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Wednesday 10/30/02 §

Just in time for Hallowe'en: put yourself (or anyone else) on a pumpkin. Also, don't miss the collection of literal Mac luminaries put together by Nitrozac and Snaggy of The Joy of Tech. Hurry, there's only a day left! (Boing Boing) Comment?

LiquidMetal is a new alloy that behaves like plastic at certain temperatures. At 750 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be molded like tar; when cooled quickly, it becomes twice as hard as titanium and as smooth as glass. (CamWorld) Comment?

Tuesday 10/29/02 §

The financephalograph is a hydraulic analog computer that models the effects of various inputs on the economy. Mind-bogglingly, it was invented in 1949 by a plumber studying economics -- Bill Phillips, who later went on to devise the Phillips Curve and attain a professorship. The contraption is currently on display at London's Science Museum. (Black Belt Jones) Comment?

While we're on the topic of spam, Random Hacks has some interesting links about machine learning (including the Bayesian approach and the approach used by Apple's Mail) and instructions on using Eric Raymond's Bogofilter (a UNIX Bayesian filter) with the popular rule-based filter SpamAssassin. The site's proprietor also has some suggestions about how to test your trainable spam filter. Comment?

Hashcash is a novel approach to fighting spam. The basic idea is that a hash (or checksum) is calculated for each message you send. The hash is computationally expensive to generate, so it takes a couple of seconds for each piece of e-mail you send. However, it takes almost no time for the receiving e-mail program to validate the hash. A couple of seconds' delay in sending an e-mail is small in human terms, so it won't bother individuals, but people who send bulk e-mail will find that adding the header is impractical. Thus, any e-mail with a "hashcash" checksum is extremely likely to be sent by a real human and can be filtered accordingly. (As computers get faster, the number of bits in the hash can be increased so that the required "expense" is around two seconds for most computers.) Essentially, this is electronic postage -- in order to be guaranteed of reaching my inbox, you have to demonstrate that you have wasted a certain number of billions of your CPU cycles on generating the hash. It places the cost of sending e-mail back on the sender, where it belongs. 4 comments

Monday 10/28/02 §

The true story of Jaime Escalante, the inner-city math teacher featured in the film Stand and Deliver, is a sad one. Sadder still, its sadness is not all that surprising. (Plastic) 7 comments

Apparently, Wired News is published in Portuguese through a Brazilian property of Terra Lycos. Reading Google's attempt to translate it back to English is a hoot. According to this translation, "Kindall admitted that it was a little happy when seeing that its logs were receiving as much Spam." And indeed it was so. 2 comments

It's recently struck me that an e-mail program (say, Microsoft Entourage, which happens to be what I use) would make a pretty good blogging tool. It has a decent text editor (with spelling checker) for writing your posts. It has a separate field for the subject line. It lets you assign categories and priorities and other metadata to your messages. From AppleScript, each message has a unique ID, which is important for permalinks and links to comment scripts. There's a handy place to save drafts until you're ready to publish. Entourage lets you edit messages you've already sent or received, so revising messages after you've posted them is possible. And you can easily search your messages and view them in various ways. You could also set up mailing lists for people who want to receive e-mail copies of your messages, since you're in an e-mail program already. And you have the possibility of blogging from anywhere you can send e-mail; it wouldn't matter whether messages were composed in Entourage or arrive via the Internet. (A Web posting interface could also be written; it'd just e-mail the post to wherever Entourage is expecting to pick it up.)

The basic strategy would be to write an AppleScript that generates HTML pages from a folder full of messages in Entourage (including single-post, daily, weekly, and/or monthly archive pages and indexes), and uploads them via FTP to a given site. This sounds like a fun and useful project, and I'm interested in pursuing it.

The first thing you develop in any software project, though, is the About box, which means I need a name for this hypothetical Entourage-based blogging tool. Any suggestions? 10 comments

Saturday 10/26/02 §

A Wired News article on the relatively new phenomenon of "referrer spamming" has some choice quotes from yours truly. 3 comments

Friday 10/25/02 §

MSN has a new superhero, and he's here to log... you... on! It's good to see Arthur from The Tick getting work these days. 1 comment

Thursday 10/24/02 §

Make your own bumper stickers. Start with a template (they have dozens, some of which can include your own graphics), then add your own message and preview it. Snag the GIF for your Web site or actually go ahead and order some printed on vinyl. (defective yeti) 2 comments

I've begun making some of my photographs available as desktop pictures. Well, okay, there's only one now, but more will follow in the days to come. I also have some computer-generated textures from my old Texturations site that I'll be putting up on the same page. Enjoy! 4 comments

Wednesday 10/23/02 §

Inspired by Terry Gilliam's Brazil, the ElectriClerk is an eye-popping melding of Macintosh and manual typewriter. (memepool) Comment?

Betty Crocker is so helpful! For Hallowe'en, she tells you how to make these goodies. Betty calls them broomsticks, but to me they look more like the moist, delicious severed limbs of cartoon characters! 1 comment

Tuesday 10/22/02 §

Wanna see a fookin' amazing digital photograph? Click here and be sure to read the description of how it was taken. Insane! 2 comments

Monday 10/21/02 §

Bubba Ho-Tep. Someone find these guys a distributor, quick. (The Copydesk) 3 comments

Sunday 10/20/02 §

Here's a list of free public Jabber chat servers, indicating which gateways each runs. Comment?

Saturday 10/19/02 §

East Bay Express has an interview with Adrian Tomine, creator of the underground comic Optic Nerve. (Obscure Store) Comment?

What Euroupean Tribes Think About One Another. This is actually part of an article in a Moscow alternative paper (published in English by a couple of American expatriates) that is not, shall we say, politically correct, and this is obviously intended to be funny (check out what the Belgians think of all their neighbors), but it's something to keep in mind the next time you hear Europeans talking about their more enlightened understanding of human nature. If you like what's on their site, maybe you should check out their book. (memepool) Comment?

The Onion's A.V. Club, the mostly serious part of the satire publication where you'll find the music, movie, and book reviews, asks a motley assortment of celebrities, former celebrities, and near-celebrities a simple question: Is There A God?. The result is more interesting than it has any right to be. (cheesedip) Comment?

Help for procrastinators. (CamWorld) 2 comments

Thursday 10/17/02 §

Panoramic photographs from 1851 to 1991 at the Library of Congress -- about 4000 in all, ranging from cityscapes to landscapes to group portraits. Some of what you're in for in the Disasters wing: the aftermath of a major fire in Baltimore; a blimp crash in Ohio. (Thanks, Scott) 1 comment

This car, which I used to walk past every workday, is a perfect example of a phenomenon popularly known as "rice." If you can't afford a car that actually goes fast, at least you can afford a car that looks fast, eh? This is actually rather restrained for the genre: this owner has only added a mile-high wing, a tailpipe, and euro-style lights. There are far more egregious offenders in the world.

I hasten to add that I drive a ten-year-old Buick I bought from my uncle, so I'm not generally one to make fun of others' cars. But I'm not the one pretending a front-drive car needs extra downforce on the rear wheels. 8 comments

In case you hadn't noticed, I've recently begun updating the right sidebar again with current reviews of what I'm reading and listening to. Sorry to have let it become so decrepit. Comment?

My good friend Dean Esmay is running an excellent piece by his friend Paul Fallon about America's first war on terror. Comment?

Wednesday 10/16/02 §

Another year, another layoff. Sigh. Anyone got any work for an excellent technical writer, preferably in the Seattle area? 11 comments

Tuesday 10/15/02 §

Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions -- ten new short films from Aardman Animations, available exclusively on the Internet, ten bucks for the bunch. (Your first one's free.) Comment?

Monday 10/14/02 §

Lab Notes from the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Okay, they misspelled Yogi Berra's name on the front page, but it's still an interesting overview of current research on topics ranging from nuclear reactors to image browsing. (Boing Boing) Comment?

Since 1976, Diego Golberg has been photographing his entire family on June 17 of every year. The way the pictures are arranged makes it possible to scroll down and get a sort of "time lapse" of each individual's life. (MetaFilter) 1 comment

Cocoa gestures is a Mac OS X add-on that lets you add mouse gestures to Cocoa applications, including Mail, Chimera, and OmniWeb. (Interconnected) Comment?

Men Behaving Badly is a fascinating New York Times report on same-sex sexual harassment cases in the workplace. (randomWalks) Comment?

Thursday 10/10/02 §

The Origins of Writing. (dangerousmeta) Comment?

It's official: there's no reason anymore to spend time adding META keywords tags to all your Web pages. (#!/usr/bin/girl) 3 comments

This is what it sounds like when pigs fly. Andy Feehan develops an obsession to tattoo wings onto a pig and, later, a hairless dog. The most bizarre thing you'll read all day, I promise. (MetaFilter) 1 comment

Wednesday 10/9/02 §

Roadtrip America has a pretty sizable gallery of amusing signs from across the country. (Thanks, Jaddie) 1 comment

Tuesday 10/8/02 §

Lost America: Night photographs of the abandoned roadside West. (MetaFilter) 1 comment

Jeremy Bowers rants (rather mild-manneredly, actually) about the pitfalls of using metaphors in debate. Some good points here, and I resolve to use fewer metaphors in my arguments. (dangerousmeta) 3 comments

Friday 10/4/02 §

Not the Bible. (Warning: pop-ups; turn off JavaScript.) (Flutterby!) Comment?

Covers are songs originally written and/or recorded by one artist and later reinterpreted by another. (I would exclude the work of artists who were primarily songwriters rather than performers, as well as songs old enough to have become "standards.") One of my favorites is Michael Hedges' live version of "All Along the Watchtower," which sounds like it's being performed by about three guys but no, it's just Hedges. Devo's reworking of the Stones' "Satisfaction" is notorious for how little it sounds like the original, but Aztec Camera's version of Van Halen's "Jump" is almost as radical in its own way -- the first time I heard it, it took me until the first chorus to realize why I knew all the lyrics to the song even though I'd never heard it before. I heard an interesting cover of "Be My Baby" by a group called Ivy on KEXP recently; apparently their latest album is all covers. A lot of people like Tori Amos's version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and I've heard a bluegrass rendition of Ratt's "Round and Round" done by the Meat Purveyors that works surprisingly well. I also like Cake's "I Will Survive" cover.

To me, a good cover takes a familiar song and gives it an unfamiliar twist, or just plain makes it part of the artist's own ouvre. What are some of your favorite covers? Don't be shy, now... 29 comments

Tuesday 10/1/02 §

I remembered reading a review of a recent book where the author spent a year with typical suburban high school students and interviewed them repeatedly about their experiences. It sounded interesting and so I made a mental note to add it to my wish list. And promptly forgot the name of the book, its author, and even where I read the review.

Google was no help, but AnswerBus, a new experimental natural language search engine, proved itself up to the task. Check out #5 on this results page -- the book is Another Planet by Elinor Burkett. Compare to these nearly useless results from Ask Jeeves. AnswerBus is going right to my top tier of search engines. (ResearchBuzz) 2 comments

Postmodern urban legends. (robot wisdom) Comment?

Excuse me, but what the heck? I guess it's okay as long as you don't pelorian. Apple fans should be sure to check out that last image. (everlasting blort via Lauren) 3 comments

Courage defined. This put tears in my eyes. (randomWalks) 1 comment

If you use a Windows machine, you've probably noticed that my photos look a little dark sometimes. This is because they're corrected to a Macintosh gamma setting, and Windows uses a different (darker) gamma that requires the photo to be lightened a little to look good. Starting today, I'm using a Java applet in my Gallery to display the full-size images for Wndows users, letting me adjust the gamma of each image "on the fly" as it is displayed. (The applet has a lot of other features as well, which I'm not using.) If you're using a Mac or have Java turned off in your browser, you'll get the usual Mac-gamma JPEG. (What's gamma?) Comment?

Stocks to avoid if you're a Christian. Remember, God hates bad customer service, like that provided by Dish Network and DirecTV! (Plastic) 3 comments