there are 13 posts from February 2008

February 27, 2008

now that's a quote

Regardless of your feelings for either Ronald Reagan or William F. Buckley, you have to appreciate what the great communicator had to say about the “polysyllabic” champion of conservatism.  This Reagan quote is pulled from the Times obit of Buckley

“You didn’t just part the Red Sea – you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism.  And then, as if that weren’t enough, you gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom.”

But somehow I doubt that Reagan wrote that himself… Sounds a lot like Peggy Noonan, no?

February 26, 2008

is your dog a werewolf?

Moving on from the runaway children of Beautiful Children (deep cleansing breaths, wash hands well with scalding hot water, hug kids one extra time before bed) to the three roving packs of werewolves in Toby Barlow’s new novel-in-verse Sharp Teeth. I seem to have missed the cultural pivot point when books began to have full blown flash-intro websites with viral video, but check out this little ditty, which will help you determine once and for all if your dog is a werewolf.

February 26, 2008

insert obvious gmail joke here

There must be some German or French word for that oh-so-frequent combination of feeling “not surprised in the slightest” and “jaw-droppingly amazed” at the same time.  From the AP:

There were no archived e-mails from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney from Sept. 30, 2003, to Oct. 6, 2003, just as the Justice Department was launching its investigation into whether anyone at the White House leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA identity, according to documents provided to the House panel. The only e-mails that could be recovered for prosecutors were from the personal e-mail accounts of officials in Cheney’s office, according to the report by Waxman’s staff.

February 25, 2008

“There are certain stories like the U.S. attorneys that might never have seen the light of day had T.P.M. not pursued it in the way that they had. … We now count on T.P.M. and other blogs to do the investigative work that reporters used to do.”
_Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, in the NYTimes piece covering Joshua Michael Marshall of Talking Points Memo winning the George Polk Award.

February 25, 2008

liveblogging reading some of the liveblogging of the oscars

Last night, 10:30 pm:  Finished watching our Tivo’d version of the Oscars.  Ba-boop’d our way through the montages.  Did email during some of the songs.  Didn’t liveblog.

Last night, 10:40 pm:  Check in on Vox neighborhood.  Hey, Anil liveblogged the Oscars!  Skim skim skim, scroll scroll, scroll.  Here’s a funny line: “Poor Nicole Kidman, ruined herself. Used to be fetching. I’m just saying. I do like her brave choice to wear a chandelier.”

Last night, 11:30 pm:  Oh, hey, looks like Jason liveblogged not watching the Oscars. How clever.  “My liveblogging outfit this evening: jeans by Banana Republic, long sleeve tshirt by American Apparel, socks by Wal-Mart, boxer shorts by Muji.” (Ahem, that sounds like a series of Facebook is statements to me.)

This morning, 11:00 am:  Wow, David liveblogged ‘em, too.  “I think Owen Wilson should take over Heath Ledger’s career.”  Yes!  Excellent idea. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

This morning, 11:25 am: OK, that’s enough.

February 24, 2008

beautiful children

Just finished Beautiful Children. Though there are stretches of great prose, I couldn’t find my way into any sort of a plot arc, other than what Ponyboy wants to do to Cheri, and the slow and obvious disintegration of Lorraine. I didn’t believe any of the characters…only its setting; the book itself is a lot like Las Vegas – well marketed, seems like it’d be a lot of fun, pretty on the surface and leaves you feeling empty.

February 18, 2008

more reviews like this, please

Wil Shipley of Delicious Library fame posts a fantastic review of the Air, hitting all the right notes, including this pitch-perfect one:

Jonathan Ive should design a laptop bag as beautiful as the Air, that just can contain the machine, a power cord, and a Wireless Mighty Mouse. I’d be in heaven. Nobody seems to have addressed the “I want a small, slim bag that can still hold a power cord without having a giant wart in the side” market. Like, duh, bag designers, STOW THE POWER CORD ABOVE OR BELOW THE LAPTOP, not STICKING OUT THE SIDE WHERE IT CREATES A TENT AND LOOKS UGLY AND BANGS MY KNEE.


February 17, 2008

a quick note to the kindle team

Dear Kindle team,

I just finished a week of travel with a new Kindle, and I’m well into reading my third book on it. So far so good – the screen is very readable, even for long stretches of time; I don’t have a problem with the next page / prev page button placement; the little e-ink flash when you turn pages isn’t that annoying; and the battery life is great.

The UI for finding and buying books is pretty good, and it will be interesting to watch how you use the limited screen real estate and UI controls as a merchandising advantage as more and more titles come online. I can’t imagine using the device for browsing the web or reading email – the screen refresh is fast enough for reading books, but not for skimming web content.  And while I wish the keyboard were virtual (I only use it when searching the store), I get why it’s there and appreciate the tradeoff decision re. price & touchscreen.

A key feature of the device is a simple and elegant way to highlight and clip sections of text – and once you get the hang of it you find yourself doing it all the time. When reading real books I’m always marking pages or making notes in the margin; the Kindle makes this a quick click and scroll action. But I was surprised to learn that these highlights stay on the device, and don’t sync up to your Amazon account. (You can download them with the included USB cable, but who wants to do that?)

So here’s the feature request that must be on your roadmap: send my clippings back up into the cloud, where I can copy and paste them for future use. Bonus points for giving me the opportunity to connect my Kindle account to my blog, and have the service automatically post new clips via Atom or MetaWeblog. Extra bonus points for illustrating those with a cover thumbnail, and embedding my Associates code in the URL back to the store.


February 10, 2008

pattern recognition

So I’m making my way through The Black Swan; highly recommended. IAONAN (I Am Obviously Not A Neuroscientist), but Taleb’s argument that our brains just aren’t wired for outliers seems to be the flip side (in a good way) of Jeff Hawkins’ descriptions of conscious thought in On Intelligence. Our brains are constantly doing pattern recognition, looking for how things fit…and being (quite literally) surprised when they don’t. (And “click” went my brain.)  Plus, I haven’t come across more descriptive terms than “mediocristan” and “extremistan.” Perfect.

February 04, 2008

olafur eliasson

We took the kids to see the Olafur Eliasson show at SFMOMA this weekend. First impressions are everything, and long after we left they were still talking about what happens when you step out of the elevator on the fifth floor.  Simply mind blowing; highly recommended.

February 04, 2008

chabon on obama

Despite the valiant attempts of many of my neighbors, I’m usually not one to fall for impassioned appeals for liberal causes. But I couldn’t ignore the internal “hell yeah” that rose up after reading today’s bit on Barack Obama from fellow Berkeleyan Michael Chabon…

To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world.

February 01, 2008

“I wouldn’t call it a courtesy call.”
Steve Ballmer on the call he placed to Jerry Yang last night.

February 01, 2008

thoughts on the social graph api

Congrats to Brad Fitzpatrick on the unveiling of Google’s Social Graph API.  I love that the work he started at Six Apart with OpenID and the open social graph continues on at GOOG.  Brad’s video is a great introduction to the API; he is a master of the whiteboard (I’ve seen it in action many many times), and I love the fact that the first whiteboard scene looks like it’s been shot in front of a whiteboard that’s eight stories tall.  (Oh, and the line where he says “once we throw away all the links that aren’t marked up like this” is perfect.)

Clearly from Google’s perspective it’s obvious and elegant to have the Googlebot reporting on the graph; if it’s public data it’s being indexed by Google already, and it encourages the use of simple markup like XFN and FOAF to declare social relationships. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of privacy blowback on this when the API starts to get baked into consumer services: “Wait – Google knows who my friends are, too? How do they know this?” It’s going to be incumbent upon social services that are (a) enabling individuals to connect with one another and (b) expressing that connection in an indexable way to make it clear that those relationships are public (if they are) and demonstrate the benefits of those relationships being public (and the risks of exposing relationships you don’t want public).  I’m not talking about language in a privacy policy, I’m talking about features that create a better user experience for the data being available.

A short comparative story.  About a year ago there was a pretty significant shift in how normal everyday people thought about blogs.  (I’m not talking about what people in the echo chamber thought about blogs – I’m talking about people who could care less about the people and service you know and love.)  Perception shifted from “why would I want to put that much information about myself out there” to “I need to do this to own my results page on Google.” This wasn’t about blogging for SEO, but rather about having control over what information is available about you online. Blogs are an easy way for people to do that, and it’s driving the next big wave of adoption.

Here’s the point:  connections being discoverable (like they are today – check out these results for will drive the next wave of adoption of connection creation tools, just like content being discoverable is driving the current wave of adoption of content creation tools.

Three thought experiments, just for “fun.”

  • Short term: This weekend Six Apart’s David Recordon is hosting the social graph FOO Camp; what are the odds that a hack comes out of there to explore relationship strength and/or missing relationships based on this API.  (Hey, Steve – you’re friends with Jerry on these three services, why not on this one?)
  • Medium term: How long until this is connected explicitly into my Google profile. It would be trivial for them to ask me to claim as my own using OpenID. Search, advertising and all of their social stuff could be customized based on this information.
  • Long term: social relationships as an influencer of credit scores?