of an 'article' I found when trying to check what the average age someone loses their viriginity is the other day...


In recent years a new term, "hooking up," has sprouted on American college campuses for what used to be called "quickie" sexual interaction. A hookup may involve a range of intimate activities from kissing to forms of sex and usually involves alcohol. It is sex without commitment or emotional involvement, usually between people who know little if anything about each other and expect nothing more from each other than the gratification of that lone encounter.

According to a survey by the Institute for American Values, "40 percent of college women have hooked up at least once, and 10 percent more than six times" (Christian Century, Aug. 15, 2001). The empty ritual leaves many young women feeling used, disillusioned and burdened with emotional confusion.



(although this was more interesting)

It's enough to leave someone Climbing the Stick. (Good find Scott!)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

What I've learned about visiting the Vineyard

Visited the Vineyard Saturday, at Calvin's urging. Awesome! Highly recommended, at least in the off season.

1. If you work for IBM, rent at Enterprise. They waive the (usurious) underage fee. We got a sweet little Volvo. And they're right on Comm Ave.

2. Take 90 (east) to 93 to 24 to 495 to 28 (after the bridge) until you're directed to parking lots near Woods Hole.

3. Try not to barely miss the ferry, although there is a nice bakery near the ferry dock.

4. Ending up at Oak Bluff is good, since that's where the action is. Vineyard Haven is lame, and it's weird that ferries there are more frequent. Oak Bluff has a cool army surplus store and a nice bike rental guy and a hat store and an old ferris wheel and an octagonal church and pretty houses and a little beach.

5. The bike ride to Edgartown is gorgeous, though doing the full loop would be better.

6. Edgartown (or Agerton, as the bike man called it) is supposed to be the center of action, but isn't that exciting, except for the harbor.

7. Black Dog is inexplicable.

8. Try to leave time to visit the cliffs and the nudists. Maybe next time.

9. Taking the ferry back at night is good, because you can see all the stars. And there are tons of them.

Oo, my beliefs on God are logically consistent!

Thanks to Ping, I played Battleground God (which is an excellent example of what I was trying to with my own belief challenging system (results)). I made it through, only biting bullets on questions 6 and 13. How'd you do?

Friday, September 26, 2003

Miscellany

I'm in love. While waiting for a present to be wrapped at the bookstore, I picked up Schott's Original Miscellany. What an awesome book! It's become my booting reading (think bathroom reading, but Windows is the person taking care of business). I've never seen a book so captivating and funny and educational. I think maybe it's because I always think in terms of charts and lists, but the random collections (ranging from Ivy League fight songs to nouns of assemblage (a malapertness of peddlers) to measures of alcohol to notable Canadians to presidential facts (Calvin Coolidge was the last president born on the 4th of July)) are just plain awesome.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

VON the road again

Dropped in on VON the other day, which is going pretty well. It was crazy to see everybody again, and the party was fun as always. RevUp Records is in full swing, and East of Autumn played. If VoIPers are anything like the WWW people, I imagine there will be pictures of the conference posted on their web sites soon enough.

Sarah's Clipping Service Strikes Again

from the Christian Science Monitor:


Formal, school-based messages about the dangers of illegal drugs have long rung hollow to him. He certainly knows that drugs are dangerous, but he also sees a difference between casual experimentation - such as his relatives drinking wine - and addictive behavior, and he knows the lessons about drugs aren't necessarily as black and white as the rhetoric used in class.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Badi for Governor

Ghazalle's dad is running for governor. Pretty cool. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science and claims to be the first Iranian-American to run for governor. Certainly more appealing than Arnold.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Kushal @ 14

Okay, this is truly creepy. The Internet Archive has this new Recall search engine (there's a link from Metabuzz). It's quite slick - I'm impressed how quickly it does its thing. In any case, searching for myself turned up this review of my web page from 7 years ago.

Danger in Familiarities

I love propaganda posters.



From the one about dancing:

Conventions are the fences society has built to protect you and the race.

Familiarities arouse dangerous desires. They waste you power for the finest human companionship and love.

Physical attraction alone will never wholly satisfy.

Complete and lasting love is of the mind as well as of the body.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

More on artificial markets and other things in the world

I just heard from Dave Pennock (as depicted in this nifty ascii picture), which prompted me to check out his web page, and, lo and behold, he had an excellent refutation of the attacks on the terrorist futures market.

Of course, scientists can't be trusted either.

In the good news department, Robin finished his wireless network project in Nepal. And thanks to him, you can help support the schools in Nepal.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Recovering

A gorgeous weekend on the Cape at Hayden's in Dennis (thanks Hayden!). Rode in his Jeep to Sundae School, played Kings and Scattergories, ran on the beach, swam in the pool. Paradise. And then I came back to the absolutely unbelievable Springsteen concert at Fenway.

I think weekends like this definitely meet afterglow expectations, though I'm compelled to read more about affective forecasting. (This article about American unhappiness, which is quite Putnamesque, also came out around the same time.)

Monday, September 1, 2003

Jeez

Speaking of conservatives making things bad for the rest of us, The Atlanta Journal Constitution took flack for a picture of Britney Spears kissing Madonna. Give me a break.

Also interesting are this story of Microsoft malfeasance and an essay about height-increasing drugs. "Short men, in particular, are paid less than tall men." To say nothing of the Maxim survey that said almost no women prefer short men. ;-) (I wish I could find it! Though all sorts of other interesting surveys turn up when you search the maxim site for "survey".)

A fun weekend (but a little blue)

(trying to ditch caps again...) thanks to mike and rox, an excellent weekend at tanglewood. saw cassandra wilson (incredible percussion!) and kenny baron's canta brasil, and drank wine and ate cheese and crackers and grapes from nejaime's and sandwiches from loeb's. watched the sunset, saw the stars and mars, played scrabble. saw the norman rockwell museum (with a special exhibit on the berenstain bears!). lunched at betty's pizza shack, brunched at carol's. lenox was a bit confusing...navigation was easier after we found a map. a bit on the chilly side.

sunday, folks came over and i finally watched zoolander, which was everything i was told it would be.

though, were it not for suz's handy contribution of amstel lights, i would have only had mgd to ply people with.... this led to the usual conversation about blue laws, and i did some googling. i hadn't realized connecticut and new york and flordia and delaware were relaxing their blue laws as a way of increasing revenues. weirdly, liqour store owners are not eager to keep their stores open longer. in 1961, the supreme court said such laws were not a violation of church/state separation.

it's hard to understand how any self-respecting government could preserve some of these asinine and idiosyncratic rules with a straight face. case in point: "The Wal-Mart in York, S.C., can sell groceries on Sunday morning but can't sell clothing and hundreds of other items until 1:30 p.m. That means barricading part of the store for more than 13 hours every Sunday."

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Dasypygal

Wednesday's word of the day was dasypygal, which the Google dictionary doesn't recognize, but which produces 107 results. What does it mean? Hairy buttocks. Apparently "[From Greek dasy- (hairy, dense) + pyge (buttocks).]" A related word is "callipygian, having a beautiful behind."

Today's fun link: Hall of Technical Documentation weirdness

Friendster update: 0 friends. I think they have some sort of bug. ;-)

Hey, look, it's me in Budapest!

Just when you thought looking through your referrer log was getting old, check out what I found. I find it very weird that Seb and I have communicated in public forums several times since then but haven't exchanged email. Blogs really have changed things.

The peanut gallery paper continues to be a popular source of visits, by the way. (And Metabuzz, though I should update it more....) I think I will always give my papers distinct names, since being able to search for "Mining the Peanut Gallery" in Google is quite fun. (And I found my first citations! Relatedly, I've noticed that Citeseer's citation detection is kind of weak...The excellent Cornell paper on movie review classification still shows no citations.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

OpenCourseWhere?

With another school year starting, higher education is back on the minds of journalists, and there were two interesting articles recently. One was the Times mag article on Summers. This was particularly interesting since the whole West thing broke while I was at the Herald and I had spent some time learning about Af-Am Studies. (As an aside, the Globe also covered a controversial academic leader this week, Jordi's old boss.) Anyway, I thought the ideas of teaching more knowledge and fewer ways of knowing, and of teaching more quantitative reasoning were both excellent (and similar to Yale's findings). I also liked their description of Summers who argues with people to sound out their ideas, and not because he disrespects them, something I'm also guilty of.

The other article was in Wired about OpenCourseWare. OCW is an awesome idea and I think it's sad that more schools don't make more content available for free. This was the sentiment behind Thinkquest, and it's an important one. The article had some fun tidbits, like the fact that most popular class is one in philosophy and that the top user is Canada. America wasn't even in the top 10. (Speaking of rankings, Yale was third again but tied for second in the eyes of America.)

Something or brother

I'm still recovering from my my brother's visit. Doing the tourist thing was exhausting but fun....we hit the Freedom Trail first, wandering around graveyards (particularly fascinating after having spent all that time on the death web site) and climbing the Bunker Hill memorial and whatnot. Then we barely managed to get across the Big Dig (near the Bunker Hill Community College stop) to the Museum of Science. The Museum was way cooler than I'd expected, and I particularly enjoyed the math part and the van de Graaf generator. We had lots of fun playing and then we watched the fairly unenlightening IMAX movie Top Speed. The next day we watched the Sox win in the burning (literally) sun (unlike, say, their performance today) for only $40 per scalped bleacher ticket, thanks to a home run by Millar undoubtedly the result of watching himself dance to Bruce Springsteen as a teenager on the Jumbotron. Sunday we wandered around Cambridge and found a street fair and checked out the Gehry building at MIT (site includes cool time-lapse videos!). We also rented 25th Hour, which was filled with ambiguous Sept. 11 references but had some great performances and cinematography, and Drumline, which was just plain fun.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

PrettyWiki

Martin and Fernanda's visualizations of wiki authorship are now up on a web site! You don't get the full impact without being able to use the program, but the results are beautiful and fascinating. It's neat to watch little arguments happen (much easier to grok than paging through histories or even trying to read threaded discussions), and it's really suprising how little vandalism there is. Clay gives it a thorough analysis.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Some thought-provokers

So, yeah, I've been a bit AWOL lately, but the interns are on the way out and I'm slowly returning to not having much of a life (I'll miss you, interns!)...

But, I have been doing some interesting reading. For example, in Wired, there were a few gems in the letters to the editor. One was a suggestion that we send convicts into space as our first inter-planetary travellers. And another was that international corporations represented useful global organizations if only they could be harnassed to solve global problems.

Meanwhile, David Brooks starts with an interesting premise and devolves into his usual over-generalization and self-importance. Diversity seems to keep coming up these days, though. Mark sent me this link about white kids growing up in black neighborhoods. And at brunch we talked about the suit against Abercrombie. At the sociable media reading group this week, we talked about Watts's study. It was a pretty interesting discussion, thinking about what one might hope to gain from a well-structured social network study, and how even though we can contact lots of people directly, we use introductions in order to help catch the other person's attention (and trust). It's almost a sort of reintermediation. Heck, even The OC (great show!) is at its heart a story about combatting insularity.

Random fun link: List of speed traps.

Friendster update: 295,195 through 31. (and the stuff about Friendster being blocked in offices made it into danah's blog. Yay danah!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Strange survey results

Interesting survey by the Horatio Alger Association reported in CNN finds that 47 percent of high school students have confidence in Congress, and only 26 percent in the media. Even weirder, 75 percent of students get along very well with their parents. "Asked how they'd like to spend more time, more teens said they would rather be with their families than hang out with friends, play sports, listen to music or do anything else."

Sunday, August 3, 2003

AmeriCorps

If Andrea and David Eggers are both spreading the word about something, it must be important. In this case, it's AmeriCorps. So, I signed the petition to save it, and you should, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Oh well

So the DARPA idea market isn't happening, says the FT. Bummer. I thought it was a neat idea.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Life's but a walking shadow

Requisite weekend wrap-up:

Went to Tia's. Fun scene. Excellent night.

Saw Macbeth on the Common. Sort of overwrought, favoring pyrotechnics over good acting, and nothing so interesting about the directing. Maybe that's what it takes to put up shows on the Common - after all, they did Carmen in English. But I talked to a lot of people who didn't even bother to sit through the whole thing.

Went to the Cape with folks from work and met up with some cute vets-in-training. Highlight was definitely the police in the town of Sandwich, or, as the sign said, the Sandwich Police. How cool is that? "Sir, don't put that mayo on your sandwich!" "Who do you think you are, the Sandwich Police?" "Why, yes I am."

Friday, July 25, 2003

More political stuff

S├ębastien picked up the Googlearchy link and put it in one of my favorite blogs! So, on the off chance that some traffic finds its way here, I figured I'd try to drum up support for Mike's idea of the Blogger Voter list. In order to avoid duplication of efforts, get in touch with Mike if you're game.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Googlearchy!

A fun word and interesting idea comes from Matt Hindman, who I met once and hope to hang out with again... Googlearchy. He writes about the impact of power law distributions of links on politics in both a paper and the paper.

Go see Bob!

Last night, saw Bob in Midsummer Night's Dream at the Publick Theatre. He was great. The entire production was excellent, in fact....easy to follow, funny delivery, great costumes.... I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Two fun links

Andrea pointed out that Mike is on the Polo Jeans site.

Sarah sent me yet another weird dating-related article (earlier ones have covered arranged marriage, match.com, etc.), this time about quiet parties.

Also, got to meet Clay Shirky today. He was as awesome as I'd expected.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Beach Blanket Bedtime

Busy weekend!

Friendster update: 125,612 through 20 friends. Had a Friendster moment when social-network-surfing made us realize that a high school friend who went to Dartmouth knew my roommate's girlfriend. A little shocked to read that people are selling their friendship on eBay.

Went to Crane's Beach. Nice, but not quite what I expected. Very rural. Good sand. Bummer about the clouds.

Gospel Brunched at House o' Blues. Fun. Excellent music from The Soul Converters. Interesting crowd. A little pricey for an hour of music + food, though still more cost effective than lap dances. Clapped, sang, hugged neighboring strangers. Today is Love Sunday. This little light o' mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

Saw Bad Boys II...a couple of very funny scenes, and some fun if absurd chases. 2.5 hours, though. And a little annoyed at the Public Service Announcement-ish treatment of Ecstasy, especially given how easily the hundreds of people who die on both sides in the movie as a result of the drug war could make an excellent anti-drug war argument.

On a somewhat related note, (finally) reading Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Sentence of the day: "Harriet Street...looks like about forty winos crawled off in the shadows and died and turned back and bloated and exploded, sending forth a stream of spirochetes that got into every board, every strip, every crack, every splinter, every flecking flake of paint." Sounds a bit like my bedroom. ;-)

Observation: sin taxes impede alcohol, but alcohol impedes syntax.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

A quick note

Cool sentence of the moment: "It's a grand opportunity for new bureaucracies and the further infantilization of the public in the name of the greater social good." from (where else?) the Times.

Friendster update: 99,514 people through 17 friends. Chad has me wondering how big my network would be if not for the fictional superconnectors (God, The Dude, etc), though.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Electroverts!

At lunch, we were talking about introverts and extroverts (among other things, Scott mentioned that these traits are correlated with tolerance for pain). But, I thought, I have a lot of friends who aren't quite introverted, because online, they're a whole different person. And Eric said, "Electroverts!" The word is so perfect, I'm surprised it hasn't been coined already, but Google shows only 2 hits - one is the name of a band the other appears to be some sort of equipment. I'm sure that we'll be seeing a Metrosexual-ish article about Electroverts in the Times any day now.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Trivial Pursuits

Wow, what a boring weekend! Of course, it did give me a chance to recover from staying out late playing pub trivia at The Overdraught (thanks for letting me tag along Bryan!) and then spending some time at the Phoenix Landing. Got fed Indian food Friday and rented Wall Street Saturday and watched T3* Sunday. Also finished Hedda Gabler audiobook and some Borges stories and started the Moneyball audiobook (all excellent). Everybody seemed to be out of town. Also decided to use miles to have my brother visit, since SAN to BOS tickets are double their usual price.

One random tidbit. I forgot who I had been trying to convince that pink and blue were reversed for baby boys and baby girls at one time, but I found a web page describing it, and, as we all know, everything you find on the web is true.

*T3 tangent: There's a great quote where John is shocked to find out he's going to marry Kate (Claire Danes) and Arnold says something along the lines of, "Why not? She's a healthy female of breeding age." In trying to find the exact quote, I hit some other fun ones at IMDB, this weird parent's guide, and this amusing New Yorker review.

Monday, July 7, 2003

Poking through my referrer log

I love poking through my referrer log. It's endlessly fascinating. There are the people searching for ways to get pot in The Sims, for Braitenberg vehicles, for popular sites, for my paper, for people, for quotes. There are the links from the Google intranet (you think they of all people would be smart enough to obfuscate referrers!). A link from a site I can't read and people I've met and others I haven't met at all. Apparently Metabuzz made an appearance on blogdex and popdex, which is neat, if circular. More when I get around to digging it out.

Two bits don't make a byte

I've run across some interesting odds and ends lately...

For example, I saw a link from the Yahoo! newsletter to Dressed to the Nines, an exhibit about baseball attire. I don't really care about baseball attire, but it did make me wonder where the phrase came from, especially given my recent foray into etymology. I found this cool site which points to "1793 in the poetry of Robert Burns: 'Thou paints auld Nature to the nines'."

I also love it when my reading happens to randomly coincide. For example, there was a New York Times Magazine article about how stimulating parts of the brain can lead to savant-like activity. (I found some some good pointers to related material.) And just yesterday, I read "Funes, His Memory" (in the translation I'm reading) or "Funes the Memorious" (in others). Here's the text of it. The similarities between Funes ("He was, let us not forget, almost incapable of general, platonic ideas.") and those with an autistic infant ("whose mind 'is not concept driven. . . . In our view such a mind can tap into lower level details not readily available to introspection by normal individuals.'"). I've always considered myself the sort of person who thinks better conceptually than in detail, and yet many computer people exhibit autism-ish symptoms. If there's a spectrum, how do I figure out where I am on it?

Lastly, I thought the Nicholas Lemann article about the Michgan case was fascinating. The heart of it (for me) is that: "Nor do universities share the public's view of admissions as a rewards system, which must be conducted with absolute fairness to each applicant. Instead, universities consider themselves to be rarefied autonomous institutions." I've often been annoyed with admissions and hiring policices because they seem an un-meritocratic disbursement of awards. But if I accept that university admissions are shaping an inevitable elite class, I suppose I'm willing to afford them more latitude. Questions about whether privilege is inevitable keep coming up in conversations I'm having.

Happy birthday to me

Wow, what an awesome weekend (after inauspiciously locking myself out on my birthday). Friends visiting, sitting outside waiting for the fireworks (beautiful, but why did they have to start sooooooooo late? pretty offensive to make us wait for the sake of the television audiences), going to the beach (thanks Mike!), good dinners. I think every weekend should be a long weekend.

Friendster update: 70,336 people through 12 friends. 39 single girls 21-24 in Boston. Hmm.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Cremaster? I 'ardly knew 'er!

Saw Cremaster 4 and 5 last night (thanks to Chad!). I'm glad I went...I'd like to see the other ones. It was pretty fascinating, though the fact I was half asleep and a bit tipsy by the midnight showing undoubtedly helped. Both were beautiful and engrossing, though a little long, especially 5, which I dozed through a bit. Also strange was that 5 was filmed in part in Budapest, including shots of the bridges, the Citadel, and there is a whole scene that occurs in the spa I went to. I'm not sure I really understood it...I decided that 4 was about birth and 5 about death, but I guess it's not that simple.

In other news, saw Blondie in Government Center. The new stuff is a bit strange, the old stuff was fun. I'm up to 8 friends, 40,762 people. Also found a great pub.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Peanuts Acting Like Women?

Although this is one possible origin of the phrase peanut gal-lery (other recent bad puns - what do you call a storm during knighting ceremony? a knightingale! what does a knight ride on? a knightmare! what do you call a knight's shadow? knightshade!), it turns out to not be the actual one. Somebody wrote me asking if I knew where the phrase came from since I used it in the title of my paper (further proof that people are far too generous in ascribing expertise to people who make web pages). I looked it up. First Google result informed me:

Peanut Gallery is American slang dating to 1888 referring to the balcony section of a theater--presumably from hoi polloi eating peanuts in the cheap seats. The term was popularized in the 1950s by the television show Howdy Doody, in which the host Buffalo Bob would call the child audience the peanut gallery. In doing so, Buffalo Bob was combining two different slang traditions.

Peanut is also slang for something small or inconsequential. This use dates to the 1930s. By 1942, the word was being used to mean a small or inconsequential person, or a child. This is the origin of name of Charles Schulz's comic strip, and Howdy Doody got mileage out of both senses of the term.


In other news, I now have 5 friends and 1 testimonial. I'm connected to 26,846 people. How exciting!

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Yawn (part 2)

My suitcase finally showed up at 2:10 am. Yuck. But yesterday I stumbled home after Guster and drinks at the 21st Amendment and woke up early enough to go to the gym this morning. Yay me.

Happy birthday to Ayshe.

I am now a denizen of Friendster, though so far I have only 2 friends.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Yawn!

Why am I still awake when I only slept 5 hours on the plane, you might ask? Well, maybe because United left my bag at LAX, and I'm still waiting for it show up. Whee! It was a great trip, though. Caught up on the latest gossip, played some basketball, watched lots of movies, went to an awesome wedding. Far too much to ever hope to recount.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Whateverhappenedto...

Yesterday, the subject of the deceased Acrophobia again came up. Here's the best explanation of its fate I could find:

Bezerk got bought by won.net, they got bought by uproar.com, and uproar got bought by Vivendi/Universal. Now, Vivendi is getting rid of all the stuff that's really fun but isn't as profitable as they with it could be.

Someone really needs to find a way to bring it back. Chris thinks Yahoo! should just write an Acro clone, or that Richard should. This clone looks promising, but I have yet to try it out.

On a related note, I was trying to think of things to do tonight, and I remembered Esports Arena. Even though they weren't open when I was last here, they're already bankrupt. It was a really interesting idea, but for some reason public gaming just doesn't seem to catch on here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Dam, that was a good trip

In San Diego, after surviving Vegas. Also went to the Hoover Dam, where many puns were made. Highlights include the lounging by the pool at the Tropicana, playing the $3 blackjack tables with a fun dealer at Boardwalk at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, an audience member asking Lance Burton to kill his wife, the cool (and patriotic!) fountains at the Bellagio, the incredible brunch at the MGM, the refreshingly decent music at the Hard Rock....and some other things that are better off staying in Vegas.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Bloggy, with low visibility

Went to Dave's Thursday night meeting. The idea of providing New Hampshireites with blogs is awesome, I think it could have a real impact if done right. However, I was unable to convince Dave of the value of trackback. Maybe it doesn't work as well as it should, but I continue to believe it is important. Blogs should be like a conversation, damnit, otherwise they're just ineffectual spouting off.

In all the excitement, forgot to mention I saw Mitch Kapor talk at MIT about Chandler. It was a little disappointing, really, not much I couldn't have found out from reading the site, and the room was very poorly ventilated.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Why Richard Stenlund Should Go To Vegas

I was reading this article about Vegas and getting all excited for my trip. And then I started reading about a MMORPG addict who complains "I think people are generally false. Even sitting here with you, we are putting on a front. But in A. O. you can really let your true character out. If I want to be a pervert, I am able to do that in A. O. and be a pervert right off the bat." And I thought, if this guy is sick of being in this small town in the middle of the country, he should go to, say, Vegas. And lo and behold I get to the end of the article and he is moving there. Creepy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Name dropping

Survived my second night of hitting the Jupiter Weblog Conference after-party scene. I've met all sorts of interesting people, like Steve and Scott. Also put a lot of names to faces, like Dave and Doc. It's always strange when people you know of online turn out to be more than pixels.

Friday, June 6, 2003

More random stuff

Finished reading the cool Wired spaces issue...including this interesting take by Rem Koolhaas on the Libeskind design, which I kind of like.

Instead of the two towers - the sublime - the city will live with five towers, wounded by a single scything movement of the architect, surrounding two black holes. New York will be marked by a massive representation of hurt that projects only the overbearing self-pity of the powerful. Instead of the confident beginning of the next chapter, it captures the stumped fundamentalism of the superpower. Call it closure.

(Meta note: I typed this in instead of copying and pasting. It felt good. When I saw Billy Collins give a reading, he pointed out that copying a poem out longhand was one good way of making it your own.)

Unrelatedly, I found an easy way to make a hand puppet. Take a sealed envelope (particularly one featuring this week's unappealing Chase bank credit card offer) and tear one side off. Remove contents. Insert hand. Voila. Hours of fun.

Fun with Citeseer

Here's an neat discovery - my paper is the only result when you check citeseer for blogs, like so. And there are only a handful of results for weblogs. Don't try searching for blog, you get a bunch of weird math stuff.

Thursday, June 5, 2003

Blues, Blogs

Had dinner with Mike, who has started a blog. Most recently he talked about the types of blogs. I think mine is still a little schizophrenic.

One thing I did want to do was link to this story in Wired which had a chart showing a bunch of blue logos in color space, including the last three places I've spent my time: Yale, NEC, and IBM. Unfortunately, the graphic isn't online. Damn you, Wired! I wonder if I'm destined to only go places with blue logos.

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Propaganda

I saw this link to remixed propaganda on a klog apart. I'm a huge fan of this style of art for some reason. Which is why I ordered a propaganda poster calendar from Poland. There's a web page that has some of the images somewhere, but I can't find it at the moment. Also, I have to agree with some of the posters' sentiments.

Sunday, June 1, 2003

Another weekend, another beer belly

Hmm, where did the weekend go? Bar-hopping in Cambridge on Friday, including yet another conversation about jdate (if only i were jewish!). Bought Travel Scrabble and played on the T with M....I highly recommend it! You can stop mid game and store everything quite handily since the pieces snap into place.

Also ran into the catalog of guttural moans in comics, which reminded me that I thought a catalog of male and female bathroom signs (given the funky ones you find in Europe) would be fun. I Googled around for one, to no avail...though I did find this comparison of male and female bathroom graffiti. I didn't even know women's bathrooms had graffiti! Mysterious.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Neat

Richard got the stats working for my page, and it turns out that my WWW paper has been downloaded over 1800 times since appearing in Search Day. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Update: Susanne just pointed out that it was mentioned in Wired, which is probably the likely culprit for some of this more recent traffic. Wow.

Also, in all the excitement, I forgot to mention that I'd read Stover at Yale. I sort of wish I'd read it a long time ago. It's always weird/depressing to see that people were grappling with same issues a century ago.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Home sweet home

Back, finally, after lots of travelling. And this blog is back, too. The MT import was surprisingly easy! However, I've lost my look and feel. :-( Maybe I'll take my time and come up with something snazzy.

Anyway, Dublin was great. I saw the Book of Kells and the Guinness storehouse (where I think I finally learned the barley+hops+yeast+water = beer formula) and went on the literary pub crawl and met some fun folks from the University of Minnesota, Morris who said that the musical pub crawl had been better. Maybe next time. Also met some interesting people at the hostel, Isaacs. The night before, went partying in Cork. Hopefully, Naomi made it through the day at work okay! The night before that, finally found a club in Budapest! The trick is to ask for a "disco." We ended up Bank, which is near Oktagon, and the music was pretty good, although I got American Life stuck in my head. On Saturday, snuck off for a bit to go to the Gellert bathhouse/spa and climb the mountain to the Citadel and see the Buda castle and Mathias church and whatnot. Didn't get to go to the Statue Park where they have old Communist statues or to Heroes Square. Had a too-expensive dinner where we were overcharged for water. Friday had a good dinner at Cyrano in Pest but then just went back to the hotel bar. Night before that had a cruise on the Danube and the night before that went to the Jazz Garden with a few people. Managed to deliver my presentation without any major disasters. Met lots of cool folks.

Hmm, I'm sure there's a lot I'm leaving out, but since I didn't bring a camera, it's probably all I'll remember. I'm exhausted!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Phew

Music's over. Realized I should say more about my trip. Working backwards...bowling with some people from Bristol and the guy from Columbia last night...had a great dinner yesterday in Pest with violins and pasta and plum strussel. Was warned by a local that credit card number theft is rampant. It was raining a lot...During the day, went to a workshop on Community Informatics and met some interesting new people and met Seb in person...Before that, went running in search of the castle and it was farther than I thought....Ooo, Tim Berners-Lee's talking. Back in a bit.

Hmm

In Budapest, at the WWW conference, listening to Princess. Sufficiently weird to justify writing a blog entry despite the headache it'll create while switching servers. Not only is this a weird venue for this music, the music itself is a fairly painful montage of cliched classical music, backed by pounding bass and a phantom electronic symphony... In other news Budapest is great, I'm learning a lot. This weekend, went to Blarney castle and lots of pubs. Europe has one hell of an allergy season.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

does good art have to be mysterious?

it was kind of a weird coincidence....in rolling stone, marilyn manson said:

Morrison's enduring strength as a historical figure is in his mystery. I think the modern, contemporary treatment of rock stars on MTV and the voyeuristic world of reality TV are a great threat to anyone who wants to retain any sort of value throughout history. My whole life, I have tried to steer clear from "behind the scenes" things. They take away from the power of what you do. If you start explaining your tricks, then you are a shitty magician. I'm watching all these other people piss away what could be great works of art by going on Cribs. You can be legendary for not doing anything because of this voyeuristic culture that we live in. You can be famous for "surviving" something, or for marrying a millionaire, or for being a victim of a crime. It's a strange time that we are in now.


in the new york times magazine, one article bemoaned the decline of passive enjoyment of films. It quotes David Lynch, who "is concerned that too many DVD extras can ''demystify'' a film." It also says:

The more ''interactive'' we allow our experience of art -- any art -- to become, the less likely it is that future generations will appreciate the necessity of art at all. Interactivity is an illusion of control; but understanding a work of art requires a suspension of that illusion, a provisional surrender to someone else's vision. To put it as simply as possible: If you have to be in total control of every experience, art is not for you. Life probably isn't, either. Hey, where's the alternate ending?


this is interesting since martin (himself recently in the Times) was telling me that what makes new media art so different is its reliance on data and the possiblity of choosing your own experience.

is new media art still art? terrence rafferty might say no. having made a worthwhile (15-minute walk of a) pilgrimage to david small's illuminated manuscript this weekend, i'd vote yes.

fun with evil bureaucracies

this past week i learned a valuable lesson....asking if harvard vanguard dental accepts a given insurance plan is not the same as asking if they are a preferred provider. i was quite shocked to be billed for medical treatment i thought would be covered by my insurance. i could have gone to any dentist anywhere and gotten this level of "coverage." and when i called to suggest i had been misled, an incredibly rude and unhelpful supervisor named michelle explained that it was all my fault for not knowing enough to ask the person booking my appointment my question more precisely. (this was not much better than her underling, who explained that by signing their waiver, i had ceded my right to complain.) but now i've learned the error of my ways. thanks harvard vanguard!

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Old dog

yesterday, made enchiladas! wes showed me how to cut onions. and today jordi showed me how to throw and catch and baseball. now, if i can just figure out how to throw a frisbee and hit a golf ball and play football and...god, what was i doing with my childhood?

Sunday, May 4, 2003

The sun!

Sat in the sun at the Christian Science Plaza on Saturday (designed by I.M. Pei, who in my Googling I discovered also designed the Hancock tower and the MFA extension and the Media Lab and studied at MIT and Harvard and was a professor at Harvard, and so, in other words, left his mark here).

Bought Rolling Stone on a whim, the 35th anniversary issue about American Icons. Marilyn Manson rips apart reality television, John Updike praises Andy Warhol, corporate logos are explained.

Crap, I'm using capital letters again! we'll put a stop to that.

got my first sunburn of the summer today while watching the red sox blow a 4-0 lead against the twins. so sad.

considering running a half marathon in virginia, one of the country's 25 best. i'm not sure i could actually pull it off, but it would be fun to try. there is an amusing disparity between this training schedule and this one. the boston half-marathon covers a lot of ground i already run, which sounds a little boring, though last year they got to run around the field at fenway.

the play erik was in got a good review, wish i'd gotten down to see it.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

A long weekend

all sorts of stuff happened this weekend. among them, a decision to forego capitalization. i finished reading the long walk, somehow fitting given this week's marathon and reality television and horrible tragedy. supposedly there is a japanese movie adaptation of it, but i haven't been able to find anything about it. speaking of movies, i saw a mighty wind, which was quite funny. stood in the rain at earthfest and got free samples of stuff and saw an incredible performance by sheryl crow. also went to a driving range for the veryfirsttime. and ate lots of good meals.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Self-interest, modernity?

I just saw Better Luck Tomorrow and Confidence, both of which prominently feature people double-crossing people. I have no faith left in humanity. (They are good movies, though, if a little implausible toward their ends.)

Also, I ran across a review of the new DeLillo book, which does a good job of dissecting everything I dislike about this modern style-over-substance tendency.

While looking for a review of the DeLillo book, I also read a review of Brill's new book. Sadly, the only person ever to give me a D didn't get panned. The Times thought it did a good job of showing how self-interest and public interest were intertwined, which is about all you can hope for if we're all as self-serving and dehumanized and divided as all this pop culture is making me believe.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Two Interesting Surveys

I love surveys, and I recently ran across two interesting ones.

In Wired, 54 percent of respondents thought that "Earth is as it appears and not some alternate plane, or fifth-dimension fantasy, or projection of a higher power" (i.e. it's not an experience machine).

The second is a survey being done at Harvard of how people around the country use language differently. Oddly enough, one of the questions is whether people say NEW Haven or New HAVEN.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

More about men, women, careers

With uncanny timing (given my recently revisiting the Maurren Dowd fiasco), I heard this story on NPR explaining:

Putting off marriage and babies until later in life significantly increases women's wages: It's an increasingly common dilemma for working women who want to have children: Do they have babies early on or wait until they can provide a better income for their family? Well, analysis by researchers at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank says that waiting has its benefits. Income dips less than one percent for women 28 and older after childbirth; it falls 4 percent for those women who have babies before then. While many women today are choosing to put off having a family until they're established in careers, the reality is they only have a 50 percent chance of getting pregnant when they’re 40.


Also, the press release says:

Studies have shown that men who have been married earn more than men who've never been married, a phenomenon known as the "male marriage wage premium." St. Louis Fed researcher Abbigail J. Chiodo and economist Michael T. Owyang first described the relationship between marriage and men's wages a year ago. They describe how, in contrast, marriage has little or no effect on women's wages, after taking into account individual characteristics such as education and experience. Indirect forces, however, such as children and household responsibilities do tend to affect a woman's lifetime earnings.


Here's the actual study.

I'm not particularly obssessed with this topic, just attuned to coincidence.

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Bosses around

My old boss Jeff Pulver was recently featured in BusinessWeek, which is kind of neat. I was also a bit surprised to run into a picture of Steve Lawrence, who I worked with this summer, at the web site for the book I'm auding (I'm getting tired of deciding between listening and reading for audio books) (apparently this is a real word - "the process of hearing, recognizing, and interpreting spoken language" - but that won't stop me from co-opting it), Linked. (The book is very heavy on the intellectual history/storytelling. I was really excited to read Six Degrees, which looked more sciencey, but had to return it to the library before I had a chance to read it.)

Sunday, April 6, 2003

Partykausa

Shawn sent me the URL of his latest artistic endeavor, Parykausa, and I figured I'd link to it here. Not quite sure what to say about it, though. It's par-for-the-course-ishly intriguing.

Saturday, April 5, 2003

Fun with airlines

So, I booked my tickets to Budapest (to present my paper)! Very exciting. I'm also visiting Naomi in Ireland. Of course both of these places turned out to be pretty tough to fly between, and the cheapest solution ended up taking two round-trip flights. Aaron tried to convince me that three one-way legs cost more because I'm "paying for convenience," but intuitively it always struck me as stupid that they would charge me less to fly more. I did some hunting around for a better explanation. (Along the way, I found this fun page about frequent flier programs.) The closest thing I've found so far is this, which says:

Consultant Nick Bredimus explains that in the early days of the aviation industry, there were only one-way fares. When computers were introduced into the pricing equation, carriers were able to track seat inventory more effectively and predict who might show up for a flight and who wouldn't.

Technically, then, a 21-day advance fare like the one I booked is both a discount and a gamble-a discount from the full fare and a gamble by the airline that my plans will change and I won't take that flight. I'm not about to suggest that airlines should turn off their computers and go back to handwriting tickets, but I do think carriers can do something to rein in unreasonable fares.

"You see some anomalies [in pricing] but you can't figure out why they exist," says Bredimus.

Monday, March 31, 2003

J. Crew

I've never actually paged through an entire J. Crew catalog before, but I did today. And you know what's weird? Everybody is white. I know that J. Crew is often used as a shorthard for a cetain sort of stereotype, but I really expected to see a few token people of color. As much as I'm hoping the affirmative action at Michigan isn't upheld, I still find this a little offensively unprogressive.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Women, Men, and Maureen Dowd

The subject of Ms. Dowd's columns almost a year ago about career-driven women came up again tonight. (We also discussed how her columns are generally pointless and a waste of space and wondered how she ever managed to swing her job.) Luckily, some digging with Google turns up still-working links to the articles, even though the Times search engine tries to get you to pay for them. (At some point, a site was also charging for access to an article of mine available for free on the Herald site. Weird.)

In any case, the first article was "The Baby Bust" and the second was "Y? DNA! Q.E.D.". There are plenty of careful dissections of these articles findable on Google, so I won't bother writing my own. I offer them only because they seem to be great conversation pieces.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Proximity without intimacy

I'm finishing Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power by Elisabeth Eaves, which I actually started on the plane to San Diego this winter, where I was going to give the book as a present to Andrea. I saw it at the bookstore and it looked interesting. Is it cheesy to read someone's present? A little. But it was incredibly engrossing, and when I didn't get a chance to finish it, I tracked it down at the library.

At one point, it says

"Do you know what Dante's definition of hell is?" I asked Clarence from Cleveland. Being so near the airport, Extasy got a lot of business travelers. He wore shiny loafers and a pressed shirt.

"Proximity without intimacy," I said. Clarence nodded politely but vaguely. He was game to talk to me. Both of us chipper and friendly, we had gone over names, cities of origin, his job, the weather, that day's football game. He looked unsure of whether he should pick up my new conversation strain or change the subject entirely.

I knew almost nothing about Dante. I had read a reference to him in a novel that day, and it was floating around in my head. I wanted to kick myself as soon as I had said it. It was absurd. I was absurd, Clarence was absurd. This place was absurd, and the Divine Comedy was an absurd thing to bring up. I didn't want to appear well read because it made me feel like a talking monkey. I had been show-offy and self-indulgent, which suggested that I cared what Clarence thought, and I didn't want to start caring, or appearing to care, what any of them though. I wanted to give people only my facade.


So, I thought to myself, did Dante really say that? Literally? After a little web hunting (and then some), it looks like a lot of people have picked up this meme from the book Eaves is likely referring to: Melissa Bank's 1999 The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, which made it into Oprah's book club and spawned various erroneous Dante citations. Some people only describe it as being from an unnamed book (ashamed of the title?) or add a disclaimer explaining they haven't read Dante themselves. Interestingly, the only use of the phrase clearly predating the book is a guide to BDSM.

All of that said, it's a pretty intriguing idea. But is the absence of both proximity and intimacy worse? I'd say probably yes. The terms are terribly vague, but if I think empty subway train versus subway train full of strangers, or empty library versus library full of strangers, the one with the people always wins. Or, metaphorically, if I think about knowing a subject superficially versus not knowing about it at all, the choice seems obvious. I suspect many people have latched on to this in the context of romance, but it probably isn't so true if one gives it more thought.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

White Noise

I finished White Noise today, including some reading out in the park pretending it wasn't quite as cold as it is. Despite predispositions to the contrary (fun fact, we put this article online the summer I was at the Atlantic), I really did enjoy it. It's a pretty addictive style, although it helps that I enjoy implausibly-eloquent dialogue, which is probably why I also like Dawson's. Admittedly, some of the ideas are simple and there are occasional bits of blatant style-over-substance, but there are some fun little pithy passages. Several toward the end revolve around death and war, timely-ily enough. For example:

"Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It's a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country."

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I(')M Away

So, the war may be dominating all the blog-watching sites, but the big news today is clearly the Times's recognition of our obsession with away messages. This made me think, maybe we need a purity test for IM.

Have you ever...

  • ...procrastinated by...

    • ...reading away messages?
    • ...reading away messages about procrastinating?
    • ...writing away messages?
    • ...writing away messages about procrastinating?

  • ...written more than 5 away messages in one day?
  • ...written an away message about showering?
  • ...written an away message to...

    • solicit pity?
    • confirm your popularity?
    • beg for help?
    • brag about your exciting life?
    • pretend to have an exciting life?
    • manipulate a MOS? (if you don't know what an MOS is, you need to stay in more)

  • ...written an away message that...

    • ...quoted a real-life conversation?
    • ...quoted an IM conversation?
    • ...quoted an away message?
    • ...responded to an away message?
    • ...continued an earlier away message?
    • ...quoted a song?
    • ...quoted a web page?
    • ...quoted an email?
    • ...quoted poetry?
    • ...quoted your homework?
    • ...quoted your professor?
    • ...quoted an overhead conversation?

  • ...left an away message up when you were actually there?
  • ...responded to an away message?
  • ...been sad that nobody responded to your away message?


I think I've done pretty much all of these. Good god.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Bits N Pieces

The Media Lab had an open house today, and since IBM is a sponsor, I got to drop by and see some cool stuff. It was my third time there - the first time I met Brian, and the second I saw a talk by John Maeda. This time, I managed to talk to Cameron at long last, which inspired me to start being better about actually writing in my blog. Of course, I don't have that much to say at the moment. I went out in search of green beer last night and failed. Maybe next time. I also have this fun passage I ran across:

Box joined Microsoft early last year to help develop its .Net Web services architecture and has a reputation as a lively speaker. At the 2001 TechEd show in Barcelona he led a discussion on SOAP while sitting in a bathtub.

On Monday, to show that solidarity exists at least among developers, he coaxed an IBM software engineer on stage and made him pose for a picture while he kissed him on the cheek.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Fun with acronyms

So, I ran across this acronym MEGO, and I was like, what is that? But, handily, Merriam-Webster (as linked to from Google) included results from computer and acronym dictionaries, and within seconds I had discovered:

/me"goh/ or /mee'goh/ ["My Eyes Glaze Over", often "Mine Eyes
Glazeth (sic) Over", attributed to the futurologist Herman
Kahn] Also "MEGO factor". 1. A handwave intended to
confuse the listener and hopefully induce agreement because
the listener does not want to admit to not understanding what
is going on. MEGO is usually directed at senior management by
engineers and contains a high proportion of TLAs.
2. excl. An appropriate response to MEGO tactics. 3. Among
non-hackers, often refers not to behaviour that causes the
eyes to glaze, but to the eye-glazing reaction itself, which
may be triggered by the mere threat of technical detail as
effectively as by an actual excess of it.

Neat!

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Boston

I've been spending too much time waching reality TV and not enough time enjoying Boston. But I did walk home today, and enjoyed the view of Boston with the Charles frozen over and covered in snow. It's a little trippy. You'd want to run out there, except you'd fall through the ice and freeze. It's also a bit sad and desolate. I almost want to break down and get a camera to capture it.

Speaking of Boston, I ran across a site for Boston blogs (though there are others), including one about the people who keep trying to run me over on Boylston. I'm glad I don't have to drive around here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Quote of the day


That said, do you have any ideas for a really scary reality TV show?
“C students from Yale.” It would stand your hair on end.


from an interview with Kurt Vonnegut.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Fun sites

Figured I'd take a break from all this lame serious stuff and link to some of the fun stuff I've run across lately, like the giant lava lamp, in passing, answer bus, the lawsuits against reality tv. Some of these were found in Geeklog, which was kind enough to link to me. Speaking of blogs, the searches for "marijuna the sims" have tapered off. And I continue to enjoy the meta discussions on Seb's Open Research.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Diversity

I've said it before, but I have to say it again. My beloved former publication, the Yale Herald ran a cover story about cultural houses. Although I thought the fact that minorities dropped out at a higher rate than average was interesting, it included this passage:

Both minority student leaders and University officials express the need for minority outreach and support. Garcia feels that minority students, "still face challenges [at Yale]." She said that it can be "very difficult academically to catch up" for incoming students, especially for those who attended high schools that were below the caliber of those attended by the majority of their peers.

I'm really hoping the writer misrepresented the administrator's statements. (Of course, nothing could be as bad as one Harvard dean telling the New York Times Magazine in 2001 that "There's something good about hunger...It is important for our students to be co-investors in their own education." And Yale didn't sound much better...) Why are minorities automatically assumed to be behind academically?

This came on the heels of a freewheeling discussion this weekend about nature/nurture, opportunity, executing child snipers, and racism. At the end of it, I wasn't sure where I stood on blame. But I do know where I stand on using race as a proxy for more accessible and more meaningful traits.

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Life and happiness

Danyel and I were talking about our experiences with online personals (which both Wired and the Times have praised, but not my friend Sarah), and I mentioned how Brooks's article on The Sims described most users as preferring to live in little kibbutz-like/Friends-ish groups that de-emphasized romance. He said he had read something in the Times about groups of friends that end up dating one another. I couldn't find that article, though I did run across this urban tribes stuff.

Meanwhile, this month's Wired discusses some of the philosophical implications of people's obsession with MMORPGs. Among other gems...

Take a moment now to pause, step back, and consider just what was going on here: Every day, month after month, a man was coming home from a full day of bone-jarringly repetitive work with hammer and nails to put in a full night of finger-numbingly repetitive work with "hammer" and "anvil" - and paying $9.95 per month for the privilege. Ask Stolle to make sense of this, and he has a ready answer: "Well, it's not work if you enjoy it." Which, of course, begs the question: Why would anyone enjoy it?


And then Fast Company had this interesting article about choosing jobs that was very popular on Daypop, claiming...

Asking What Should I Do With My Life? is the modern, secular version of the great timeless questions about our identity. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. Answering The Question is the way to protect yourself from being lathed into someone you're not. What is freedom for if not the chance to define for yourself who you are?

So what does this all mean? I guess the common thread here is that there are a lot of people unsatisfied with the dating scene, their work life, and life in general. And if I ended it there, it would give more fodder to Sarah, who claims my posts are depressing. But the other half of it is that new norms are evolving that might change things. Still up for grabs is whether our sense of past communities and lifestyles is overly-nostalgic, or if we're only applying patches that will never match the past.