Lessig has written books, fought court battles, and given talks that hinge on the idea that creativity always builds on the past. It makes for a good soundbite and anyone that's had an art class has probably agreed, but I don't know if most people buy the argument at its core.
While this is a somewhat silly example, the Stinking Badges Home Page shows you how far a throwaway line in an old book can go. It seems like a reoccurring joke in every western and cop show and it's still going strong.
Glad to hear that I'm helping pay for long, slow security lines. Enjoy your share of my $50 TSA!
Michael's idea for social network software the allows you to privately message strangers in your proximity sounds like a useful application of future technology. Imagine a super bluetooth that could beam messages to people hundreds of feet away, in moving vehicles for later retrieval. When you think about it, it sounds like we're only a few years from this being common, if that long.
Then I thought about it some more, and it seems like we'd have to address all the problems we haven't solved in years of online communites. The potential problems in this offline networking would be similar to public comments on movable type blogs or postings on public telephone poles.
There'd definitely be a spam problem if every pyramid scheming neighbor could drop a note in your virtual inbox as you drove past. Heck, legit businesses would love this, imagine every time you passed a McDonalds and they tried to beam you a 50 cent off coupon. You might even have people paid to drive around and flood everyone's inbox with advertising. Then you'd get white listing like knowspam.net, with perhaps a challenge/response system to let normal folks leave you a virtual note. Driving your car might become the new friendster as everyone around you starts getting inundated with pickup lines from creepy drivers.
It seems like every cool new technology idea has to overcome what drags down older forms. Or maybe we just move on to new ideas hoping the old problems won't catch up with us.
Some stuff I've been enjoying lately:
Nellie McKay - I don't know how to describe this. It's kind of like if Ani DiFranco was a nightclub singer. A mixture of piano and witty, biting vocals from a 19 year-old mixed into lounge songs that defy current music. I doubt there's a radio station out there tailored to this kind of stuff (aside from NPR), so I guess buy her stuff and see her live. I don't know if I love this because it's really amazing or if it's just because it's so different. Call it Piano Bar-core, Alterna-jazz, or just plain good stuff.
Citizens Here and Abroad - One of the few CDs that contains music I was familiar with before it became a released CD. After hearing all these songs 4-5 times live over the past year, I kinda liked the final mix that ended up on the disc, the vocals and xylophone are up, the drums are down. I kinda miss Chris' hard hitting percussion, but then that's why you see bands live in the first place. Be sure to catch them on their upcoming tour.
Fog of War - Saw this the other day for the first time. After hearing so much about it, I thought McNamara would be more candid and open than he was, but he was open about his mistakes and lessons if you compare him to most people in the political spotlight. Though in all his admissions of wrongdoing it felt like he was still hiding quite a bit. The lessons in the movie are pretty timeless and I'd say the Clinton White House missed just as many of these as the Bush White Houses, but hopefully the lessons are learned by the powers that be going forward.
The new Get Up Kids album is being pimped on the iTunes music store, but you can buy it for ten bucks without any DRM of any kind at audiolunchbox (as MP3 or ogg, your choice). I also picked up the Wrens there for nine bucks. Damn, they have a lot of labels at audiolunchbox. Even Citizens is there if you want it instantly.
A couple months ago, I got Tony Hawk's Underground for my playstation 2, and it's been fun to play levels that consist of places I've been to (like Balboa Park in the San Diego level and the Vancouver level). What's really freaky though, is being in Vancouver today after playing the game for the past few months. It seems like every street I walk down, I realize there's a prominent feature that's in the game. Outside my hotel window, I can see planter gaps, bus stations, and bank buildings I've seen exact copies of in the game. I'd only been in downtown Vancouver once before, so I sort of got to know the city better in the game before this most recent trip.
- My favorite panel was the one about robots scraping info from the web. I think I liked it because it seemed advanced and covered new ground I hadn't seen before. While I may be biased, my second favorite panel was a Creative Commons-moderated one on film rights and copyright. Half the audience was from the SXSW film track, so it was great to see things from their perspective. I'd love to see SXSW do more to mix audiences and viewpoints.
- I hope the Fray Cafe audio was recorded and will be online soon. Lance was, as ever, absolutely marvelous.
- Everyone that met Jonathon Abrams, the creator of Friendster, used the word "ass" somewhere in the sentence used to describe him. I heard it several times during the week as I seemed to be missing him at various functions. When I finally saw his keynote and panel, he defintely lived up to the reputation. And it wasn't even the amusing, self-effacing kind of asshole I can appreciate and enjoy. It was just plain asshole.
- A lot of people do a certain flavor of comedy where the shtick is their delusion of grandeur, but it almost always falls flat. Neal Pollack's version of it works for some reason, and sounds funnier than it reads. His "panel" had the most people leaving that I've ever seen in a SXSW talk, but his brand of dry, cynical comedy appealed to only about five people in the entire large keynote room (myself included), which were just about the only people left in the end. I love writers and comics that take chances like that.
- We decided to go bowling after a couple parties late Monday night, and I let it slip to my video game
fiends friends that I owned my own DDR setup at home. Being that I'm a tall, uncoordinated dork worthy of laughter, we just HAD to play it when we noticed the arcade at the alley had one. So we all play a round of one versus the other and near the end, a couple of 17-18 year old kids are getting noticeably impatient waiting for us to finish. As we were leaving, we overheard the two guys say "I've never seen old people play before." Our ages ranged from about 25 to about 32, but it was the best line ever.
- On the last night I went to the Bruce Sterling party, and after midnight or so we sauntered off to a local watering hole, stayed until closing, then went for a late night bite to eat at Katz' (whoa, check out the new localized google results on that one). We left Katz' sometime after 3, and after a long walk back to the hotel, it wasn't until 4am on the dot that I got to sleep. Right before I nodded off, I realized my flight was at 7:45, and I'd have to leave the hotel by 6 at the latest to make it through everything on time. That meant a 90 minute nap, at a cost of about $180 for that night in the hotel. It wasn't the best $2 per minute of sleep. Maybe next time I'll just sleep in the airport.
Looking back at the last couple weeks of posting here, I noticed I've been slowly becoming a whiny asshole. Amid a crapload of work deadlines, this year's SXSW won't exactly be a vacation, but once I've gotten my work done for two announcements at SXSW, it'll be time to relax. It's been great to catch up with everyone so far and I'm looking forward to the panels this week.
Imagine you booked a flight directly on United.com instead of using Orbitz because you wanted to get the extra miles on your frequent flyer account. You ordered the ticket weeks ago and the flight is coming up soon, but you need to look up the flight number, time it is leaving/landing, and other sorts of information.
Here's a quick usuability test: Take a look at united.com (244kb jpg) and tell me how you'd expect to retrieve info on your upcoming flight.
hightlight this text with your mouse for the answer:
None of the forms will log you into anything that will get your answer. there are 90 links on that page, and the correct answer is one of them. Down in the lower left, there's a link that is bold, in the middle of a list marked "My Itineraries". Clicking that takes you to a page about itineraries, making you decide if you actually want "All United Itineraries" or just "United.com Itineraries" as if you should know the difference (do they think we're all travel agents that are hip to their lingo?). Clicking one of those will take you to a login form, which then finally, gives you travel info on your upcoming flight. That's the only way to get the info from their site.
I stopped in a 7-11 the other day for the first time in ages and noticed they're doing the free iTunes pepsi contest with their slurpees. I always thought 7-11 did Coca Cola slurpees, but it's all just sugary frozen brown stuff anyway so I decided to give it a chance.
Long story short: I've had three slurpees in the past week after not having one for almost a year -- but I've won all three times. You gotta play to win, as they say.
Now, I could be extremely lucky (a 1 in 27 chance of winning three times in a row), or 7-11 could be making every slurpee a winner. I don't know which hypothesis is correct, but I'm going to be collecting more data this week and I'll be sure to let you know if I ever lose.
The Jay-Z Construction Set is a blast to play with. I grabbed some of the purposely remix-friendly acapella tracks and laid it on top of a certain classic.
After hearing the Grey Album remix, the Black on Black remix, and the Black and Tan remix, I figured there should be a Black and White remix. When I thought of the whitest sounds possible two names jumped to mind: Michael Bolton and Kenny G. Seeing how Kenny G does instrumentals and I have an acapella track, it was an easy mash.
Let me preface this by saying I don't really know what I'm doing audio software-wise, so I just simply laid Jay Z's Encore over Kenny G's Songbird, and grabbed a chunk that has its moments. I'm sure a real DJ could whip up a better version of this abomination fairly easily, but I was just farting around in audio software and figured I might as well upload it.
Here's a taste of Kenny Z's Encore (1Mb mp3, 60 second snippet)
Note to Kerry: Here's your VP
I remember back in 2000 when Blogger was still a relatively new service, Alton Brown started using the app on his site. So a few years go by, the format explodes and now I see he's posting photos (I'm guessing from his phone) of himself in the hospital, to keep fans up to date on his recent collapse. Pretty amazing to see a TV personality embrace the format and use it to its fullest extent after all these years.
Also worth noting is that I found it via girlhacker, who posted some stuff about the upcoming new Iron Chef supershow featuring everyone I love from the Food Network (except Bobby Flay's involved).
I haven't been in a doctors office in about five years, and I was surprised by what I saw today in my local medical office. I don't remember the exact names of the drugs (ha! take that marketers!), but as I began filling out paperwork, I noticed my pen was provided by some drug company. All the pens seemed to be advertising different drugs. "I'll take the pen that contains less than 2mg of Hydrobaric Cyclohexinal" I said. My clipboard was provided by another drug. When I turned in the paperwork at the front desk, that's when I noticed the Kleenex box was advertising yet another drug.
I'm not usually one for nostalgia, but bring back the days when the most obnoxious advertising in an office was copies of People and Highlights strewn throughout. When you can't sneeze without an ad in your face, something's wrong.
Portland has started issuing same-sex marriages today and I would have gone down there this morning to take some photos but it's raining cats and dogs outside. Although I'm happy to see some towns push the issue, I fear it'll give the recent backers of an Oregon state ammendment to ban gay marriages the extra push they need to get it on the ballot. That said, Oregon has yet to pass anything overtly anti-homosexual, so I doubt it passes. It's funny to hear the Oregon republican say this move is "an insult to the voters and to the people" when Oregon is one of only 10 states *without* any law banning same-sex marriage on the books. If it was really an insult, you'd think maybe a measure would have passed in the past two decades, no?
I don't know how anyone can look at these two and think:
- they're going to hell
- ruining this country
- making your marriage any less important
I just can't imagine why there should be a law banning them from making their commitment official in the eyes of the state. After 27 years together, they don't just deserve a marriage certificate, they deserve a friggin' award.
I'm happy to report I've finally found a solution to a long-standing problem. Wireless internet connections are great, especially on laptops, but they lack good security. You can try to keep people off your network with passwords and mac address filtering, but eventually someone that wants on will get on no matter what you do (those solutions are like The Club on your steering wheel -- your car can still be stolen).
Whenever I'm on a public open wireless network, I've taken a lower tech approach by not going to any sensitive sites, and reading email in a secure shell window running pine, but sometimes I accidentally load a page on an unsecure server and my password is shared with everyone in the room. I've long wondered why Apple didn't create a simple app to automate secure tunnels and I've tried all sorts of custom packages but nothing was ever easy to setup or reconnect to. I've always felt like a bit of a dork for not getting this solved, as I travel from one technical conference to the next, covering my tracks and watching my back while reading email in a tiny text window instead of a rich GUI client.
I heard about HotSpotVPN last year, but they were windows-only at the time. Thanks to a mention on the SXSW blog, I noticed they have OS X support now as well. I signed up and set it up on my powerbook. I connected in a flash and my browser, IM, and email worked fine. I noticed that once I saved my VPN setup, OS X added an icon in my toolbar that had a simple dropdown to "connect" and "disconnect" -- this is exactly what I've always wanted and it didn't even require any software to download. Very slick.
To check the security, I disconnected from HotSpotVPN's servers and ran Ethereal (a packet sniffer) on my desktop PC that's also on the network. I checked my email and checked the output on ethereal and my username, pop servers, and passwords were all in the clear. I connected to the VPN and ran the same test and only see garbled text that isn't even showing up as POP commands as the traffic is all being sent through the VPN securely. The only downside is that you have to trust that the company running HotSpotVPN is going to be secure with their data, as they could be sniffing/logging/analyzing your traffic on their end, but frankly I think the chances of that happening are slim, since they've been around for a couple years and doing anything like this would end the business for them.
Long story short, this is the best $8.88/month I've spent and I'm going to set up an account for all my wireless devices.
(Oh, if you decide to sign up, I get a few cents if you sign up through this link)
Although I still have two and a half months to wait until I get to cast my vote, today I took the AOL Presidential Match quiz thingy to see where Kerry lies in line with my beliefs. So far, I haven't been impressed by him, but I know little about him. On the surface (from a scant few minutes of campaign stops I caught on CSPAN a couple weeks ago), I like Edwards more. He sounds like Bill Clinton and seems like a guy with common sense views I can't find fault with, and Kerry comes off as just another plain-vanilla politician to me.
Much to my surprise though, after clicking off my answers, Kerry ended up 100% inline with my beliefs. Among democrats, Edwards came in last, behind Sharpton, Kucinich, and Dean, at 85% with Bush being only 22% inline with my views after Edwards.
still vote for Edwards vote for Kucinich (if the rumors of Edwards quitting are true) come primary time, regardless of who has the vote sewn up because I trust my gut reactions. I remember using this presidental thing in 2000 and seeing that McCain was farther from my beliefs than Bush, even though I love the guy. Heck, if McCain were running this year instead of Bush I'd probably vote for him and enjoy it, even though he's quite a bit more conservative on some views than I am.
Then again, before the primaries started, I thought Clark was a lock so what do I know.