Archive of Posts from April 2004

Simple Amazon Ads

Alan Taylor is still working on making Amazon ads that you can drop into your site (even though he's not at Amazon anymore). He just put together some simple ad widgets using Amazon Web Services and their XSLT service. Here's his description of the widgets.

Barbara Ehrenreich in Corvallis

I sure have been derelict in my blogging duty lately. If I had been keeping up, I would have mentioned that sk and I went to see Barbara Ehrenreich speak at OSU last Thursday (sort of). The LaSells Stewart auditorium was so packed when we got there, that we had to watch on a screen in an overflow room (which was also crowded). Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed about the working poor in America. She's also written nine other books, and I heard Fear of Falling mentioned a few times that night. She had a lot of great things to say on a wide range of topics, especially about the plight of people at the lower end of our economy. One figure that stuck out: an employee working in the trenches at Wal-Mart would have to work 5,000 years to make what a top-level Wal-Mart executive makes in just one year.

onfocus search

I added a search form to the side of the site thanks to the Customizable Google Free Search. search onfocus.com:

It rained on and off today, but when it wasn't raining it was sunny and warm. Here are a couple pictures I took—

Corvallis Courthouse Reflection

A tulip catching rain

(I'm not sure I like that any photos I post here in the weblog show up in the sidebar at the same time. I may have to rework that.)

talking points products

I was watching the Presidential press conference (transcript) last night, and I kept hearing the administration's talking points. You know, they're those phrases that everyone in the administration says over and over again to the media—they have a very coordinated message. And I thought the next step should be to have product tie-ins with these talking points. They're repeated so often that it's fantastic marketing. If they had products to go along with each of them, they could get this country out of debt. War-footing is a phrase that came up in Condoleeza Rice's testimony to the 9/11 comission, and the President repeated it five times last night. And an image flashed in my mind of a pair of boots with the word "freedom" on the soles. Along with the image was the sound of an ad voice-over, "Get on your war-footing with these boots so you can spread freedom!"

spring redesign

I did a bit of spring redesigning around here, so things look slightly different. There's a new photo thing on the righthand side, and the most recent photos I've posted under that. With this new ability to post just to the sidebar, you can expect to see a nonstop barrage of pet photos. There are a bunch of other goodies in the righthand sidebar now too. Even though there's more info on the page, the byte size of the page went down because everything is *knock on wood* valid XHTML. (Which means no tables! Some of the new image stuff means more bytes downloaded, though.) I really like the way matt shows images as div backgrounds on his site, so I'm overusing that on this site now.

I checked out the site in most of the big time browsers, and if something looks out of place in your browser please let me know. I know I haven't touched all of the pages that need to be changed yet, so I still have some work to do.

Corvallis is #10!

According to the recently released book Cities Ranked and Rated, Corvallis, OR (where I live) is ranked as the 10th most livable city in the US based on a number of stats. Go Corvallis! (And Portland came it at #12.) It probably doesn't hurt that the author is an OSU graduate. [via OSU Barometer]

show me the web services money

This article at Web Services Journal is the first one I've seen mention the amount of money Amazon has made directly through their web services feature: Web Services as the Holy Grail? Here's the quote: "In 2002, Amazon generated about 6.2% of their revenues, or $246 million, by using Web services to become an e-commerce platform." The wording seems a little fishy to me, so I'm not sure how accurate it is. I haven't seen Amazon talk directly about profits via AWS before.

Free Culture Remix

You've probably heard that Lawrence Lessig has a new book available, Free Culture. He released the book under a Creative Commons license, which means I can read the book in my preferred way: two sentences at a time, completely out of order. (Tough with the print version.) And now you can read his book this way too, thanks to the Free Culture Random Quote page I put together tonight.

Insomnia and Perl are a dangerous combination. (Thanks to eBooks/HelpTools for making a text version of Free Culture available.)

Jeff Barr interview on AWS

Edd Dumbill from XML.com interviewed Jeff Barr about Amazon Web Services. In the interview Jeff notes, "The REST model is particularly good [at providing fast development], since [developers] can do their prototyping and initial exploration in the browser, modifying the URL and refreshing (which I sometimes like to call 'URL surgery.')." I couldn't agree more, and I wish more people developing Web Services would realize that simplicity is key to wide adoption. (Though, as Jeff also notes, providing simplicity isn't simple.)

Today's front pages

Interesting experiment in aggregating offline content: Today's Front Pages. Newspaper front pages from around the world.

Nellie McKay in Portland

Last night I went to Portland to hear Nellie McKay play at the Aladdin Theater. I'd heard her double-cd debut, Get Away From Me and I was very interested in what her show would be like. It was just her playing a piano onstage, with no band backing her up—not that she needs a band behind her. She sings and plays like a force of nature, it was great. As Matt mentioned the other day, her music is hard to pin down to a specific genre. After the show we were talking about it as jazzy, sometimes spoken-word, david-lynchian, satirical, doris-day-on-acid sort of stuff (if that helps at all). And to top it all off, she's only 19—straight out of high-school band to touring with her own solo show. Matt posted a photo (and another) he took last night. There was a geeky moment outside the theater that went something like this:
matt: Nellie McKay is just inside the door over there.

pb: I should buy her CD and ask her to sign it.

matt: What CD? I downloaded it.

pb: Me too. Do you think she has a PGP signature?
So I didn't get an autograph. Is this something fans have considered about their stubborn insistence on downloading music? What are music artists going to sign if CDs go away? Wake up, people! The future of autographs is at stake.

eBay business in the family

My cousin Brandon has been growing a business selling companies' extra inventory on eBay. Today his company announced DropShop. The idea is that you take your stuff to a partnering mail shop, and they take a picture of it and sell it on eBay for you. It sounds like a handy service, and it'd be great if he could roll it out across the country. (It's currently limited to Lincoln, Nebraska.) Here's the DropShop website.

Kinja launch

Kinja, a personalized weblog post aggregator (that's the techie way to describe it) is live in beta form. It lets you compile one master meta-blog that contains posts from all of the weblogs you read. Congrats, Meg! Nick Denton explains Kinja in more detail.

Web = Links

Anil makes some great points about sites that don't link out: "You have no presence in the part of the web that has links."