September 03, 2005


I don't have anything original to say in the face of the series of disasters the people of the gulf coast are dealing with, but I've been reading a lot of good stuff out in greater blogistan that I can point you to if you're not already overwhelmed.

First off, if you want to do something to help, money to the Red Cross seems to be one of the better options. Check if your employer will match your donation like mine did.

One of the disasters in the chain has been the complete lack of a command structure in the aid response. Jim MacDonald over at Making Light shows that it isn't that we don't know how to do it, it's that we chose not to.

Making Light is a blog written by editors and they've been busy doing what good editors do: highlighting the good stuff so you don't have to read slush. Their main Katrina post is a good example, but everything they've posted since before the hurricane hit is worth a look. And it's one site where reading the comments is nearly essential.

UK science fiction writer Charlie Stross has some sobering musings about the potential global economic impact of shutting down one of the world's most active ports for the forseeable future.

Finally, if nothing else, this mess should bring home the importance of your own personal disaster preparedness plan. Because no matter where you are, there will be a disaster near you some time. Making Light has you covered again with Uncle Jim's excellent guide to assembling a "go bag". This is one of my projects for this weekend.

Posted by jeffy at 01:35 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

Hey look, I'm famous!

My name appears in an update to a post on über blog Boing Boing!

The post is about the cutesy art used on some Japanese condom packaging. I was able to point out that one of the packages is a remix of a Kit Kat candy bar wrapper. There's nothing of a NSFW (not safe for work) nature in that post, so you can go look. Some of the package designs are pretty funny.

I also managed to get in the fact that US Kit Kats (made by Hershey) aren't nearly as good as Canadian Kit Kats (made by Nestle, as are the Kit Kats in every other country.)

I was delighted to discover, while looking for a graphic to illustrate the similarity (Xeni chose her own, I must add) that Wikipedia has a page about Kit Kat.

(Other posts on this blog talking about Kit Kats: Niagra! and Hershey, PA. I'm pretty sure I picked up the "Canadian Kit Kat = Good" meme from tyd.)

Posted by jeffy at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

'S Wonderful

Last night we went to UW to see 'S Wonderful, a new musical review of songs by those two powerhouse songwriters of the last century, Cole Porter and the team of George and Ira Gershwin. There's no dialogue (well, one two-word line hardly counts, does it?), but there's so much narrative content to these songs that director and vocal arranger Scott Hafso was able to assemble a melange of interlocking love stories that are so engaging we hardly noticed the lack of speaking parts. This is very much a play made up of well known songs, not (like some reviews I've seen) just an assemblage of pretty tunes.

But wow, what songs! There are 44 different songs in this 90-minute piece, and almost all of them were familiar, and the few that weren't were so catchy that I wonder why they're not better known. I can't think of anyone working today who's putting out so many memorable and charming melodies and lyrics.

The cast of eleven (6 women, 5 men) is almost entirely composed of members of the UW's Professional Actor Training Program, and every single one of them had a chance to shine in the production. They weren't all stellar singers (though many of them were!), but they all managed to portray winning and sympathetic characters through interpretation of simple lyric and melody. I have to admit to having developed a bit of a crush on every single one of them by the end of the show. And that crush was only enhanced by seeing them all in street clothes in a question and answer session following the performance.

The one member of the cast who is not a student is the piano player, Jose Gonzales, who was simply marvelous playing continuously throughout the 90 minute show in a dozen different styles and moods. He apparently has a jazz trio that plays occasionally at St. Clouds in Madrona. Might have to check that out.

Anyway, if it isn't obvious by now, the show completely lives up to its name. 'S wonderful! It's playing through the 27th.

Posted by jeffy at 12:38 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

Library card monitoring

If you're like me, you check out way more books and magazines and videos and comics and CDs and things from the library than you could ever be expected to actually consume in the time allotted, let alone keep track of and remember to return.

Of course it's the library, so it's free, so the over-consumption thing is fine if you can just manage that "remember to return" part. This is complicated by the inexplicable need of library management software to present your checked out items to you in any order other than the order the items are due in.

I wrote a little script to mine the checked out items for my family's cards, sort them by due date and send me email every day. It was great.

Then my library changed their software. I was starting to try to figure out how to make it work again and I saw this post at 43 Folders.

The library ELF absolutely rocks. You create an account with them and you can enter all your different library cards and it will send you email when you have books coming due or have holds ready to pick up. And not just email, they also do SMS and RSS.

They have a growing list of libraries they know how to talk to, and they're incredibly responsive to requests for new libraries. They didn't have mine and had added it in less than 24 hours from receiving my request. It's flagged as a beta service, but it's worked flawlessly for me. I've made a couple of requests for feature tweaks, and those too were acted on almost immediately.

If you're an avid library user this is a great service. If you're responsible for a family of avid library users, you won't know how you lived without it.

Posted by jeffy at 10:04 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2005

Arthur Ganson

A mailing list I'm on pointed me to a page with video of the scultpures of Arthur Ganson. The sculptures are machines built from various stuff, bits of wire and string, gears, found objects. Some are hand-cranked, others have electric motors. They're extremely cool.

If you don't have the bandwidth to view the video online, he offers a DVD. And evidently PBS's Nova: Science Now did a brief segment on him.

Makes me want to buy a copy of Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements and make something out of all the boxes and boxes of spare bicycle parts I've got out in the garage.

Posted by jeffy at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2004

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 | Comments (2)

October 12, 2004

Become a Patron of the Arts

One of my favorite writers and editors is in the final stages of finishing his latest novel and has taken to posting the latest draft for comment on the web.

But the really fun part is that he is auctioning off three positions in the dedication of the published novel, and two positions as cameo characters in the book. There's links to the five auctions on his blog

The text of the auction descriptions is pretty entertaining all by itself, so take a look.

Posted by jeffy at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004


Lazy web request:

Anybody got an RSS aggregator they really like? I'm reading from three different computers, all unfortunately running some version of windows. The idea of a web-based aggregator appeals for this reason, but bloglines didn't blow my socks off when I tried it for a couple of days a few months ago...

What would be perfect for me is something that makes the blogosphere look like usenet used to ;-)

Leave a comment or send email.

Posted by jeffy at 06:18 PM | Comments (2)

March 08, 2004

Potlatch day 2

I went to most of the panels at Potlatch on day two (2/28). Here's what they were. Read on through the cut for absurd amounts of detail about them. If I had the time I'd make it shorter, but I'd rather get it posted than spend months polishing it into jewel-like brevity.

Life After the Singularity

At The Precipice: Assembling Human Space

Waiting for the Electrician

Shock Treatment

Deception Versus Transparency Smackdown

Life After the Singularity

For those not clued-in to the lingo, "singularity" here means a fundamental change in the nature of humanity or society. This panel spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what that really means. A definitive example would be the point at which computing power becomes sufficient to fully model or simulate the human brain such that a person's "mind" could be reimplemented in hardware.

The problem came in trying to come up with an example in real life. It was generally agreed that while things like the advent of agriculture or the industrial revolution did remake society, they did not result in the kind of wholesale change that SF has proposed. The nearest thing proposed was the ascendence of Homo Sapiens over the Neanderthals (or whoever it was who came before us), but since we don't know too much about how that happened, it's hard to tell whether it really qualifies.

Really, I think the concensus that was emerging was that SFnal singularities are not a real-life scenario. It was pointed out that the events in Brunner's The Shockwave Rider take much of their verisimilitude from the fact that he depicts a future where people have not changed very much at all and the world has changed only incrementally except for a few key areas where more sweeping changes occurred.

Unfortunately, accepting the "singularities don't exist" thesis would have invalidated the panel's subject so discussion continued in a more speculative mode.

Someone wondered what would happen if some subset of humanity made a jump to another level. Something like what happens in Nancy Kress's Beggars books where the necessity of sleep is genetically engineered out of some people. One of the panelists suggested that the next-wave people might not look back on those of us left behind with much compassion. The room was optimistic enough to think this unlikely (and in Kress's books, the sleepless pretty quickly begin work towards uplifting the sleepers to their own level).

At the Precipice: Assembling Human Space

This was the most dynamic panel of the day. I took copious notes even down to trying to record who said what when I could tell. Rather than spend a week trying to synthesize them, I'm presenting them here only lightly edited. My apologies if I misattributed or misheard anyone's comments. Let me know and I'll update this account.

The word "Community" appeared about a thousand times so I took to writing just "C". I think I'll leave that alone here.

I put my comments in square brackets since no one heard them but me ;-)

Opening remarks:


How physical space is organized affects how people interact.

As we plan communities "are we desiging the places and the technology for community in such a way that it helps it or hinders it."


Community has saved my life. Use communitites as support both day to day and in crisis. Three kinds of C built, gay C, SF C, Music C. C is human, not structure. Travelled a lot growing up and think of self as a citizen of the world. Seen C used for political movements instead of family. Trying to bring the human viewpoint to this panel.


Interest in architecture and urban planning. "I know C when I see it." Precipice from Shockwave Rider vision of a village where C is part of the design assembled after a disaster as C project. Not just a single individual's vision. SR changed me because Ghirardeli Valencia Taliesin Port Marion(?) combination. Ledd to book A Pattern Language

Looking ahead, possibilities of this kind of disaster can lead to opportunites to build more environmentally. Move away from "centripital scattering". What happens when you take a bunch of kids from suburbia and put them in a spaceship? They can't relate to the tight social net of the old village model.


Had experience of living in an intentional community (Puget Ridge), one-time president of a cohousing organization.

Build places that are intended to be lived in as if they were a village. Just as one person's erotica is another's pornography, one person's cozy village can be another's hell on earth.

Cohousing is planned with mix of private and common space. Meals for whole C about 3 times a week (somewhat required). People take turns cooking and cleaning. Eco villages with clusters of groups. Or filling in a block.

Different from fandom where infrequent gatherings. Then there's Howard Rheingold's virtual communities. TNH's Making Light where single person acts as gatekeeper (and moderator/disemvoweler).

Who and what are gatekeepers of a C. What allows people to join? What prevents people from joining? Gatekeepers prevent tragedy of the commons if they do their job well. Sometimes whole community is gatekeeper. With cohousing, economics of owner occupancy sets a bar. Mix of people there already. Process of how existing group interacts. Can you have community without a formal process?


C started as need-web: those who provide the services you need, food, construction, entertainment, family ties. As tech has broken the need to address these needs in your locality, social and entertainment functions have been pried off the physical realm. Clothes from china, veggies from south america, may never see your neighbors. "gated communities".

Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg

Disappearance of coffeeshops, beauty parlors. Third Place. In England, the local pub. For me Fandom is my Local. For a lot of people that is just gone from their lives.

[Nobody mentioned the book (which I haven't read) about this, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.]


Any group will form C if forced like in Jail or Military. Think of internet C as being interactive. Don't know neighbors and don't necessarily want to. Holly Park in Seattle closest thing to public housing, people formed a kind of southern porch-sitting community. City trying to engineer a repeat of that that by introducing mom & pop stores etc. T doesn't think it will work because it had to evolve. (Holly Park got mowed down by "urban renewal"... Physical structure influenced ability to make it a community. Had green belt. Mostly ranch duplexes, not tenements.

[Funny that Tamara who was suggesting that she was the voice for humans being the vital ingredient brought this back to the panel premise that setting plays a large part.]

Someone pointed out that military training builds a C feeling. Ulrika says that this is a result of the training, they have sufficient commonality to be able to interact easily with anyone from the group.

Someone else says that the architecture of Military communities fosters this as well.

Bronx stoop evening conversation too.

Things being tangential to a path allow levels of interaction from meeting eyes to stop and linger to sit and talk for hours.

Puget Ridge had none of the doors directly facing each other. [I'm assuming this was intended to make the decision of whether to interact a voluntary one rather than forcing it by lining things up?]

Someone brought up Kitty Genovese, the woman whose assault many people witnessed and yet no one reported to police. Too many people heard it so everyone assumed that someone else took care of it. If it had been 20, maybe nobody moves. 2 people, both move. It's a "who's in charge?" issue. Training can overcome this.

The action of people in that kind of situation tells you whether you have a C or not. If people take responsibility for others then it's probably C. If they don't, then maybe not.

Sense of ownership/intentionality Commitment leads to Community. (the "plugin society" in Shockwave Rider didn't have that)

Brunner's Precipice is populated by Heinlein characters with multiple jobs can't stand to not be working for the group.

Investment in situation. College is a good example. Prep school where all students were part of the construction process and responsibility for all actions of community. Like Amish barn raising as in Witness where Harrison Ford's character realizes he's more part of the C from participating.

Now specialization/money-based relationship doesn't have the richness of interaction to support C.

Convention committees as example of C.

Note that Brunner missed the possibility of social space within the computer world.

Virtual Cs are different. Social contact is as much a need as food and air. Online Cs quickly spawn physical gatherings very often. Reproduces the evolution of fandom.

Some people who talk well, some who type well.

Online chat is complete social leveller for handicapped.

On the internet nobody can tell you're a dog.

They can only tell if you're a bitch.

Lived in a group of 8 houses in green belt overlooking urban blight. Needed to be a C and was. One person worried about speed on road and just built a speed bump and resulting conflict tore C apart.

We don't know how to build C these days. Endemic isolation is almost a mental illness.

Have to find ways to get along in the space stations or the global community. Fandom has some of the best communicators on the planet. Know people who have no friends. People who don't know how to even connect with one other person.

C built on single interest and can die when that interest dies. On the other hand, the give and take within a larger group gives you churn which is good for the larger C.

Church was a way that it used to happen.

[I thought that "used to" was interesting. And wrong.]

You have to be the thing. Example of woman who invited neighbors over for pancake breakfast. Model it for others. In Fandom can learn how to socialize and can learn how to build C. Active group of participants who model C.

Someone gave example from fandom where they saw impulse towards showing love to others and were hence drawn into the C.

Concept of social capital. Gift economy forces the connections that make a group into a C. Egoboo as motivation towards participation.

And yet Worldcons have started becoming more like spectator events.

There's also the problem of your life choices putting you into a situation where your neighbors form a community that you want nothing to do with. (They're all republicans, say)

Waiting for the Electrician

(means you're in the dark.)

Eileen Gunn wanted to talk about digital publishing, specifically how her site Infinite Matrix could more effectively push fringe short fiction by established writers.

(I wanted to holler out that she should change the name to Last Dangerous Visions, but I restrained myself)

I have total sympathy for this, but Eileen wanted to make the site massively popular and self-sustaining without her having to do any work. Probably not going to happen.

There was an emphasis on the ascendence of the blog format and suggestions that fiction serialized in a blog-like format with an RSS feed might be a win.

The big question that no one had a real answer to was how to make online fiction pay.

Shock Treatment

By this point in the day my laptop batteries were running low and my personal batteries weren't too far behind. This was a wide-ranging discussion of the book of honor, John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider.

I'm sad to say I can't really remember very much of the discussion. The panelists came well-prepared with examples from the book. Someone talked at length about the hits and misses in the predictions made in the book (predictions that presumably are derived from the Tofflers' Future Shock)

Comments were made about the sameness of Brunner novels. Surprise was expressed at the revelation that the government was being run by organized crime (and someone pointed out that the surprise of this revelation can be attributed to the fact that Brunner had written about that possibility in a previous book and probably felt he didn't need to hash out all the buildup again)

Some incredulity was expressed towards the idea that the voting at the end of the book would have any very profound effects. This was explored in much more detail in the Deception vs. Transparency panel.

The concensus seemed to be that it wasn't a very good book except that it had lots of cool ideas and provided a good jumping off point for wide-ranging discussion. What more could a bunch of fen ask for? (besides a better-told story, I mean)

Deception Versus Transparency Smackdown

This one was really interesting and I wish I'd had enough juice left to take detailed notes because I can hardly remember it now :-(

I'm hoping somebody else took notes and will post them somewhere.

Posted by jeffy at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

John Crowley's Little, Big to have 25th Anniversary Edition

Friday night at Potlatch, publisher Ron Drummond announced plans for a new edition of John Crowley's beloved novel.

Little, Big was originally published in 1981. Evidently Crowley was unhappy with the original book design. It was good as far as it went, but he had envisioned more of a 1920s Art Nouveau thing.

Incunabula Press did a limited edition run of Crowley's Antiquities that he was happy with (no surprise since it's a gorgeous book (one copy of which sits on my shelf *gloat*)).

So Incunabula will be producing a limited edition printing of Little, Big completely re-typeset and re-designed. And with illustrations by artist Peter Milton.

Milton does engravings/etchings that could have been inspired by Crowley's work if it weren't for the fact that Milton created them before having read any of Crowley's books (actually during the same time period during which Crowley was writing them, which is kind of creepy). The book will be illustrated with copies of 13 Milton etchings as well as a bunch of expanded details from those same works. The Davidson Gallery here in Seattle has some examples of Milton's work.

The new edition will be published on a subscription basis so that production costs are covered up-front. There will be a regular trade hardcover edition of 1500 copies selling for $75, a group of 600 numbered copies at $200, and finally a set of 26 lettered editions for $800. To sweeten the deal on the $800 edition, they will be printed with a four-page blank spread to be filled in by John Crowley with a personalized inscription along with your chosen passage from the book written out in longhand. Here's a sample of Crowley's writing so you can see why this is cool.

There is a web page for the project at Scroll down to see content (it seems obvious, but it took me a while to figure out that there was content below the fold on the opening page).

Must find more pennies.

Posted by jeffy at 03:12 PM | Comments (2)

February 28, 2004

Wiki Wiki

Potlatch has a Wiki

Posted by jeffy at 01:56 AM | Comments (1)

February 27, 2004

Potlatch day 1

I walked into the con suite at my first science fiction convention, Potlatch 13 and, probably predictably, the second person I saw was Anita Rowland who very nicely welcomed me to the room and took good care of my newbie self.

The very first person I saw was Ursula K. Le Guin! Oh my. Unaccountably, she is not 8 feet tall. Oh my. It's a wonder I could speak when I saw Anita a few moments later.

The 21st century introvert's way of dealing with large social situations is to fire up the laptop with WiFi and start blogging while trying to melt into the background as much as possible, so that's what I did.

The evening's session was entitled "Terrascaping Jane's Head" I presume since the moderator's name was Jane. The idea was to share books that changed your head; books after reading which you were never the same or the world was never the same. I tried to catch them all, so since I've got this big list I may as well stick it in here. Just what I needed, more good books to read.

I actually went prepared with a thing, but I wasn't brave enough to speak up. It's a brief section from a Delany book, either Heavenly Breakfast or The Motion of Light in Water, I can't remember which. In it, young Chip is walking up a trail with a companion who points out a waterfall off the trail. Chip only sees the bushes that surround the trail until his companion shows him to focus past the bushes and assemble a picture from the bits making it through the interstitial spaces between the leaves. This idea of focusing past the confusion of nearby detail has resonated for me not only in similar visual situations, but also in dealing with information rich environments of other kinds. (I was actually even reminded of it tonight since the blinds were closed in the room we were in, but I could see the monorail go by through the little spaces that remain open with closed mini-blinds. I'm not sure what it says about this group that they were perfectly happy to sit talking about books in a room with the blinds drawn hiding an excellent view of the Space Needle and other portions of the Seattle skyline. I'm sure it was just too bright earlier in the day and no one thought to open the blinds once it got dark.)

Anyway, here's all the other cool stuff in the order people people mentioned it with a gloss on their comments when I was able to capture them. I'll hide it behind a cut tag here so this doesn't run on to pages for any of my readers who aren't interested (though I can't imagine who that might be ;-).

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of ViolenceAlice Miller
Adventures In Time and SpaceRaymond J Healy and J Francis McComas
The Elements of Style Strunk & White
Elements of Programming Style P. J. Plaugher
Dhalgren Samuel R. Delany repeat readings over the course of years showed her "how many different ways the same words can be read" and changed her view of SF from being fiction about what can happen, to being about "how can people treat each other"
The Book of Marvels: The Occident and The Orient Richard Halliburton
Art Worlds Howard S. Becker art is something created by all the people who contribute to the materials and creation, purchase, etc. (Sociology)
The File Serge Lang
Rats, Lice, and History Hans Zinsser
Economics Paul Samuelson
Gödel, Escher, Bach Douglas R. Hofstadter
none Not a book, but the act of learning to program in Lisp
What Is Calculus About? W. W. Sawyer brought in response to someone (I think it was Vonda McIntyre) talking about the act of learning calculus
none the act of learning any new language (this was Ursula Le Guin, so I suspect she meant human, not computer languanges.)
Tigana Guy Gavriel Kay
Never Done: a History of American housework Susan Strasser
Bright Earth Philip Ball where color comes from and how it fits in sociologically
The Shockwave Rider John Brunner This is the book that Potlatch 13 is shaping all of its programming around...
Ubik Phillip K. Dick
none not a book, but a sign on a jar full of crucifixes reading "Souvenirs of the crucifiction of Jesus Christ"
none another non-book, the statement "Money is a process, not a thing."
The Logic of Scientific Discovery Karl Popper how you test whether a discovery is science or not (if you can't find a way to disprove it it's not science)
The Open Society and Its Enemies Karl Popper how terrible Plato's ideas were
none a child's question of "Who was the first bank robber?"
Fooled By Randomness: the hidden role of chance in the markets and in life Nassim Taleb are you good or are you lucky?
A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander Architecture is like a language with its finite number of words, but infinite number of sentences. Good and bad architecture isn't just a factor of aesthetics.
Some Calculus Text Serge Lang ruined her ability to do math
The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkein First time found fiction could completely dominate his life
The Crusades Through Arab Eyes Amin Maalouf
none the world map with South at the top
the Magic Eye books stuff that looks like it might be stereo pairs sometimes will resolve if viewed that way
King Hereafter Dorothy Dunnett beautiful love story that wasn't cliche, felt real, with caring, political necessity "mature love story"
Wonderful Life Stephen Jay Gould don't completely understand what evolution means until read this (complete importance of contingency and chance)
Astronomy Fred Hoyle hoyle also writes SF so the combo of science and SF potential made him her hero
Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs
Fables for our Time James Thurber
Anything Can Happen George Papashvily Georgian sword maker immigrant to America
Mimsy Were the Borogoves Louis Padgett
25 Modern Short Stories Phil Stong
Pilgrimage to Earth Robert Sheckley
I, Governor of California... Upton Sinclair subtitled "And How I Ended Poverty, a true story of the future" suggester commented that Heinlein's "new" book put Sinclair's utopian socialism into context of modern America
The Voice of the Dolphins Leo Szilard getting stuff done with science instead of politics
The West Wing long setup describing how it was about a president who could ask for several opinions on an issue and then make a decision based on them instead of doing whatever he damn pleases. The suggester didn't mention his title until someone asked. This seemed like a calculated gesture, but I could be wrong.
Joan of Arc didn't catch, which doesn't help... told through the words of Joan or people who knew her (made how she could be important real, how much her ideas were common sense/20th century thoughts, first peasant teenage girl we know about
The Dispossessed: an ambiguous utopia Ursula K. Le Guin specifically for the meaning behind the subtitle. Suggester was mad about the current reprint leaving off the subtitle. Ms. Le Guin just shrugged.
Big Business a film of Laurel & Hardy metaphor for what's wrong with our country
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Thomas S. Kuhn before reading this, suggester thought science was totally objective
Annals of the Former World John McPhee omnibus of Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising From the Plains, and Assembling California
Chaos James Gleick
Posted by jeffy at 08:29 PM | Comments (1)

February 25, 2004

Which Peanuts character are you?

Evidently, I am Rerun.

Rerun: A skeptic at heart, you enjoy reading and learning above all else. You often find yourself on the fringe of things and people tend to overlook you and your talents. You often use your charm to conceal your cleverness.

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by jeffy at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2004

Mostly yankee travels

World66 has a cute little app that will let you generate a map of all the states you've visited. Here's mine:

Too bad we didn't go dip our toes in Rhode Island back in October.

They also have one for the countries you've visited, but that's kind of pointless in my case.

(via Seedlings & Sprouts)

Posted by jeffy at 05:36 PM | Comments (3)

January 19, 2004

Lost gloves in New York

Faithful reader Dan points out this item from Talk of the Town in The New Yorker about Alexandra Horowitz, a fellow collector of lost gloves.

Last winter, Horowitz began collecting the misplaced—trampled, forlorn, snot-slicked—mittens and gloves that she saw on the street, not for the sake of research or even, God forbid, art, but out of some deep-seated altruistic urge to see them reunited with their other halves.

Hers is more of an active search than the passive discovery that informs my own lost glove studies. She has a collection of 118+ gloves and mittens (excluding work gloves and disposables which she doesn't disturb), 10 times the number I have seen around Issaquah in a similar period, but that's no surprise since there are probably far beyond 10 times as many walkers on any given street in NYC than in my car-centric suburb.

As to motive, she says, "The melancholy of a lost glove sitting in the middle of a sidewalk struck me as minorly tragic, for the glove and for its owner." And on that I agree completely.

Posted by jeffy at 02:26 PM | Comments (1)

October 30, 2003

Blogging considered hazardous to your job

At Microsoft anyway.

According to this article from the PI, Microsoft fired Michael Hanscom after he posted a picture of three pallets of new Mac G5s being delivered to the Redmond campus.

The article says "the post was considered a security risk because a careful reader could decipher from his description the location of the shipping-and-receiving department."

Boggle. Wouldn't having people know the location of your shipping-and-receiving department be sort of required in order for said department to actually do its job?

Sounds like they were looking for an excuse to fire poor Hanscom and came up with a really stupid one.

Posted by jeffy at 05:53 PM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2003

Theorist Eats of Mealtime

The Eater of Meaning munges the website of your choice into provocatively meaningless gibberish. Here's what its default mode does to this page.

(via Making Light's Particles)

Posted by jeffy at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Open Source Switching Success Story

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a trade group that helps enforce copyrights and licenses for big software companies. They decided to make an example of the company Ernie Ball, a maker of guitar strings. They found that of all the software on their 72 desktop systems, about 8% was being used without a proper license. Most of it Microsoft products.

Rather than request that the company pay up their licenses and change their processes so they wouldn't drift out of compliance again, BSA took them to court where they finally settled for $100,000.

In response to this extremely bad treatment, Ernie Ball's CEO told his IT people to end their use of Microsoft software within a year. They did it with open source software and are going strong three years later.

Great interview (with a FUD flash ad from Microsoft on the same page)

(via Absolute Piffle (who doesn't do permalinks))

Posted by jeffy at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003


My local public radio station is streaming live on the web again!

They're in pledge drive mode this week, but even so, to my ear this is the best thing happening on the radio in the Puget Sound region. Folk music, alternative media (Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News, Jim Hightower), jazz you won't hear on KPLU, Ellen Kushner's wonderful show Sound & Spirit, bluegrass, Brazilian music, Afropop, and on and on.

We've been members of the station for a number of years. Give them a listen and if you like what you hear, Send them some money.

Posted by jeffy at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2003

How much is inside?

Rob and his friends at perform scientific experiments to determine how much is inside various things like a Sharpie, a pumpkin, a printer cartridge, and a beer keg. Funny stuff, and based on the pictures they have a lot of fun doing it.

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by jeffy at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2003

Fair and Balanced

Blogs everywhere are adding the phrase "Fair and Balanced" to their pages to illustrate to Fox News that they don't own the phrase even if they think they do.

If you aren't up on this little non-issue, Fox is suing Al Franken for using the phrase (in a purely satirical manner) in the title of his new book.

The thing that I find suspicious about this whole tempest is the fact that Fox could hardly come up with a better way to ensure that Franken's book will sell like hotcakes than to demonize their big ol' self by going after his little writerly person. And I don't think they're so stupid that they don't realize this.

I guess since they're suing him, they're hoping this will mean he'll have the bucks to pay the big settlement they think they'll get, but still, if they'd just kept quiet the book wouldn't have anything like the visibility it now does and hence their supposed trademark would have sustained hardly any damage.

Posted by jeffy at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2003

Ron Weasley, chess maven

Dangerously readable fan fiction in which Ron competes in the Hogwarts chess tournament for the opportunity to represent the school at the World Wizard Chess Tournament. Centers mostly on Ron and Professor Snape. Quite fun, and does a great job of making chess games sound exciting.

Think I'll go to bed now.

(via a Making Light "particle")

Posted by jeffy at 03:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2003

Ping pong

Everyone else has blogged this hilarious ping pong match which appears to have been filmed live before a Japanese studio audience and simulates all the cool Matrix-style special effects in that setting to wonderful comic effect.

I'm just putting it here for my readers who wouldn't otherwise see it. Warning: Don't bother looking if you're on dial-up unless you've got the time to wait for the download.

Posted by jeffy at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2003

Boat ferris wheel

This is one of the craziest things I've ever seen. It looks like it should be a prop from a high-budget science fiction movie.

The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland is two sections of canal mounted in a gimbals on a pair of big swinging arms. Boats toodle into the canal, the end is closed off and the whole thing pivots around like a 2-car ferris wheel lowering one bucket of water and boats while raising another.

Capable of lifting 600 tonnes of water over 35m in less than four minutes, The Falkirk Wheel is powered by 10 hydraulic motors that turn the two caissons, each of which may accommodate up to four 20m long boats at any one time. Despite the scale of this power, each turn of The Wheel uses virtually no water and the same energy as just two boiling kettles.

(via Ken MacLeod's The Early Days of a Better Nation)

Referring to the "ferris wheel" it occurred to me for the first time that it was probably named after its inventor, and sure enough, it was. Here's a (pretty awful) poem about George Washington Gale Ferris and his invention.

Posted by jeffy at 03:27 PM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2003

Distributed Proofreaders

The other thing that's been sucking up my time for the last few days (besides writing a whole bunch of bloggy backlog...) is Distributed Proofreaders.

DP is an interface for spreading out the work of proofreading the scanned and OCR'd text of out-of-copyright books that are on their way into the archives at Project Gutenberg.

They present you with the original scanned image, and the OCR text. You compare the two making changes to the plain text so that it matches the image.

I keep at least a couple of books in my Palm at all times. Don't want to get caught without something to read! Currently I have Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and Trader by Charles de Lint (this last is a current release I got free in a Palm promotion). I've got my eye on Treasure Island.

DP provides a fun way to give something back to the cause. They ask for a page a day, but whatever you can do helps. I've found for the pages I've seen (mostly novels) it doesn't take more than 5 or 10 minutes to do a page, and it's very satisfying to know that because of your 5 minutes no one will ever have to puzzle over "whielc" when the word was clearly "which".

Getting started is pretty easy, though I had to poke around a bit to answer a few of my initial questions. There are proofing guidelines to follow so that everyone marks the confusing stuff in close to the same way. But you don't have to stress about it too much because every page gets two rounds of proofing with the second round reserved for experienced proofers so any newbie mistakes will likely be caught in the second round. And not only will they be caught, but the second round proofers will usually send you a note pointing out where they changed what you did so you can learn for next time.

If you decide to give it a try and need some pointers, drop me an email and I'll try to help.

Posted by jeffy at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

Moyers and Stewart

Here at Flying House, we've been TV-free since the mid 1990s so we rely on others to let us know about the few things on TV that actually have some value. We don't get a lot of calls.

However, Rachel has been slipping us the occasional video tape of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, a funny and pointed daily commentary on the news.

Here's the transcript of Bill Moyers interviewing Stewart about the show, the media, and the level of political discourse in our country.

(via Anita Rowland's LOL)

Posted by jeffy at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2003

Apology T-shirt

I suggested this very thing to some friends just a few days ago. I'm happy to see that (as usual) the web is way ahead of me.

American Apology Shirt

It's a T-shirt that has the phrase "I'm sorry my president's an idiot. I didn't vote for him." in all of the official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, and Russian. strange list...)

Probably useful regardless of the current administration, though I'm sure it was the current one that inspired it.

(via Making Light)

Posted by jeffy at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2003

Origami Friday

paper cubesStarted off with an easy cube made from six business cards (via Boing Boing) (on the right in the picture)

Then I found another cube made from 12 business cards which was quite a bit harder (getting all the 12 identical pieces put together without the whole thing exploding back to its component pieces was a challenge) (on the left)

An escheresque sculpture of 5 interlocking tetrahedra inscribed within a regular dodecahedron will have to wait for another day, but it's extremely cool.

Posted by jeffy at 06:10 PM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2003

Lord of the Peeps

Someone put in a mindboggling amount of work to do one of the silliest things I've ever seen. Fellowship of the Peep is a shot-by-shot recreation of Peter Jackson's movie (as html and still images) with Peeps in all the roles.

Extreme dedication to sheer lunacy.

(via Making Light)

Posted by jeffy at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

You keep using that word... is a company that sells term papers specifically to college students writing papers on ethics.

Go look, I'll wait.

I still can't quite believe this isn't a hoax, but if it is, it's an extremely thorough one.

Along with their copyright, they emblazon every page of their site with this message (as an image presumably so that I can't copy and paste it):

Our work is designed only to assist students in the preparation of their own work. Students who use our service are responsible not only for writing their own papers, but also for citing The Paper Store as a source when doing so.

Uh huh. Right.

Could it be that the people behind this are actually poking fun at their own business and their customers? Or are they just laughing all the way to the bank?

Could be both, I guess.

(Link provided by Dan the Malcontented in this comment thread)

Posted by jeffy at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2003


color-coded map of soft drink namesThis is old bloggage, but there's a new map out there that's worth a look. There's various regional names for carbonated beverages. The most common are "Coke", "Pop", and "Soda", but there's very marked regional variability on this point. This map breaks it down by county showing what the dominant form is for each US county and how prevalent it is. Becky missed being a Soda person by the width of the Michigan/Wisconsin border (and maybe a few years. Rach, are you Pop or Soda?) Of course everyone knows that the correct form is "Soda".
Posted by jeffy at 05:46 PM | Comments (1)

May 07, 2003

Meteorite shower

hole made by meteoriteMeteor showers are pretty common, but meteorites (rocks that actually make it through the atmosphere to impact the surface of the Earth) are a little less so. Which explains the level of excitement inspired by an exploding meteor that showered a Chicago suburb with high speed rocks last week. The Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the hole in the ceiling of one person's house resulting from one of these rocks. Cool! Good thing they weren't directly under it at the time.
Posted by jeffy at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2003


The "what level of hell are you destined for" test has been making the rounds. Here's my scores. The Level 7 one is odd. I thought I answered negatively to all the violence-oriented questions. Hmm.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Posted by jeffy at 08:24 PM | Comments (6)

April 29, 2003

Butterfly details

butterfly says hiCool gallery of close up photographs of butterflies from Kjell Sandved, the guy who brought you the Butterfly Alphabet. The site includes some interesting background on Sandved's 24-year project to find the alphabet in butterfly wings (though the site seems to mostly be about selling posters.)

(note to Mozilla users, the site's thumbnails won't bring up the full-size versions, so if you want to see the bigger pictures, fire up your backup browser. Bummer.)

(via MetaFilter)

Posted by jeffy at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2003

Hats for cats

This site is all in Japanese, but the pictures speak for themselves. The pictured felines all look to me like they're doing everything in their power to call down lightning strikes on their tormentors. Gotta admit they're kind of cute, though.

(via MetaFilter)

Posted by jeffy at 04:58 PM | Comments (6)

April 18, 2003


Meetup is a site that facilitates the organization of face-to-face meetings of affinity groups around the world. You find a city near you and sign up for topic areas. Meetups get scheduled for a topic area and the people who signed up for it get to vote on where the meetup will occur, then once a location is chosen, RSVP with their intention of attending. Cool way to meet people in your area with similar interests.

(via thenyoudiscover)

Posted by jeffy at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2003

I remember that sign

a road signApparently there is an activity known as "Phooning" that consists of striking a static pose as if one is running, and then taking a picture of the resulting scene. I was unaware of this phenomenon until it appeared on Boing Boing today. Xeni Jardin's entry on Boing Boing includes a link to this picture (thumbnailed at left) of a sign which stands along Interstate 5 right before the San Onofre Border Patrol Check. The sign is meant to warn you of the potential for people hoping to avoid the border check running across the freeway in front of your speeding car. When Becky and I saw this sign back in the early 90s, we thought it was a pretty sad commentary about the state of US immigration policy in general and border check handling in particular. We've bored at least a few people with this story, but didn't have a picture of the sign (we were too busy looking out for frightened families to take a picture), but now we do.

Posted by jeffy at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2003


Mike Stanfill has done a flash animation of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements". There's a dialup-sized version for all you poor people who are still bandwidth-challenged.

(via YAWL, the only blog I know of with its own ISSN number.)

Posted by jeffy at 07:11 PM | Comments (1)

How the other lives

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto The Androgyny RAQ (Rarely Asked Questions) today, but strangely enough it wasn't directly from the author's long-defunct-but-still-worth-reading weblog.

This RAQ makes very interesting reading and clarifies some of the mysteries of gender and sex, at least it answered some questions I had the last time I had occasion to ponder gender issues. The R in RAQ is apt in a couple of senses, but mostly in my case the sense that the subject doesn't come up very often. Beware that the dictionary portion of the site has a few bad puns (not the other kind) embedded including one that requires some knowledge of Star Trek: the Next Generation.

The site includes an interesting essay about the protagonist in Emma Bull's novel, Bone Dance, but even mentioning that book in this context is kind of a spoiler, so if you haven't read the book, forget everything you just read. Okay, now go read Bone Dance by Emma Bull.

Oh, and you could also go read The Fortunate Fall, the excellent novel by the author of the Androgyny RAQ, Raphael Carter. (That wasn't how I found the site either.)

Posted by jeffy at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

Babatunde Olatunji

Diabetes finally took Olatunji's life on Sunday. I somehow didn't manage to ever be in the presence of the man on the few times he visited Seattle when I was clued in to the hand drumming community. My teachers had all worked with him to varying degrees, and the impression I got from them was that there was not a kinder more gentle teacher of African hand drumming traditions.

Washington Post Obituary

(via Boing Boing where there's more links including some sound samples)

Posted by jeffy at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

Flour pictures

No, that's no typo. Manuel Wanskasmith over at has taken some startlingly cool pictures at an old flour mill in Seattle. They're a strange melding of the mechanical and the organic. Beautiful stuff.

Posted by jeffy at 05:51 PM | Comments (1)

Horsey wins 2nd Pulitzer

David Horsey, political cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has won his second Pulitzer Prize. His first one was during the Clinton Lewinsky fiasco, so he's an equal opportunity skewerer of the madness of US culture. We use the PI as our main daily news source, and Horsey's cartoons are always worth a look.

Posted by jeffy at 05:20 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2003


Neal Pollack has a piece in the Portland Mercury subtitled Everyone in America--Myself Included--Has Been Driven Insane by This War

What he said. I can't completely hide behind that as an excuse for my less than stellar behavior over the last few weeks, but for damn sure it is a factor.

Found via the uniformly excellent Electrolite, and the comment thread attached to the Electrolite post is (as is often the case), even more interesting and valuable than the article itself. Go read it.

Posted by jeffy at 02:05 PM | Comments (1)

April 06, 2003

"Pride and extreme prejudice"

This one is just for Rachel. Some loony people (including SF author Brenda W. Clough (whose name I still have no idea how to pronounce)) have somehow begun writing The Terminator in the style of Jane Austen ala Pride and Prejudice over on rec.arts.sf.written

A sample:

"Well, Mr. Terminus, I am all attention." Mr. Connor said.

The tall and handsomely dressed figure of Mr. Terminus stood a moment with an expression of resolution upon his features, as does a man contemplating a plunge from a precipice, or perhaps a proposal of marriage (the two carrying nearly equal terror to most). Then he began to relate the most astonishing tale Patience had ever heard.

"As you know, Miss Patience," he began, "I am, to a great degree, a machine; my exterior, and some portions of my interior, are made as are those of Mr. Connor and yourself, but the greater part is metal and other materials, some of which you would recognize, and others of which you and even the wise men of your universities would know nothing at all.

"Now, I have in a sense misled you, for I have not denied the assumption that I come from some distant land; in a sense, this assumption is true, but the distance is not that of space, but of time."

Patience blinked at that. "Now, Mr. Terminus, there is but one way that one crosses time."

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by jeffy at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003


I have a friend who thinks highly of the Enneagram's ability to identify personality traits. I've never been able to completely grok the system. I have less trouble understanding the Keirsey Temperament Sorter which files me reliably in the INTP basket.

Anyway, here's the results from an online Enneagram test:

Conscious self
Overall self
Take Free Enneagram Test

This makes it look like I'm strongly aligned with that type, but the description is kind of hit-or-miss ("You are extroverted and you prefer talking to listening"?! I don't think so.) One of the diagrams in the test results shows my scores just the tiniest bit outside of a central region that I take to mean "could be anything".

Posted by jeffy at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2003

Picture me agog

You might get a hint about what it is from the thumbnail at left which will make you more prepared than I was to view this piece of mind boggling kitsch.

(via Making Light)

Posted by jeffy at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2003

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator

The Daily Telegraph reports on a Canadian scientist who has developed a gadget which stimulates the temporal lobe in such a way that the wearer will experience mystical hallucinations. The gadget is based on research indicating that some religious mystics may have actually been suffering from a neurological disorder called temporal lobe epilepsy.

The Telegraph had him try it out on militant atheist Richard Dawkins.

ObBook: Lying Awake by Mark Salzman

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by jeffy at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2003

A forest's lesson

My friend Ann Thomas had an essay published today in the Seattle Times entitled A forest's lesson: Nurse log is like our family, ourselves

Posted by jeffy at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2003

Cool and pretty

After all that soapboxing for the last few days, here's some plain old eye candy. This collection of photographs of snowflakes is the coolest I've seen since reading W. A. Bentley's Snow Crystals (and the page above provides a link to a web page about Bentley's work)

(via Boing Boing (via Avram Grumer's LiveJournal (via Pigs & Fishes)))

Posted by jeffy at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2003

cheesy religion

Bible According to Cheese

Bible passages illustrated by various cheeses. Plus, bad puns. What's not to like?

(via Making Light)

Posted by jeffy at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2003

Instant bad movie

You know those annoying movie trailers with the voiceover that goes "In a time of turmoil... A poor shopkeeper faces his biggest fears... To have the woman he loves..." or some rubbish like that?

Somebody wrote a program to generate new ones with random plot elements. It's the Action Film Trailer Generator and it just gave me this gem:

On a wicked world of illusion, a bartender and a librarian attempt to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history.

Via Making Light. There's more similar stuff in the same post. Oh, and in the comment thread someone pointed to the Trailer for Comedian which is just hilarious. (Hey, when your blog is brand new you have to steal from wherever you can!)

Posted by jeffy at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)