Archive for August, 2005

The Big Un-Easy

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

I’m not one of those bloggers who feels compelled to comment on every big news event that comes along — with everyone else putting in their two cents, most of what I say would be redundant — but there are a few notes I feel compelled to list here:

The Wife and I both visited New Orleans in the late 80s — separately, we hadn’t met yet — and neither of us were impressed. But I had also been there at Christmas when I was 16, and again the next summer when I was 17, and I remember that as a wonderful time. I was visiting cousins in a suburban housing development, and we hit the French Quarter a few times. This was the first time I had spent any time in a city bigger than Lubbock, and this was the tail-end of the hippie era, so my small-town brain was overwhelmed.

Upon my return as an adult, of course, none of this was new to me, so I was just bored and a bit put-off by the smell.

But I’ll always have the Cafe du Monde in ’71.

Anyway, I’ve recently mentioned Wikipedia’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina, now check out the updated listing on New Orleans (“This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.”), and Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. These articles serve as a central repository for all the information available, something you won’t find on the news sites.

Also: Offers for aid and free temporary housing on Craiglist; Ryan Youtz has registered the domain name NewOrleansKatrina.com, and is auctioning it off on Ebay to donate the proceeds to hurricane relief; Mission Fish‘s centralized Katrina relief page; and lots and lots of satellite photos of the hurricane and its aftermath.

A couple more: A blogger is somehow still operating inside New Orleans, reporting on the looting, devastation, and glacial recovery efforts, and a proposal to turn the Astrodome — a major refuge center for those fleeing New Orleans — into a telecommunications hub to help the victims try to get their lives back in order.

Write or Wrong

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Yes, I like to use a feather occasionally ...I haven’t been able to do a proper post tonight because I’ve been busy squeezing under a deadline. The drop-dead date for turning in revised manuscripts for the 100 Bloggers, 100 Voices project is tomorrow, and as is my style, I used almost every spare day to mull over what I was going to say, and in the past 24 hours I’ve knocked out a couple of thousand words, then pared down almost half of those.

Because let’s face it, if you can’t slam down several hundred words at the drop of a nickel, then journal-style blogging is going to be very tough going.

For me, writing a rough draft of 400 words is nothing — it’s like a couple of games of pinball. 1000 words isn’t that much tougher.

The quality aspects are another matter entirely, but I find that the more raw material I have to work with, the better chance I have of finding good stuff in it.

Anyway, now that this is out of the way, I can get back to other projects, like bringing you more long, rambling posts with cool bullet points, scanning in more stuff for Flickr, and, perhaps most importantly, following up on a certain project that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago …

More Photo Notes

Monday, August 29th, 2005

More notes about Flickr, and the new Flickr wanna-be:

Just to prove that you can never tell what is going to pop up on Flickr then take off like a forest fire: Tony the Newsagent. And see the photo that started it all here.

Photos of the Human Cannonball fired from Mexico into the U.S.

People Unclear on the Concept: 13,000+ photos from people who are so unclear on the concept of tags that their photos show up under the category of “With”.

How did that happen? Simple: They wrote descriptions of the photos in the Tag field, with no quote marks (example: Grandma with the kids, or Still life with apple). The result is that each word becomes a tag.

Can’t get enough? Here are another 10,000+ that various Einsteins have tagged with “For”.

And finally: Pamibe informs us that Slide — the would-be Flickr competitor from the folks who brought us Paypal — is now up and running, and taking memberships without requiring an invitation. (Although they sent me one anyway, two hours after I signed up.)

So far I’m not overly impressed, even though I saw some really cool stuff that other people had submitted. The problem is that, unlike Flickr, where you upload whatever you want to onto a central location, with Slide you download software and assign “channels”. You then “subscribe” to other people’s channels, and have them running in a vertical slideshow (thus the name?) on the edge of your desktop.

The problem is that the software scans your computer for photos to get you started; this is mainly a problem in that I’m never quite sure what the program is sharing with the world without me being fully aware of it — like scanned-in business records, for starters.

Another hitch is that I couldn’t find any way to search for other people, like Pam, for instance. (Although they might have added that feature by now.)

For the moment, I’ve disabled the program at startup until I can peruse the fine print in the instructions.

My first impression, though, is that this will obsess the techno-hipsters for a few weeks, exploring new “hacks” to do nifty tricks with this new toy, then the excitement will die down before Normal People can figure out how to get the most out of it.

But first let’s see if I get myself hooked on it …

Follow-Up: Open Source Media

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

I had good response to the previous post, so here are some follow-up items:

ILuvNUFC at Look at This didn’t like the official coverage of the Newcastle Tall Ships race earlier this year, so he became a reporter and posted his own coverage, plus a gallery of photos on Flickr.

It’s hard to imagine how “professionals” could have done it any better.

Pamibe tells us of Slide, a new Flickr-type photo-sharing service by one of the founders of Paypal.

The URL is Slide.com, but I didn’t link it here because, for now, it’s by invitation only. I emailed them to attempt admission, but I’m not hopeful. (Hey Pam, got a spare invite you could toss my way? Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh?)

Next: More proof that Joe Averagecitizen is poised to supplant the Old Media operatives can be found in coverage of recent flooding (Wikipedia, Flickr) and “Camp Casey” (Wikipedia, Flickr).

One more thing: If I could have limited a post to just talking about the hurricane, I could have used a punny, 80’s-music-referencing title like “Katrina and the (28-foot) Waves” or “(Not) Walking on Sunshine”.

Oh well, maybe it’s for the best.

The People’s Media

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Blogs have been touted as the new “Media” to replace the newpaper-and-TV news monolith — but they’re really not. When bloggers “report” on the latest events, they’re just thousands of disconnected, babbling voices; you can land on them one at a time, but you have no idea if they have actual insight (e.g., live near the scene of the event, or have expertise in the field), or if they’re just spouting off to make themselves feel big.

A clearer picture of the REAL New Media has been emerging the past few months with the ascendancy of two “open source” media outlets: Wikipedia and Flickr.

For a great example, look at the coverage for the still-unfolding Hurricane Katrina: On Wikipedia , people can furnish updates as they happen, without being filtered through several layers of editors; the readers serve up any necessary swat-down a particular post might require. You can even view the article’s History page to see everything that has been changed in the 27 hours since coverage started.

As for Flickr, every area resident with a camera becomes a photojournalist. Instead of waiting a week for ten or twenty pictures in Newsweek, you can now get hundreds of shots while they’re still hot.

For another example — and one of the first, best uses of both of these new tools for reporting —
see last month’s coverage of the London subway bombings on Flickr and Wikipedia.

So remember, next time something big happens close to you: You’re a reporter.

Get to work.

Busy Busy Busy

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Taking care of business, and working overtime I’ve been busy, okay? Busy trying to get my cousins as hooked on Flickr as I am (got two signed up so far), busy bringing home dinner from Mi Casa Tex-Mex, busy watching Tyler Perry’s Medea’s Class Reunion

But mostly I’ve busy downloading songs from the Free Music Friday over at Look at This.

But I’m thinking seriously about posting more tonight …

Seriously.

Another Whirlwind Tour …

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Lotsa things, people, so again let’s make it quick:

Molly was full of playful energy when I got home from work, so I took the camera out in the yard to hopefully get more great shots of her. But she lost interest in playing once we got back outside; in retrospect she seemed to be saying, “I’ve been hogging the camera enough lately; let’s give Schotzy a turn.” And sure enough, the boy ‘stepped up to the plate’ and Vogued like a pro:

I got a bunch of beautiful and/or hilarious shots, and uploaded 7 of them, so go check it out.

Check this out as well, because it’s like Spirograph on shrooms: Delayed-trace cursor chaser.

(Link via the fine folks over at Information Nation, who coincidentally also recently did a post with several Spirograph links.)

On Big Brother 6 tonight, raging raw-nerve-ending nutcake Yvette said about a fellow player, “I could give three cahoots about her!”

Wow — not many people could cram four stupid things into seven words, but she did it!

Attack of the Show tonight had an interview with John Rogers, creator of the failed-Fox-pilot-turned-pirated-megahit Global Frequency. (Of course it’s a nerd hit — it features “Smart Mobs” and stars Ensign Ro from Star Trek.) Check out the GF fan site, and then ponder why the networks can’t get people this excited of most of the shows they DO put on the air …

(You DO remember that I already posted about this show way back in early June, right? I thought so.)

Quick Things …

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

Quick things tonight, since I’ve been uploading photos to Flickr (friends and family access mostly, sorry), and making some big salads for dinner since The Wife had choir practice, and getting my ear talked off by my mom just now — so let’s get started:

I didn’t get around to posting this yesterday: It was exactly 700 years ago that William Wallace was executed.

If you don’t know what he was executed for, you need to get out to movies more.

Our microbiologist called me today to inquire as to the whereabouts of Outgoing Boss and New Boss in Training:

“They’re in a meeting — a magical, wondrous, mega-meeting, high on a mountain-top, far, far away.”
“Um … so they’re in the conference room.”
“You must not have heard me. I said they’re on a mountain-top.”

She didn’t believe me.

Okay, one more: Check out The Great McDonald’s sign prank.

(Via Look at This.)

Mixed Content, Extra-Hot Bullet Points …

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

It was the hottest day of the year (so far) today — much too hot to even thing about having a coherent post subject.

So here’s a bunch of different stuff:

I don’t usually link to most of the online comic strips, but this one, Chris & Smith, is done by a friend of Unfinished Business, a blog that his been linked to me for a couple of times now, so it’s the least I could do.

Plus, it’s not a bad little strip, over the long haul, so check it out.

This is for my own future reference: Amazon is selling exclusive digital short fiction — that is, stories that were written only for them to sell for download, and not in print form. At 49 cents each, this might be worth checking out.

Since it has to be short, it might also be worth writing for — it matches my attention span.

So what was Buddy Holly carrying in his overnight bag on that fateful flight out of Clear Lake Iowa? Click here to find out!

So anyway, there I was at Arby’s finishing my Market-Fresh Sandwich … and I looked down and it and leaked all over the front of my shirt.

Orange dressing-and-tomato liquid, all over the front of my white golf-style shirt.

My worst workday food-to-shirt disaster ever, in all of my years in the workplace.

When picking out my shirt this morning, I knew that white could be a problem, but I thought, well, we’re having barbecue at lunch today, so I should be okay.

But then the barbecue thing fell through (more on that later), so I thought, hey, I can eat at Arby’s, because that’s pretty safe stuff.

So that’s the pathetic part: I was mindful of the danger all along, and I still fell into the trap.

So: On the way back to work, I weighed my options. I could wear my lined windbreaker the rest of the day.

The hottest day of the year.

Two: I could wear the windbreaker — and no shirt — while I (hopefully) washed the stain out, AND waited for the shirt to dry.

Not an attractive option.

At that point, I started hoping and praying that maybe we had a spare company-logo golf-shirt lying around, and with that thought in mind, entered the building with my Wired magazine across my chest and went straight to the boss’ office.

As it turned out, he didn’t think we had any spare logo shirts — but he did have a spare red golf shirt he could loan me, which was the best news I’ve had all day.

The depressing thing is that only one personin the office — my receptionist — noticed that I had gone from a white shirt to a bright red one. Am I really that invisible?

Anyway, about the barbecue: One day each month, our sister company — that is, we’re owned by the same parent corporation — brings in barbecue, and the people whose birthdays are that month are recognized.

Usually the boss arranges the luncheon, but since it’s his birthday month, one of the other managers took the reins and booked it for today, the boss’ birthday.

Ass-kisser.

NO JUST KIDDING …

Anyway, it turned out to be not a very good ass-kissing job, because they didn’t show up with the barbecue for some reason or other.

So of course, I was the one who had to go around, about one minute before everybody was about to eat, and announce that the deal was off, the jig was up, Elvis had left the building … in short, that the barbecue birthday luncheon was not to be.

The reason I bring this up is: People were having trouble believing me.

They thought they were being punked. Pranked. Hosed. Snookered.

Joked up one side and monkey-shined down the other.

And twice on Sunday.

And it got me to thinking: Am I really perceived as being the kind of person who would do that?

My dad would be so proud.

The Pioneer

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

I wrote last month about Bob Moog, inventor of the synthesizer; today we learn that this pioneer has passed on.

Somewhere, Kraftwerk is crying.

Here’s some more reading on this trailblazing inventor and his creation:

Bob Moog in Wikipedia.

A tribute by the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:

The Moog’s first incarnations were banks of knobs and connectors for patch cords to make oscillators interact. Working with composers, Mr. Moog conceptualized a musical note as something with three variable components: a basic tone, filters that would alter the timbre, and an “envelope” governing its attack, sustain and release: whether it was a sharp percussive impact or a tone that could float in, wax and wane, and slowly fade out. Separate modules, each with its own bank of knobs, governed each component, and the slightest twist of a knob could radically alter the sound that emerged.

Unlike current synthesizers with preset sounds, the first Moogs had none; musicians arrived at the sounds they would make by trial and error and intuition. If they liked a sound, it was best to get it on tape immediately, because for all its knobs and switches, the Moog was a difficult instrument to control. It wasn’t easy to go back to a previous timbre once a knob had been touched even slightly. But from that balkiness came remarkable new sounds.

Schematics for a Moog Synthesizer.

MoogArchives.org, a collection of rare documents and photos of Moog synthesizers through the ages, plus articles and oddities.

Moog, a Film by Hans Fjellestad.

Switched-On Bach, the 1968 album by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos that turned the fledgling synthesizer into a superstar.

It also happened to be the first-ever classical music album to go platinum. Coincidence?

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I think I’ll go crank up some Emerson Lake & Palmer now …