...... news ......

News from Year Thirteen

Sherman and Peabody save God-Man [permalink]

19nov2010: The God-Man Fan Page has been a forest of broken links for a while. A diligent fan named Jesse contacted me about fixing the page. He sifted the internet for links, many of them Wayback Machine echoes of lost pages. I have now updated the fan page, reforesting it with the live links he collected. It's a veritable Arbor Day of hypertext.

Like preestablished harmony, there's also a new God-Man adventure this week!

[fallout shelter]

The picture above is entirely unrelated: a close-up of a building on the City College campus in NYC.

Gardening in the elements [permalink]

27nov2010: We had our eaves painted recently. It really needed to be done. Of course, the scraping and painting liberated lots of little paint flecks. We new this was going to happen, which is why we delayed until the waning days of Autumn to have the painters come; it was late enough that putting tarps over the garden beds would not crush any verdancy. For reasons that are not entirely clear, however, the painters moved the tarps before the operation was complete. So - possible contamination.

Since I am only back in Albany for this week, before going back to finish up my time in Pittsburgh, there was only this small window in which to help in the garden. So today I was out scooping, removing the top layer of dirt that paint flecks had fallen onto, and spreading around a new top layer of soil. Although it was fairly warm by upstate November standards, some snowflakes fell while we laboured.

There is still one bed we didn't scour, but it will have to wait until the Spring.

The novel has become mundane [permalink]

[king of hearts]

5dec2010: For as long as I've had a homepage, I have preserved old news items on an archive page. When my original page was a year old, I set the precedent of making a new archive page for each year. I eventually automated the task of adding and archiving news items, but the script requires intervention once a year to increment the counter and start a new archive page. I have let it slide by a month this time.

I let it slide because having a webpage is no longer an exciting novelty. I could rewrite the script to automate the change, but that seems like drudgery. If it takes me until after New Year's to catch it next time, then perhaps I'll fix the system.

Thus begins year thirteen of the home page.

Riding the rails [permalink]

[fargo in the snow]

1jan2011: As part of our January travel adventure, we planned to take trains from New York to Oregon and (after a few days there) to San Diego. In Chicago, we boarded a train which was meant to take us all the way to Portland. For this, the longest leg of the trip, we got a sleeping compartment. One of the perks was a small bottle of champagne, with which we toasted in the new year.

In the wee hours of the morning, about thirteen hours out from Chicago, the train came to a stop outside Fargo, North Dakota. Due to compounded blizzards, stranded freight trains, and unprecedented who-knows-what, we could go no further. Instead, our train was attached to the back of our eastbound counterpart and sent back the way it had come.

Although a standard strategy when unable to go over the mountain is to take the tunnels through Moria, that never ends well. So we made arrangements to go from Chicago to Southern California directly.

In some ways, though, the trip has been pleasant. Amtrak covered a room at the Homewood Suites in Chicago, for the night we were standed in Chi, and even spotted us cab fare. So I'll wait to pass judgement on rail until we actually get there.

inbox<20 [permalink]

10jan2011: In recent years, I have become lax about managing e-mail. I tried the severe 'inbox zero' strategy, which calls for every message to be promptly dealt with, archived, or deleted. There were always a few items that I wasn't quite ready to consign to the archive, however, and the inevitable broken windows effect meant that those were joined by more. Once my recent mail went back more than a year, the inbox became a tomb for things I didn't want to think about.

In December, I cleared out over a thousand accumulated messages and tried to establish a norm that I can actually follow. My new strategy is 'inbox less than twenty'. I won't let me inbox go past twenty messages in my inbox. It's like a hedge, and I prune it. This means that I don't have to make an immediate decision about everything. Some things may hover in the twenty message limbo for quite some time, but I do have to confront them. Rather than being swallowed by the abyss, they hover around the hedge like a gadfly.

Unrelated aside: I tweaked the layout of my other homepage for the first time in several years.

I live in the future, and this is my jetpack [permalink]

13jan2011: We bought iPhones yesterday, as carefully considered holiday gifts to one another. The careful consideration stretched into January, but there is a point in space where light from the Christmas morning sun is just now arriving. So it still counts.

Today was spent familiarizing myself with it and sorting through a great many apps which might be useful. Even without supplement, it's a phone, a camera, a day-planner, an address book, a GPS, and a memo book. It replaces several devices I own, while exorcising the ghostly absence of devices like the Palm organizer which I haven't owned for a while.

The compressed functionality underscores the extent to which the internet has changed things. If you had told me about it when I was a kid, I would not have been able to wrap my head around it. To be honest, though, this whole entry is just an excuse to post the picture on the right.

Into the great wide photo [permalink]

15jan2011: My first digital camera had support for panoramic photos, showing the edge of the previous shot so that you could line up the next one; the separate shots could to be stitched together later on the computer. Now I have Pano, an iPhone app that supports taking the pictures and stitches them together postehaste. Gratuitous wide shots!

A glitch and a misunderstanding sent us back to the Apple store today. While waiting for our appointment with a genius, I began to take a pano shot of the room. I finished up just as she arrived, on the right in the photo below. (The links go to larger versions.)

Flattr buttons! [permalink]

1may2011: It is hard to make any money just from having a web page, even one which gets a decent amount of traffic. Advertising is really only profitable for a small minority of sites that draw obscene amounts of traffic. The 'digital tip jar' model has only worked for sites with dedicated fans, because there is no way for casual visitors to drop just a nickel in the tip jar. What the web really needs is a workable micropayments system.

The conversation from this point devolves into moon beams, infinite canvasses, and grumpy curmudgeons arrhythmically dance fighting against starry-eyed optimists.

When Flattr began over a year ago, there was (in addition to the usual dance fighting) a lot of discussion about how Flattr is not a micropayments system. It does not allow a visitor to tip two cents for a blog post that makes them smile.

Here's what it does do: Someone with a Flattr account pays some amount into the account every month. They give a nod to the blog post that makes them smile, to the picture that makes them fondly remember summer camp, and so on. At the end of the month, the user's tips for the month are divided among all the things which the user voted up.

The problem was this: People were hesitant to pay into the system, because they could only use it to tip at sites which were listed in the system. Yet only paying users could list their pages as eligible for flattr-y. The system strangled itself.

As of today, they have opened the system to pages which do not belong to registered users. If this makes more sites add Flattr buttons, then the service will be more useful. Then maybe more people will be willing to join.

And, yes, I've added Flatter buttons. We'll see how this goes.

Computer kablooey [permalink]

7may2011: Yesterday, my computer seized up with what seemed like it might be a hard drive problem. I had backups, but there is always something lost when this happens.

After an overnight trip to the Apple Store, it is functioning again. Better still, they fixed it without zapping or replacing the hard drive.

Computer kablooey, part two-ey [or] goodbye bocardo, hello elsinore [permalink]

30may2011: Last week, my computer seized up again. It is still covered, so I took it in to receive some surgical attention from the folks at the Apple Store. This second trip under the knife meant a new harddrive. This means reinstalling and reconfiguring almost everything, so I have used it as the occasion to upgrade.

I am not the sort of person who names cars I've owned or places that I've lived, but network functionality means that I have given a name to every computer I've owned since the onset of the internet. The last machine, now demoted to a media server or somesuch, was bocardo. The new machine: elsinore.

Although I did have backups, there was a hiccup in restoring e-mail. This means that any e-mail I got in the last week might have been lost. If you sent me a message in that dark window and I had not replied yet, please send it again.

From adventures to good science [permalink]

5jul2011: I've talked before about the banner that I designed for Janet Stemwedel's blog Adventures in Ethics and Science. She contacted me a while ago about the fact that she was starting a new blog and would need a new banner. The new banner is here on the right.

Her new blog, Doing Good Science, is part of the Scientific American blog network. So it's a big step up for her, and my doodles get to tag along.

It only hurts, and I laugh [permalink]

16jul2011: Thanks to Netflix, a day of convalescence doubles as a Mitchell and Webb marathon.

An assortment of disasters [permalink]

05sep2011: September enters, bringing storms.

BIG tree

The earthquake two weeks ago felt nearer than Virginia. I was in my office, and the building decidedly shimmied. I was in a doorjamb before it had subsided, and quickly outside with several of my colleagues once the shaking had stopped. Cristyn - a native of southern California - scoffs at it; she recounts that she just dismissed the rumble as nearby construction. Although the nearby construction was rather ground-shaking over the summer, this quake confronted me with more noticeable shaking than any of the quakes that I experienced while living in San Diego.

The city shut down for the subsequent hurricane, although it was just a bunch of wind and rain from our point of view. We wouldn't have thought it an especially special storm if there hadn't been so much hype. Friend of ours had a great oak knocked over, which Cristyn poses with in the picture above.

Finally classes began again last week. I'm teaching philosophy of science at various levels this term, which puts the teaching close to my own research - which always makes for equal measures of excitement and discomfort.

How quickly it becomes retro [permalink]

04nov2011: I'm at a coffeehouse thinking about natural kinds. Getting my refill, I had this conversation:

The Girl Behind the Counter: What's that on your sweatshirt?

Me: It's Trogdor. [...] A dragon. [...] From the internet.

TGBtC: Is that a meme?

Me: It's from Homestarrunner, which used to be a thing.

TGBtC: Oh. I'd have to look it up, then.

I got this sweatshirt several years ago, when Homestarrunner was still updating. It usde to be that people - the girl behind the counter included - would often recognize it and react positively. The inevitable turnover behind the counter means that the girl behind the counter now is a new and different one. Pop culture references from the early 2000s are already retro.

Damn kids, with their dragon ignorance and their not being old. Bah!