Posts from June 2002

skp and I got up around 4 am this morning so we could make it to the 13th annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic in Windsor. The weather was perfect. We watched the sun come up, the balloons fill with air, and the sky fill with balloons. It really was a bizarre and beautiful site to see over a dozen hot air balloons suspended in air. I took many, many photos.

click for more
more >>

Anyone interested in the future of the Internet should be watching the current situation in the radio industry very carefully. The decentralized nature of the Internet makes it hard to imagine a future where a few dominant companies control most of the content. If alternative business models to advertising aren't found for the Internet, though, I'm afraid centralization and concentration could happen—just as it has in every other advertising-supported medium.

Somewhat related: Salon's subscription plus advertising model doesn't seem to be working.

I changed the way Weblog Bookwatch works a little. If a site has been "voting" for a particular book for more than 30 days, it's no longer counted as a mention. Most likely, this >30 day persistence happens because the weblog has mentioned the book in a sidebar instead of a post (which will scroll off the page at some point). I noticed that the list changed very little, with a few books that have been on people's sidebars for months there. I hope this change will more accurately capture the books people are discussing.

That's odd. Why don't any versions of RSS have an element (or attribute) for the date/time an item was posted? Time is key to weblogs.

Movable Type's new TrackBack feature is fantastic. [via Blogroots] I think it's exactly what weblogs need, and is what I was getting at when I talked about writing a distributed conversation server. This feature turns MT into a conversation server, and I hope the other tools will follow suit. It's going to automate the process of sharing information at the post level; which will allow new, exciting things to happen in the blogosphere. nice work!

If I was meg, I would have started this sentence with if I were. Were I her. As I am, though, if I was.

top of mt. burdell
picnic table at the top of mt. burdell, olompali state park

I had a dream last night that someone had figured out how to store data on quarters (like a disk) by magnetizing the metal in different ways. Everyone had these little quarter drives that you could use to read the data. And when you purchased something with a quarter, part of the space was used to store data about the transaction. So you could go back and track what exactly that quarter had been used to purchase. Which seems silly because what can you buy for a quarter besides gumballs and parking?

I had to go see the Philip K. Dick inspired Steven Spielberg spectacle on opening night. I really enjoyed it, especially the action scenes, even though it had a couple of standard Spielberg-over-the-top-emotional moments. (cry now, dammit, now!) He really brought to life a future that seems entirely possible, but I couldn't decide how he felt about it. It wasn't quite the dystopia of Blade Runner, though it had some dark elements. He seemed to be envisioning a future where corporate control and constant surveillance isn't so bad. In fact, he showed that it's kind of cute and funny to have the police dropping in at all hours sending robotic spiders after you. And even the lowest dregs of bad guys live in fashionable houses furnished by Ikea. The story is what saved the movie from its problems, though, and it brought up some real issues to think about.

It's definitely time to bump another Dick novel up to the top of my reading queue. This time: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. (If I can find it at the bookstore today.) Before the show we saw a teaser preview for the movie version of Solaris by Stanislaw Lem coming out in December.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Space Needle
Space Needle

Copper River Salmon
Copper River Salmon at the market in Seattle

Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

get well soon, Dave. [via Blogroots]

on the road again...

Eel River Cafe
Eel River Cafe, Garberville, CA

meg on weblogs: "What's important is that we've embraced a medium free of the physical limitations of pages, intrusions of editors, and delays of tedious publishing systems. As with free speech itself, what we say isn't as important as the system that enables us to say it."

Erik Benson is doing some interesting things with the Weblog Bookwatch RSS feed (+ an Amazon SCRAPI, + Google's API). I like the related books feature.


Can the RIAA have its name attached to something good? The Future of Music Coalition has joined together with several groups, including the RIAA, in a letter to the FCC and Congress. The letter proposes (among other things) that the FCC allow independent low-power FM stations. It also laments the effect that corporate consolidation has had on the airwaves: "Radio station groups have centralized their decision-making about playlists and which new songs to add to the playlist. These centralized playlists have reduced the local flavor and limited the diversity of music played on radio." With all of the work RIAA has done to stop independent musicians and Internet radio stations, this letter doesn't seem to be in line with their strategy. I guess it's another case of saying one thing publicly and acting completely different in the courts.

Update: Senator Feingold (campaign finance reformer) has seized on this issue and says he's going to introduce legistlation to change the current radio landscape. From his statement to congress: "Radio airwaves are public property. Unlike other business ventures, radio stations have acquired their distribution mechanisms – the airways – without any expenditure of capital. They were given access to the broadcast spectrum by the government for free. Since 1943, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have tried to ensure that this medium serves public good, but limiting access to information and diversity on the radio does not achieve this." (6/15)

skp and I went to a friend's place to watch the solar eclipse tonight. (well, now last night.) I brought along my telescope and she provided the aluminized mylar filter that allows you to look at the sun. It was amazing just seeing the sunspots...but watching the moon block out the light and cast eerie shadows was even better. People from around the neighborhood came out to look through the telescopes, and anyone who happened to be walking by was handed a piece of welder's glass so they could see the eclipse with their own eyes. It's funny that the sun and moon look about the same size when they're crossing paths.

Solar eclipses happen irregularly, so it's not surprising that they were viewed as apocalyptic signs in the past. I like this simple quote about an eclipse in 1275 that was viewed as an omen in retrospect: "The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen. The chickens and ducks all returned to roost. In the following year the Sung dynasty was extinguished." [found at Eclipse Quotations]

If you use snapGallery to post pictures and want to change the look/feel of the pages it creates, check out the snapGallery customizer. It sill requires some script editing to implement, but it's a step in the right direction. It's a bit easier than making the changes by hand, and you can preview as you go!

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class was interviewed in Salon about cities that attract creative people: "[San Francisco] became very early on a kind of capitalism that recognizes that you don't have to have all this bullshit organizational, bureaucratic nonsense to be successful. San Francisco was a place where weird people could find a place...The best thing that happened to San Francisco was the damned NASDAQ collapse and the high-tech recession. That was San Francisco's saving grace." [via MeFi]

Spent the past couple of days in Lassen Volcanic National Park hiking and relaxing. It was great time, though the trail was often hidden from us by snow. The first hike was a day of map reading, terrain reading, tree-marker spotting, snow-pack climbing, twelve lakes, and patience. And you couldn't pick a better group of people to be lost in the woods with. The second day ended with a close-up view of a waterfall.

click to see more...
meg, preston, and pascal orienteering in Lassen

psst...blogroots is taking its first steps. We'll probably have an official launch next week sometime, but until then you can watch (and help!) the site get rolling.

Washoe House
Washoe House sign near Sebastopol, CA

Portland Outdoor
Portland Outdoor sign in (where else?) Portland, OR

More PR identity sketchiness reported by The Guardian in The fake persuaders: "Sometimes, in other words, real people have no idea that they are being managed by fake ones." [via MeFi] I'm not sure what a fake person is, but I know what the writer is getting it. It's all about honesty and disclosure.

New Weblog Bookwatch Feature : Focus Links

For every book on the Weblog Bookwatch there is a corresponding mentions page. These pages show all of the weblogs that have mentioned that particular book. The new feature: now each mention will have the option of being "focused" to a specific post. By clicking on "focus this link", you'll have the opportunity to put in the permalink location for the post that discusses that book. The link will then have a star next to it on the mention page to let people know it's referring to a specific post. The link will stand out, and the Weblog Bookwatch will be a little more useful for everyone. Instead of pointing to the general weblog URL, and having to search for the mention, people can find the relevant post instantly. It requires a little bit of copying and pasting, but those focused links will probably get a bit more traffic because they'll be more useful.

If used, focusing the links should also help differentiate between people discussing the book, and those who just have it listed in their sidebar reading list.

This feature is brand new and may have a few bugs to be worked out. If you notice anything odd, let me know. It works on the honor system, so if it's abused it'll probably go away. Hopefully we can cooperate to make it work. Thanks!

Update: To get a feel for how it works, check out the mentions page for "A New Kind of Science". I went through and focused the links for several of the weblogs.

Argh! Driving back from Yosemite the other day we were listening to some marginal radio stations. Since then I can't get Lady by Little River Band out of my head. It's driving me insane. Anytime there's a quiet moment in my head I hear a little, "Look around you, look up here. Take time to make time, make time to be there." Or worse, the chorus. I'm hoping this post will help. Anything stuck in your head at the moment? (Maybe I can have a mental battle of catchy tunes until they all destroy each other.)

Lim's Cafe
Lim's Cafe sign in Redding, CA

Douglas Rushkoff on writing: "As I see it, all writers - fiction and non-fiction - are like travel writers. We go to places that most people dont' have access to, and then write about them. Whether they are physical places, emotional places, or psychic spaces, we either have been blessed with access to them, or we are crazy enough to venture into them. Our only obligation as writers, is to report back what we've found, and to add as much or as little analysis and commentary as we feel is appropriate."

I'm co-writing a book about weblogs called We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs. (You can pre-order or add it to your wishlist at Amazon already.) I haven't mentioned it here yet, so it's about time. It has been great working on a project with Meg and Matt again.

And keep an eye on blogroots for more info.

Me and my RSS files are taking part in the <link>-a-thon. Launches Weblogs. And, of course, MeFi discusses.

NYT: Climate Changing, U.S. Says in Report. The Bush administration finally admits the climate is changing thanks to fossil fuel emissions, but their suggestion is to adapt to the changes instead of trying to stop them. It's especially sad that they know unique environments like the delicate and beautiful Rocky Mountain alpine tundra could be gone forever, but don't seem willing to do anything about it. I think the President should go on a tour of our National Parks so he can experience some of these unique places firsthand. Then he might not be as cavalier about their destruction. I know that sounds naive, but I'd like to think it's a lack of experience instead of the alternative.

Theodore Roosevelt camped in Yosemite with John Muir, and wrote about his experience. We need another camping President. (Sounds like the seed of a good Hollywood script.)

Congratulations Greg and Anju!

When you enter Yosemite, a ranger gives you a map and some other papers. One of the papers is bright yellow with bold letters: "This is active bear country!" Sometimes you'll see a large grey tube on the side of a road with a sign that says "bear trap." (a picture.) At each campsite they provide bear lockers to store your food. If you happen to leave a cooler lying around outside of a bear locker, the park rangers will confiscate it. (I found that out the hard way on my first trip to Yosemite.) These are the motions you go through when camping at Yosemite, and it's just part of the routine. Even though these bear signs and warnings are all around, it wasn't the first thing on my mind when going for a hike...until now.

The Snow Creek Trail is on the North end of the valley, and is the steepest ascent to the high country. We didn't see anyone else on the trail. (Even hiking the length of the valley to Yosemite Falls once above this initial climb, we only saw two backpackers.) The first part of the trail is switchback after switchback after switchback. About 2/3rds of the way up, with Preston in the lead, he yelled down to Chief and me, "Bear!" We all froze.

I could hear the bear rustling in the bushes, but I couldn't see it. I tried to remember everything I had casually read about what to do when you see a bear. A fuzzy algorithm appeared: if (grizzly) {play dead?} elseif (black bear) {make a lot of noise?} I couldn't remember which went with which. I calmly yelled up anyway, "What kind is it?" Preston yelled down, "It's a brown bear." That didn't help too much. Then I worked out another algorithm: startled bear = bad. I yelled up again, "Does it know we're here?" Chief said, "I think so." I was looking for an escape route, and trying to figure out the best way to go. Should I run uphill? Down the trail? We all stayed frozen. Then I had a good look at the bear as it made its way across Chief's path. I yelled up, "It's coming down Chief!" He stayed still and got an even better look at the bear as it crossed the trail about eight feet away from him. The bear made its way down across the switchbacks and through the bushes.

We regrouped a ways up the trail and tried to remember what we were supposed to do. My adrenaline was flowing, and I wasn't so cool under the pressure. I think Preston, on the other hand, got a close-up picture of the bear. With the flash!

After seeing the size of a bear, and being with one in an uncontrolled environment, I'll read those bear warnings and safety tips with a heightened awareness.

Camped in Yosemite the past couple of days and went on some spectacular hikes. I didn't take as many pictures this time around, because I was focused on surviving the trek. I survived, but I'm going to be feeling yesterday's hike for a few days. What an amazing place.

click to see more...
Yosemite Falls and Half Dome

more >>

Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley