Author Archive

Seriously, RIM, have you no shame?

March 31st, 2008

Does the shape, coloring, and body design of RIM’s new Blackberry 9000 look vaguely similar to any other product to you guys, too?

Apple, Technology & Internet

Multicultural Breakfast

February 23rd, 2008

Clearly I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while, because this morning I had to whip together a breakfast from whatever was handy. I wound up making tofu seasoned with red curry powder and scrambled with onions, red peppers, jalapenos and fried kielbasa.
I know. It sounds terrible. But it actually turned out to be a big plate of spicy deliciousness.
As I sat down to eat, I wondered if I could have found a way to represent at least one more culture’s cuisine in the same plate. I almost went back for the bottle of sriracha hot sauce to throw a little Thai into the mix . . . but in the end thought better of it. :-)


Everything Old is New Again

February 6th, 2008

Yeah, so I spent a couple hours wrangling around with Movable Type last night. I don’t know why. I’d had a lousy day of wrangling with other various bits of software, projects, and people at the office, plus I skipped lunch, so i don’t know what made me think that coming home and before eating dinner deciding to entirely redesign a site I hadn’t touched in two years.
Glutton. For. Punishment.
It could have gone horrifically wrong. I could have gotten in way over my head, what with the HTML and the CSS and the templates and the MT settings and the repeated clicking of the rebuild button. I could have totally lost it and left the job halfway done, and you could be reading this in 12-point Times Roman on a gray background just like 1996. And it did look dicey there for about 30 minutes when I couldn’t figure out why every time I rebuilt the site Movable Type insisted on not rebuilding all the archives. (Answer: set some more radio button preferences and a drop-down or two plus checking the Movable Type documentation. I hate it when I have to RTFM.)
In the end, though, I pulled it off and ordered pad thai to celebrate. The site looks . . . well, it looks like about 2003 instead of 1996. Literally. Those of you who somehow still have me in your feed reader since the days back when I was posting regularly may recognize the same green color scheme and the banner image from a previous design. Stick with what I know how to do.
A couple of years ago, I attempted a much more ambitious site re-design that did go horrifically wrong, and I wound up just slapping up some goofy black-and-orange Movable Type template that I pulled off a free template site. And there it stayed for years, sorta like the stack of boxes sitting next to my desk that I put there when I moved into my condo several years ago. (There’s probably something really important and life-changing in those boxes, but it’s been so long I no longer have any clue what’s in there. It’s like a personal time capsule. One day I’ll get around to opening them up, and then it’ll be all like “Ohhhh, that’s where i left that coffee can full of diamonds!”)
There’s still some hinky stuff. One bit of hinkiness being that if you’ve subbed to my RSS feed, you probably got a full feed of old posts from me when you woke up this morning. Sorry ’bout that. And I’m not gonna be winning any design awards. I expect I’ll want to screw around with colors and line spacing and font sizes . . . or maybe just not touch it for another two years. And, oh yeah, I haven’t even looked at it in Internet Explorer yet, so it may look like ass in IE. But, really, if you’re using IE, just frickin’ switch to Firefox or Safari already. I’m so over you IE users and your quirks.
Anyway. There you have it: Ten Reasons Why slightly updated for the tail end of the decade, but still kicking it with the old school charm. :-)
Now all I have to do is write.

Movable Type, Weblogs

My Theory on “Lost”

February 5th, 2008

I’m not a huge Lost fan, especially since it employs such a painfully slow and opaque storytelling technique. But I’m enough of a fan (and, apparently, enough of a geek) that I’ve got a theory on why the castaways are on the Island. This theory came together watching the final episode of last season, titled “Through the Looking Glass,” which was re-broadcast last week. I twittered about it right before the season premiere so as to cement a public record of my interpretive and prognostication abilities.
So here’s the clues I picked up on.

Read more…

Culture, Television

Post runs a correction on the RIAA article

January 8th, 2008

The Washington Post got the message (if not from me, then from other sources with a wider audience), and published a correction to Marc Fisher’s inaccurate story on Atlantic v. Howell. The correction reads:

A Dec. 30 Style & Arts column incorrectly said that the
recording industry “maintains that it is illegal for someone who has
legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.” In a
copyright-infringement lawsuit, the industry’s lawyer argued that the
actions of an Arizona man, the defendant, were illegal because the songs were located in a
“shared folder” on his computer for distribution on a peer-to-peer

At least they corrected it. But it reminds me that the standard print newspaper practice of burying corrections someplace deep in the paper (and, in the case, website) is as atrocious as it has always been. Corrections, especially for regular columns, should run in the same space that the original ran and run above the lede, not at the bottom of the column.

Intellectual Property

Wow. I got it right.

January 3rd, 2008

If I had any doubt that my interpretation of the RIAA’s Atlantic v. Howell brief and the Washington Post’s lousy reporting on the case was dead on, those have been washed away by William Patry, current Senior Copyright Counsel at Google and former copyright counsel to the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. Patry also pretty much wrote the book on copyright, the “book” being a 7-volume, 5500-page treatise on copyright with a foreword by former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.

On The Patry Copyright Blog, he writes:

On page 15 of the brief, we find the flashpoint:
“Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recordings into the compressed
.mp3 format AND they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the
authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.” I have capitalized the word “and” because it is here that the RIAA is making the point that placing the mp3 files into the share folder is what makes the copy unauthorized. The RIAA
is not saying that the mere format copying of a CD to an mp3 file that
resides only on one’s hard drive and is never shared is infringement.
This is a huge distinction and is surprising the Post didn’t understand

Pretty much spot on the argument I was making. Vindicated! :-)

Intellectual Property

Unbelievably standing up for the RIAA (this one time)

December 31st, 2007

Yesterday, Marc Fisher of the Washington Post wrote a piece entiled “Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use.” (Free registration might be required to view.)
One of my favorite bloggers, Daring Fireball’s Jon Gruber, referenced this briefly yesterday. I’ve seen this crop up on lots of other blogs and various media outlets, and the story is always presented in basically the way that Fisher presented it:

[I]n an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

The problem is that’s not what the brief says at all.

Read more…

Intellectual Property

Flickr Uploadr is Bettr Than Evr

December 14th, 2007

Karmann Ghia 1I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t made better use of the digital SLR I bought last year, so I hereby dub 2008 the Year of Photogregory. Or Rittography. Or something clever that combines my name and photography.
I did get good use out of the Nikon D50 a few months back on my vacation to California for (a) Tim & Sharon’s San Francisco wedding and (b) driving down the coast in a convertible Mustang.
And yesterday I finally got around to starting to get good use out of my Flickr account via the newly released Flickr Uploadr 3.0. The Uploadr is quite nice and takes nearly all the pain out of uploading batches of photos to Flickr. (The only remaining pain is the fault of Verizon DSL, not Flickr.)
So enjoy some brightly colored San Francisco pics which make the pallette of colors in last year’s vacation to Edinburgh look damn near monochromatic.
Still to come on my Flickr account: photos from last year’s not-so-monochromatic trip to Nice and the driving-down-the-coast-in-a-convertible-Mustang portion of this year’s vacation. And promises of more regular, non-vacation, man-about-town photos as I reclaim my creative life in 2008. ;-)


Why I want to be an Italian semiotician/novelist when I grow up

December 3rd, 2007

From a New York Times Magazine interview with Umberto Eco:

I am wondering if you read Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code,” which some critics see as the pop version of your “Name of the Rose.”

I was obliged to read it because everybody was asking me about it. My answer is that Dan Brown is one of the characters in my novel, “Foucault’s Pendulum,” which is about people who start believing in occult stuff.

But you yourself seem interested in the kabbalah, alchemy and other occult practices explored in the novel.

No, in “Foucault’s Pendulum” I wrote the grotesque representation of these kind of people. So Dan Brown is one of my creatures.

Point Umberto!
I’ve frequently said that The Da Vinci Code is a dumbed-down knock-off of Foucault’s Pendulum. I’m glad Eco agrees.

Books, Writing & Literature

The Most Photographed Barn in America

November 13th, 2007

Back in 1986, I got introduced to Don DeLillo in a contemporary American literature class through his National Book Award-winning novel, White Noise. DeLillo is still one of my favorite American novelists (although I’ve enjoyed his recent work less than his novels from the 80’s and 90’s), and White Noise is one of those books that I re-read every few years, just for the hell of it. I own several copies of it, but the favorite copy is the original white-covered Penguin edition I bought for that contemporary American lit class back in ‘86. It has margin notes scrawled in it from the course, and again from several years later when I made White Noise part of the focus of my Master’s thesis. And some margin notes from when I taught it to my own students.

I taught White Noise in my own literature courses at least four times, alway somewhat disappointed that the vast majority of my students weren’t as blow away by it as I was (and many were actually violently put off by DeLillo’s highly stylized prose). More to the point, after I began to focus more on teaching composition & rhetoric than literature, I used an excerpt from White Noise — the oft-excerpted “Most Photographed Barn in America” scene — as a writing prompt in many more composition/rhetoric courses.

Imagine my delight then when this morning I read (via Kottke) a blog post that points out the combination of Flickr with mapping functionality that allows you to “theoretically pick any place in the world — a city, a neighborhood, a street corner, a building, and literally view that place through the lenses of the people who had photographed that place” means that we can now look at the actual Most Photographed Barn in America.

Still . . . the presence of the Rockies in the background makes me think that maybe this isn’t in proximity to the idyllic College-on-the-Hill, and maybe Jack and Murray are still standing on that elevated spot looking at the signs of another barn. Ah . . . what’s the differance? ;-)

Books, Writing & Literature, Photography