I'm using it as an excuse to do a brain dump of all the little hackery ideas I've been brewing for the past few months, but too lazy to write up. Thanks to Movable Type's posting to the future, I've already put a few in the can that will start up tomorrow.
Keep a close watch on Lifehacker this week -- you won't be disappointed.
I noticed a trend in the books I've read lately (Everything Bad Is Good for You, Blink, and Freakonomics) is to point out things in our culture that should seem one way, but turn out to be another way entirely.
This is just a datapoint, but I couldn't help but wonder all last summer about the never ending run of Napoleon Dynamite at the local art house theater. We have this single screen, old art deco place that usually plays a very small independent movie or two each week, and then it is gone. But for a solid month they ran Dynamite, then after swapping a few others, brought it back for another few weeks of steady business. What I also found baffling was this dusty old theater was usually filled with 40 to 60 year olds watching low budget character pieces, and it was constantly packed with teens and college-aged film viewers.
Napoleon Dynamite seems like one giant paradox of entertainment to me, one that I figured had no chance of success for several reasons:
- The film has a thin plot and moves incredibly slowly. There's a joke, then twenty minutes of dead slow story, then another payoff.
The movie felt like it was four hours long to me, and I'm used to watching thin plots with lots of dead time. But the paradox is that it's a slow cooker of a film, and it's a hit with young people. That doesn't make sense, if you've read about how "kids today all have ADD" and "the jump cuts of MTV and fast pace of video games are killing their attention span." The conventional wisdom is that if you want to reach an audience of 17 year olds, make a movie like Charlie's Angels with explosions, hot women, and an easy to grasp story.
- To call the main character Napoleon Dynamite a nerd is a disservice to nerds. He goes way beyond your average geek and almost comes off as a depressed aspergers sufferer. Why on earth would every kid from the local college and high school identify with him? If you've seen the Merchants of Cool, conventional wisdom is that popular, photogenic people will always be cool and what kids will hope to attain. Are we in some sort of dystopia where most kids identify with Napoleon Dynamite because they share his experiences and not that of the "cool" folks? Is it just the Rudy-esque triumph over the jocks that his dancing reveals at the end?
That's all I have for now, but something struck me as a parallel between recent books challenging the notions we've always held as true, and the strange, wild popularity of a small, geeky, outside-of-hollywood film that met with great success, but by all measures, probably should have been a flop.
I just wrote up my thoughts on advertising in RSS and why I think it's a bad thing for now. Feel free to comment here if you think I'm off my rocker.
I'm happy to announce that we're looking for a designer at Creative Commons to handle print projects and assist me in web projects. My ideal match would be a San Francisco-based someone with a nicely designed xhtml/css blog and portfolio that has done annual reports, business cards, logos, and illustrations in their past. Working for Creative Commons is a great experience and our office is an amazing environment to work in. The person that gets the job will likely be working with me (mostly over AIM) on a regular basis, so readers of this site should have a good idea of what I'm like. I'll be looking forward to pouring over portfolios in the next few weeks trying to find the best match.
This Reuters article on critics of Creative Commons is just about the most ridiculous article I've seen about CC to date. It reads as if the president of the National Music Publisher's Association knew the author and basically wanted to get a anti-CC article out there. It contains a few quotes from CC board members and CC supporters (including Hilary Rosen and the current RIAA president) but generally lets the songwriter representitive dub the movement a "trojan horse" and claims that when you license a song under CC "it is really an argument why others should be forced to give away their property." (my emphasis) Then the article confounds the Eldred case into Creative Commons because Lessig is behind both but the real gem is at the end.
They cover one songwriter that found success. Nevermind that Tim O'Reilly's quote in the same article explains how 1 in a million songs are successfull and that CC exists for letting the other 99.999% of people that didn't hit it big share their works with the world. In a wonderful bit of journalistic gymnastics they mention how this successful songwriter has contracted the AIDS virus, and bring it all back to Creative Commons. I quote from the article:
Had he given up his rights to those early hits, he would not have the resources to cover his treatment for AIDS.
Such a decision might have been tragic. Fraser says he has been kept alive by medication, radiation therapy and experimental medical treatments -- largely paid for with his song royalties.
"No one should let artists give up their rights," he says.
That's right, you just read a Reuters article try to make the claim that Creative Commons can kill those living with AIDS.
So to recap, the only legitimate point made in the article is that a musician may not know what rights they are giving away, and I'll grant you that it may be true, provided an artist ignored the page explaining the licenses and the page explaining the rights in all licenses. While the article contains comments supportive of Creative Commons from music industry giants like the RIAA, the article's author turns some minor confusion about a name appearing in an amicus brief into unwanted support for a supreme court case that is somehow CC's fault and the author lets the songwriter association president call the movement names, construe that it is unfair to artists, and finally, twist some emotion out of a ailing songwriter, equating a CC license with a death sentence.
I'm sure Reuters will be getting a Pulitzer for this bit of drivel.
update: Lessig has more to say and mentions previous (and similar) articles from the same Billboard Magazine reporter. Also, it occurred to me that the ailing songwriter in the article could still be alive and paying for medications through royalites, if he chose a non-commercial Creative Commons license for his song. As they say, share your music and good things often follow.
I have to admit I'm a bit of slob. If there's a horizontal surface near me, chances are I'll stack piles of crap onto it until it falls over. I've been meaning to get my act together for a while now and last week I finally took the initiative to overhaul my home office.
Some tidbits worth sharing from the experience:
- Getting all the furniture picked out at IKEA was pretty easy using their office layout tool. Just measure your room, doors, and windows, then plug the numbers into the app and start filling your virtual room with their stuff. At the end you can print out a parts list, which I took to IKEA and an employee ordered everything up in about 60 seconds. Much to IKEA's credit, their website also list product availability (I looked up every part before I made the three hour drive to Seattle last week) and the site even tells you the dimensions of the box things come in, so you can make sure it all fits. Total cost for a new desk, rolling file cabinet storage, double file cabinets, floating wall cabinet, and narrow double wall cabinet was about $900.
- Interface FLOR carpet tiles are really cool. They should have a flash/java app to let you create rugs and order on the fly, but I managed by just measuring my space and figuring out what I needed. Total cost was about $60 with shipping.
- Putting in laminate flooring wasn't too difficult mentally but a lot of work physically. I can see why most people get theirs installed by professionals. There was much sweating and swearing when I came up three boards short at the end and had to buy a whole box to finish the final pieces. It's all worth it in the end, I love being able to roll around on a hard floor in an office chair, instead of being stuck in pitted carpet. Total cost of flooring was around $400 for the 100 sq ft room.
- I was going to display small photos by stringing metal wire between eyelets screwed into the wall (kinda like this), by using clips to hold the pics on the line. But when I was getting parts at Lowes, I noticed they sell adhesive-backed strips of magnetic tape, and small magnets to attach stuff to them. That worked great and meant no drilling holes and putting eyelets in drywall screwholes. I'm going to put several more strips along my whiteboard wall to display prints I like. The best part is the magnetic tape and small magnets were a whopping $3 total.
It was a lot of work and most of it was squeezed into two days, but it took a few more hours to finish all the details. I now have more file storage than ever and tons of space to store books, photo paper, camera parts, and all the knicknacks I've collected over the years.
I'm really happy with the results. I honestly haven't had a clean office in many years and I'm looking forward to doing work everyday in it.
Doug egged me into this music meme that is spreading. I saw it first yesterday and thought it was kind of dumb, but in the past 24 hours I've found dozens more from folks I read and admire, and I've changed my tune -- it's turned out to be kind of cool. So here goes:
Total volume of music on my computer:
11.1Gb (2119 songs). It's mostly limited by my 40Gb hard drive on my powerbook. I regularly delete downloaded mp3s I don't like or don't listen to much anymore. About once a month I probably prune a few hundred songs, which get replaced as I collect more. My music library size might also be an artifact of having a 10Gb iPod for two years. Even though my current one is 20Gb, I always seem to hover between 9 and 11Gb in music.
The last CD I bought:
I don't buy CDs much anymore, opting for the iTMS or finding them online, but I actually bought The Dan Band off an ad on BoingBoing because I'm a sucker for silly covers and I loved the Total Eclipse bit that showed up in Old School. I read BoingBoing through a browser instead of RSS and I must admit I click on almost all their ads and this CD wasn't the first thing I've bought via them. Some people say BoingBoing looks like the side of a NASCAR but I find the ads useful.
Song playing right now:
I find and play a lot of random stuff and right now I am enjoying the Spamalot broadway recording. I wish I were in NYC and could see it live.
Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
The Gold Finch and Red Oak Tree by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (I have no idea what this song means but it sounds very pretty and I never tire of it)
Scared Straight by The Long Winters (the live KEXP version is my fave)
Frug by Rilo Kiley (off their first EP not on iTMS, but all their stuff is great)
Your Own Dot Org by Shannon Campbell (rediscovered this recently and fell in love with it all over again, everything about this is perfect)
The first thought that came into my head after hearing The New York Times will be adding paid subscription walls to their content was that Dave Winer just totally sealed the win on his bet.
I can't believe how dumb the NYT is being about this. They shouldn't be putting up more walls but less. Dan Gillmor wrote about this extensively: if they took down the dumb account requirement and the $3.95 archives and instead opened up the 100+ years of archives to google and the rest of the web, I'm certain the advertising rewards from such an endeavor would outstrip any of these subscription ideas.
I ran a bunch of errands today and plowed through the entire audiobook of Freakonomics. I'd say I liked it even more than Blink. It turns just about every issue on its ear with a look at the data surrounding it. Babies, Guns, Schools, Corporations, Crime, Sports, Abortion, Drugs, Cheating, Gangs, Murder... everything gets the treatment. I could immediately tell their approach to answering questions is the type of thing that will make me follow their work for as long as they publish books on the subject. I sincerely hope they've got a whole Freakonomics Series in them.
If I had to point to any problems with the text (and this is a small nitpick that will make me sound like Andy Rooney, but...): I don't like it when books aimed at the mainstream mix and misuse words between the scientific and causal realms. The authors here called every hypothesis a "theory" and when pointing out correlations in their data would often said the data "proved" a point. To "prove" something and describe something as a "theory" are both significant terms used when describing research and while Gladwell does it in Blink a lot too, tenured economics professors should know better than to play loose with meaningful words.
I started in on Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation audiobook shortly after Freakonomics and so far it's a wonderful mix of quirky comedy and a history lesson. Also a highly recommended iTunes purchase.
While I didn't get the obligatory video camera (yet), I did buy a modern day requirement for new parents with digital cameras. Everyone that sees my new daughter and photos I've taken asks "hey, can I have a print of that?" After spending years using Ofoto for the occasional print I finally broke down and bought a (fairly cheap, but fast and good) photo printer, the Canon Pixma iP5000.
Now that I've printed all my favorite shots from the last week and gone ahead and printed all my favorites from 2005 I realized I haven't had this much fun printing since the first time my brother and I hooked a dot matrix one up to a Commodore 64. I should have gotten one years ago.
People often say "having a baby changes everything" and I've wondered about the ultimate truth of that statement.
Last night after hours of Fiona-tending at end of a 18 hour day we finally lay down for rest and I couldn't sleep. After pondering this for a moment I realized I was too happy and my adrealine was going because she just pooped and had a successful breast feeding before she nodded off.
Ecstatic over bowel movements and feedings? I think it's safe to say that a baby does indeed change everything.
I stumbled upon an old directory filled with mockups that never saw the light of day and figured now that it's five years later, I should probably upload them as a set on Flickr. These are from April-May 2000 with some later ones through in at the end, all done when I was trying to work up a new design for pyra.com, which looked like this at the time.