:: Friday, January 9 2015 ::
Life in the big city is weird. Life in the big city of a not-very-big country is even weirder. Everything is so local. Not only because often, it actually happened in the city, but also because, at least in the case of London or Paris, when big things happen the government responds, and the government is located in those cities. So even big things that happen far away, like the Sivens dam project, which is about as far from here as you can get and still be in mainland France, it still feels like much of the action is happening right next door.
Unfortunately, the most recent thing to happen really did happen right next door. Gunmen stormed the building of Charlie Hebdo and shot many of the staff members. There's no question at this point that it was Islamic extremists. They escaped, and a manhunt is still underway. Although I never felt threatened, I was certainly relieved that when they headed to the suburbs, they went the other direction.
I went yesterday to their offices - it was actually an accident, but once I saw the long line of satellite trucks and reporters I decided to walk by. It feels a little odd, actually - I had my camera, but I felt awkward taking pictures. Clearly the media felt no such compuctions. I even watched what seemed to be a staged laying of flowers at an impromptu memorial.
Right now it looks like the (inter)national outpouring of support will mean Charlie Hebdo will survive. It's a shame people wait until you're no longer living to say how important your work is. The articles written for an international audience have been very complimentary, as Le Monde notes.
:: David (3:18 in Arkansas, 10:18 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, November 21 2014 ::
Some simple rules: 35% of something is more than 25% of something. Every so often politicians think they know better, and you end up plans to cut taxes but spend the same amount because of [magic]. Kansas did it, and is reaping the benefits, as did North Carolina. Now it looks like we'll be seeing it on the national scale too.
:: David (2:46 in Arkansas, 9:46 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, November 18 2014 ::
Went to a fascinating talk today about toilets. Tomorrow is apparently world toilet day and UCL decided to celebrate with a lecture about loos. It's actually a massive problem, in that more than a third of the planet's population don't have access to sanitation, and this leads to a huge number of health problems. There was also a fascinating discussion of how the built environment determines who gets to use public spaces - apparently in Victorian London there were only public toilets for men, because women were not expected to leave the house. And since there were no toilets for them, really, they couldn't. The speaker then drew a connection from that, through race, disability, and now transgender. Really interesting stuff.
:: David (9:20 in Arkansas, 16:20 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, November 8 2014 ::
It always terrifies me when I get an email from my hosting provider saying they need to migrate my website to a new machine. I once had two years of files suddenly disappear after a 'backup/restore' situation. Oh dear - in rereading the message, I see I am being kicked off my host. There's a joke about 'you get what you pay for', but I really do dislike having to find a new hosting provider. Sigh. Oh well - when rates increase by 100% it's clearly time to start looking around.
:: David (2:13 in Arkansas, 9:13 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, November 4 2014 ::
Had my phone stolen straight out of my hand by some guy on a bike Sunday night. Apparently this is becoming quite common in London - they call it, cleverly, 'Apple picking'. So now I'm trying to get the old Nexus One working and shopping for a new phone. That I will hold on to much more tightly...
:: David (15:41 in Arkansas, 22:41 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, October 15 2014 ::
I use a link shortening service called bit.ly when I post something to social media, in part because it makes the links look a little neater, and in part because it allows me to track how popular something I've shared is. It's interesting to see what becomes popular and what doesn't, although how much of that is facebook sorting things and how much is actual interest I can't tell. I realized that all the links I've shortened are public, which is fine since I share things publicly on facebook anyway. If you'd like to see a list of the articles I'm sharing, I think you can just take a look at my bit.ly profile - I imagine it's live, so as soon as I've shortened something it will appear there. I've actually taken to sharing things strategically when I want people to read them, which is a sad statement on the facebook algorithm. I've been using the new social media service Ello (you can see my profile on Ello, which is currently public to everyone) as a reaction to all the things I don't like about Facebook. I'm not sure it will take off - network is all, and right now there aren't a large number of my friends over there. But I'm hopeful. It remains to be seen what they will do to raise money for the service - it costs a great deal to maintain over 50PB of data).
:: David (5:37 in Arkansas, 12:37 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, September 25 2014 ::
Man, do I hate apartment hunting! We're trying to find a place in Paris, and it feels like no matter what you do someone is taking you to the cleaners. Ideally we would do it direct, but then there's the fear that we show up and someone has taken our money and not provided an apartment. And with the agencies, you have a limited selection at a higher price. Bleah.
:: David (3:46 in Arkansas, 10:46 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, September 11 2014 ::
I have been obsessed with the referendum on Scottish independence these last few months. Now that a poll has come out suggesting 'Yes' might actually win, Westminster has been running around like chickens with their heads cut off to try and find a way to prevent the breakup of the UK. It's possible that up until last weekend I was paying more attention to the Scots than the government was. But now it's real, and it's happening in one week. We watched one of the televised debates, more's the pity, as it was a shoutfest and a bunch of "we'll use the pound" "no you won't" "yes we will". The questions of how the breakup would occur, and how Scotland would work afterward, are real, but the politicians haven't been offering any real evidence, one way or the other. Even Paul Krugman, who usually has a pretty steady head on, just came out with seemingly random words (to be fair, maybe based on what the politicans were saying). I think having a plan is important. I think you work the details out once you decide it's happening, not before. Either way, it's going to get more exciting as the days go by, and next Friday we may get a whole new country!
:: David (16:45 in Arkansas, 23:45 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, September 9 2014 ::
Settled in to downtown London. Our flat is quite nice, and the location is quite hard to beat - there's a bus stop literally across the street, so on several occasions we've been able to ride straight to or straight from our door. I'm experimenting with the so-called 'Boris Bikes' which are cheap rental bikes located all over the city. The only real downside has been how much time is spent in settling in. I had hoped to spend a lot more time taking photos, but haven't found it to be as easy as 'wake up in the morning and go take pictures'. In part because even though London isn't all that big, getting anywhere is either very slow or very expensive.
It's still early days for the classes Sasha is doing, but outside of a technical glitch (self inflicted when we installed Windows 8 on her laptop) things seem to be going well there.
We've had the chance to socialize quite a little bit, which has been nice, and even spent the day brewing beer at a friend's house. So life is quite busy, overall, in a (mostly) good way. Once a week or so we're scheduled to see plays, and so far that's been good too. A well-acted Shakespeare play is hard to beat.
Rather than additional typing I'm going to head out now - there's a photo contest St Paul's Cathedral is running, and I'm trying to at least put up a fight, as the prize is a private tour and a nice dinner.
:: David (4:43 in Arkansas, 11:43 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, August 11 2014 ::
It's been a while since I posted anything here, and there's a pretty good reason why: since last I posted, we have moved out of our home in Arkansas and into a series of temporary lodgings in Europe. At first this seemed like something that would not be too challenging, but I have discovered that, barring financial impetus, having some minimum standard of lodging impacts my ability or desire to post things online. Even on Facebook, where I am usually most active (and where I have been posting photos the whole time), I have found myself without the time and energy to do much interacting. Now that we have settled in to a single location for what will hopefully be a fairly lengthy span of days, I am hopeful that I'll be able to update things a bit more regularly.
:: David (7:14 in Arkansas, 14:14 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, June 7 2014 ::
I was recently looking at slate, and noticed that their commenting system is powered by live fyre, a fairly popular third party commenting system. It got me thinking once again about this blog, and the way I built my own, somewhat clunky, comment system. And I realized that part of the reason is sheer attrition: I've outlasted most of the Internet's big companies. So a system that is huge today might not (will not) be big in a decade. Which on some level makes me worry, our wonder, or something - what happens to the billions of comments people write when the system goes down? I mean, I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but it boggles the mind to think all that heat and light will fade to black.
:: David (23:58 in Arkansas, 6:58 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, May 25 2014 ::
Leaving a job is always a strange thing - you spend a lot of time with people, and develop all these relationships, but of course it's also your job, as opposed to the things you do when people aren't paying you to do them. This was the longest I had ever worked at one place, and it felt sad to say goodbye. Fortunately I'm also distracted by the things we have to do before we move abroad, which is fast approaching.
It's also strange to think that I'll be coming back - usually when I move, I'm leaving for good. This time it's only for a year.
:: David (0:20 in Arkansas, 7:20 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, April 29 2014 ::
Another tornado rolled through the area Sunday night. It hit Mayflower and Vilonia, both of which seem like unfair targets for nature's wrath, given that Mayflower had an oil spill barely one year ago, and Vilonia was just now starting to recover from the last tornado, which hit it almost exactly three years ago. My work day was spent in a weird combination of checking to make sure everyone and their loved ones were safe, trying to work out whether our organization could donate some t-shirts to the relief effort, and the day-to-day operations that would ordinarily be how I spend my day.
Also at lunch a woman came by collecting toiletries for some of her family down in Mayflower. I gave her our collection of hotel shampoo bottles. It's hard to know what's useful, and your default impulse is to pile everything in.
My colleagues spent the last part of the day in large part trying to figure out how to get home. Although the early morning traffic through the affected area had been smooth, cleanup efforts and gawker backups now meant a quick drive had become an epic journey. I expect tomorrow I'll hear stories of being trapped on small roads west of the highway for hours. Or perhaps they're still driving.
The full extent of the damage is not yet completely known, but we know it's bad - at least 14 people are confirmed dead. Despite the grimness, there is one point of light - the way the community pulls together to help. It was amazing to me how quickly cleanup crews were organized - almost before the twister had spun itself out, churches and other groups were planning next steps. It would not surprise me if every person who owned a chainsaw in the area had turned up the next morning to begin clearing debris. If this community acted with such purpose all the time it would be unstoppable.
:: David (0:19 in Arkansas, 7:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, April 16 2014 ::
As I get closer to this summer, when we will be relocating abroad, I have started trying to narrow down exactly what I'll be doing once we get to Europe. Options are somewhat endless, and every day brings a new idea (today's was "maybe I should learn Korean"). Business plans for when we return to the states are also multiplying exponentially. The recent tech gathering we had here in town, Barcamp Conway, added several new ideas and contacts to the list. I imagine I'll take some time in the summer to actually narrow these ideas down - certainly right now I'm too busy to narrow it down - the calendar is starting to fill up with end-of-school-year activities.
Regardless, one thing I'm fairly certain of is that I will start blogging again, more frequently. I haven't decided if I'll use this blog or one that's a bit more tailored to photos - maybe start a tumblr for the next year or so. I've been looking at domains to get the photos rolling, but it's hard to choose a name that isn't either already taken or is just plain terrible.
:: David (14:59 in Arkansas, 21:59 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, March 6 2014 ::
This is the image I had mentioned in my previous post. Clicking it will, apparently, take you to the licensing page at Getty.
As you can see, this could be a great source of fun images.
Unrelated: as you may have guessed, I've fixed the problem of not being able to embed things!
:: David (11:44 in Arkansas, 18:44 in Paris) - Comment
So this was going to be a post about how Getty Imaging has decided to open most of their catalogfor use by the public. I was going to embed an image from them of Lupita Nyong'o at the Oscars, to demonstrate how the embed process works. It involves dropping the following block of code into your site, and then you get the image, but it's a lower resolution version, and it links back to Getty (so your users, I guess, can license a bigger version?)
<iframe src="//embed.gettyimages.com/embed/476933715?et=x5aIseITD0yGl_Bw7crYcA&sig=m0ZA49g5fPnfZunrzRW0hIgVabaXOgzYyIS40B5DLEE=" width="594" height="457" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
But in starting to post, I realized that I had made changes to the blog such that I'm not sure I can post raw HTML into a blog post anymore. Oops. So the above might be code, or it might be a picture. I don't know which way it's going to go yet.
Anyway, regarding the whole embedding images business, I'm not really sure what I think of it. I mean, I probably wouldn't post about the Oscars, but I might about a big news event. And if I were doing so, I might want an image. Previously, I would have gone to Flickr and searched their creative commons stuff for something appropriate. Now I guess I might use a Getty image? I dunno - I'm not sure what they gain. Maybe name recognition?
:: David (10:40 in Arkansas, 17:40 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, February 17 2014 ::
Did a bit of updating on the blog software today, updated some tools that I'm sure were a security risk (to new tools that will someday become a security risk). I'm thinking about starting a new blog, or a new line of posts, and I can't decide whether I should use my main blog for it, or start a new one dedicated only to the topic I want to write on. The topic would be unemployment - there would be some of the same things I write about here - the economics of unemployment - but it would be more of a 'this is my personal journey through unemployment'. As someone who, for reasons either structural, personal, or reasons of sheer luck, has never really had to deal with unemployment as a problem (as opposed to unemployment as a choice), I think it might be of interest to people to see how that journey goes (I will be unemployed by my own choice in a few months, and will be finding ways to occupy myself before heading back out into the job market in a year or so). I know from past experience that even when you choose to be unemployed it's a big hit to the psyche, so I'm interested to see how it goes this time, when I'm a very well qualified employee (call me mid-level?) who expects, more or less, to have the world at my feet (even though I know, or think I know, that the market is not at all good, both due to the crash and because of where I live).
:: David (12:28 in Arkansas, 19:28 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, February 14 2014 ::
One of the fun things about running a service on the internet is the days when the internet goes out.
In theory, this should never happen - remember that the internet was built specifically to allow communications in the event that towns got nuked. Apparently somewhere between then and now, the specs have gotten a bit more lax.
The worst part about it, of course, is the fact that, if there's nothing you can do (because the outage is upstream), there is literally nothing that you can do. Sit and click 'reload'.
:: Thursday, February 6 2014 ::
I've been super excited to see some of the developments taking place in, let's call it 'Western', news media. I wonder how many of the changes we should lay at Edward Snowden's door. Several new media outlets seem to be taking shape, and at least a couple of them seem to take the role of watchdog on government seriously. I'm excited to see what First Look Media and whatever Vox Media are doing. Call me 'optimistic' that we'll get some honest-to-God real reporting. Will it affect what seems like our increasingly corrupt nations? That I'm less sure of - it might, however, curb some of the excesses.
:: Tuesday, February 4 2014 ::
It always seems odd when 'blogging' becomes something you put on your resume. I remember early on when it was something you specifically avoided mentioning (as they now tell us our facebook profile / whatever social media platform profile should be). The tension between the public and the private in (forgive me) cyberspace does not look like it's going to resolve anytime soon.
:: Tuesday, December 10 2013 ::
This was a meme going around facebook, but I thought it was interesting enough to post here. There were a few authors I skipped, but I thought this was a nice cross section.
Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
1. Stand on Zanzibar / John Brunner
:: Thursday, December 5 2013 ::
On the drive home from work I heard the news that Nelson Mandela had passed away. He was 95, which seems an excellent age to live to, especially given he spent nearly three decades in prison. He would probably not characterize it this way, since he spent a lot of time trying to ensure that South Africa didn't disintegrate under the weight of its past, but it seems to me a nice middle finger to the people who supported apartheid that he lived for so long after his imprisonment, and did so much. I also appreciate the fact that he was able to come around to peace and reconciliation, despite an earlier support for armed resistance. On a personal level, Mandela forms part of my earliest memories of politics - I remember vividly the boycott of Coca Cola, and my own complete incomprehension that something like apartheid could exist in the world.
:: Tuesday, November 19 2013 ::
:: Saturday, November 16 2013 ::
:: Tuesday, November 12 2013 ::
Last night, one of the members of the West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, spoke at the University of Central Arkansas. He was brought in by the English department to talk about writing, both the books he is publishing and the journals etc. he kept while in prison. It was interesting - he received a standing ovation as he walked in, and when he had finished reading. I hadn't been sure what to expect, but it wasn't what I got - he was surprisingly erudite in certain areas, and his last few years in prison had made him quite spiritual (in an esoteric way). In addition, his description of what for him was mundane prison life was frankly riveting. A friend noted afterward that everyone should have to see someone who has served time in prison talk about their experiences. Overall, it was a fascinating evening. The local newspaper did a write up of the event which has some additional details and some interesting quotes.
:: Thursday, October 3 2013 ::
Hendrix College restarted their football program this year. It's been a fraught thing for students and faculty, but seems to have launched without a hitch (I took photos at the first game - if I remember I'll try to post them here). Now a couple of stories have been released detailing why a small college might want to have a football program. The short version: follow the money. Read more about it at SB Nation and Deadspin.
:: Wednesday, September 11 2013 ::
While trying to embed a Google Plus post, I think I discovered a bug or a feature in my blog software. I'm going to try again...
:: David (15:33 in Arkansas, 22:33 in Paris) - Comment
I heard about, then promptly forgot, that I could embed facebook posts in other sites. I'm going to try it here, and see what blows up.
:: David (14:53 in Arkansas, 21:53 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, September 8 2013 ::
Another day, another attempt to wrest control of your identity by a (the) social network. I've been thinking about the various and sundry attempts I've made to build my own stack - some successful (this blog runs on custom software), some less so (I wanted to build my own like tracker - didn't happen). The open web was supposed to give us access to these tools - someone else builds them, and we benefit. The shared economy. But there was a revenue stream to be had, and now we are the product, and everything is once again locked down. Add in the NSA for some solid tin-foil fun. The one good thing I see is that people are becoming aware that privacy is a myth, and some of the best and brightest are taking this on. But there's not an easy answer - unless you run the whole stack out of your house, it's hard to see a path to real privacy. Well, excepting going offline altogether...
:: Saturday, August 31 2013 ::
I bought myself an early birthday present - the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Lens
which is a brand new thing in a zoom lens - previously you couldn't get a 1.8 aperture in a zoom. I did some test shots with it after we picked it up, and it's quite something. I'm concerned about the weight of the lens, but the image quality is very nice - much better than I think any of my other lenses will do.
:: Sunday, August 25 2013 ::
:: Thursday, August 22 2013 ::
I'm very pleased to see some high profile folks addressing the whole 'math in economics' question. Noah Smith wrote a rather lengthy essay on why he doesn't find the insane math some economists use to be particularly helpful.
Math can also be used as obscurantism; if every paper in a field starts with a dense thicket of formal statements and functional equations, it will be difficult for even very smart outsiders to come in and evaluate what the people in a field are doing with their time. Again, I doubt all but the most cynical macroeconomists would be intentionally obscurantist; they would just be subtly rewarded for doing things that ended up having an obscurantist result.Paul Krugman responds by noting that math can offer a clarity that words might not, but acknowledges that "[w]hat is true is that all too many economists have lost sight of this purpose; they treat their models as The Truth, and/or judge each others’ work by how hard the math is."
One of the things that every intro to econometrics class tries to instill in students is the idea that the formula is there to represent a well-thought-out model. You don't just throw math at the problem until it goes away. However, this seems often to be the last time that point gets made. I sincerely hope this conversation leads to some reflection among economists about the role math is playing in their work.
:: Wednesday, August 21 2013 ::
I've been letting this whole 'why aren't people having kids' thing percolate for a while. It seems like the nationwide excitement got ramped back up after the Time magazine cover story. Thinking as an economist, the question seems ridiculous - people can't afford to have children. Economic uncertainty. Hollowed out middle class. Etc. But there's a lot more - falling birth rates in developed countries is a thing, and the causes are surely more complex. So it's sitting up in my brain, waiting for a moment to come out. But, as may be clear, if I let things percolate nothing ever gets posted here. So this is where I am, at least on this topic.
:: Saturday, July 13 2013 ::
We headed up to Alaska for a week. I shot a lot of photos. Still working through them - turns out sorting good from bad is kinda hard! The trip was nice - saw family friends that I've not seen in a while. I think I will need to go back to Alaska at some point, as it was extraordinary!
:: Tuesday, June 18 2013 ::
Some recent economic data shows the labor force participation rate still in the toilet. Another way of saying that is 'people still don't have jobs, six years on'. Because I've been doing an awful lot of driving of late, I've listened to quite a lot of folks discuss causes, effects, and next steps (I listen to a lot of podcasts in the car, from the London School of Economics, the BBC, and others). It's more than a little depressing that, with so very many people focused on the problem, we've made no progress at all. When I lived in Japan in the late '90s/early 2000s I often wondered 'how do you lose a whole decade?' I guess now I know.
It's always interesting to me when a widget I've included on the blog changes in a fundamental way. I see Twitter has changed things quite a bit, which makes it a bit like coming to my web page to see someone else has updated it.
:: Saturday, June 8 2013 ::
The PRISM program is interesting not only from a tech and privacy perspective, but also from an economic one. Much like the recent GMO wheat debacle, there is a real question as to what impact this will have on foreign consumption of goods and services. I've seen people calling for boycotts of cloud services, for example. Don't get me wrong - this isn't some 'sky is falling' type of comment. It's just a note that there can be an impact. Probably small, for any individual incident (probably). Build enough small incidents, though, and you end up with where American food is - generally suspect - our beef has been banned repeatedly is Asia, our wheat and corn modified (which is not appreciated some places).
:: 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.