November 27, 2004

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

book coverGibson's most contemporary novel. Cayce Pollard is an advertising consultant with a very specific specialty. (Yes, Cayce is pronounced "Case," which was the name of the protagonist of Gibson's most famous novel, Neuromancer. One could probably spend much time analyzing the motivation for this correspondence.) She has an innate sensitivity to graphical branding such that she can tell at a glance whether a proposed symbol will be effective or not. Unfortunately for her, this skill comes with physical symptoms that resemble a combination of allergy and panic attack depending on the particular trademark in question. You can imagine how difficult her life must be in our rabidly branded society.

Cayce is also a devotee of the "footage", a sort of internet meme/fad revolving around scores of brief video clips which are being intermittently released into the net by no one knows who. They are ambiguous, possibly parts of a larger whole, possibly not.

While in London doing a logo testing job, she is offered payment and backing to find the creator of the footage. And then things start to get interesting.

Gibson has a gift for writing prose that just drips with what Steinbeck called "hoopdedoodle," yet which is also wildly effective at yanking you into the world of his story and not letting you go. I was just flipping through the book to remind myself of the names and circumstances, and I kept getting sucked into reading for pages and pages. Very fun book.

Posted by jeffy at 04:56 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (repeat) by J. K. Rowling

book cover: Harry & Hermione on a hippogriffI picked this up at the library (in the brick-shaped paperback edition) to reread on a trip after seeing the Alfonso Cuarón-directed film adaptation. I was certain that large expanses of the book had been trimmed and that there had been some minor plot tinkering in the book-to-screen translation process. Unfortunately too much time passed between seeing the movie and reading the book for me to confirm this perception, and now too much time has passed for me to be able to see the movie again with the book fresh in my mind. In any event, I enjoyed reading the book again, and have concluded that the tinkering they did for the film was relatively benign (since it didn't stick in my mind well enough to identify clearly). My original review of the book is here (such as it is).

Posted by jeffy at 04:06 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

Lost Glove #32

foreground: leather work glove, background: receding roadway, flyover freeway ramp, forested hillside

Posted by jeffy at 11:19 PM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (2)

November 21, 2004

MT-Blacklist is my friend

I installed MT-Blacklist on my Moveable Type system (the software that generates this blog) about a month ago. It's a plugin that checks new comments for hyperlinks that match undesirable patterns. If a hyperlink matches one of the patterns, the comment is refused. Not only that, when I get email that a comment has made it past the gates of MT-Blacklist, it provides a link which, if the comment looks like yet more new sneaky stinky spam, I can click to bring up a window that allows me to delete the comment, rebuild the affected pages, and add the links from the comment to the blacklist. To make it perform this action, I click a button labelled "Go forth now and do my bidding." After it's done doing my bidding it has a further link that will search all my comments for ones containing the newly added patterns. One more click and those are all gone too. That's four clicks to obliterate an entire comment spam attack. To deal with these without MT-Blacklist would take at least twice as many clicks for each individual comment.

Since I installed it less than 30 days ago, it has blocked over 1,300 spam comments.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go send some money to Jay Allen, the guy who not only wrote this brilliant countermeasure, but who gives it away to anyone who wants it, free.

Posted by jeffy at 08:50 PM in Administrivia | Comments (1)

November 18, 2004

Computer follies

So computers. Our windows desktop wouldn't boot.

I'd been obsessing about what to get for our next computer (like I do) for at least a year. When the wave function collapsed I found I'd ordered a Mac.

Four days later we had our shiny 14" iBook G4. It came out of the box with a full charge on the battery. Hit the power, it booted in about 3 seconds to the setup screen, entered a little bit of info and poof! It's a computer. Found our wireless network with no hassles and poof! It's an internet terminal. Plug in my digital camera and poof! it downloads the pictures into iPhoto.

Set up separate accounts for each of us so we can all have our own settings. There's a bit of a learning curve for us getting used to the Mac UI metaphors, but for the most part, it just works.

Meanwhile back in pc land, got a copy of XP and a new hard drive and some advice from a pc repair geek at work. Spent Saturday installing XP (lost count of how many reboots it took. Lots.) and enough apps to access the data on the dying drive (fortunately not quite dead). Had to go through most of the office to find all my install disks for all the applications I needed to install, so took the opportunity to file them all neatly each in their own folder in our file cabinet. Spent Sunday getting it onto the network and exporting our Quicken data and importing it again on the Mac. (Somewhere in that process is a bug that loses duplicate transactions in a single day, so I had to spend some time with both computers side by side, tracking down the days on which we made multiple $40 withdrawals and hand-entering them on the new box. That was tedious.)

Haven't turned the PC back on since I finished that process on Sunday. B and I have both been logged in to the Mac since Monday, switching between our separate logins each time the machine changes hands. Put it in standby when we're done (just close the lid, and the little pulsating white light (that you can't tell is there when it's off) goes on to say "I'm ready whenever you want to come back and play.") Haven't rebooted yet.

Every time I see the rotating cube animation it uses to indicate the transition between users I want to giggle with delight. Haven't felt that way about a computer since... well, my first Palm comes close, but before that I have to go back to the first time I played with a NeXT.

There's a few things that bug me about it and I'm sure I'll find more, but mostly it's just fun.

Posted by jeffy at 11:02 PM in Personal Interest | Comments (2)

November 15, 2004

Lost Gloves #30 & #31

white knitted work glove with blue rubberized palm on paint-spattered pavement

Last week the Bridge of Lost Gloves claimed another pair.

Run! It's alive!!!

I would have posted them before now, but there have been computer issues around here for the past week. More about that later.

Posted by jeffy at 10:40 PM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (0)

Pet peeve

I recently went back to bloglines as an RSS aggregator for all my blog reading needs (well, except for LJ. I haven't decided how deeply to dive into the LJ community.)

So bloglines shows me which of my blogs have new content I haven't read. I click on the name of the blog and all the posts are loaded into a pane in my browser. Most of the blogs I read have full-text feeds which makes me happy because I can read the whole thing without ever having to leave bloglines, but some just show an excerpt. This bugs me a little, but it's not that big a deal to click on the title of the post to open a separate window showing the content on the blogger's own site.

What bugs the heck out of me is when the individual entry archive at the blogger's site has no links to the next and previous posts in their timeline. So to catch up on all their new things I have to read a post, kill the window, go back to bloglines, click on the next post, read it, kill the window, go back to bloglines...

Yes, I need to get a life. But if you see what I mean and you're one of the people without next/previous links on your individual entry page, please consider updating your template to make your readers' reading experience more fluid.

Posted by jeffy at 12:11 PM in Bloggage | Comments (2)

November 09, 2004

We're not blue, they're not red

I was going to put together a post showcasing all the various and sundry maps that people have been putting together to visualize the results of the presidential election, but then I found this excellent page that covers the ground better than I could have. But also look at this cartogram where areas of 50/50 split are colored white, and areas with a majority for one candidate or the other are tinted red or blue with the saturation indicating how far they swung.

In my opinion, the only people who benefit from painting half the country red and the other half blue are the politicians who want to keep us afraid. They want us afraid of terrorists, of criminals, of people from the other part of the country from us, of each other. They want us afraid because when we're afraid we don't think clearly. When we're afraid all they have to do is shout "boo" and we'll jump.

Look at the maps. Red/Blue is a myth.

And even if it weren't, all the colors mean is that a majority voted one way or the other for president. This is an opinion poll with only one question. It doesn't tell us very much about each other even with choices as seemingly opposite as Bush and Kerry. Pick an issue and a side, any issue and side, and there will be people with that view who voted for Bush and people with that same view who voted for Kerry.

The thing we need to do in this country (and probably the world) is shake off the artificial divisions that keep getting foisted upon us, and build a movement that's based in what we agree on. What is that? I'm not sure, but it's what I think we need to talk about instead of whether the Blue (or Red) states are going to let the Red (or Blue) states secede from the union. That garbage just distracts us from what's really important.

Posted by jeffy at 11:48 PM in Soapbox | Comments (1)

November 08, 2004

Lost Glove #29

fuzzy light green woman's glove on a sidewalk

On the sidewalk outside Shanghai Garden where I got my lunch today. (Szechuan Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce. Yum.)

Posted by jeffy at 11:40 PM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (1)

Lost Glove #28

glove and fire hydrant by streetlight

Last Thursday we went to the Seattle First Baptist Church to see and hear author Wendell Berry read from his latest novel. Readers of Mad Times may recognize Mr. Berry's name from the header of this very blog since it was a line from one of his poems that led me to my title.

Berry reads with a soft, slow Kentucky accent that could lull you to sleep if it weren't also making you relish every phrase. The reading was delightful.

And it was well worth the logistical hassle of getting me to Capitol Hill from downtown Issaquah without a car in time for the 7:00 reading. I was hiking up Madison from 4th Avenue where I got off the 554 bus. I'd detoured half a block north to check the menu at Star Thai and decide whether I had time to grab a bite (didn't). Walking back to Madison, I saw this glove.

Life goes on.

Posted by jeffy at 11:30 PM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (0)

November 02, 2004


I started a couple of different posts about the election, but I haven't been able to get either to a sufficient level of polish for publication. So...

Vote. Just vote. Please.

Posted by jeffy at 03:06 PM in Soapbox | Comments (1)