October 26, 2003

Tim Bray has a very nice appreciation of Stewart Brand.

I'd second most all that is said there, particularly about appreciation. And I think if I had the opportunity to sit down with him, there'd be too many questions - such that the importance of a good editor might be the best middle ground (but who edited the Mother of all Demos, in which Stewart Brand played a part?)

I sat at a table at the less-hip but just (to me) as mind expanding ETCon last year with Kevin Kelly, a onetime editor of WER, and didn't get to say thanks either, for many the same reasons. This isn't the first time I've been too bashful to say thanks to those who have helped to move my thoughts forward (tongue tied when I met Woz, for example).

And I know all too well that they're just people, probably with as many quirks or reticences as I have. Doesn't help when you're combatting the vast swaths of memory and influence in your head....

Posted by esinclai at 09:50 PM
October 24, 2003

Worn out this morning from reading Mark Pilgrim's Overview of Panther's new features. While a fair bit of the information has been revealed and discussed in various locations over the past few months as PR, JobsSpeaks, and leaks have pushed out, Mark has done a very nice job of gathering and organizing information, including carefully selected (and nicely sized) screenshots.

No install for me this weekend, need assurance of the box for traveling next week as ...pickhits... hits the road.

(exhaustion aside, thanks to Joi for the link...)

Posted by esinclai at 07:00 AM
October 23, 2003
Kitty Typing

It's happened here more often that I care to think - though thankfully, only rarely has it resulted in public displays.

However, Joy of Tech has noticed the phenomenon, in its widespread glory.

updated to reflect mislinkage, as pointed out by the eagle eyed S

Posted by esinclai at 07:07 AM
Supporting, Actively and Passively

So this is the season of fund drives for several of the radio stations I listen to.... WLUW (Loyola's Campus Community station)was last month, WFHB (Bloomington/South-Central Indiana community radio )and WBEZ (our local NPR affiliate, and home of "Wait Wait" and "This American Life"....). So I've tapped myself out on who and how I can give money (and collect coffee mugs or TShirts!).

But MacInTouch, currently seeking better funding stability as I've mentioned before, has a nice passive way to give money. By purchasing your Panther upgrade (and you know you were planning to) via their Amazon partner link, you can get a nice cut. And if you don't need it ASAP, you can use the Free Shipping option.... Ric's posted links to both the Standard Version and the Family Pack.

OK, OK. I admit it. I'm happy to shill for good content!

Posted by esinclai at 06:06 AM
October 21, 2003
Purple Frog

Just when you think all the oddness is resolved, the go and discover purple frogs previously thought to be extinct!

courtesy Mr Blog

Posted by esinclai at 09:30 PM

What Ross seems to have hit upon here is a great idea to restore balance to the relationship we have with our furry brethren outdoors.

Put 'em to work! No more squirrel welfare!

clickthrough to Ross for a great snap, btw

Posted by esinclai at 06:42 AM
October 20, 2003
Voting Machines

Popping up in the aggregation run this morning, a lengthy overview of voting machine isses.

Long and bordering on indictment, it comes from.... the British!

Posted by esinclai at 07:11 AM
October 13, 2003

In today's Metropolitan Diary, a correspondent helps Joe Rogers of the NYT lay out the perils of non-local's providing distinctly locale driven information. These anecdotes are more common than not, and largely can be masked and ameliorated by proper faux-localization techniques, but they do slip through nonetheless.

Posted by esinclai at 06:38 AM
October 12, 2003

Courtesy the Fat Guy I came across this lovely piece in Texas Monthly about Dazed and Confused. Possibly more trivia than you wanted to know about this fine film, but it shouldn't be.

Great film, fine soundtrack. Fun stories.

One nit about Scott's summation - I think it was the casting director, not Linklater, at the shmancy hotel....

Posted by esinclai at 07:02 PM
October 11, 2003
ongoing translation

AZ will be pleased to know that the beautifully designed liner material for the soundtrack to Lost in Translation contains no pantsless SJ.

Posted by esinclai at 10:00 AM

Kevin Marks (et al.) have a nice little idea that I think is keen, and a great starting point.

As I've been doing some revisions to my thinking about collaboration, online/offline and ubiquitous, particularly as it relates to the conference space, this past week, this is one of the nuts that I have found hard to conceptualize cracking. Putting the guys in a face-to-face room setting (well, side-by-side, perhaps, if they were in chairs) seems to have come up with an interesting and valid option - broadcast information of use to those connected (via open protocols). Where currently there's a fair bit of advance work on the part of each attendee (saving off contact info, resources, trackback pages, etc etc), under this protocol only a small degree of work on the part of attendees to advertise their own interests and output can allow for ready access by all.

And presto, more power for all participants, more online and offline collaboration, and more pluses for all.

Posted by esinclai at 08:58 AM
October 10, 2003
Not Woolf, Stein

A (not AZ) captured a letter another Bloomington colleague had relating a visit by some of his relatives(-in-law) to Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas just after the war. Beautiful and evocative, it's more than worth a read.

It captures not just that moment, that visit when the world was shaken and trying to refigure itself (especially, it should be said, France; a topic now from books like Marianne in Chains and others (ES personal research topic 47...)). But it also captures, in the context, a bit of what its like to live in a college town like Bloomington, the interests and encounters of living there, which tend to transcend the supposed small town nature of the place to be the larger constructs of mind that can occur in a good community.

Posted by esinclai at 05:55 AM
October 08, 2003
Library Love

As those who have known me for multiple years know, I have a deep love for libraries, both the use, operation, and amassing of them.

This evening I had an experience with our local library system that again reminded me why they are such wonderful places, not just because of the contents, but because of the people that make up that content.

I had a particular book I wanted to take a look at, City Comforts by David Sucher (I have some passing interest in urban affairs, living in a city and loving my neighborhood, and not just because we have the cutest L stop in the world (at least, until the construction begins - at that point, all bets are off), but because it's just a swell place).

So I look the book up in the library's OPAC on the web, and find a record for the book that is a bit confusing. Undaunted, I head down to the main branch after work.

Now, it's here that the human factors of the Harold Washington Library Center elude me. The floors are labeled by subject area (Science, Social Sciences, Literature, etc), not by Library of Congress code, which is how I both think of subject collections (damaged by five years of library work in college), and how the books are generally referenced in the catalog. But I make a lucky guess of the sixth floor, and head to the call number section, which matches not at all. Instead of urban affairs, I find a small collection of books on government works (The Public Works of Lyndon B Johnson did, I will admit, catch my eye).

I head over to the Social Sciences reference desk, where after a brief sojourn on queue, I'm very helpfully assisted by the librarian. She looks up the title a second time, notes that it is actually a Municipal Doc number, not a regular holding. She then goes the extra step of politely enquiring why I was interested in the book, where I had heard of it, and so forth - a discreet and capable reference interview. Then, to fulfill my desires for the book as best she can, she pulls up WorldCat and locates other libraries in the area that have the book in their collection for my Inter-Library Loan request, should I choose to make one. But she reminds me that my next stop should be the municipal documents collection, one floor down.

So I go there, where the brief introduction to the search repeats itself, but only briefly. Upon looking at the record, this librarian can tell me the whole story. It turns out that a while ago the City of Chicago closed their governmental municipal library, depositing the entirety of it with the Chicago Public Library system, in the municipal collection, which houses other local government publications (akin to the federal government documents). At which point these new documents were integrated into the existing collection, but the books and other resources from the city library are being handled on a department by department basis. And timelines, budgets and conflicts and constraints being what they are, that has proceeded glacially. So the book I want is probably at the library, but in a box in the basement somewhere, awaiting recovery.

I left empty handed but happy. I didn't get the book I wanted, but I had a wonderful experience working with the librarians on duty, learned a bit more about my city, and with a clear set of next steps. It isn't something I can read about on the train, but it is something I can be pleased with.

And really, isn't that what those of us who interact and serve other people every day should strive for? Forget the takeaway slideshow prints from a presentation, what if each time we met someone we both went away thinking and being intrigued, having learned something new?

Posted by esinclai at 06:53 PM
October 03, 2003

Yesterday I attended one of the regularly given Edward Tufte seminars. It was an interesting day spent looking at design and analysis, in cases where it works and in cases where it doesn't - and certainly a good way to spend 8 hours thinking in ways somewhat outside my normal patterns and context.

To recap the content would be both futile and necessarily inaccurate. However, one of the strong messages which I came away with was an impression of Tufte, the work he does, and the work he hopes to enable others to do is the element of craft.

Early in the presentation, Tufte called for the attribution of the analytic (chart, graph) work that individuals do. To provide attribution sets a stake of ownership in the input to the data and the analysis that comes out of the presentation of that data. He returned to this repeatedly throughout the presentation - if you don't have pride and show that pride in your work, the message and value of the analysis or presentation is necessarily diminished, potentially to the point of irrelevance.

This comes across in his books as well - simply as objects. We've owned Envisioning Information for several years now, in no small part because the design as object of the book was alluring. Careful attention has been made to as many details as can in contemporary book production. And while Tufte takes pride in this (and other pieces of his work), and while that pride comes through in page after page or graphic after graphic, never does the ego of the author overshadow the message.

If there is a weakness in the Tufte seminar, it is in the breadth of the information presented. After three books and some essays, Tufte stakes out a lot of material to cover in the time alloted, and so some elements get shorter shrift than others. But as each attendee walks away with a copy of the source books, this is easily mitigated by further study. Indeed, in his section on presentations, this physical element of (or beyond) a presentation is a key point.

Finally, I was surprised by the depth of staff Tufte brings with him on these road shows - there must have been 6 or 8 in attendance, taking admission receipts, babysitting the (rarely used) projectors, showing the objects to the gathered couple hundred, etc. And yet somehow with all this staff, I don't think I saw Tufte take a bite to eat through the course of the day, instead spending time answering questions and attending to the autograph line.

In sum, I'd recommend this, even if it is on your own dime. Try to arrange for a 10 pack with friends to get the discount (given these parlous times) if possible, but do try to attend if you want play with new perspectives about your ways of embracing your work and your thinking. At least, that's one of the things I got for my money.

Posted by esinclai at 06:54 AM
October 02, 2003

Steam is a handy little tool for OS X. It downloads (and maintains) schedules from the BBC's various radio channels, and makes it easy to directly open them in RealPlayer thereafter.

Its donationware, so easy to try before you support.

Posted by esinclai at 09:45 PM
IP in the NYT

Two pieces from this week's reading of the Times come recommended from this side of KJP. As usual, registration is required, and these will probably fall into the archives soon. So read now if your interest is piqued!

One, A Stroll Through Patent History covers the work of Petra Moser (available for a fee - I confess I haven't yet paid), who reviewed innovation and patent law, and the effects of the latter on the former. But instead of working just from patent records, she worked from catalogues of the innovations. Her research basically contradicts what I had initially been taught (and which appears to be a truism in the IP industries) - that strong patents promote innovation (as patents encourage the publishing of inventions with a period of protection). This has ramifications as the US IP industries lobby for stronger protections "like the American model" in other communities - not just the EU, but beyond to newly stabilizing countries and regions.

In a nice handholding of that piece is an interview with Eva Harris. A large part of Harris' work is taking techniques that lead to disease understanding and control and down-teching them for the developing world. This in effect slides around IP protections to provide social benefit in needful areas at a basic level, at costs affordable to developing countries. It's creative stuff.

Posted by esinclai at 05:49 AM