Martin Luther King - American Irony


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In a nation that is preoccupied with God-talk, in which the separation of church and state is being eroded and denied, a nation in which our “conservative” politicians constantly invoke the Judaeo-Christian tradition, you’d think that a holiday in honor of a preacher-activist-humanitarian would merit a national holiday, i.e., a holiday that is universally observed the way Presidents’ Day is. Even a secular humanist atheist like me would support it.


Martin Luther King - American Irony

"No Links Please" drains HREFs, discourages web fiddling

James Clarke – No Links Please!

Here’s a fun one. Our old pal (and the coiner of “life hacks”), Danny O’Brien, passes along an extreme attention aid that might be regarded as the heir apparent to his wonderful “Webolodeon” script for GreaseMonkey.

No Links Please will do its part to keep you from mindlessly surfing the web:

No Links Please! breaks the web by removing hyperlinks from all pages apart from Google. Without the knowledge or temptation of links you are free to devote…


“No Links Please” drains HREFs, discourages web fiddling

Emails as a Game of Life?

Academic Productivity has another great post, this time on the work of Carolin Horn at the Dynamic Media Institute at the Massachusetts College of Art (a visual designer, BTW, not an information visualization specialist) and her coder Florian Jenett. Using her Apple inbox as her petrie dish, her web page contains wonderful animations of species of hairy microbes that reflect the state of her inbox; spam and email from friends look totally different, while newer, more urgent mail is hairier and quicker. She also describes a grouping function of her project, titled Anymails, and the chains of microbes begin to look like early wormy life forms.

It puts me in mind of John Conway's Game of Life, an artificial life simulation that obeys only a small set of rules yet can exhibit surprisingly varied behaviors. It would be strange to not see rows of text but instead colorful wriggling lifeforms in my inbox. You could make it a game to clear the inbox, or take a cue from the Game of Life, and have a squirming microbe spawn an instant reply.

Carolin has a fascination with the natural world and its possibilities over static user interfaces: one of her other projects is an encyclopedia of the arts represented by different classes of jellyfish.

Building models (info or economic) in your spare time

I enjoyed reading Hal Varian's paper How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time. It succinctly describes how to build a theoretical model for how a system may work, from getting the idea, to testing it out, to improving it. It requires you to have a little ambition and a little less ego. At the end, he summarizes his major points, and it strikes me that this is also a good way for any student or academician in any discipline to grow intellectually and think bigger thoughts.

  • Look for ideas in the world, not in journals.
  • First make your model as simple as possible, then generalize it.
  • Look at the literature later, not sooner.
  • Model your paper after your seminar. (Varian recommends leading a seminar on your model, which forces you to get your ideas in shape so your presentation both educates and entertains your audience.)
  • Stop when you've made your point.

Of course, he goes into greater detail on these and other points, but I really liked the first one: read magazines to get an idea of the ideas and problems that are in the air. That appeals to my pragmatic side.

And since I'm a total software geek, I also enjoyed reading how he uses his computer to write his papers. At the time of the writing (the last update was in 1997) he used UNIX, kept a notes.txt file to contain ideas, thoughts, an outline, and in general used this file similarly to Mark Forster's idea of continuous revision. Only after he's collected ideas for weeks and months does he move to writing a first draft of the paper or chapter. He also uses UNIX's rcs for a revision control system.

Insofar as his idea of writing notes from audience or seminar Q&As, I'd suggest you use either a tape recorder or get a volunteer to write the questions and comments down for you.

Welcome to Eltingville on Adult Swim Video

Welcome to Eltingville, the pilot based on the Eltingville Club strips from Dork, can be seen on the Adult Swim Video site for the next few days. Here’s the pilot, if you are interested.

The viewers have given the episode a rating of 4 out of 10, which is a whole lotta ouch. I looked at a few minutes of it and while it didn’t make me feel overtly proud, it certainly didn’t make me nauseous. I’d give it a 7. Your mileage may vary. Like, a 2 or something.

Yeesh. A goddamned 4 from the…


Welcome to Eltingville on Adult Swim Video

234 - “Slumless, Smokeless Cities”


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Take that, Harry Beck. Try as you might, the lines on your Tube map could never be as straight as this.

Beck schematised a transportation system that was completely irregularly laid out to begin with. This map, however, shows how planning ahead would enable not just symmetry, but also better living conditions, or as the map itself states: “Slumless, Smokeless Cities”.

The map was drawn up by Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928), the father of the garden city movement. Howard believed…


234 - “Slumless, Smokeless Cities”

WIlliam Gaines On "To Tell The Truth" via Classic Television Showbiz

Classic Television Showbiz, a blog run by Kliph Nesteroff, is far and away one of my favorite sites on the World Wide Wasteland. As the name implies, it’s all about that vast wasteland we know and love/loathe called television. More to the point, it’s about old clips from TV, culled from the even vaster wasteland known as Youtube, featuring a bevy of celebrity heavy hitters, also-rans and complete obscurities who polluted the airwaves during, oh, let’s say the 50’s up through the 80’s….


WIlliam Gaines On “To Tell The Truth” via Classic Television Showbiz

I Ching, or Yijing

Dragons fight in the meadow.
Their blood is black and yellow.

I have been throwing hexagrams for a week now, and trying to understand the I Ching. I have only the barest understanding of what is going on, but even so, they have been wildly, almost frighteningly, accurate at representing what’s going on in my life at the time. Today I was very pleased to throw 2. K’un, The Receptive

On the recommendation of my Doctor of Chinese Medicine, who has been studying with the I Ching for almost…


I Ching, or Yijing

Steve Jobs on connecting the dots

Here, on the morning of the Macworld keynote address, some earlier words from Steve Jobs, from a Stanford commencement address, June 12, 2005:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san…

Steve Jobs on connecting the dots

Carrot2, a clustering search engine

Mary Ellen Bates raves about Carrot2 in her latest InfoTip newsletter. Carrot2 clusters search results, much as Clusty.com does. Carrot2 differs in that it's using a Swiss meta search engine, etools.ch, as the basis for its initial group of search results, while Clusty uses US-based meta search engines. Both the Carrot2 and Clusty home pages look like mirror images of each other, down to the various selection tabs on offer. As a test, I entered "information retrieval" as a search term in both. I didn't do a hard analysis, of course, but I found Clusty's clusters generally more scannable and valuable as a starting point for further searches, as the clusters tended to be more granular. Carrot2's fewer clusters seemed to survey the landscape at a slightly higher level; specifying different sorting algorithms (available under Show Options) was fun though--"Rough k-Means" and "HOAG-FI" shook up the clusters and yielded a more interesting display.

By the way, I'm also subscribing to Mary Ellen's Info-Entrepreneur newsletter. I'm able to visualize myself doing that kind of work soon; up to now, I've not had a real picture of where my IS degree may take me. The Info-preneur/Information Broker idea at least gives me a start at something to form ideas around. I also consider it a good omen that her initials (MEB) are the same as mine. :)

Mary Ellen also runs a blog on the side, Librarian of Fortune, where she "contributes white noise to the blogosphere." Highly recommended, as are her newsletters.

Two New Anthologies

Designer names to come

The BDR loves anthologies: see a few more here , here and here. (And for something even cooler, keep reading.)

The Book of Other People (gotta be Charles Burns illustrations, right?) comprises 23 stories by writers such as David Mitchell, Dave Eggers, George Saunders and Chris Ware. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “(Zadie Smith’s) instruction was simple: make somebody up.” I’m dying to know if there are more illustrations on the back cover.


The…
Two New Anthologies

Doomsday is Friday

For 2008, that is. Here’s Wikipedia on the Doomsday rule:

The Doomsday rule or Doomsday algorithm is a way of calculating the day of the week of a given date. It provides a perpetual calendar since the Gregorian calendar moves in cycles of 400 years.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This movie, with its hints of Metamorphosis and Maya Deren, probably will stand as one of the best of the last ten years.  Of course it has a deeply economic theme: how much of the value of life stems from our ability to trade, and how much from our ability to play games of pure coordination?  Plus the French health care system is so good that all the nurses are beautiful and pay infinite attention to a single patient, or maybe that is just how French movies are made.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Atomic Radiation

Design by Bruce Robertson

Finding it a little hard to get to the bookstore lately, so I turn once again to the incredible Seven Hundred Penguins. Predictably, it didn’t take long to find an example of what has made Penguin such a great publisher over the years.


Published in 1964, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Atomic Radiation is a fantastic example of how two colors and geometry can jump out and kick your photo-illustrated cover’s butt.

(And if anyone knows more about…
The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Atomic Radiation

Tribes of Burma

“There is in this particular region a collection of races
diverse in feature, language and customs such as cannot,
perhaps, be paralleled in any other part of the world”.
[Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Sir George Scott, 1899]

“We shall never be able to trace all the people who
now inhabit Burma back fully to their original seats,
or say precisely where they had their beginnings”.
[‘The Tribes of Burma’, C.C. Lowis, 1919]


Tribes of Burma - Kaw (Ahkra) 1900

Kaw (Ahkra)



Tribes of Burma - Kaw (Si-Saw) 1900

Kaw…

Tribes of Burma

Milk and Cheese Vinyl Set Given Props @ Plastic And Plush

The Plastic and Plush toy review site has started posting their “Best of 2007” lists and the Milk and Cheese vinyl set nabbed a slot on the list for “Best Packaging”.





Plastic and Plush gave the figures a nice write-up back when they were released and the virtual ink they’ve given the project has certainly been appreciated. Especially since most of the toy world virtually ignored us. Oh, cruel toy world! 
Milk and Cheese Vinyl Set Given Props @ Plastic And Plush