Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

High points of the year from a personal perspective:
  1. Taught a freshman biology course at the local community college. Nice to get back into it, hope I did more good than harm. Two thirds of the students would recommend that others take the course, which I'm told is a stellar review, so that's something.
  2. Spent the second half of the year as Chief Marketing Officer of a startup software company.
  3. Traveled a lot for business: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami, Toronto, Detroit, Toledo, Munich, Nuremberg. Narrowly avoided being groped & scoped by the TSA.
  4. Recovered some of my long lost German language skills, although the Germans are speaking more English than ever before, about as much as the Dutch were speaking 20 years ago. The Dutch are now almost universally perfectly bilingual.
  5. Met lots of interesting people, and have several prospects for new customers, clients and friends for the coming year.

Quote of the Day

I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I'm thirsty."

-Lily Bollinger
on champagne

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Books of 2010

  1. Steven Brust—Iorich
  2. Robert Skidelsky—Keynes: Return of the Master
  3. Neil Gaiman—Violent Cases
  4. Gregory Maguire—Making Mischief: a Maurice Sendak Appreciation
  5. Malcolm Gladwell—What the Dog Saw
  6. Richard Kadrey—Sandman Slim
  7. Richard Holmes—The Age of Wonder
  8. Robert Crais—The First Rule
  9. Colum McCann—Let the Great World Spin
  10. Matthew B. Crawford—Shop Class as Soulcraft
  11. Larry McMurtry—Literary Life
  12. Vaclav Havel—To the Castle and Back
  13. Sam Sheridan—The Fighter’s Mind
  14. Patti Smith—Just Kids
  15. Josh Waitzkin—The Art of Learning
  16. Mark Lamster—Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens
  17. Chandler Burr—You or Someone Like You (reread)
  18. Chandler Burr—The Emperor of Scent (reread)
  19. Gary Rogowski—The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery
  20. Gregoire Bouillier—The Mystery Guest
  21. Michael Pollan—A Place of My Own
  22. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro—Burning Shadows
  23. John Greenlee & Saxon Holt—The American Meadow Garden
  24. Samuel R Delany—Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand
  25. Stewart Copeland—Strange Things Happen: a Life with the Police, Polo and Pygmies
  26. Robert & Cortney Novogratz—Downtown Chic
  27. Jim Butcher—Changes
  28. Samuel R. Delany—Dhalgren
  29. Ellen Bass—The Human Line
  30. Nassim Nicholas Taleb—“On Robustness and Fragility”
  31. Luca Invernizzi—Ultimate Tropical
  32. Alberto Manguel—A Reading Diary
  33. Lee Child—61 Hours
  34. Peter Greenaway—Prospero’s Books
  35. Alberto Manguel—A History of Reading
  36. Stieg Larsson—The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  37. Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson—ReWork
  38. Jane Lindskold—Nine Gates
  39. Michael Pollan—Second Nature
  40. Cathryn M. Valente—This is My Letter to the World: the Omikuji Project Year 1
  41. Joseph Campbell—The Hero’s Journey
  42. Ozzy Osbourne—I am Ozzy
  43. Bret Easton Ellis—Imperial Bedrooms
  44. Bob Hicok—Words for Empty and Words for Full
  45. Elizabeth Gilbert—Eat, Pray, Love
  46. Andre Aciman—Call Me by Your Name
  47. Nicholas Basbanes—Editions & Impressions
  48. David Lipsky—Although of Course you End up Becoming Yourself (A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace)
  49. Josh Kilmer-Purcell—Bucolic Plague
  50. Josh Kilmer-Purcell—I am not Myself Right Now
  51. China Mieville—Kraken
  52. Paul Graham—Hackers & Painters
  53. Neal Pollack—Stretch
  54. Neal Pollack—Alternadad
  55. Lawrence & Nancy Goldstein—The Friar and the Cipher
  56. William Gibson—Zero History
  57. Glen Cook—An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat
  58. Garr Reynolds—Presentation Zen
  59. Alex Ross—Listen to This
  60. Alice McMaster Bujold—Cryoburn
  61. Lee Child—Worth Dying For
  62. Steven Johnson—Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
  63. Jim Butcher—Side Jobs
  64. Glen Cook—Gilded Latten Bones
  65. Ricky Martin—Me
  66. Jay LakePinion
  67. Joshua Braff—Peep Show
  68. John McPhee—Conversations with the Archdruid
  69. Eric Chase Anderson—Chuck Dugan is AWOL
  70. Kathe Koja—Under the Poppy
  71. Lev Grossman—The Magicians (reread)
  72. GD Trudeau—40: A Doonesbury Retrospective
  73. Patrick Hennessey—The Junior Officers’ Reading Club

The Year in Reading 2010

Notable books, or a Best Of list, though not all of these were necessarily published this year, out of the 70-odd books newly read over the past twelve months:

Bookending the year in reading, Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, which revolved around Philip Petit's tightrope walk across the World Trade Centers and a group of finely drawn characters kicked off the year that ended with Kathe Koja's excellent Under the Poppy.

The next group consists of memoirs by rock stars: Ozzy Osbourne's I Am Ozzy, Stewart Copeland's Strange Things Happen: a Life with the Police, Polo and Pygmies, Ricky Martin's Me, and the best of the group, Patti Smith's Just Kids, about her early life in New York and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. What comes through more than anything is the sweetness and innocence of this part of their lives, and possibly of life in general at the start of the 70's. This was the best non-fiction read of the year.

William Gibson's Zero History was the fiction read of the year. The conclusion of the Pattern Recognition or Blue Ant trilogy, ZH takes the techniques of science fiction and applies them to the immediate past in the context of a search for clothing and designers with very unusual properties. I want me some Gabriel Hounds.

Another great discovery was to flash back to the past with some Samuel R Delany: Dhalgren and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand are the kind of high grade science fiction that seemed to peak in the late 60's. Disorientation through language and imagery, fiercely drawn characters and invetive worlds to explore. That's the stuff.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”

— Bob Dylan

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The river is story, it goes on.

Greer Gilman's parting tale for and about her mother, recently passed.

Elegy for Geek Culture

Patton Oswalt on the death (and inevitable Jean Gray-like resurrection) of geek culture. He hits the high notes of 80's haut-nerd life, and then spirals into a glorious fantasia of otaku:
Since there’s no going back—no reverse on the out-of-control locomotive we’ve created—we’ve got to dump nitro into the engines. We need to get serious, and I’m here to outline my own personal fantasy: We start with lists of the best lists of boobs. Every Beatles song, along with every alternate take, along with every cover version of every one of their songs and every alternate take of every cover version, all on your chewing-gum-sized iPod nano. Goonies vs. Saw. Every book on your Kindle. Every book on Kindle on every Kindle. The Human Centipede done with the cast of The Hills and directed by the Coen brothers.

Possibly the best essay of the year.

Endless Divers

(via boingboing)

Links for Later

1. 100 verses of A Bang on the Ear

2. Mixergy interview with AngelList's Nivi

3. So long, PayGo

4. Bon Iver plays Peter Gabriel's Come Talk to Me. Kelly Deal sez: "YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR GODDAMN BON IVER, I SWEAR TO GOD."

5. A Guide to the Market Oligopoly System (Economic art)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Krugman Critiques Obama

Part of an ongoing series. Paul Krugman is (rightly) angry at how Obama has misplayed his hand over the past two years, leading to needless Democratic losses and hard won accomplishments that could have been more easily, rapidly and frequently won.

Links for Later

1. Molecular biology of the phylotypic bottleneck. More here.

2. Last night, The Invisibles saved my life. (via linkmachinego)

3. A response to Bruce Sterling's Wikileaks/Bradley Manning/Julian Assange piece, "The Blast Shack"

The Future Is Now, Vol. LXXXIV: Village Greens

The Peace Corps reports on the growth of green power generation among remote villages, including solar, water, biofuel and wind generators that power hyperefficient lighting and other low-wattage, high-value appliances.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wars and Pagan Trees

Obsidian Wings traces the DNA of modern Christmas, by way of Washington crossing the Delaware and a lot of pagan celebrations:
To have a green tree in the house, filled with light, in the darkest and coldest time of year, as we feel the year turn from old to new -- how can that not be numinous? When we decorate with green branches and red berries, this isn't from Christian iconography --

"I remember hearing," said Susan distantly, "that the idea of the Hogfather wearing a red and white outfit was invented quite recently."


(from Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett).

The rising of the sun and the running of the deer, seeing our families and having enough to eat: all of these things are worth celebrating. Such celebrations don't have to be either secular or religious, in the usual sense: they are pagan in the sense of "rustic, countrified, what the common people do". Human, in other words.

So we do have a Yule Tree in our house, and at its top is the sun

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bill

The late, great Bill Hicks would have been 49 today.

Happy Birthday, Bill

The late, great Bill Hicks would have been 49 today.

Links for Later

1. Stem cell cure for baldness in 5 years

2. Borromean rings as a foundation for new forms of matter

3. Talking about spycraft with Jeff Stein: "I hope this spawns more Wikileaks."

4. Anybody with the time on their hands to write a 43-page dress code should be fired

5. How to write like an undergraduate male.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

xkcd: Dammit, Julian

Bradley Manning

How long can a prisoner be kept in solitary confinement without their brains turning to jelly? The US is trying to find out the answer to this question using Wikileaks enabler Bradley Manning as a guinea pig. He's been kept isolated 23 hours a day in the US Marines brig in Virginia. No charges have yet been filed. What's going on in there? Glen Greenwald has some answers.

Time Now and Passing

Boys on the East Side insist on hanging to every passing sleigh, and if the owners protest, volleys of abuse are hurled after them.PA1878
This news item makes me melancholy, as it drives home the moment captured here so vividly happened 132 years ago. Everyone in the passing sleighs, the boys hanging on the sides, the writer of the piece, and everyone who knew them is dead and gone long ago. The sleighs themselves, for that matter, are long gone to dust, and maybe the streets where this happened.

The Year in Film 2010

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Links for Later

1. The ghost town at Cairo, IL

2. Using GPUs for matrix calculation

The Tax Deal

How did he go from being Mr. Hope and Change to being as tough as a wet doily? As Anthony Weiner pointed out yesterday, liberals don't wish he was more ideological, rather that he was more of a pragmatist. The White House doesn't seem to grasp the fact that they're in a fight, whether they like it or not.

What a shameful performance on the part of the President. Absolutely disgraceful.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Cut The Tax Cuts

What Krugman said.

Not Such Wicked Leaks

Umberto Eco in Presseurop on the Wikileaks "scandal": it's a fake scandal filled with empty secrets, and the biggest scandal is that the secrets are empty.
But let’s turn to the more profound significance of what has occurred. Formerly, back in the days of Orwell, every power could be conceived of as a Big Brother watching over its subjects’ every move. The Orwellian prophecy came completely true once the powers that be could monitor every phone call made by the citizen, every hotel he stayed in, every toll road he took and so on and so forth. The citizen became the total victim of the watchful eye of the state. But when it transpires, as it has now, that even the crypts of state secrets are not beyond the hacker’s grasp, the surveillance ceases to work only one-way and becomes circular. The state has its eye on every citizen, but every citizen, or at least every hacker – the citizens’ self-appointed avenger – can pry into the state’s every secret.

How can a power hold up if it can’t even keep its own secrets anymore? It is true, as Georg Simmel once remarked, that a real secret is an empty secret (which can never be unearthed); it is also true that anything known about Berlusconi or Merkel’s character is essentially an empty secret, a secret without a secret, because it’s public domain. But to actually reveal, as WikiLeaks has done, that Hillary Clinton’s secrets were empty secrets amounts to taking away all her power. WikiLeaks didn’t do any harm to Sarkozy or Merkel, but did irreparable damage to Clinton and Obama.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

NASA Discovers Arsenic-Based Life on Earth

Today, NASA announced the discovery of a life form that has arsenic instead of phosphates in its genetic backbone. This is the most biochemically remote lifeform found to date on Earth.

Update: Or maybe not

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Links for Later

1. Krugman on the instability of economic moderation

2. NYT Notable Books of 2010

3. Body armor made out of prions/Alzheimer plaque material? It's The Man in the White Suit, but weaponized.

4. Do not stab one another as part of an initiation ceremony.

5. 19th century beard politics (Was Lincoln casual chic?)

6. Eugene Robinson outlines a strategy for Obama.

X-ray Biology

Review of the TSA scanners by a PhD candidate in biochemistry and biophysics.

Not encouraging, but then everyone I've talked to who's had anything to do with medical imaging has had bad things to say about this program. I was never a biophysicist, but I had a lot of time to look at imaging technology and I can say that you won't get me in one of those machines without a cattle prod. They might not be deadly, but there's no way to make X-rays compatible with human biology.

Jason Bell is right about another thing. The people most at risk from these scanners are the TSA people themselves. That's a lot of whole body radiation for anyone to be exposed to.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Watching a German charity diving event, starring a lot of people who are famous here, but only here. Fascinating to watch the social dynamics. Also, several of them seem to be pretty good divers, but everyone's attractive like one's friends are attractive, rather than like Hollywood people are.
Sorry for lack of posting. I've been working! In Germany! At the same time!

Weirdness on Weirdness

Former Ugly Betty bit actor chops up his mother with a ritual sword while ranting Masonic nonsense. Nasty.

I think the most interesting part in the article is this piece of Grant Morrison-esque detail--the first cops on the scene called a special unit of the NYPD for help:

[T]hey saw Brea gripping the sword, and a trail of blood leading to a closed door.

They retreated and called Emergency Service Unit cops, although a supervisor remained at the door and kept his eye on the suspect, which the NYPD said is standard practice.

ESU cops are "trained psychological technicians. They have additional equipment that enables them to perhaps better protect themselves," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Links for Later

1. Krugman: Obama buys into the right wing mythology.

2. Senators and TSA defend new grope and scope regime, naturally.

3. Want list: Stussy shoes

4. Terrorism then and now.

5. Alexander Hemon

6. Tycho Brahe examined

7. Tycho Brahe exhumed

Love Pats and Porno-Scanners

Bruce Schneier has a roundup of news on the TSA's overzealous and intrusive searches. Joy of joys, I get to go through this circus in a couple of hours. Everyone I know who knows anything about radiology and medical imaging says you're better off with the pat-down, because the evidence of safety just isn't there for the scanners, and either way is equally humiliating.

Two Kinds of Imagination

Two kinds of imagination: the strong, the promiscuous. One can exist without the other. Homer’s and Dante’s were strong, Ovid’s and Ariosto’s promiscuous. An important distinction when praising poets, or anyone, for their imagination. A strong imagination fast makes a man unhappy because his feeling runs so deep, but a promiscuous imagination cheers him because of its variety, because it nimbly visits then leaves all its objects and does so with a heady heedlessness. The two have very different characters. The first weighty, impassioned, usually (nowadays) melancholic, with deep emotion and passion, all fraught with life hugely suffered. The other playful, light, fleet, inconstant in love, high spirited, incapable of really strong, enduring passions and mental pain, quick to console itself even during the hardest times, etc. These two characters also yield clear portraits of Dante and Ovid: you see how the difference in their poetry corresponds exactly to the difference in their lives. Even more, you see how differently Dante and Ovid experienced exile. The same faculty of the human spirit is thus mother to contrary effects, qualities so different as to make the imagination seem virtually two different faculties. I don’t think that the deep imagination inspires courage, because it makes danger, pain, etc., so much more real and immediate than reflection does. What deliberation tells, deep imagination shows. And I believe that an imagination that does foster courage—such poets certainly don’t lack imagination, because enthusiasm always goes hand in hand with imagination and derives from it—belongs more to the deliberative, promiscuous type.

-Giacomo Leopardi

(via 3qd)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dresden Dolls

Saw them give a scorching show at the Vic on Wednesday. It looked like they'd never been happier. Openers Mucca Pazza did a bang-up job, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Links for Later

1. How to Draw an Owl

2. "The Northmen came to Paris"

3. London panorama

4. Couple document their marriage while wearing Imperial Stormtrooper masks. Bizarre.

5. Edward Tufte's rare book collection (via kottke)

6. Warrantless searches of laptops at the border

7. Gargantuan Sikh ritual turbans

8. "Are any parts of your body sore?" asks the TSA. A sequel to "the Resistance"
9. Nassim Taleb's non-fragility diagrams

The Big Cave-In

Paul Krugman puts the finger on Obama's woes:
In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.

This promise of transcendence may have been good general election politics, although even that is questionable: people forget how close the presidential race was at the beginning of September 2008, how worried Democrats were until Sarah Palin and Lehman Brothers pushed them over the hump. But the real question was whether Mr. Obama could change his tune when he ran into the partisan firestorm everyone who remembered the 1990s knew was coming. He could do uplift — but could he fight?

So far the answer has been no.
When are we going to see the fight?
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and an outspoken critic of the White House, said liberal anger has less to do with fears of a Clintonian move to the middle by Obama and more with a misreading of the election results by the administration.

“It’s less ‘Oh no, they’re triangulating,’ and more ‘Boy, their political instincts are really stupid,’ ” said Green, who along with other liberals has blasted the White House for suggesting it would compromise with Republicans on expiring tax cuts.

The White House “fundamentally” doesn’t get that “the only way to get Republicans to deal in good faith is to fight them, crush them and teach a lesson that if Republicans are on the wrong side of an issue there will be consequences ... so it makes sense to negotiate,” Green said.

“Right now, every time Republicans are on the opposite side of an issue from the public, it’s the Democrats who cave and talk about ‘compromise.’ It’s ridiculous.”
(via Americablog)

Airport Scanner Roundup

Would you rather be groped or scoped? The correct answer is "neither". Get ready for National Opt Out Day, November 24th.

The TSA's degrading electronic strip searches and punitive fondlings are a 4th Amendment violation, and it's really time to put an end to them before they go any further.

There's been a lot of news on this topic this week: a hundred naked scanner images were leaked today, New Jersey and Idaho introduce bills to ban the scanners, a man is threatened with a bogus $10,000 lawsuit for opting out, and airlines and pilots are boycotting the things due to health risks and humiliation.

Oh, and one of the founders of the TSA agrees that it's a violation, but says we'll all have to get used to it. Asshat.

Teenage Dream/Just the Way You Are

Before it was on Glee, Mike Tompkins did the one-man a capella version of Katy Perry's hit. Love the cymbal face.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Religion and Politics

In which Scott Beach delivers an important message on the state of discourse.

Religion and Politics

Scott Beach delivers an important message on the state of discourse.

Daniel Radcliffe Sings Tom Lehrer's the Elements

on the Graham Norton show.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Links for Later

1. NYT on the Deficit Catfood Commission

2. Paul Krugman on same

3. Firedoglake on same

4. Workflowy

5. Outsourcing in the pharma industry (what no one is saying in public)

6. Explaining Google's 10% raise

7. How to become a millionaire in three years (via lone gunman)

8. Great "about the team" page (referred by a tweet)

9. How Hedcuts are made at the WSJ

10. A guide to theoretical physics

The Catfood Commission Reports

The Chairmen's Mark is out from the Deficit Reduction Commission, and it is a steaming turd.

from Brad DeLong's inbox:
I don't know if my favorite part is adding co-pays to the VA or cutting the schools for soldiers' kids. Or the 23% top tax rate.
Talk about breaking what doesn't need fixing.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Witch House

The witch house music movement, which prides itself on being really, really obscure, to the point of being hard to find on Internet searches, has been profiled in the NYT, kind of taking the wind out of their marketing strategy, there, also.

Brian Eno on Oblique Strategies

Sunday, November 07, 2010

What Needs Doing

Who was it that asked me if I had any good Web 2.0 ideas that needed coding? I know it was one (or maybe more) of you underworked webheads. If whoever it was gives me a call, I've got a one of a pair of them sitting here unused, depending on your background and capabilities.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Future Is Now, Vol. LXXXIII: Military Medical Technology

Wired Danger Room has a roundup of the cutting-edge projects currently underway. Two big overlapping areas here: prosthetics and stem cells, with some lasers thrown in for good measure. Because, who doesn't need a stem-cell generated prosthetic with a frikkin' laser beam strapped to it?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Images of the Week

Typing ball (via boingboing)
Me too.

Tony Wilson's grave (via kottke)

Oh, that kind of electrical cables.

Whoop whoop.

When Do I Run Out of Money?

The Smart Bear's Startup Death Clock is a marvelous way to focus the mind.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Raising a Second Fund

Ben Horowitz talks about the reasoning behind Andreesen Horowitz's 2nd fund, and why they raised the size, shape and stage of fund that they did.

Post Election Post Mortem

Opinions on the causes of the election are a bit of a Rorschach test. The Blue Dogs think the Democrats need to move to the center, the Progressives think the Democrats should be more liberal, and the Republicans think that the Democrats should do whatever the Republicans want.

The best answer so far comes from Marshall Ganz, who helped create Obama's 2008 grassroots network. He believes that there's been a failure of leadership; that after the election, Obama shifted from a transformational to a transactional mode in the face of the immediate problems facing the country. In doing so, he gave up his leadership potential and created the situation we're now in.
Obama and his team made three crucial choices that undermined the president's transformational mission. First, he abandoned the bully pulpit of moral argument and public education. Next, he chose to lead with a politics of compromise rather than advocacy. And finally, he chose to demobilize the movement that elected him president. By shifting focus from a public ready to drive change — as in "yes we can" — he shifted the focus to himself and attempted to negotiate change from the inside, as in "yes I can."

During the presidential campaign, Obama inspired the nation not by delivering a poll-driven message but by telling a story that revealed the person within — within him and within us. In his Philadelphia speech on race, we learned of his gift not only for moral uplift but for "public education" in the deepest sense, bringing us to a new understanding of the albatross of racial politics that has burdened us since our founding.

On assuming office, something seemed to go out of the president's speeches, out of the speaker and, as a result, out of us. Obama was suddenly strangely absent from the public discourse. We found ourselves in the grip of an economic crisis brought on by 40 years of anti-government rhetoric, policy and practices, but we listened in vain for an economic version of the race speech. What had gone wrong? Who was responsible? What could we do to help the president deal with it?

And even when he decided to pursue healthcare reform as his top priority, where were the moral arguments or an honest account of insurance and drug industry opposition?

In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.

Read the op-ed at it's good strategic thinking, and is essential for anyone tryingto understand the current political landscape.

Links for Later

1 Building a venture capital fund

2 Python for research

3 Surfer Andy Irons dies

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Art of Scaling Sales

Mark Suster has some smart advice for anyone trying to scale their sales force. Qualify, qualify, qualify, and let marketing handle the rest.

More at the link.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm with Kottke on This One

People are awesome.

Obama on Jon Stewart

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 3
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Scariest Building in Britain

The Masonic School for Boys, built in 1903 has the belfries and the bats, though perhaps not as many as depicted here.

It must also have been a dreadful place to get an education, once upon a time:
A record of school life written by Geoff Kirby, a pupil from 1949 to 1953, is divided into sections entitled: I Enter Hell, The Curse of Games, Censored Letters and Beaten Bare Buttocks, and My Eyes Are Ruined By Incompetent Medical Staff.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Shorpy: In classical Egypt when the cat of a household died, the family shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning.

Cell Phone in a 1928 Movie

Someone (man or woman) appears to be speaking into a small, handheld device while attending the 1928 premiere of Charley Chaplin's move The Circus. One of Roger Ebert's commenters thinks that this person resembles Nicola Tesla, who described the cell phone in the 1920's.

Time traveler, Tesla, or figment of your imagination?

Links for Later

1. How Obama lost the narrative

2. Gary Trudeau on 40 years of Doonesbury. Top Doonesbury moments.

3. Robert Reich on the post-Citizens United world and why Democrats move to the center

4. SNL does Jimmy McMillan of the Rent's Too Damn High Party

5. Computational Structure of Neuronal Spike Trains

6. Obama's problem with The Gays

7. HTML5 primer

8. Liam O Maonlai teaches you Irish

9. Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things

10. Five Founders from Paul Graham

11. 40-somethings turn to triathlons for fitness

12. Bill & Ted, together again

13. Chamillionaire, tech entrepreneur

Friday, October 22, 2010

House Porn 16: The Smith Tower Pyramid

Michael Tortorello and Stuart Isett of the NYT visit a pyramid-shaped apartment located on top of Seattle's Smith Tower. I love these apartments that have very specific architecture, and that aren't part of a big residential development, but it's got to have taken a lot of work to fix up. Fortunately, that seems to have paid off:

the main attraction of a night at the top of Smith Tower must be the Imax-strength views: Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west, the Cascades to the east and, below, thousands of people doing the things they do when they believe no one is watching.

From the apartment she calls the “Lighthouse,” Ms. Franklin can see almost the entire city. But the city cannot see her. So the residence on top of the tower has taken on the status of an urban legend.

The tour guides around Pioneer Square can be heard to claim that “there’s a shut-in who’s lived up there for 80 years and has 200 cats,” said David Lahaie, 51, an energy and recycling executive. Mr. Lahaie is skeptical, to say the least: he lives in the apartment himself and is Ms. Franklin’s husband.

Stephen Willis, the Smith Tower’s docent and de facto historian, has encountered many odd theories in the 10 years he has guided visitors through the building. “I heard the other day that it’s still family owned by the Smiths,” the heirs of the Smith Corona typewriter fortune. “They haven’t had a stake in the building since the mid-1920s.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Agnostic's Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.
Creatures of Light and Darkness
Somehow, this comes to mind whenever I think of Christopher Hitchens' cancer diagnosis.

The Toronto Unicorn

The Toronto Science Center made this. Click for more information.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Rent is Too Damn High Party

This guy is great. Bonus points for the excellent 19th century facial hair, the gloves and the non-sequetur rejoinders about being a "karate expert" and marrying shoes.

Quote f he Day

The unspeakable depression of lighting the fires every morning with papers of a year ago, and getting glimpses of optimistic headlines as they go up in smoke.

-George Orwell

Monday, October 18, 2010

Links for Later

1. Lev Grossman interview about The Magicians and The Magician King

2. Whatthefuckismytransmediastrategy? (via Warren Ellis)

3. Tony Kushner profiled

4. How the White House's DADT strategy backfired


Max Hastings starts his thrilling review of two books on the French Foreign Legion,

The world contains more misfits, sadists, masochists, and people who enjoy fighting than we sometimes like to suppose. How else can one explain the fact that the French Foreign Legion is heavily overrecruited?
...and goes on a long, burning march from there. Highlights include the sentry in Indochina snatched by a wall-leaping tiger who left behind only a freshly rolled cigarette and the man's rifle, having leapt back into the jungle to consume its prey.

I have no idea if the books themselves are as good as the review, but if they are, they should make for great under-the-covers reading.

Zola Jesus "Poor Animal"

Zola Jesus - Poor Animal by souterraintransmissions
As recommended by Xeni, who sez:

Takes me back to a moment on a front stoop in the South at 16, listening to my first Cocteau Twins and Bauhaus vinyl, smoking opiated hash, lightning bugs flickering in the night sky like living blink tags.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

RIP Benoit Mandelbrot

Image: Wikicommons

Benoit Mandelbrot passed away at the age of 85. He was best known for his work on fractals, a branch of mathematics with applications in biology, finance, physics, art and other areas involving roughness in growth processes in any complex system.

More: "A Theory of Roughness," an Edge lecture (via John Brockman)

Do I claim that everything that is not smooth is fractal? That fractals suffice to solve every problem of science? Not in the least. What I'm asserting very strongly is that, when some real thing is found to be un smooth, the next mathematical model to try is fractal or multi fractal. A complicated phenomenon need not be fractal, but finding that a phenomenon is "not even fractal" is bad news, because so far nobody has invested anywhere near my effort in identifying and creating new techniques valid beyond fractals. Since roughness is everywhere, fractals — although they do not apply to everything — are present everywhere. And very often the same techniques apply in areas that, by every other account except geometric structure, are separate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Liu Xiaobo, newly minted Nobel Laureate and luminous individual, from prison in China, "I Have No Enemies--My Final Statement":
Twenty years on, the innocent souls of June Fourth are yet to rest in peace, and I, who had been drawn into the path of dissidence by the passions of June Fourth, after leaving the Qincheng Prison in 1991 lost the right to speak openly in my own country, and could only do so through overseas media, and hence was monitored for many years; placed under surveillance (May 1995 – January 1996); educated through labour (October 1996 – October 1999s), and now once again am thrust into the dock by enemies in the regime. But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my “June Second hunger strike declaration"— I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities. This includes Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present: I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on 3 December.

For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.

Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I’d say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, my sweetheart, that I'm confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Case of the Creeping Coup

More seditious weirdness in the military.

It Gets Better

After five gay teeneager killed themselves in a single week in separate incidents related to bullying, Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project to let kids know that their lives will improve after high school. He and dozens of others have recorded videos to support this effort, including a 25-video team effort from Jake in Chicago and friends. Keep up the good work, people.

See also: The Make It Better Project

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Links for Later

1. Problems with the ACTA intellectual property treaty here and here

2. Charles Mohun, "infamous duellist" and grandson of the first Earl of Anglesey

3. The look: vintage Barbour jacket

4. Review of Bill Hicok's new book of poetry

5. Art collection found in Paris flat after 70 years of disuse

6. Lighthouse Traveling Library

7. Paul Kennedy on the slow decline of Imperial America

8. Top 10 haunted houses

Evangelicals Overrunning Air Force Academy

Wasn't this sort of thing supposed to have been dealt with five or six years ago? Why is it still going on now?

An anonymous cadet at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA ) spoke out against alleged religious discrimination at the school last week, saying that some cadets must pretend to be evangelical Christians in order to maintain standing among their peers and superiors. In an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the whistleblower stated that he is part of an "underground group" of about 100 cadets who cannot rely on proper channels to confront evangelical pressure...

The letters details the startling testimony of two Catholic parents of a 2010 graduate who, at first, were happy to hear that their daughter joined a Bible study group at the academy. That was before they discovered that their daughter was being taught that her "career should be that of a wife and mother," and in Biblical terms, "the female is the sheep and the male is the shepherd."

"Our daughter was methodically brain washed into believing that she was unsaved in the Catholic religion," the anonymous parents wrote in an email to the MRFF. "During spring break 2009, she urgently asked that we read the Bible everyday in order to 'receive the grace of God and be saved.' This manner of speech took us completely off guard."

(via AmericaBlog)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Links for Later

1. Maximilian's Triumphal Procession

2. Secretary Gates on the challenges of the all-volunteer military. Not convincing anyone to sign up with talk like that, I think.

3. Dave's eclectic apartment tour

4. Brief Jeff Sharlet interview, includes a response to the recent New Yorker puff piece on C Street

5. Earth-like exoplanet found capable of supporting life

6. Obama in Rolling Stone

7. Matt Taibbi on the Tea Party: "Narcissism"