The Seattle Public Library's Central location is amazing, and although you could probably get twice the usable space if the building was conventional, I found it to be a really cool place. There are public spaces and private study spaces, the whole thing can be walked from top to bottom even though it doesn't appear to be a "spiral" that would allow that.
Soon after we arrived, Megan mentioned that there were dozens of hastily printed and taped signs added since it opened, due to people asking library workers the same questions repeatedly and many people accidentally tripping emergency exit alarms. So I took a bunch of photos of them. This photo illustrates the problem: even though this looks like a normal elevator, it is only for staff and you need to go elsewhere for the public one, and eventually they added signs to make that clear. It's not quite a This is Broken problem, but it's close.
I'm always fascinated by the balance that must be struck in a public space between function and form. The library is beautiful to look inside and out, but sometimes difficult to figure out where exactly you would do certain tasks. You can tell the designers went for subtle when obvious was needed, especially in an institutional setting. On the first floor, just inside the entrance, many people want to know where the bathroom is. Half the people I went with wanted to know as soon as we stepped in. And after walking and riding a few escalators, I was surprised to find out we were in fact at the top of the library. Scott was telling me on his first trip there he accidentally ended up in a conference room on the second "red floor." Even with the signs, I couldn't really tell what the red floor's purpose was.
So overall, the library was a great space filled with interesting things to look at and useful spaces, but far too subtle for an obvious funtional space like a public library.
Jingle Bell Rock sung entirely with the words Jingle, Bell, and Rock, just in time for xmas.
We made a rule in the house this year that packages mailed to us and still unopened count as wrapping, whether or not the things inside are wrapped as well (we have no way of knowing). You can't see what's inside the boxes so it does the same thing as wrapping. It also cuts out a stupid step where you have to open a present for someone, wrap it, then have them open it on xmas day.
But not this year, brown boxes count just as much as holiday paper wrapping.
Now that I have a phone that takes some impressive photos (This shot is probably the best example I've seen for color, depth, and light that the little cam can capture), I really wish iPhoto could manage my images instead of my preview-free bluetooth file browser.
I bet it'd be trivial for Apple to enable connections via Bluetooth (to your paired devices) to import photos.
I want to spare you from reading another indie-heavy best of 2004 music list, so instead of recounting my absolute favorite albums this year, I decided to highlight all the little guys I enjoyed this year. These are my favorite unsigned or small label bands that started out as a person in their apartment with a PC and a website. The real indies, if you will.
Goh Nakamura - A guy with a PC and a guitar (and a boatload of effects pedals I hear) making delightful music. It's like coffee spot folk music, but with a sense of humor and an undercurrent of romance. Lots of catchy little love songs on his debut.
Say Hi To Your Mom - I bought his first album via paypal on his site last year, and now he's on a little label and I picked up the new one at the iTunes Music Store. The new release is even better than the first and I'm happy to hear he's on a small label and doing east coast tours.
Fredo Viola - I found out about this guy from this incredible music video he shot for his Sad Song. He used the 15 second animated-gif function of a cheap nikon digital camera to shoot the entire thing and it's a clever use of simple tech to produce something that looks fantastic. It was good enough to get me to buy the album, which is great. It's got an ephemeral sound, sorta like a male Enya or something with tons of vocal layering. Fantastic driving music, I find.
Magnatune - not an album or band, but an internet label that offers downloadable samples and a sliding pay scale. Discs I enjoyed in 2004 from this small outfit included Cargo Cult, Emma's Mini, and the Magnatune Remixed disc. If you're ever at a conference they're at, try out their genre sampler CDs, or just listen to their entire catalog stream.
Worth a mention: I discovered Brad Sucks last fall so it can't make it into this 2004 list, but I still hear his songs everyday in my monster mix and enjoy them all. It's still a wonder his music hasn't caught on like wildfire with a label.
I want a chip embedded in my TV that filters out commercials featuring frisky elderly people talking about 4 hour erections.
I've recently jumped ship, from the Playstation 2 to the xbox, mostly for the insane hackability of the xbox (the xbox is basically wide open now and can be used in all sorts of ways, most notably as a media server).
Now that I'm using the xbox for more than a few minutes per week, I'm wondering what games I should have aside from the usual obvious suspects for first person shooters and sports games.
What are some good simple fun group games that even non-gamers can use? So far I've only found a Trival Pursuit game that's so-so. If you know of any good 2-4 player games that anyone can enjoy, I'd really appreciate if you dropped me a line.
Posted at 12:00 AM | Permalink
I love books, I love browsing stacks, I love libraries, I love Powell's in Portland, I like collecting books, I always have a stack nearby to read, I love looking through picture books, and I love books even though I didn't really become much of a reader until the end of my college years (I never read for fun until then). Plunging into the Internet fed my book addiction further, as I had to read dozens of computer classics to get up to speed and stay ahead of the curve. Every computer desk I've had until recently was flanked by bookshelves loaded with titles.
Earlier this year, I remember hearing Cory Doctorow give a talk about how ebooks were going to rule the world and folks would abandon the printed page for the laptop screen. I thought it was a good talk, but I felt the thesis was a bit ahead of its time. There's really no comparison between curling up with a book and a blanket in front of a fireplace, versus trying to read thousands of words on a screen.
Last weekend I was doing some house cleaning and I kept finding stacks of books. A stack next to the reading chairs. A stack on the coffee table. A stack beside my bed. All these stacks contained books I bought in 2004, but never read. Some, I got halfway through, but even more I got maybe ten pages in. A few I never even cracked open.
When I think back to the last three books I enjoyed, they were all heard on my iPod, while on a road trip. I can't recall the last book I finished in my hands.
I'm going to take a holiday trip soon to a fairly remote location where there's not much to do besides read. I'm going to sit and read the only book I've wanted to read this year, and I have a feeling it might just be one of the last dead tree books I read for a long time.
As much as I didn't agree with Cory back during his E-tech talk, I'm finally realizing it's coming true in my own life. I read thousands of words everyday on my monitors and I rarely take time to read anything on the printed page, and there's no sign of reversal on that trend. The scariest thing for the bookfan inside me is that I don't think it's bad thing, either.
Long live the ebook. Long live the audiobook. So long, dead trees.
I had a moment the other day where I realized I was getting old. And not just having a creaking back or something, I was actually decrying a new technology, in a "get the hell off my lawn with your crazy electronic scooters!" way.
Those new automated supermarket self-checkout machines that let you buy food and bag it yourself? I don't like them. Even though I own a zillion gadgets and love that technology makes our lives easier, for some reason I actually like the interactions with my local grocery store's staff as they check and bag my stuff and would hate to see those jobs go. I even go to a local supermarket chain that costs slightly more but has a 1950's service-is-king quality about it (they have better food choices too).
Then I thought about similar systems I do like. At the airport, I really like the self-check in vs. waiting in line for 45 minutes to get my ticket in 30 seconds from a human. I realized it was probably since my interactions with airline personel are usually slow and unpleasant that I prefer a machine.
But the folks at my supermarket are nice and always helpful to the point that I wish they weren't replaced by computers.
Damn kids, and your new-fangled checkout machines.
So I'm going to be a father, and so far the best golden nugget I've heard in response to the news was this:
The difference between raising a son and a daughter is that with a boy you only have to worry about one dick, but with a girl you have to worry about every dick.
Crude, but brilliant.
A few months ago, I was thinking about all the questions I wished I could ask someone that helped develop the TiVo user interface, and then I realized there was nothing stopping me from just emailing and asking. After a bit of friend-of-a-friend networking, I got in touch with the Director of TiVo User Experience, and got ten questions I've always wanted to ask answered. I posted the full interview here on PVRblog.
If you remember the old six degrees phenomena, anyone is 6 hops or less away from you. In the age of email and social software, I bet it's more like 4 hops or less (Margret was 2 hops away). If there's a lesson for other webloggers here, it's this: if there's something you've always wanted to ask one of your idols or you have an idea for an interview you'd like to see, there's nothing stopping you from tracking the right person down and getting the answers you wanted. I urge you to give it a try someday.
Merlin's post about the Five Mistakes Band & Label Sites Make is incredibly spot on and mirrors my own problems finding samples from new bands to listen to, finding tour dates in my town, and trying to find tickets to shows.
You can easily and quickly find MP3s to download, show dates including location maps and 21+/all-ages info, and Sloan even offers RSS feeds of their tour dates, so you can set the subscription in your reader and forget about it until they tour again.
That all four band sites were built by folks connected closely to blogging probably has something to do with their extreme utility and good balance between usability and artistic design.
Someone on MetaFilter pointed to this blog by a new San Diego cop and though they say he was formerly a bit of a power hungry campus security cop at UCSD, I can't help but enjoy following along in his daily entries.
Early on when I started blogging, the one thing I loved reading about was people from different walks of life and in different professions. Basically when blogging started every single person doing it was a web designer, so when you saw a blog by anyone else, it was novel.
Back in 2000, I wanted to start a bunch of blogs done by folks in all sorts of regular jobs, called something like "Day in the Life" blogs. The idea was that if you could get a cop, doctor, chef, lawyer, car mechanic, dentist, accountant, and others to blog, you could have a rich, engaging, living archive of what it's like to be in various types of work. The goal was to have this group of blogs available for teens to read, to help them answer the elusive question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" which everyone seemed to pester me with when I was 14.
The rub is that you need to find a dozen really interesting people and good writers in all those walks of life to participate, and they all need to have the time and motivation to contribute to the project, despite their likely active lives. As we near 2005, however, I bet you could just build up a blogroll that could effectively become the project, based on blogs that have launched since then (for instance, this would be the Policeman blog).
Access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously, he said
Awesome idea, and should keep just about every single Windows user off the Internets. Who knew Tenet was such a big fan of OS X and Linux?
After hearing about Cereality, the cereal bar, it reminded me about my current favorite cereal on earth.
The best kind of cereals are the hippie sugar varieties. Go to a natural food store of a substantial size, and they're certain to have sugary stuff for kids beyond the granola crap for new age adults. And therein lies the magic: pure sugar and molasses.
I pound a couple bowls of Peanut Butter Bumpers each morning, a peanut butter cap'n crunch clone -- but it only has eight ingredients, and it's all simple stuff. Like corn and liquid sugar, no coloring or preservatives or shit. It's basically what I imagine cereal was like in the 50s, before all the fake crap slipped in: mostly sugar.
It tastes ten times better than cap'n crunch to me.
Unbelievable: 'Blog' No. 1 word of the year
Every time some wacky mainstream news mentions blogs I still snicker like a schoolgirl, remembering how hard it was in 1999-2000 to describe what blogging was, why folks should do it, and how it made things easy.