:: Thursday, April 18 2013 ::
Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas needs to be voted out of office in 2014. He runs as a Democrat but votes on major issues like a Republican. Internet, make it happen.
:: Thursday, April 4 2013 ::
Information on the Arkansas Oil Spill is flowing so fast (no pun intended) that it's hard to keep up with. The company (ExxonMobile) has been having some bumps with the first amendment (for example, the local media were told they could go with governor on tour of the effected area, then Exxon threw them out). A no-fly zone was imposed, then rolled back to allow media after an outcry. Local politicians have been scrambling to look like they care (some of them probably do, to be fair). Implications for the Keystone XL pipeline are being debated endlessly in the media. And it turns out that the Kalamazoo spill was also a spill of this type, which is not crude oil in the traditional sense, but some sort of slurry of oil and sand and stuff. Rachel Maddow did a show detailing how, three years later, the Kalamazoo spill still isn't cleaned up. I'm hoping to go take a look tomorrow and see if there's anything to be seen from on lake Conway (the lake that is asserted to be oil free).
:: Tuesday, April 2 2013 ::
I wrote a major post about the Arkansas oil spill yesterday, but forgot to press 'submit'. Very frustrating. On the other hand, now I'll have a bit more information. In the meantime, watch the video of the spill if you haven't already.
:: Sunday, March 24 2013 ::
A pleasant Spring break spent touring the state, as well as some new sights in Memphis. The weather did not exactly cooperate (it snowed one day while we were in Eureka Springs, for example), but hiking and sightseeing was nevertheless accomplished. I may also have a new goal - creating a travel guide for the state, and publishing it for fun and profit. We'll see. I'll need some more experienced consultants to make it happen, but it's very clear to me that there is a major gap in travel guides in Arkansas, and I just don't think wikivoyage is up to the task. Add it to the list of things I'm going to do once I'm unemployed.
:: Friday, March 15 2013 ::
One of the things I love about having a blog is that, years later, I can refer back to it and figure out what the heck was going on in my life. Like a journal, but also handy for pointing updates to others. So: updates. We just got a new pope. OK - that's not really my life, but it's a noteworthy event. It also intersects with a number of social issues I have an interest in, like gay rights and poverty/development. He's very bad on one, but looks promising on the other. We'll see. More locally, the Arkansas legislature has been particularly insane this year, having turned over to Republican for the first time since reconstruction. It looks as though they're trying to take everything back to the 1800's. On a more personal note, my friend Jason and his wife Janae will be visiting us for the next week. It will be nice to get out of the house and see Arkansas through the eyes of a tourist for a while. Hopefully I'll take my camera along and get lots of nice 'Spring in Arkansas' pictures. Finally, on the subject of pictures, I attended the first (what I hope is annual) Raspberry Pi Bake-off last night at Hendrix College. I took the camera along and got a few photos.
:: Tuesday, March 5 2013 ::
Hopefully the last update on the Tamron lens I had worked on - after shipping it back a second time (when the fit and finish just weren't acceptable) it came back last week seemingly good as new. I took a few photos of some baby owls near our house over the weekend and the action was back to nice and clean and silent.
:: Tuesday, February 26 2013 ::
Related to my previous post, about how online comments aren't very good, is my new pet project, events. Scheduling parties online isn't very good either. The problem is facebook and their walled garden. 85 percent of the people I want at my party are on facebook. Which leaves several who aren't, and what the heck do I do with that? I'm trying several tools to see if one of them works, but of course it's hard when you only have so many parties...
:: Friday, February 22 2013 ::
TechCrunch has an excellent article up titled The Best Platform For Online Discussion Doesn’t Exist Yet. In it they discuss their work on integrating first facebook comments and then another platform (Livefyre), and how, in general, we don't have this whole business worked out yet. There's also some wonderful nostalgia for the days when we actually tried to track across the web who else was talking about a topic (automatically!) - and the rise of the troll.
Right now, I have an account at my local newspaper, at a podcast I listen to regularly, at several (non-commercial) blogs I follow, and at several (commercial) blogs I follow, all of which I would love to easily know the status of - has someone responded to my comments, has someone written elsewhere on the same topic, has the story been updated with new information? It's interesting to think about all of this as 'race against the troll' - it seems like, for the most part, the troll hasn't been solved, but has been relegated to a dull roar. On any particular post it seems like not a lot of spam gets through. And even if it does, on most boards there's enough traffic that I'd still like to be reminded that I posted there, and that updates have happened. And, like tumblr, I'd like to know when my material has been used or referred to elsewhere. I just can't decide if this is one of those 'romanticized solutions that cannot ever happen', or a legitimate problem waiting to be solved.
:: Wednesday, February 13 2013 ::
Spent the evening taking pictures to update my LED Light Bulb page. Thinking I may reverse the order of the data, so the most recent stuff is first. I'm always a little surprised when the post-data-collection phase (i.e. the updating the web page part) takes effort. I tend to think of the data collection as the 'hard part', but in fact it's a little bit different than that.
:: Monday, January 28 2013 ::
About a year ago I purchased a new zoom lens for my camera (for search engine purposes I'm going to give the full model info - it's the Tamron SP AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC). The first real trip I took with it was to the Cayman Islands this past Christmas. It performed beautifully. Except when it didn't perform at all. Certain photos, specifically when I was near 300mm and pointing the lens more or less at the sun, would cause my camera to say there had been an error in the communication between the camera and the lens. Although it was very infrequent, I decided when I got home to send the lens in and see what would happen. Today I received the note that they were 'adjusting or replacing the aperture assembly'. Which was also what I found when I went searching for the error on websites after it happened. I'm pleased that the lens has been fixed, but it always makes me nervous when something happens to more than a few people - will I have to be concerned about the lens doing this again? I'll keep my fingers crossed!
:: Friday, January 25 2013 ::
According to the wikipedia article on the history of blogging, "The term 'weblog' was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, 'blog,' was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999."
I took a few more years to really get into it, although in 1999 I was already keeping an online travel journal of my time in Japan. But for the traditional blog it took me another four years. So, on January 25th, 2003 (ten years ago today), I posted my first blog entry: “A little experiment in use of web-based weblogging. What could be more fun?”
I'm not exactly sure what 'non-web-based weblogging' would look like - don't ask me.
I'm pretty sure this was the same day I got the software up and running, although more likely is that, the night before, I was up until 4am plugging away at it, and finally got it working after waking up at noon. Over the next ten years, the software was my go-to programming task when I felt the need to do some hacking.
One of the things that accidentally worked very well for me was that, because my blog was flat files rather than some higher-tech solution, the old pages still look the way they did when they were posted. This preserved, for the most part, both the design and things like the so-called blogroll. I noticed one of the links from 2003 was the Baghdad blogger, who was at the moment I was writing possibly the most famous blogger in the world. In many ways I felt connected to the other bloggers of the time - everyone was getting famous, either because they themselves were interesting, or because their situation was interesting, and later everyone was getting a book deal. It seemed like simply writing something interesting often enough was a ticket to fame. And at first it felt like a very exclusive club.
Early on, the blog felt like a great social tool - the long format meant you really felt like you knew the person on the other end, even if they were a work of fiction. Thinking about this today, it's interesting how this has evolved into the 'catfishing' in the news because of Manti Te'o. But outside of that, or maybe even including that, in the first few years blogging was our social network.
Today, blogs have evolved into the new version of magazines. Social networks serve the purpose of talking about your day, generally. And just like with print, long form has given way to short form. Even though people mock the 140 character limit of twitter, I'm fairly certain most facebook posts meet that length limit as well.
So what does the next ten years hold? I don't know. I like long-form writing sometimes, but often I'm creating a dedicated web page for it (like my recent how-to for creating a custom lightroom web gallery (still in progress)). But sometimes you just need more than a paragraph to express an idea. I also expect facebook to die, and some other social tech to replace it. I hope that will be something more open, allowing me to integrate what I say here into it in a more cohesive way than adding a link to it on my wall with a pithy comment. But truth be told, even if it isn't, I expect I'll still be back from time to time to wax lyrical on somesuch topic or another.
:: Saturday, January 19 2013 ::
20 years ago a friend of mine in high school lent me some books, I'm going to say two or three, which were the first books in fantasy series called The Wheel of Time. Since that time both the person who lent me the books, and the author of those books, has passed away. A new author stepped in to finish the final volume, and in a recent blog post he expresses some of the same thoughts I have about books that have been with me my entire adult life. I associate them first with my friend, but also with my first trip abroad - the sixth book accompanied me on my 'grand tour' of Europe in college. I've discussed the books with many, many people, some of whom I never would have guessed would read them. In short, they have been with me in a way that very few books have been, for a very long time. And this week, the final book of the series arrived on my doorstep. Partially written by the original author, partially by someone else, it's a massive tome. And I find myself somewhat reluctant to read it - to finish the journey. It's been a long time coming, and I'll be sad to see it end.
:: Wednesday, January 16 2013 ::
I was looking at my site analytics, checking to see how some new content was doing, and, as always, my old college paper on the anti-globalization movement was my highest ranked page. Probably because it's late, my brain wandered off with that and came back with the point that a lot of people are using my paper to learn about a topic. Even more probably use information I or someone like me has posted to wikipedia. And it sort of opens the question of 'who is an academic'. And again because it's late I immediately leapt to the term 'content creator'. Which puts researchers and artists on the same big playing field. It also then led me to an idea recently discussed on Econtalk (a podcast I listen to, often so I can yell at the host in my head how wrong his and his guests' analyses are) - the attention economy (and note that I linked to wikipedia there!). In the marketplace of people's attention, I am carving off an infinitesimally small slice of one narrow topic. But in doing so, for that brief span of time I am preventing them from doing literally anything else with their attention. Which makes me wish I'd been a better paper writer back in the day.
:: Tuesday, January 15 2013 ::
Did a little housekeeping on the blog - moved 2011 and 2012 to their own page, for a start. It's been interesting to watch blogging grow, come into its own, and then descend again. A recent article I read on TechCrunch talked about how some startup that had been designed to help people have longer conversations was now suggesting you chop your posts into shorter bits. Just like twitter. And it's true - I post a million things on facebook for every thing I post here, because getting a coherent series of sentences is much harder than getting one sentence that makes sense. I'm not going to mourn the loss of civilized discourse because long form writing is dead, though. I think we're doing just fine at communicating - we're just finding our way with new tools.
Looks like Facebook has been doing some crazy things with their widgets - it's currently floating over top of everything else. I've actually been doing some serious web page creating over the past few days, working my way through creating custom web galleries for Lightroom (it's a program for organizing your photographs). I note this because often when it's time to work on web pages, I have to rebuild the entire infrastructure from scratch (the perils of changing computers so often). But this time I should be able to fix the whole thing in no time flat! Which is good - Facebook is apparently making some kind of super-exciting announcement today (well, an announcement, at the very least - super-exciting is probably hoping for too much) which might mean they will be shaking up all their code base and breaking things. We'll see what happens.
:: Friday, December 21 2012 ::
The end of the year has been full of parties, and nationally, of guns (due to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting) and so-called fiscal cliffs. It's astonishing to me how effectively the same topics get avoided again and again. We'll see if this time things are different, on either topic, but I'm not holding my breath.
:: Saturday, December 8 2012 ::
So I decided to compare phone plans. Since I never talk on the phone, minutes were not of interest. I just wanted to know what the cheapest plan (with data) I could find was. I also wanted to know whether buying a phone outright made sense.
Short answer: none of the big plans could compete. Even a little bit. Note that the T-Mobile plan is 100 minutes talk, Virgin is 300 min, and in general I've assumed 2gb data.