Have you seen the terrible US version of BBC's The Office?
This comment at MetaFilter totally nails what's wrong with the concept of taking a downbeat, dry, British comedy and trying to make it work as an NBC sitcom:
Here's how fast this goes wrong: in the first scene Carell says "If you think she's cute now, you should have seen her a couple of years ago" and "Pam" says "What?!" - Dawn would never have reacted. The whole point was that everyone in the office was too worn down by the drudgery and inanity of their jobs to challenge Brent's horrifying misogyny and other casual cruelties. Because that's what really happens in every office in the world all the fucking time.
The UPS man just drove up, but gave me the courtesy honk before coming to a rest in front of my house. The "hi! I'm here!" honk! When I was a kid the only person in the neighborhood that got that honk from the UPS truck ran a mail order business from their home. I haven't bought anything off ebay in weeks, but he has been here twice this week. Time to back away from the computer...
I'm an adult now and I have a home and savings and have all my bills in check, but I can never forget what it was like being 18 with my first bank account, back when using an ATM was like playing roulette (and like any form of gambling, I walked away empty handed more often than with any cash). So even though it's been ten years since I've left an ATM empty handed, I can't get an irrational thought out of my head every time I use an ATM: that I'm surprisingly and suddenly dead broke. It's sort of an adult version of the "waking up naked at the exam" nightmare I used to have in college.
Until now. I was poking around my small town credit union website and discovered a new alert feature, where they send an email based on your account activity. So I setup an automatic email that goes to my cellphone's email address when the checking account is below a fairly comfortable level. The feeling didn't leave immediately the next time I used an ATM, but after I saw the feature work when a bunch of bills went through, I now know that it is instantly wired to my bank balance, even when I'm far from a computer.
A lot of stuff I've read about simplifying your life involves removing all those little irrational worries that clog your thoughts and keep you from getting things done and living happy. In addition to this small thing, I've been to the dentist for the first time in years and removed the other big irrational fear that my teeth would fall out any day now. It's been nice to remove these worries from my life forever, as I've got a whole bunch of new worries lined up to deal with. :)
The google video search is pretty freaking cool. You can tell they're scraping show transcripts which lots of services already have (I seem to recall something called TVeyes used to email me when the word "blog" or "metafilter" was mentioned on TV, which used to happen only once or twice a year). But they also are doing screengrabs which is really interesting, so they must be pulling down video. They even show me all the local stations near my zip code that show up in my searches. Maybe someday Google will be like a iTunes Movie Store where I can one click download programs I wanted to watch?
Anyway, here are a couple cool searches: the only blogger I could find mentions of was Nick Denton and it looks like Movable Type really was mentioned on Jeopardy and those cards weren't just photoshop mockups someone posted months ago.
Oh, and of course Lessig shows up. That guy is everywhere.
So I'm plugging away at my list, almost done seeing every film I aimed at seeing and so far I'm fairly disappointed. I think it was a bad year for film if these are floating to the top. Sideways, especially, surprised me in how much praise it garnered vs. how I felt after seeing the credits roll. I'm a huge fan of Paul Giamatti, but he's doing another Harvey from American Splendor character and maybe I found Thomas Haden Church's character's behavoir abhorrent, but the performances were good and it was a bit of a buddy roadtrip movie that made me want to watch, but in the end I wasn't blown away by any of it.
I'm kind of surprised by its place on every best of 2004 list. It was a fine picture and all, but I guess I didn't identify with either main character so it's probably just me.
I've been logging every song I listen to over on my audioscrobbler account for almost two years now, and I discovered a really cool random feature.
There's a feature called "Personal Radio" that lets you stream songs from a user's profile (you have to be logged in to see it, and you might need to donate to them to get it -- I donate $5 a month to Last.fm). Last night I was playing music from my own profile, on a computer that doesn't have any of my music collection locally. I expected to hear my current collection streaming back at me, but what I was heard was a randomized collection of all the music I've heard in the last six years of mp3 use.
I didn't realize it, but Audioscrobbler has a record of every song I've ever listened to, which currently numbers about 5400 songs. My current iTunes collection only contains 1800 songs, because I do a monthly delete of songs I no longer care for as I add new ones. I completely forgot about my 1999 era music archives I heard on two other computers in the past two years, but no longer listen to.
What's cool about this is that I can log into Audioscrobbler from any computer on earth and start streaming my entire all-time music collection without having anything more than a player that understands music streams.
Every time I see a spam email or spam blog comment hawking someone's freeiPods.com/freeiPodMini.com/freeMiniMacs.com link code, I wonder why people fall for pyramid schemes time and time again. I'm only 32, but I seem to see these scams pop up every couple years (Herbalife, Amway, etc) and people just keep falling for them every single time.
I wonder if it's one of those natural laws, like pi being around 3.14 or the natural log of trends curving around 2.71. Maybe the conditional reinforcement of pyramid schemes hits some magic sweet spot where just enough people at the top actually get something while every sad sucker beneath gets diddly squat, and the ratio of rewards to bupkis is a perfect number.
Metamedia Cooperation - An experience in sharing and collaboration, celebrating the connections between creative solutions in art, science and community; event includes art installations featuring the works of Dhira Lawrence, Mark Henson, Nemo, Carey Thompson, Roman Villagrana and others, multimedia video presentations on Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons and remixed works by the Theurgic Seed Cooperative and others, visuals by Dreamer John; hosted by Jair, 5 p.m., Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, 110 W. Broadway. $5. (344-3482)
Odd, I hadn't heard about this, but it's in my own backyard so I'll go. I can't tell if Larry will be there or if it's just a video of him. Probably a video -- we're talking about Eugene, Oregon of all places. :)
12 hours after I first heard about the nofollow idea, I have to say I'm 100% happy with the idea. Last night I made a dumb jokey comment that they should have used nofollow in the links on the blog, not knowing it was aimed at just comment areas. I also had a first reaction of "this won't solve comment spam overnight" which it won't, but that's fine because it will make Google better by giving it better results today and maybe curb spamming eventually.
I have a love-hate relationship with pagerank in general and more specifically with the inflated pagerank given to blogs. But when I got a crazy high rank for PVRblog (I think it's gone down since then), I felt an obligation to keep artificial URLs away from the site.
My premise was that if Google thinks I'm an authoritative source of information (even if I'm not sure I deserve it) and that my posts are highly topical and help people searching for information, then it was my duty to keep the information neat and tidy, and keep people from cheaply trying to take advantage of my position. A nofollow feature would be perfect for PVRblog since I didn't want my good article on how to setup a TiVo without a phone line to get mucked up with people trying to sell satellite systems or even worse, viagra pill offers.
And someone on MetaFilter explained it well with the old adage you hear from anyone that ever built an application used by many: never trust user input. That's what nofollow does, is allow site owners to maintain their sites with good information they deem worth posting about, while at the same time keeping user submitted data apart from that, to be viewed by search engines as "here's the stuff I wrote and some other people added stuff here below that you can feel free to index as text, but ignore any links they add since I can't be an authority on whether they provide additional information or not."
Sounds about right to me.
I got an American Express card in 2004 so I could put all my business expenses on that card. My thought was by having a card devoted to business expenses, it would make tax time next year a lot easier, since purchases could be easily totalled up and verified. Today I got my year-end summary of purchases and there were a bunch of charges I couldn't remember from Jan-March of 2004, so I logged into the americanexpress.com site to look up those months and these were my statement options. What you see above is the dropdown option to fetch statements, but it stops at July of 2004
I looked and looked, and couldn't find older statements so I called customer service for the web site and was told they only maintain 6 months of archived statements. It's funny because conventional tax/accounting wisdom is that statements should be saved for 7 years in case of an audit, and I specifically went paperless/snailmailess with AMEX so that I could access everything online. The kicker is that any statement over 6 months old costs $5 to retreive through their archive service.
Suffice to say that it's time for me to pick a new credit card that can actually deliver business service.
I see that there is now a whole website devoted to the Mac mini and I realized why I have a bit of my own enthusiasm for the small unit and why I think my friends all want one, even though they've got more powerful computers already on their desktops: People like limits.
Now I'm not saying people prefer pessimism over optimism, on the contrary, the challenge of working in a limited medium and constantly finding clever innovation as you bang into the walls of constraint is an attractive place to work for many engineers and designers.
I think I (and many others) fell in love with HTML in the mid-90s because it was so limited, but within those bounds you could expresss your creativity in all sorts of ways. There were daily innovations being discovered and shared by folks around the world. I see that with the Mac mini already. It presents a new baseline set of capabilities to work with, and within the constrained environment I could see myself competing with friends to see who is the first to do something seemingly mind blowing with this limited device.
A lot has been written about the role of constraint and limits in design. I seem to recall Stewart had a talk about the 5k contest that explained why people would flock so enthusiastically to a contest that imposed strict limits on the participants. Problem solving is a core aspect of what design is and it's a rewarding experience to innovate within boundaries to do something you didn't think was possible.
Thanks to various situations where I was stuck in an airplane, hotel room, or at the end of a sold-out movie ticket line, I seen four of the worst movies in recent memory. Mr. 3000, Shark Tale, Fat Albert, and Taxi were good representitives of all the complaints people have about stupid movies with a dumb premise that use every hackneyed plot point you've seen a hundred times before. Taxi was so bad I tried twice and couldn't watch more than ten minutes of it. Pure dreck.
To balance out the cosmic karma, I've gone on a quest to see every movie that is up for a major academy award this year (a first for me). I've looked to the golden globes and early predictions to get up to speed, but after a long weekend binge, I've tackled the following:
My goal for the next couple weeks are to catch these films:
- Hotel Rwanda
- Lemony Snickets
I'm pretty confident I'll be able to meet the Oscars goal early.
update: I'm plucking titles out of the second list and posting short reviews in the first list as I see them.
All the announcements from Apple today look great. And I'm not an apple fanboy, but getting a cheap PC out there that is free of IE and Outlook viruses should do a lot of good for Apple's marketshare. Heck, I'd like to buy one for every one of my relatives struggling on their Dells and HPs running windows, overrun with spyware. The tiny iPod shuffle looks good too, especially since running with a full sized iPod is cumbersome, and I've been thinking about buying a big usb thumb drive anyway, so the shuffle fits nicely.
I'm happy to see iWork and Apple launching a word processor. Personally, I use Subethaedit for all my text documents, only using Word when a coworker or book editor sends me something. People should retreat to text editors, but until they do, having a Word alternative will be nice.
I've used Windows on every primary computer of mine since 3.1. I'm only a recent convert to OS X, and I still share a desktop with a fast cheap PC running winXP that I devote to all coding. IE was my favorite browser from the days of 4.0 betas until a year or two ago when mozilla surpassed it. I've heard a lot of criticism of MS and specifically Bill Gates, but I've often defended both the corporation and the man. But my time as a microsoft apologist is over.
After ridiculous comments this week at CES, where Gates equated the last three years of my work with Creative Commons as some sort of Red Menace that needs to be stopped, it's clear he's off his rocker. Bill's spouting lines that make him sound like the new Jack Valenti. From the first Gizmodo interview:
"There's always a tricky issue when you get into stolen material or pornography...if you get notified that it's stolen materials or pornography or things like that...The laws for online publishing the same as for print-based publishing."
Translated: Bill Gates has a talking points team that wants him to equate potential copyright violators with pornographers so he's sure to mention it twice. The term "potentional copyright violators" while correct, isn't as forceful as "stolen material" so he repeats that as often as possible too. His last statement makes clear that to him online publishing = print publishing. In other words, intellectual property = physical property and should be treated as such in the eyes of the law, a concept so fraught with problems I won't even go into the ridiculousness of it all.
I'm pretty sure I've figured out what Bill's problem is and it's pretty simple: Gates is convinced that Microsoft's version of DRM is the One True Path for MS domination of internet content, and he's saying anything he can to promote it.
Microsoft missed the internet boat early on, asleep at the wheel until 1996 and has been behind the times on every venture they've tried since. They've tried to be the king of web publishing, but Dreamweaver owns that. They tried to be an ISP but AOL is still in front. IM? AOL is crushing them again. Passport was supposed to give MS control of every login on the web, but it turns out people didn't trust nor like it. They've tried search over and over, but Google is still the clear king. They're the newest johnny-come-lately to blogging and they don't stand a chance against Blogger, MT, Wordpress and everything else that came before.
This isn't the One True Way, it Bill's Last Chance. The last chance that MS has to try and make a ploy for control of all music, movies, photos, and text shared online from content companies by slapping some crappy rights-restricting wrapper on it all and taking a cut for MS.
There are a few obvious problems with that. Apple's iTunes music store and Apple's DRM works just fine for millions of folks, and the most popular music player since the walkman doesn't play MS' files. The internet is doing a damn fine job of letting musicians, filmmakers, authors, and photographers share their work openly, without any DRM of any kind. And the clear message from anyone that has ever been blocked from doing something completely benign with their files is that people won't stand for DRM that gets in their way and makes them feel like they're merely leasing content instead of buying. But MS keeps pushing it anyway.
Sorry Bill, you're going to lose this battle like you lost every other internet play you've dipped a toe into.
If you're a big Flickr user, chances are the recent comments URL is your new inbox. All my friends punch it up like a skinner box. The opposite URL for tracking the comments you've left on others' photos works in a similar way and is just as addictive. Obviously, after loading both for the tenth time today, I thought why don't I have two similar URLs for tracking the same info about my blog?
Emulating the first is easy -- most any blog software can give you a view of recent activity, which you can use to find out who is commenting on your posts and what is being said on your site. The second feature is a bit harder.
I know I'm not the first to request this, but I'd love to see someone propose a system that could track your comments across all blogs automatically. I think trackback pings could still do it if someone piggybacked a server onto TypeKey or something similar, so that every time I left a TypeKey logged-in comment, an automatic ping would go from a blog I was commenting on to my profile's personal trackback URL. I could then use those pings to create a page that looks like this, but for all (MT at the least, but hopefully other systems could play) blogs I read and comment on.
Lazyweb, don't fail me now.
Quick, before it disappears behind the subscriber wall, you can read another article about blog ads, this time in the Financial Times. I'm proud of it because the reporter hit me at a cynical, bitter time. I had talked to three reporters from different outfits the previous week, all doing rah-rah "anyone can do this!" stories on blogs. So I unleashed a bunch of bile on the tech journalists' attempts to fluff up the latest bubblet. Here's me sounding like a pompous jackass:
Surprisingly, some of the most cautious notes are being sounded by bloggers themselves. Matt Haughey runs a number of blogs, the most famous of which is Metafilter, a vast community weblog whose members number in the tens of thousands: "Together, the ad revenue from all of my blogs represents a pretty decent salary," he says, "but I've been very lucky. I'd like to stress that there are a few dozen people at the most who can be like this - everyone else will make $5. People are trying to make a bubble. Every article I ever read says that anyone can do this. But anyone can be Britney Spears."
My 5 year old cordless vtech phone has been cutting out my wifi lately, so I've been shopping around for 5.8 Ghz phones. I've also been considering giving Vonage another try, since I gave up on them in Fall of 2003 (due to unreliability).
I'm usually not a big fan of convergence devices -- it usually means you get a so-so product A squished into a so-so version of product B, and the sum of the parts is often worse than either device alone, but this new VTech/Vonage combo phone system is exactly what I was looking for. I doubt very many people share my position, in that they need both a new phone system and something for Vonage, but I can't wait to see this show up in stores.