Jef Raskin, the original force behind Apple's Macintosh, died this weekend. I interviewed Jef a couple years ago, when I was working on a project on the history of the Macintosh for the Stanford Library. At the time, Jef was working for some dot-com, and his office was just across the street from Apple world headquarters (ironically); his book The Humane Interface had either just come out, or was about to.
The first time we met, we sat in his office (at Telocity, I think) for a couple hours, talking about his background and work on the Mac; we then had lunch, and Jef mainly talked about model planes. As an oral historian, I tend to default to listening mode around people I'm interested in; but I get the sense that in most conversations, Jef probably did most of the talking. He had a vast array of interests, and pursued some of them very seriously: his home office was tucked away behind what looked like a machine shop and small airplane assembly plant, and upstairs was a small pipe organ.
I visited his house a couple times, to go through his papers-- mainly a fruitless search for a memo that either he wrote to refute Larry Tesler's argument in favor of multibutton mice, or that Larry wrote to refute Jef's argument in favor of multibutton mice (each was pretty sure he had written it, but neither could find a copy any longer)-- and talk about The Humane Interface, which was already getting some pretty positive coverage. During one of those visits, in order to make good use of the time, I ended up doing part of an interview with him while he drove his kids to music lessons in San Francisco. Getting folded into a family's routine is not the sort of thing that usually happens when you do an interview.
Jef had a reputation for being arrogant, brusque, and generally having a poor interface (ironic, given his work). He struck me very impatient with the stupidity of the world, and certain in many of his opinions; but I also found him a lot more likeable, and friendly in a gruff kind of way, than I expected. Basically, anyone who spent any time around academics or scientists would have recognized the personality type. And it is impossible to argue with his basic claim that computers are still a lot harder to use than they should be, and that many of the fixes are pretty straightforward, but not done because of established practice, legacy code, or because most computer companies don't really care about users.
Jef had co-founded a Center for Humane Interfaces that recently got some seed money. I don't know what's going to happen to it, but the world will be the worse if his ideas don't catch on.
Jef is the second Mac veteran I interviewed who has died since the project: Jim Sachs, one of the developers of the Apple mouse, died in 2002. Having worked mainly on Victorian science, where your subjects are safely gone, I find it's a disconcerting thing. Jim and Jef were extremely different, but arguably they were two of the most brilliant people to work on the Mac, and deserve to be remembered more prominently as thinkers and contributors to the evolution of the computer. I suppose in some small way those interviews will help.
A birthday party is sort of like a rain forest; the adults are up in the canopy with the monkeys, and the kids are down on the ground with the gigantic insects. If a birthday party goes well... the two ecologies rarely interact. (from today's column)
[good catch, Craig!]
[To the tune of The Doors, "The End," from the album "The Doors".]
Now, where's my bling bling (whatever that is)?
For starters, both groups share a love of loose-fitting, pajama-style apparel. Still not satisfied? Bloggers and rappers are equally obsessed with social networking. Every rapper rolls with his entourage; every blogger rolls with his blog roll. Women can't win an audience in either profession without raunching it up like Lil' Kim or Wonkette....
And don't forget those silly, silly names. Even if he didn't flaunt his devotion to pimping and pit bulls, you'd probably guess Snoop Dogg is a rapper. And Fedlawyerguy—yeah, probably a blogger. But the "blogger or rapper?" parlor game can stump even the nerdiest gangsta. Does uggabugga despise wack emcees or wack Charles Krauthammer? What about Mad Kane? Big Noyd, Justus League, Uppity Negro, Little Brother, Cold Fury, and South Knox Bubba? (Answers: blogger, blogger, rapper, rap group, blogger, rap group, blogger, blogger.)
Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments.... For rappers and bloggers, each theft is worth celebrating, another loose item to slap onto the collage.
Rap music and blogging are populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in first person.
[To the tune of Wild Cherry, "Play That Funky Music," from the album "Wild Cherry".]
Million-man world cities, a demo using Mikel Maron's Worldkit, which I've got to play around with sometime. Check out how all those red dots flourish after 1900.
"Librarians are more socially outgoing than academics?" (Household Opera, "The 'single woman in a rural college town' blues")
I sent off the review this morning. Yet another line on the c.v.. And if I'm going to read books, I might as well get as much out of it as I can.
I'm putting together the last paragraph of a review for the LA Times Book Review, my home away from home-- a piece on one of several books coming out this year on our exciting nanotech-enhanced, radically extended, cyborgish future. This particular book isn't that great on the social implications, nor does it really engage the arguments of critics of biotechnology like Leon Kass and Bill McKibben; but it does make me take a little more seriously a subject that I'd always found a little too science fiction-y for my taste.
I'm also finishing Andrew Parker's In the Blink of an Eye, on the role of vision in the "Cambrian explosion." It's something I picked up a couple weekends ago, while the children were at Story Time at our local bookstore.
There aren't many events in history that only happen once, but the appearance of vision is one. "The light switch was turned on, for the first and only time-- and it has been on ever since" in the Cambrian, as Parker puts it. It reminds me of Eric Havelock's work, about the first and last time that alphabetic writing is invented and changes a society. And it makes me wonder: is there such a first-and-last change that's happening now?
"Blogging, I've discovered, is about as stimulating as singing to my refrigerator." (Jerry Lanson, "Our waste howling 'cyberness'")
I spent most of today either sleeping or in a flu-induced haze... one of my kids fell asleep uncharacteristically early... and the other just woke up a few minutes ago complaining that "the covers hurt." I wonder what the long weekend is going to be like....
Something from the EnVision05 conference that I'd meant to blog, but forgot to: We visisted the NASA Supercomputing Center (there are some pictures of it on my Flickr account), and got to see a big wall of monitors that they've built, a giant 7 x 7 display. The NASA guys were answering various questions about what they do with it, whether it's more useful to put up on really honkin' big image that covers all the screens, or a range of images-- say, a variety of results from a simulation. (They came out in favor to the latter.)
One of the guys said, "But the best thing is, we can run 49 debuggers at once!"
That brought the house down.
P.S. No, I don't really get it, either.
[To the tune of Radiohead, "Ripcord," from the album "Pablo Honey".]
We're creating several new blogs at the Institute, or rather I'm doing them, so I'm spending much of this evening playing around with style sheets. Future Now, which I started as a kind of underground, off-the-books, black ops project (okay, maybe not the last) has now generated enough interest within the Institute to make blogs for each of the major research programs de rigeur. Plus, we're always looking for ways to stay in touch with
out our [ed.: thanks, Craig!] clients.
But for me, it means I get to play around with style sheets and layout.
One of the things I love best about blogs, and especially about Movable Type and Typepad, is the ease with which they let you play with design and layout. After years of hand-coding pages and having to revise the code on every single page on my Web sites, being able to fiddle with the style sheets and have changes show up everywhere, instantly, is still a beautiful thing to behold.
Of course, other people sometimes have ideas about how things should look. That can be pretty pesky.
[To the tune of Radiohead, "Anyone Can Play Guitar," from the album "Pablo Honey".]
Dahlia Lithwick, Generation X's answer to Nina Totenberg, has a piece in today's Slate on the debate over Staunton, Va.'s Weekday Religious Education program. For those not familiar with the institution,
The WRE is a released-time Christian educational program, in which students in first, second, and third grades in the public school system, leave regular classes on school time in order to attend 30 minutes of religious instruction each week.... To comport with constitutional requirements, these religion classes happen either at local churches or in buses or trailers parked off school grounds.
Like everything she writes, it's a well-crafted piece; but I was interested in it for another reason.
I spent a couple elementary school years in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. At that time, the classes were held in the classroom: the regular teacher left for an hour or so, and someone who one of my classmates identified as his Sunday School teacher took over. While the rest of the class sang songs and argued theology, elementary school-style (e.g., do you really go to Hell if you say the word "fool"?), those students whose parents opted out were sent to the back of the room... and got to be Different From Everyone Else.
Not the highlight of my school days. I tended to find books about cosmology or evolution to amuse myself. If it's possible to read science books conspicuously, I did.
I confess to feeling more than a little Schadenfreude when the Sunday school teacher tearfully announced that a court had declared that the classes were unconstitutional, so they wouldn't be able to have them any longer.
Little did any of us realize that the case was called McCollum v. Board of Education-- and had been decided in 1948, a good 25 years earlier.
This is really cool:
FlickrGraph: A Social Network Visualization
Flickr Graph is an application that explores the social relationships inside flickr.com. It makes use of the classic attraction-repulsion algorithm for graphs.
Basically, it does the kind of thing that Diana Crane made a career of-- making explicit invisible colleges. (Though of course there's the whole question of how much credit you should give to formal declarations of affiliations and friendships; the problematics of our current inability to specify varieties of friends; etc. etc. Still, this is the kind of map that sociologists used to spend loads of time crafting. The grab-and-twirl feature is also cool.)
I've linked to my own flickrgraph above. Why is Ross Mayfield's head so big*?
[props to mad coolhunter Jason]
[To the tune of Traffic, "Freedom Rider," from the album "Feelin' Alright: The Very Best of Traffic".]
* In the visualization, I mean. In real life Ross is quite modest and pleasant.
I'm skipping out on a staff meeting to go to PARC, and hear Michael Braungart talk about "innovation for the next Industrial Revolution." A year or two ago I read the book he and William McDonough co-authored, Cradle to Cradle, and thought it was exceptionally interesting; and this is one of the things we're interested in at the Institute. So it's not like I'm at a bar, or anything.
The talk is one of several on Science and Technology for a Sustainable World. Other speakers are going to be:
Davuid Gottfried (WorldBuild Technologies)
Barbara Waugh (HP)
Tim Woodward (Nth Power)
There's some light jazz playing on the intercom, and they can't seem to figure out how to turn it off. Ah, the things that happen when you get the smartest minds in computer science in a room....
When one has finished building one's house, one suddenly realizes that in the process one has learned something that one really needed to know in the worst way -- before one began. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
I confess I've never thought of Nietzsche as a home improvement kind of guy....
Would the DIY network or HGTV be interested in a show on Nietzchean home projects, I wonder? Maybe there's a whole franchise concept here-- Surrealist kitchen remodels, Existentialist kids' room projects, Stoic plumbers' projects...
Just the thing to differentiate yourself from Paige Davis and Bob Vila.
Normally I confine posts relating conversations with my children to the kids' blog, but occasionally you get into an exchange that throws light on the 5 year-old mind.* In the car this morning, I got into this conversation with my daugher:
Her: I'm making a ball of yarn.
Me: What are you making it from?
Me: [concerned that she was unraveling her dress or something] Where did the string come from?
Her: From my puppy's leash. [She likes to tie yarn around her puppy's neck and drag it around. For some reason, this drives me slightly nuts.]
Her: Why are you asking so many questions?
Me: Can't a parent ask questions?
Me: Why not?
Her: Because parrots can't talk!
Me: No, not parrots. Parents!
Her: Oh. [pause, then joking:] They can't talk, either.
Me: Then how come I'm talking?
Her: You're not really saying anything.
Me: [pulling into school] I see.
I expect many more conversations that end like that as she gets older.
*And I just posted this to the wrong blog.
[To the tune of The Rolling Stones, "Gimme Shelter," from the album "Forty Licks (Disc 1)".]
There's an update to Ecto. This isn't actually news, since there seems to be an upgrade about every two weeks.
Dollar for dollar, it's got to be the best piece of software I've ever bought. Certainly it's my most-used.
Oh, terrific. 30-35k records of Californians stolen by criminals. And those are only the ones we know about, since we're the only state that requires companies like ChoicePoint to notify customers when they're hacked. (Damn anti-business hippie policies!)
Database giant gives access to fake firms: ChoicePoint warns more than 30,000 they may be at risk
Criminals posing as legitimate businesses have accessed critical personal data stored by ChoicePoint Inc., a firm that maintains databases of background information on virtually every U.S. citizen, MSNBC.com has learned.
The incident involves a wide swath of consumer data, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, credit reports and other information. ChoicePoint aggregates and sells such personal information to government agencies and private companies.
Last week, the company notified between 30,000 and 35,000 consumers in California that their personal data may have been accessed by "unauthorized third parties," according to ChoicePoint spokesman James Lee.
[To the tune of Seal, "Crazy," from the album "Seal".]
According to The Economist's article on Nokia (available if you're a subscriber), the Finnish cellphone maker is the world's biggest camera maker, thanks to the popularity of camera cell phones. Quite a remarkable little fact.
One of the great virtues of being a Mac office is having access to my colleagues' music collections. (Many of us listen to music while we work; often, none of us will be listening to our own stuff, but will have on someone else's playlist.) Recently I discovered GrooveLily, a trio whose work is a mix Sea Level, Tori Amos, Vienna Teng, and Louisiana Leroux. (How's that for an obscure combination?)
They're really good. I'll have to add them to my Amazon wish list, if I can ever find it again.
[To the tune of GrooveLily, "Apocalyptic Love Song (I Don't Care)," from the album "Are We There Yet?".]
I can't wait for this to hit BitTorrent...
World premiere for 'Darwin dub'
Two academics are paying an unusual homage to naturalist Charles Darwin's seminal study, The Origin of Species.
Prof Mark Pallen and PhD student Dom White, both of Birmingham University, are performing extracts from the work in dub, a hybrid form of reggae music....
The self-styled Genomic Dub Collective came together after Prof Pallen, a bacteriologist, was inspired by a reading from Birmingham poet Benjamin Zephaniah... [who] read out anti-slavery poetry by Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin....
Jamaican-born Mr White, a geneticist, puts the vocals to Prof Pallen's computer-generated music.
The duo's work, which they will be performing for the first time, includes adapted readings from the Origin of Species to a roots reggae beat and an exploration of human evolution in Africa.
If chocolates and flowers won't cut it, how about a peerage?
Today we had Anthony Townsend visiting the Institute, and giving a talk.
Turns out he and Peter Hesseldahl are friends, and got to know each other during Anthony's recent trip to Korea. Some of the pictures in Anthony's talk about Korea, broadband, and ubiquity were taken by Peter, in fact.
I'm editing a long interview with my friend Peter Hesseldahl (author of The Global Organism) this morning, so no time for substantive writing. So I direct your attention elsewhere:
Now that they've pulled out of the 6-way talks, Kim Jong Il has time to blog again. For a reculsive neo-Stalinist, he's surprisingly open on his blog; where else could you learn, "my favorite movie was Bambi. I wanted to be called the Deer Leader but people misunderstood."
It makes you wonder how the Cold War might have been different if the Politboro had blogged.
Also, the Top 15 Bush twins Secret Service code names is amusing. (Their real code names are "Twinkie" and "Turquoise.")
[To the tune of Machine Drum, "Mltply," from the album "Bidnezz".]
...now that the Fresh Choice in Stanford Shopping Center is closing?
Maybe we'll have to take them to Ikea-- which given the Guardian's recent trashing of the chain / empire, should toughen them up. They make going to Ikea sound like Lord of the Flies in a shopping mall. (Isn't that a remake idea?)
[To the tune of GrooveLily, "Live Through This (Are We There Yet?)," from the album "Are We There Yet?".]
I've been entertained this evening by the Jeff Gannon story. For anyone living under a rock, Gannon is a White House "reporter" for a right-wing outfit called "Talon News" who also was the "owner" of several "gay male escort Web sites." His Web site (no, not his AOL one with him in his underwear and dog tags) now just carries a message that he's returning to private life (about which AMERICAblog commented, "Drama queen, much?").
Slightly spookier is the fact that his former employer has been busy removing all traces of Gannon from their Web site-- bio, articles he bylined, everything. It's like the guy never existed.
If you look at the source for jeffgannon.com, you see a couple additional fun things that just highlight the disconnect between, let's say, his day job, and his weekend job.
<meta name="description" content="The Conservative Guy believes that more Americans are conservatives than anyone would believe. Americans share the core values of individual freedom and personal responsibility. The growing conservative movement is the result of the hypocrisy and failure of liberalism and the feminist agenda. The Conservative guy is a writer, speaker and lecturer, commentary and essays on politics and policies, liberalism.">
<meta name="keywords" content="Conservative Guy, Conservatism, politics, government, Congress, core values, personal responsibility, pro-life, right-wing, GOP, Republican, activism, libertarian, intrusive federal government, college campus conservatives, Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clinton legacy">
Funny that hotmilitarystud.com and militaryescorts.com didn't get metatagged, too. Or would they have used name="FOAF"?
My daughter carried a shopping bag full of Valentine's Day cards into school today to share with her friends. If only things were that easy for adults. At least we don't really have to deal with Onion Love Coupons.
[To the tune of World Party, "Love Street," from the album "Goodbye Jumbo".]
Okay, a lame Taxi Driver reference was inevitable for this:
Monday evening: I’m running late for dinner and I need a cab...I quicken my walk and head to Geary. I pull out the trusty Geek Beacon (my Treo 600) and switch on the display. I wave it high above my head and within seconds a cab pulls up. Bingo, the Geek Beacon does it again....
Then, the conversation somehow turns to blogging, (don’t ask me how...it was probably my fault...:-)
Turns out the cab driver was a former publisher of satirical cartoons and writings and once lived in the Haight-Ashbury when we published the local neighborhood newspaper, "The Street: A View from the Haight."
It reminds me of the night I graduated from college. I was coming back from dinner with my parents, and splurged on a cab. It turned out that the cabbie was a postdoc in biophysics, and worked in Britton Chance's lab on NMR stuff. He drove a cab a couple nights a week to get some extra money to send back to his family in India.
The weird thing was, my stepmother took a cab to the airport the next day-- and got the same guy.
Via Karen Christensen:
Strom Thurmond reputedly told a South Carolina high school French teacher, introduced as someone who had been expanding the language program in the school district, “Ma’am, if English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for our boys and girls.”
[To the tune of The Doobie Brothers, "Jesus Is Just Alright," from the album "Best of the Doobies".]
One of the stories that circulates among sociologists of technology, and is used to illustrate how one generation's formal knowledge can become another's taken-for-granted information knowledge, involves vending machines. Apparently in the olden days (as my daughter would put it), vending machines came with detailed instructions about how they should be used-- down to what hand you should use for inserting the money.
I've always been a little suspicious of the story-- who needs instructions to figure out a vending machine?-- but this makes me think, okay, it could have happened.
[To the tune of Bob Dylan, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," from the album "Biograph (Disc 2)".]
There's a Blockbuster Video right beside our new office. Not too long ago, I popped in and rented Heat and Collateral, two Michael Mann movies about crime and existentialism in Los Angeles. I saw Heat years ago in the theatre, and missed Collateral entirely; seeing both of them together is a very interesting, not to say especially happy, experience.
I'd forgotten how smooth and dark, and completely depressing, Heat is. It's got some brilliant acting, though anything where Robert DeNiro (in what arguably was his last really great role-- what's up with his agent?) and Al Pacino square off is bound to be great. And Mann's combination of flashy, fluid directing and the outrageous yet highly professional violence makes for great viewing. (Mann seems to have a thing for bad guys whose work is as smooth as his.) Amoral carnage never looked so good.
But the film is intense, and I found it very depressing, in a way that I didn't-- maybe couldn't-- ten years ago. De Niro (Neil McCauley, the bad guy) and Pacino (Vincent Hanna, the cop) are both very much alike. They're extremely good at what they do. They've become-- and stay-- good by slashing out everything in their life that isn't work. Before, I saw them as the modern equivalent of ronin, masterless samurai devoted to their craft, wedded to nothing but the perfection of their respective arts; and, as a postdoc / journeyman scholar, I found that kind of romantic-- or at least very familiar. Now, in contrast, I found it immensely sad.
I also couldn't help but notice how steep a toll that attitude took on everyone around McCauley and Hanna. Obviously a lot of people get killed; but in the way of these movies, that seems less consequential than the lives that aren't ended, just ruined. The real surprise is Natalie Portman, who has a tiny but heartbreaking role as Vincent's stepdaughter, and ends up carrying a lot of more of the movie than you realize. I hardly noticed her the first time I saw the film; but now that I have a daughter of my own, I paid more attention to her. You see her onscreen three times, but she delivers one of those performances that becomes amazing once you know where her character goes, and what's going to happen to her. (She's also necessary because Pacino's wife-- played by Shakespearean actress Diane Verona-- isn't a particularly sympathetic character: it's harder to get worked up over Hanna's offhand destruction of his marriage to a stoned wife, but Portman's character really brings the cost home.)
Collateral, in contrast, is a much cooler film in psychological and emotional terms. Sure, there's the whole complicated relationship between Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox-- or rather, a hostage situation that keeps threatening to turn into a really twisted version of the Stockholm Syndrome. It's also interesting how the film moves through several different L.A.s: the action is set in a Korean nightclub, a Mexican bar, and a jazz club, among others. (Come to think of it, the ethnic enclaves seem a lot more lively than L.A.'s deracinated public spaces.) But because both Cruise and Fox are loners, and without attachments, the emotional universe that they're operating in is smaller and more self-contained than that of Heat. Still, it's a very cool film-- especially if you don't actually like L.A..
[To the tune of Machine Drum, "Mltply," from the album "Bidnezz".]
Slate has a slightly breathless (out-of-breath?) piece about how to foil airport security systems that let you check in using print-at-home boarding passes.
The scary thing about it is that Eric Rescorla pointed this out... in October 2003. In nearly a year and a half, in other words, this problem has been out there.
For those who like a literary mystery, Karen Christensen's recent Guardian piece about working for TS Eliot's widow is not to be missed.
This is either something that designers and photo editors have been waiting their whole lives for, or one of those "I've created this because the Web lets me do it" kinds of things. Whichever, the Flickr Central Colr Pickr is worth seeing for yourself (on a fast connection).
[thanks again, Jason]
[To the tune of Yoshinori Sunahara, "Information of TUA," from the album "Take Off and Landing".]
Josh points out in a comment to my last Amazon comments/performance art post that, as a graduate student, he wrote a paper about fake Amazon reviews and the notion of online community. From the introduction:
In the past decade, "Community" has become one of the biggest buzzwords with regard to computer-mediated-communication.... However, while this is by all means a noble pursuit, such work reifies the technology in question. Its tacit implication that the creation of the right space will lead to community-forming misses the point that technology is somewhat flexible, and that users have as much agency with regard to the construction of a "virtual settlement" as do its designers.
The following case study of facetious book reviews on Amazon.com offers an example of such activity on the part of users, as they hijack a public space and reshape it for their own purposes. A community developed among these users, complete with shared norms, shared language, and a shared sense of purpose.
And people wonder what science studies is good for. Sheesh....
P.S. Josh, if this post results in absolutely no increase in your traffic, don't tell me.
[To the tune of Steve Winwood, "While You See A Chance," from the album "Chronicles".]
In one of those free-association events that leaves you wondering just how your brain works, the reviews of the IDC report reminded me of "Gear and Clothing in Las Vegas," one of the funniest things to appear on the Internet-- until Star Wars Kid, of course.
[To the tune of Steely Dan, "Black Cow," from the album "Aja".]
In the tradition of unusual innovative combinations like lime-flavored corn chips, Hawaiian pizza, and MEMS accelerometers: mapping del.icio.us. Mmmmmm.... del.icio.us.
[To the tune of Steely Dan, "Any World," from the album "Citizen".]
A while ago, I wrote about how some people turn Amazon wish lists and recommended readings into performance art. Now the phenomenon extends to reviews: a $750 IDC report, No PSP for the Holidays, has become a-- shall we say, target-- for some remarkably effusive, and utterly fake, reviews:
I can finally waste 750 dollars on something that isn't even real. The beauty of it is, I can keep buying it every time I feel my bank account creeping up to dangerous levels....
It's hard to come up with an adequate adjective to describe the impact of this PDF on my brain. "Mind-frothingly stupor-wonderful" comes to mind.... [And] I thought nothing could compare to IDC's magnum opus "U.S. Utilities Billing Outsourcing 2004-2008 Forecast and Analysis."...
IDC have done it yet again! Masterful storytelling mixed with fascinating insights mark the highlights of this document. While never quite reaching the seminal standard that works such as 'U.S. Payroll Services 2004-2008 Forecast and Analysis' ($3,500) or 'Worldwide Logistics Applications' ($4,500) it does manage to stand out for its surprise ending (as other readers have hinted at) and use of a colon in the title....
I couldn't believe how much I could identify with the people at Sony in this document. I ALWAYS want to delay things around Christmas! It was like they wrote this just for me....
And best of all, "This item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping."
Seriously: it's a terrific example of how people can figure out how to take just about any technology and turn it into a medium for creative expression.
[via Jason, about whom I must wonder: where does he find this stuff?]
[To the tune of Steely Dan, "Green Book," from the album "Everything Must Go".]
Other than the usual children-related stuff that soaks up most of Saturday, I have the feeling we're going to spend some time on the Millard Fillmore Trivia Hunt, a competition that students at my wife's school take very seriously.
I did a couple of these when I was in college; there was also a crazy one at Williams that I got roped into that proved the social highlight of my year there. Which just shows how pathetic a life you have when you're writing your dissertation in the middle of absolute nowhere.
I know there are lots of cool things for the iPod, but this had got to be some kind of... record... or something.
The IPOD-Photo Stereoscope
In the early days of photography, stereoscopic viewing was all the rage.... Fast forward 100 years and with the help of what is now an antique stereoscope, a digital camera, and a device such as an IPOD-Photo, one can once again view colour stereopair images without specialised computer hardware.
Because, after all, when I look at an iPod, the first thing I think is, "Okay, that's nice, but really: how could I use it to revive a 19th-century visualization technology?"
The pictures really are worth several thousand words. It's a real testament to power of user reinvention.
[To the tune of Elvin Bishop, "Fooled Around And Fell In Love," from the album "Essential Southern Rock (Disc 1)".]
A couple days ago, after telling one of my coworkers that no, I was not going to go camp out for tickets to Star Wars: Episode III, I added that when I was a kid I did see Star Wars 41 times in the theatre. (My parents had recently divorced, I was stuck in rural Virginia, it was the summer, and an astronomy and science fiction nut. All in all, it beat reality.)
Now I'm a marked man, as this just arrived over iChat. Thanks, Sean. Now back to work with you!
Though now that I think about, since one of my children (the one who got published in the Communications of the ACM before me) likes the idea of going camping, and would like seeing people wearing costumes, she'd be into it. And if there was nothing to eat but movie popcorn and candy, it would be impossible to get her home.
[To the tune of Yes, "Starship Trooper," from the album "Keys To Ascension (Disc 2)".]
Though given the evidence of my cats, most blog entries would at least mention, and many would be about, sleep.
Gaming magazine EGM published a hilarious interview-- transcript, really-- with a bunch of 11 year-olds playing classic video games. (There's also an earlier interview, which is just as funny.) I know it's not new; still, I've clipped comments about three of the games I played a lot as a kid.
Who knew feeling old could be funny?
EGM: Do you feel like you're really flying an X-Wing here?
Anthony: I'm gonna crash.
Dillon: Shoot the word "200."
Dillon: Shoot the towers!
EGM: Do you feel like you're in the middle of the Star Wars universe right now?
Parker: It feels like we're in some barely 3D universe.
Bobby: Maybe it feels like we're in the Star Wars universe where you can't see that well....
EGM: Do you feel like you're using the force?
Garret: We're not using the Force right now. I just crashed. I feel like my grampa.
Parker: It looks like they didn't finish the game.
Bobby: I've played this on my cell phone.
EGM: [Pointing to the humans on the ground] What do those characters look like?
Parker: They look like those little characters in the Game of Life, the little people you have to stick in your car.
EGM: Before this came out in compilations, we used to put quarters in arcade machines.
Parker: You wasted quarters in this?
Parker: That's so sad.
Garret: Space Invaders is better than this.
Parker: Space Invaders...all these games are exactly the same-there's no difference.
EGM: What does this game need to make it as good as Space Invaders?
Parker: Worse graphics....
EGM: Now imagine you've reached the 10th stage, and you're on your last life. Once you die and you put another quarter in, you don't just continue from there-you start all over.
Parker: Are you serious?... And you guys back then were OK with this?
[To the tune of Kansas, "Play The Game Tonight," from the album "The Best Of Kansas".]
Singing in the Rain purists probably won't like it, but this new VW Golf commercial is interesting as an example of remix culture. Though doubtless VW got permission before superimposing Gene Kelly's face on a new dancer.
It's a bit like that part in The Running Man, where the game show fakes Arnold's death by mapping his face onto another contestant. The boundary between fiction and reality, or Arnold and reality, grows more fragile....
Ah, there are times when I miss Virginia politics:
The House of Delegates squabbled before tentatively endorsing the special state plates that would include the capital-letter words "TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE," as well as a symbol, two interlocked golden wedding bands over a red heart.
Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, who sponsored the legislation, said it would merely embrace 4,000 years of history on marriage and show children that "traditional marriage is fundamental."
Wait. No I don't.
I write about people, technology, and the worlds they make.
I'm a senior consultant at Strategic Business Insights, a Menlo Park, CA consulting and research firm. I also have two academic appointments: I'm a visitor at the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University, and an Associate Fellow at Oxford University's Saïd Business School. (I also have profiles on Linked In, Google Scholar and Academia.edu.)
I began thinking seriously about contemplative computing in the winter of 2011 while a Visiting Researcher in the Socio-Digital Systems Group at Microsoft Research, Cambridge. I wanted to figure out how to design information technologies and user experiences that promote concentration and deep focused thinking, rather than distract you, fracture your attention, and make you feel dumb. You can read about it on my Contemplative Computing Blog.
My book on contemplative computing, The Distraction Addiction, will be published by Little, Brown and Company in 2013. (It will also appear in Dutch and Russian.)
My latest book, and the first book from the contemplative computing project. The Distraction Addiction will appear in summer 2013, published by Little, Brown and Co.. (You can pre-order it through Amazon or IndieBound now, though!)
My first book, Empire and the Sun: Victorian Solar Eclipse Expeditions, was published with Stanford University Press in 2002 (order via Amazon).
PUBLISHED IN 2012
PUBLISHED IN 2011
PUBLISHED IN 2010
PUBLISHED IN 2009