there are 16 posts from September 2008

September 30, 2008

the audacity of despair

Now playing: archived video of The Wire creator David Simon’s talk at UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center for the Humanities, titled “The Audacity of Despair.”

September 29, 2008

marshall on mccain

Josh Marshall in “Losing Everything”:

My verdict may be a severe one but I think a lot of people – a lot of former admirers – are coming around to agreeing with the general outlines. McCain has revealed himself as a liar well outside the permissive standards applied to politicians. He’s shown himself to be reckless to the point of instability, repeatedly putting the country at risk (exploiting the Georgia crisis, picking Palin, storming the bailout negotiations) for transparently self-serving reasons. And in too many ways to count, he’s conducted his campaign in disgraceful and dishonorable ways.

September 26, 2008

anil dash remixes the hold music

At Six Apart we’re (usually) happy users of the service. And, like most dial-in services, they have this really catchy[1] tune they play while you wait for others to join your call.

God bless Anil Dash, who nabbed the song and remixed it to create this lovely track…

As he blogged internally, “if you like being on hold with, you’ll love this song.”

[1] Look, I find it catchy. I understand that most don’t.

September 19, 2008

i would love a polaroid printer, wouldn't you?

Saw these Polaroids posted outside a local coffee shop this afternoon, and lamented the fact that I can’t buy a simple Polaroid printer that takes my digital photos and prints perfect (or near-perfect) replicas of Polaroid snapshots. So my happy-go-lucky coffee partner pointed out that Polaroid just released the PoGo printer which is precisely not what I was thinking about.

September 18, 2008

what genius is good for

So I like the Genius feature in iTunes and on my iPhone. I like the UI, I like how it removes all thinking from making a list of things to listen to when “Shuffle” just isn’t enough, and in a meta way I particularly love how they created a little feature ladder from “Playlist” to “Smart Playlist” to “Genius Playlist.” (Of course, a glass-half-full type could interpret that to mean that any playlist that I create myself is a “Dumb Playlist,” but I digress…)

Anyway, based on my recent Genius experiences, here are two things that Genius is explicitly good for:

  1. Only every once in a while throwing in a Vampire Weekend song. Genius knows that there’s no way I could listen to the entire Vampire Weekend album in one stretch (lest I suffer an acute attack of the twees). But a single track shuffled Genius’d in once every 100 tracks can be sort of enjoyable in a “wow what a cute song!” kind of way.

  2. More than every once in a while tossing in Broken Social Scene’s “7/4 (Shoreline)”. Somehow that track is ending up on almost every playlist Genius creates. Thanks, Genius!

Oh, and I was happy to see that the Remote app was updated for Genius support. Now I can be a Genius from my kitchen…if not in my kitchen.

September 18, 2008

viewing the cloud through different lenses

Warning: half-baked stuff ahead.

In this morning’s news reader I found two interesting “cloud computing” posts; onefrom from Alfred Spector at Google and one from Werner Vogels at Amazon. And even though it’s perfectly clear they were published with completely different intentions, the fact that they were published on the same day gives a lazy blogger like me the excuse to point out the differences. Especially since I think they point to the different lenses through which the two companies view the cloud…

Google’s post is about harnessing computer power in the cloud to solve more computationally difficult problems based on billions and billions of data points…

Computer systems will have greater opportunity to learn from the collective behavior of billions of humans. They will get smarter, gleaning relationships between objects, nuances, intentions, meanings, and other deep conceptual information. Today’s Google search uses an early form of this approach, but in the future many more systems will be able to benefit from it.

Amazon’s post (well, really Vogels’ post, since it’s on his personal blog) is about the tools they’re giving developers, in particular the new content delivery service. Here’s the relevant bit that stood out…

This is an important first step in expanding the cloud to give developers even more control over how their applications and their data are served by the cloud.

This isn’t to say that the folks behind Google’s App Engine aren’t thinking about developer services the way that Amazon is, or that Amazon’s cloud group isn’t thinking about how they can support the kind of uber-learning that Google is. I’m just watching how the two massive cloud providers are talking about how they see the cloud, because I think the language they use is indicative of the underlying strategy…

September 18, 2008

these are good

I think the Seinfeld + Gates long form ad was a lure to get us warmed up for these new “I’m a PC” spots. Which I think are great. Leaving aside operating system and brand preference for a minute, what’s works with these ads is the message of joy and abundance and widespread use of Personal Computing.

I use a Mac these days, but I’m also a PC. And I wear glasses.

September 18, 2008

kedrosky is must-read right now

If you’re not following / subscribed to Paul Kedrosky’s blog Infectious Greed, and anxiously awaiting each and every blog post, then you absolutely should be. He’s doing the best blogging about the market meltdown, including this morning’s post about McCain calling for the head of Chris Cox

It is the height of irresponsibility for a politician to grandstand so clumsily when the market is as fragile as it is right now. It shows a remarkable lack of financial sophistication and market smarts on the part of John McCain, and I didn’t have much confidence in either from him in the first place (and that does not make this an Obama endorsement, because he has done diddly to convince me he gets this either).

September 17, 2008

shortcut to create a new email from anywhere from within os x (aka stupid shortcut hack #145)

It’s come to this, blogging stupid Mac desktop shortcut productivity hacks. But since “sharing is caring” and I really do care, here’s a quick little thing that I’m sharing with you.

Problem: Help! I’m in a random application and I need to send a quick email and I’m just too lazy to mouse or cmd-tab over to and find that new message button; I want to do it now! Right now! Because every second counts! (And oh – I’m one of the three people who care about stuff like this but don’t already run Quicksilver![1])

Solution: A “mailto:” webloc file and Spotlight.

  1. Go bookmark a site in Safari. Any site.
  2. Switch to the bookmark management view by clicking Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks
  3. Edit the name of the bookmark you just created to “msg” (or “email” or “create an obligation to reply for someone you love”)
  4. Edit the address of the bookmark to “mailto:” (without the quotes, and don’t forget the colon).
  5. Drag that bookmark to your desktop, where it will create a msg.webloc file.
  6. Then go file it away somewhere in your Documents, since I’m sure you’re one of those people who care about what’s on your desktop.
  7. There is no step 7!

As long as you have Spotlight configured to index webloc files, all you need to do is hotkey your way to the spotlight window and type “msg” (or your trigger word of choice) and voila, instant access to a new email message from wherever you are.

So there, go enjoy your faster emailing.

[1] If you’re one of those three people, Hi! We should have lunch sometime.

September 14, 2008

kakutani on dfw

Michiko Kakutani on David Foster Wallace:

Much of Mr. Wallace’s work, from his gargantuan 1996 novel “Infinite Jest” to his excursions into journalism, felt like outtakes from a continuing debate inside his head, about the state of the world and the role of the writer in it, and the chasm between idealism and cynicism, aspirations and reality. The reader could not help but feel that Mr. Wallace had inhaled the muchness of contemporary America — a place besieged by too much data, too many video images, too many high-decibel sales pitches and disingenuous political ads — and had so many contradictory thoughts about it that he could only expel them in fat, prolix narratives filled with Mobius strip-like digressions, copious footnotes and looping philosophical asides.

September 10, 2008

this week, on a very special fringe, the large hadron collider

National Geographic has a nice collection of photos of the LHC at CERN, including this one of Peter Glaessel, a technical coordinator sitting inside the “time projection chamber.”


In other news, JJ Abrams debuted his new TV series Fringe last night, which based on the pilot promises a full season of not-even-pseudoscience, completely improbable situations, ridiculous conspiracy theories and awkward love interests. I’m personally hoping for a Large Hadron Collider guest appearance coupled with a time travel / black hole plotline somewhere around episode 8. Talk about product placement opportunities…

September 08, 2008

mahjong: contemporary chinese art @ berkeley art museum

I had a chance to preview “Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection” this weekend at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum. It’s an amazing show, well worth the trip to Berkeley.


In 141 works by ninety-six artists, the exhibition Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection represents the historical span of art from the 1970s to today in China and demonstrates the dramatic evolution that has occurred, with artists exploring new materials and concepts far from what might have been imagined by even the most clairvoyant. As Chinese art emerged from the boundaries of state-sponsored and state-defined aesthetics to the complex initiatives of individuals with new intentions and motivations, it is possible to see the growth and development not only of art but of a nation.

I want to go back and soak it all in again. I have had very little exposure to what’s happening in China’s art scene, other than what Vanity Fair covered last December, and the show just blew me away…

September 04, 2008

the race is on

RNC Delegates 2, originally uploaded by Daniella Zalcman.

Say what you will about either of the parties or their candidates, but we sure do know how to put on a show. And now there are only 60 days to go. 1,440 hours. 86,400 minutes.

Ready, set, go.

September 04, 2008

las manitas

I love(d) Las Manitas as much as the next only-occasional Austin interloper, and last time I was there I ate breakfast there each and every day. Yum. And sure, as an only-occasional Austin interloper, it’s depressing that the building’s being replaced by a new Marriott hotel complex. But, as the Austinist points out, the story’s complicated (city council, a proposal of forgivable loans, public outcry, etc.). And, as always, the comments are where it’s at…including this gem from Grape Ape:

While having 8 or so Marriot’s downtown isn’t the best solution, tourism is nice. It does allow for new and existing businesses to grow. If only we could go back to just having all those 1 level dirt parking lots and empty buildings downtown - that would be awesome. Maybe then we could change our motto to “Keep Austin Mediocre and Unsuccessful”


September 03, 2008


While I’m not at all suggesting that Google trends is a proxy for brand strength, search trends are good for hatchet-job comparisons like this one, plotting the two mega brands of 2008 against one another. Ladies and gentlemen, iPhone v. Obama:


September 02, 2008

michael lewis on the day after

Great small piece in the Times today from Michael Lewis on the day after Gustav. Worth reading in full, but I’ll snip this bit for you:

Just now this would be a terrifying place to be a looter — and the troops and police are really only the first line of defense. Before Katrina the only thing stopping the not insignificant sub-population of well-to-do New Orleans men who enjoy the idea of sitting behind their front door with an AK-47 propped on their laps, waiting to shoot the first looter who walks through the door, was the fear of spending the night without air conditioning. After Katrina these people all went out and bought state-of-the art-power generators and so are holed up in their houses, longing for an excuse to fire a rapid burst from their automatic weapons.