Friday, December 31, 2004

Sinister Dexter's New Year's Eve @ The Lost & Found Saloon

In San Francisco? Searching for a fantastic, nay, a SUPER-FANTASTIC New Year's Eve? Well, cease your searching and join Sinister Dexter @ the Lost and Found Saloon in North Beach.

A big band with 17 musicians onstage. Live Music from 9:30 till 1:30. $30 cover. Antimatter will be served. Funk. Blues. Swing. Latin. See you there.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Best of Craigslist

So (like me) you're at work during The Quiet Week, the monastic period between Christmas and New Year's Day during which time business is more-or-less stuck in a holding pattern.

Give yourself a break and peruse a webpage that has just been getting funnier and funnier since it started more than 4 years ago. Appreciate the best of craigslist, an assemblage of the funniest posts ever listed on this more-and-more useful and more-and-more popular site.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I Thought The Sky Would Make A Louder Noise When It Fell

Well, either Russian ICBMs are already in the air, or CNN's current take on the S&P 500 is a little bit off.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Sinister Dexter on iTunes

Sinister Dexter is now available on iTunes. Now it's easy to enjoy Dexter a la carte or on thy iPod.

In case you're curious, our placement on iTunes was facilitated by CDBaby, an online distribution service for independent musicians. We signed up with CDBaby back in August. It took them about 130 days to get our stuff placed on iTunes.

Friday, December 17, 2004

A Tale of Two Bridges

During the same week that the French open a breathtaking and marvelous new bridge, the Governator announces that the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge will not be the distinctive design currently in progress, but shall be a far less expensive option utterly without artistic merit.

With California on the verge of bankrupcy, cost savings are on Ahhhnold's mind -- but supporters of a grander span think that he should consider the psychological impact of a more beautiful bridge.

On NPR, San Francisco architect John Kriken notes that, "cities are reflections of their aspirations at any given time. One generation gives us these great bridges... our generation is giving us something equivalent to an expressway." Kriken also notes that the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge's equally impressive western span were built during the Great Depression, yet their builders still managed to include aesthetic qualities that we Bay Area denizen find grand today.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Scare Tactics Newspaper Predicts Scary Times Ahead

It's almost never useful to read the Washington Times, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon owned newspaper that mostly serves as a printed amalgamation of the Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh; however, you might be interested in reading this prognostication by Arnaud de Borchgrave.

...that is, you might be interested in reading it if you're not easily depressed.

...and if you smile a bit when the National Enquirer predicts apocalypse year after year.

Like a Dick Cheney speech, Borchgrave's predictions could be summed up in one word, "Boo!"

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Not Fooling Anybody

Not Fooling Anybody is a photoblog with a single purpose: To highlight small businesses growing up inside the carcasses of ex-Taco Bells, ex-Pizza Huts, ex-IHOPs, and other immediately recognizable chain businesses whose distinct architecture dots the American landscape.

Note Gilstrap Chiropratic, living within the shell of an old KFC.

Gaze upon Oasis Pool & Spa, making its way from within an old Pizza Hut.

You can't get a burrito at this ex-Taco Bell, but you can get a loan against your car.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Don't Stop, Don't Look, Don't Listen

I know I've blogged about this before, but the extent of the robots.txt file at is truly breathtaking.

For the uninitiated, this particular file is created by some webmasters to inform search engines like Google or services like the Internet Archive as to which pages and directories are effectively off-limits -- online information contained therein is not supposed to be searched or cached.

A quick look at the Internet Archive shows how the Clinton Administration didn't even have any restrictions like this in place. Under Bush's watch, this off-limits list has grown and grown, making it increasingly difficult to keep track of how his administration revises history under our very noses.

Here's the bit on Talking Points Memo today that brought this issue back to mind.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Subpoena Novak Now!

I'm in favor of journalists protecting their sources; however, before Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine and The New York Times' Judith Miller move one inch closer to a jail cell, the Justice Department must subpoena or indict Robert Novak, the unofficial Bush mouthpiece who initiated the entire Valerie Plame episode through his questionable judgment.

The longer that Novak escapes the scrunity applied to his far-less-culpable colleagues, the more our Justice Department seems to have failed to equally apply our nation's laws.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Do You Think He Made It Himself?

If you sew a bunch of patches on a Member's Only jacket, does that make it a uniform?

Friday, December 03, 2004


I'm normally not one to blog about online music, but this song's got me in its grip.

Damien Rice has a great video of a live performance of his song Volcano (Real Media link) on his website.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

EPIC 2014

If you have the patience to appreciate a slowly-developing 5-minute online movie, you'll enjoy Robin Sloan's EPIC 2014, a prognostication set in 2014 that looks back to the events (from 1989-2014) that lead to the demise of traditional media.

Sloan depicts a mildly dystopian portrait of technology and democracy challenging editorial wisdom. This future shows a society where myriad points-of-view paint the world in shades of yellow journalism.

In EPIC 2014, blogs and social networks (and their affluent, paranoid technological patrons) harm our society by sacrificing the professional attitude toward media and media ethics so carefully cultivated during the 20th century.

Today, to read the Drudge Report is to know the power of an editor whose personal foibles outweigh his journalistic principles, and therefore to understand how the seeds of Sloan's EPIC 2014 have already been sown.

Monday, November 29, 2004

My Firstborn Shall be Named Happenstance O'Balderdash Le Folderol

Not to be outdone by Gwyneth Paltrow and her baby Apple, Julia Roberts has decided to name her newborn twins Phinneaus and Hazel.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Additional Context for the Mosque Shooting

All you news junkies have seen the video or read the story of the US Marine killing a gravely wounded insurgent in a Fallujah mosque.

To get a better understanding of the complex situation surrounding this tragic act, read the blog of the journalist who was embedded with that unit and shot the footage.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Greek Lawyers: Alexander's Relationship With Hephaistion Was Strictly Platonic

Any blushing freshman studying humanities at an American college will tell you that casual homosexuality was socially acceptable among male citizens of Ancient Greece. However, a group of peeved Greek lawyers want you to know that Oliver Stone's portrayal of a bi-sexual Alexander the Great amounts to little more than salacious allegations.

I'm glad this issue is hitting the press right now. After homosexuality was simplified and demonized by Radical Christian Clerics in the run-up to the US presidential election, shining some light on the complex relationships among males in Early Greece will force some people to see same sex relationships in a new light.

Liberals/Progressives/Democrats/Religious Lefties,

Please refrain from using the phrases Christian Fundamentalists or The Religious Right to refer to Pat Robertson and his ilk. Both are hidden compliments. Please use Radical Christian Clerics.

That is all,

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I'll Be Attending a Speech on Speeches

I was one of the founding crew at my company. But, since I have no discernable technical skills, the title on my business card reads, ahem... Director of Marketing.

Since this title gives people the false impression that I know Thing One about the highly specialized and decidedly frightening area of marketing, occasionally companies send me silly promotions directed toward Directors of Marketing.

Case in point, this is a tradeshow on tradeshows. Yikes.

Adoration in Any Language

My friend Mark has started writing an online column for Google's Orkut service.

How does this sudden online fame change his world? Well, now Mark gets to contend with broken English fanmail.

I love the stark poetic quality of these notes. Mariane tells Mark:

I call Mary
I am Brazilian
but I am liveing
in japao.

Procuro friendship
and also much understanding
therefore I am new in orkut
and wait its here


Who can argue with that?

President George H. W. Bush: Fashion Maven

How daring.

Khaki after Labor Day. In Little Rock, of all places...

Source: Yahoo!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

New Education Secretary Fighting Style!

You are strong, Lo Fei, but have you seen my Twin Goose With a Kleenex style?!?! (Sensei Bush looks on, pleased with his pupil. "You are learning, grasshopper," he thinks.)


This is an auspicious beginning, but Margaret Spellings will need to diligently train if she wants to match the 1000 Fighting Styles of Donald Rumsfeld.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Wild Thing, You Make Our Sales Sing

I'd be bummed if Pfizer had to pull its Wild Thing Viagra ads. This ad was the first to broach that hot topic among the Viagra/Cialis/Levitra/Swedish Miracle Pump set: Trophy Wives. In the Wild Thing ad, the woman walking around with the Viagra'd man is easily 15 years his junior.

Had the FDA not stepped in, I'm sure that an ad for recreational Viagra use would have been forthcoming.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

If We Did It This Way, I Guess Bush Would Be Mr. America

A strange factoid:

The British Royal family don't really have surnames.

Well, they do have a surname (Mountbatten-Windsor), but the usage of their surname is strange enough that Prince Henry, who recently joined the British Army, will come to be referred to as Mr. Wales, Officer Cadet Wales, or simply Wales.

Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor's formal title is His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Find the Velveeta

Based on Monday’s post, you might think that I’m intentionally avoiding a discussion of politics, eschewing it for lighter fare. In a way, you’d be right. During Democratic Party Introspection Month™, I’ve found my political itches scratched by Talking Points Memo, Andrew Sullivan, Eschaton, Daily Kos, & Wonkette. If you’re unfamiliar with these politoblogs, I highly recommend checking them out.

In the meantime, I’ll be sticking to the namesake of the blog: Commenting about things I encounter while sauntering, whether it be sauntering online or about the town.

Today, it’s cheese. Well, not really cheese. Velveeta.

Velveeta is the most difficult item to locate in the grocery store.

I challenge you: Go to any unknown grocery store. Locate the Velveeta.

Took forever, didn't it? Why the confusion? Well, Velvetta is the un-cheese. Cheese is not an ingredient in Velveeta; however, people use it like cheese. Before it’s opened, Velveeta doesn’t need to be refrigerated. You could put in anywhere in a grocery store. In my experience, those stocking the shelves do stick it anywhere.

The Mollie Stone’s store near me dignifies Velveeta. They place Velveeta on a shelf near actual cheese. Separate but equal. It's a yellow-orange neighborhood.

The nearest Safeway slanders Velveeta. They place it in the cracker/chips/snacks/bad-for-you section, next to the squeezy cheese. Velveeta may be a lot of things, but it is not cheese from a can. C’mon. People actually cook with Velveeta. (By people, I mean me. By cook, I mean make nachos).

Another local Safeway actively tries to hide the Velveeta. Since oils are the primary ingredients in this loaf of cheezy endurance, the shelf stockers plop the Velveeta amongst the oils. Olive Oil. Canola. Velveeta. Incredibly odd.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Complex Instructions for the World's Most Ordinary Task

This post is far grosser than my usual fare, so the easily concerned/offended should just stop reading now.

On yesterday's All Things Considered, author Ken Smith discussed his work on Junk English, a multifaceted problem that afflicts our language. Smith complains that whether it be Wal-Mart's sales associates (rather than salespeople) or the CIA's intelligence assets (instead of spies), English speakers are choosing complexity over clarity, ultimately harming our everyday communication.

This morning, I spotted some rather awkward Junk English during a visit to the doctor for a routine physical. As part of the physical, the doctor required a urine sample (...see, I warned you it would be gross). On the urine sample cup were written three instructions:

  1. Clean the Uro-Genital Area.
  2. Begin Voiding.
  3. Capture the Sample Midstream.

Although it was the Begin Voiding that caught my eye, each step is really a separate work of linguistic art.

I'm not sure what a Uro-Genital Area is, but there was a can of spray disinfectant in the doctor's bathroom. Maybe I was supposed to clean around the commode. If so, I left that step unstepped.

Begin Voiding is a pretty good name for an album. Voiding? Come on. If Urinate really makes you blush that much, maybe you just shouldn't be the copywriter at the pee cup factory.

Lastly, I really enjoy the use of Capture in the last step. Such active language really changes this procedure from being a gross-out chore to a fun game of Capture The Pee.

There. Now that I've given you far too much information, you may move along. Go on. Shoo.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It's Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better

With Feinstein getting involved in the fray, Democrats are going to start piling on Gavin Newsom.

Regardless of Democratic in-fighting and wound-licking that's bound to occur, I still agree strongly with Josh Marshall: Time is not on the side of the kind of values and politics that President Bush represents.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bipartisan Opposition of the Electoral College?

If there was no Electoral College, the 2004 Presidential Election would be over.

During the 2000 Election (when Gore won the popular vote by 500,000 votes), it seemed as if only the Democrats had reason to oppose the antiquated Electoral College. However, Bush looks to have won the popular vote by nearly 3 million this time around, yet the Electoral College winner is still in doubt.

Though things look dire for Democrats, all observers acknowledge that Kerry could conceivably win -- even though he lost the the popular vote by a significant margin. It's time to bury this antique and move to direct democratic election of the President.

Proponents of the Electoral College will talk about how it empowers small states, and how it means the President needs broad support. Yet, to watch cable news is to be reminded how provincial we are made by a state-dominated electoral system. As I hear Chris Matthews looking for agreement among his peers that Blue States look down upon Red States, I long for a system doesn't use the states as anti-democratic interference in the message of the people.

It'll be really hard to get rid of Electoral College -- it requires a constitutional amendment -- so let's get an amendment moving through Congress while the absurdity of the 2000 and 2004 elections is still fresh in our minds.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

If Ifs And Ands Were Pots And Pans...

Whomever is Elected…

  • Will America continue to accept a media dominated by punditry and bias, or will they begin to demand a straighter story from their media sources?

If Bush Wins…
  • Will he act as if he received a 400 Electoral Vote mandate?
  • Who will remain from his cabinet?
  • Will the Democrats retreat from this administration or will they stay in the contest, battling an administration that they so desperately oppose?
  • Will Bush attempt to move to the center? What would that even look like?
  • Can the Republicans stay united, or will fiscal conservatives and libertarians break away from religious evangelicals?

If Kerry Wins…
  • Can Kerry and the Democrats put forward a platform that is policy-based, as opposed to merely anti-Bush?

If the Electoral Vote is a 269-269 tie…
  • At least people will realize that America is first a republic, then a democracy.


Did I think that Kerry would lose Florida by this much? No way.

Fingers still crossed on Ohio, but I don't think that it'll look good by midnight Pacific tonight.

Election Central -- Patxi's Pizza

I've set up Presidential Election camp with Garth Patil at Patxi's Pizza in Palo Alto. We look like Princes of Dorkdom.

Don Hoffman, Scott McKissen, and Steph are due soon. Only then will our grouchy, liberal quintet be complete...

The Poor Voter on Election Day

This morning, NPR re-introduced the country to:

The Poor Voter on Election Day
by John Greenleaf Whittier
December 23, 1852

The proudest now is but my peer
The highest not more high.
Today, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I!

Today alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known.
My place is the people's hall,
The ballot box my throne.

Who serves today upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!

The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong today.
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.

Today let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide.
I set a plain man's common sense
Against the pedant's pride.

Today shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land;
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand.

While there's a grief to seek redress
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon's vilest dust -

While there's a right to need my vote
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! Clouted knee and ragged coat -
A man's a man today!

National Review Ready to Implode

Election Day panic at arch-conservative National Review is black comedy at its best. It's like 1,000 Haldemans as a Neo-Watergate crashes down around them.

Watch the rats abandon the sinking ship.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Time for Change: Vote John Kerry

When I sent in my absentee ballot 2 weeks ago, I voted for John Kerry for President of the United States. Nothing in the intervening 14 days has swayed my opinion one iota. We need a new President sworn in on January 20th. We need a fresh start.

I’ll spare a bunch of tempting theatrics concerning an obvious endorsement from this all-but-unknown blog. I’ll just point out two pro-Kerry rationale that I feel have been underrepresented in the all endorsements that I’ve read.

Time for Change: Compromise
In an electoral season punctuated with savage attacks, Bush accusing Kerry of flip-flopping was one of the less-pointed jabs that he and his minion made against Kerry. Accusing someone of inappropriately changing his or her mind is a double-edged sword – a sword that I believe will cut Bush at the ballot box tomorrow.

Changing one’s mind when the situation dictates or finding compromise with an entrenched opposition are positive traits for dynamic leadership. These are traits that Governor Bush advertised in his 2000 campaign (Remember an end to “playing politics” in Washington?) and they are traits that President Bush utterly lacks and completely disrespects.

Granted, Bush abruptly changes his mind – as when he suddenly let fly on Good Morning America that he thinks gay civil unions are okay (What about those 11 state amendments banning any kind of gay partnership recognition? Does he now oppose these measures?) – but Bush’s changes of heart occur in a one-sided manner. This move, and others like it, are Machiavellian calculations designed to gain maximum political advantage.

We need someone willing to compromise. Bush has provided us with enough Inpendent Yankee Cowboy moments to fill 5 presidencies.

Time for Change: Moving On From 9/11
The events of September 11, 2001 transformed the attitudes of Americans about security, identity, and our place in the world. We’re still in the shadow of those towers, adjusting our domestic and foreign policy in a climate of uncertainty.

President Bush was at the reins on 9/11, but it could have been President Gore. Heck, in a bizarro world where we didn’t have the 22nd amendment, it could have still been President Bill Clinton.

Bush’s squad bumbled quite a bit, but who wouldn’t have bumbled?

Would a Democrat have built a more effective Department of Homeland Security?

Would a Democrat have enlisted all of NATO (or – dare think it – the UN) into unseating Saddam?

Would a Democrat have had the courage to back away from rash decisions when his blood boiled?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. From where I sit, these questions hardly matter. Whether Bush & company like it or not, they carry the mark of our post-9/11 confusion. Had their performance been superhuman, I’d probably encourage you to keep them in office. Their performance has been only human, so I encourage you to let them go.

It’s time to let go of the immediate aftermath of 9/11 by letting go of the leaders of America’s post-9/11 reaction. Let’s see how another set of talented people guide our country through these uncertain times.

Let’s move to the next chapter of American history, the chapter where America reconsiders its place in the world. Let’s move on.

Poll All You Want...

...but every online gambling house in England has Kerry as the favorite with 24 hours left. (Thanks, John!)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Close My Eyes, She's Somehow Closer Now

This upcoming weekend, I plan on writing what feels like my 90th post regarding the upcoming election. I hope to cover two items: [1] I plan on endorsing a presidential candidate (guess who?) and [2] I’m going to engage in a little armchair prognostication, discussing what the world will be like if Kerry is elected, and vice versa.

But for today, more light-hearted fare:

On a run last night, I was lucky enough to hear Ed Ward’s review of Brian Wilson’s 37-years-in-the-making album, SMiLE. (The review’s audio link is the bottom one on the linked HTML page)

Ed’s review is wonderful, and I’m happy that Wilson has finally completed this work. After the review, KQED played a great big chunk of Good Vibrations, the central track of SMiLE (of course, Good Vibrations was released in 1966, shortly after it was recorded; however, it was released as a single, not as a track in a larger album).

Running to Good Vibrations (iTunes link) felt, well… good. This song profoundly influenced rock music, challenging McCartney and Lennon to produce Sgt. Pepper and the White Album.

But a seminal place in rock history wasn’t why Good Vibrations soothed me. Good Vibrations does something else for me, something important. It manages to incorporate conflict, contradiction, and confusion into a central theme while retaining a hang-in-there inspirational quality.

For so many people, these days feel shifting and dangerous, important and decisive. Good Vibrations reminds me that uncertainty isn’t necessarily negative. Uncertainty can be neutral, even positive. When Wilson penned this song, the times – they were a-changin’. Same as now.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Triumph in a John Stewart mood

If you liked a fired-up John Stewart on Crossfire last week, you'll love Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog in the spinroom after the third presidential debate.

(Patience on the movie download. It takes a looooooong time.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Plausible Deniability is the New Black

Look good as you move humanity ever closer to Ragnarok. They are Banana Republicans.

The New, New Scarcity: Personal Wikipedia Entries

The web creates amusing scarcities of language.

During the e-heyday, the race to lease a short, business-worthy domain name resulted in companies with names that seemed like (a) random adjective/noun combinations or (b) little more than short strings of Latin characters. Bluedog. Beenz. For Pete's sake, someone even bothered to lease

Around the same time, a perceived scarcity of email handles appeared. Suddenly, we weren't just or, we were or With the semi-launch of Gmail this year, Yetties had another land-grab on their hands. Will you be, or the lesser

I know that this background information is old news, but here's the real deal: From a cultural zeitgeist perspective, Wikipedia 2004 is Google 1999. Wikipedia grows more popular and more useful everyday. With the growth of Wikipedia, a new type of online scarcity will appear.

You can learn a lot about famous people on Wikipedia, Grover Cleveland, for example.

You can also learn about Donald Hoffman, but he's not famous. Don plays trombone in Sinister Dexter, a band in which we are both members.

I defined Donald Hoffman about 30 minutes ago. I got dibs. Normal people are going to start getting Wikipedia entries, and you may wake up to find out that your name is defined as someone else.

Other Donald Hoffmans could appear on the scene, but Wikipedia already has a definition for Donald Hoffman. They'll have to be Donald L. Hoffman or Donnie Hoffman... that is, unless I define those, too.

Sure, people could change the definition of these words to resemble the life story of a different Donald Hoffman, but (a) that would take a lot of damn gall and (b) I think the primacy of my posting on the topic would tip the revert-war balance my way in the eyes of the Wikipedia masters.

Even people with unique or multi-cultural names, like, say, Garth Patil are not safe from other Garth Patils preempting the moniker's definition. Generally speaking, however, the degree to which your name resembles the names of other internet users will correlate closely to the time it takes for its definition to get swooped up.

Go get defined.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Jon Stewart Hacks Crossfire

This weekend, set aside 10 minutes and read the transcript from today's Crossfire program. You don't need to really start reading until the guest for the evening, Jon Stewart, joins the program.

Stewart's appearance was supposed to be simply a book talk, a tour stop to pitch The Daily Show's new book. Instead, Stewart took the opportunity to browbeat the Crossfire hosts and critic the negative role that partisan media plays in today's political climate.

It takes a lot of gall to say the things that Stewart said, and a world of smarts to say them at the breakneck pace that they came out. Way to go, Jon.

Watching Bush Supporters Turn On One Of Their Own

To the extent that words like Conservative or Liberal retain any meaning in American society, Andrew Sullivan has long been one of the most well-known Conservative bloggers (on par with InstaPundit).

Andrew Sullivan also happens to be gay. He took no offense at Kerry's comment during the final Presidential debate -- the somewhat strange shout-out to Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. You know, the one that made Mrs. Cheney go insane.

How are Sullivan's readers greeting his candor on the topic? With anger, apparently.

He doesn't have commenting on his blog, so you'll have to speculate on what people are emailing him.

His defensiveness since the final debate speaks volumes about the attacks he must be enduring from the Far Right.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Google Desktop Search

If you're a Windows user who uses Microsoft Office programs, consider trying out Google's new Desktop Search. As you'd expect from the name, it searches through all the text in your local files, displaying results in a Googlish way.

Holy cow. I've been playing with it for about an hour, and it appears to be way more useful than the standard document search that comes with Windows.

Here's what the Slashdot crowd is saying about it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Icelandic Birds Do It, Vietnamese Bees Do It...

Cole Porter may have known that all kinds of creatures fall in love, but he never conducted a comprehensive survey on global attitudes about sex.

Each year, condom manufacturer Durex surveys people the world over, asking a wide range of questions about bedroom behavior. This year they made 350,000 people blush with questions ranging from sexual concerns to who should teach sex education to who has the most sex (Yes, it's the French).

A host of fascinating statistics emerge from the survey, most of which are far too ribald for a family blog.

One stat that (sadly) caught my eye: More than one in 10 Indians (11%) surveyed had not heard of the common STDs mentioned in the "sexual concerns" portion of the survey. That's almost three times the global average (4%).

An Intersection Too Far

I think I may have a double standard when it comes to fuzz-busting car technology.

Unlike the Canadian police, I don't automatically think that the people who buy radar detectors are wanton law breakers.

American society has a touch-and-go relationship with speed limits. Whether it's on a 25 miles-per-hour residential avenue or the 65 miles-per-hour freeway, many otherwise law-abiding citizens find themselves speeding. Although the section of the populace that buys radar detectors may more aggressively speed, I still consider their sale appropriate.

On the other hand, I consider people who buy PhotoBlocker to be wanton law breakers.

People who decide to run red lights are in a completely different category than casual or accidental speeders. You don't buy this product unless you're planning on running red lights. I'm surprised that marketing something like this is legal.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Here's to Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida, one of the most influential philosophers of our time, died on Friday at 74.

Highlighting the messianic and religious tones of professional philosophy, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (a book that rarely left my side during my undergraduate and masters degrees in Religious Studies) refuses to grant a personal entry for any philosopher who is still living. I guess now it's time for Jacques' entry, and for his intellectual history to join a history of ideas that he profoundly influenced.

My favorite philosopher, Richard Rorty, once said, "Of all the philosophers of our time (Derrida) has been the most effective at doing what Socrates hoped philosophers would do: breaking the crust of convention, questioning assumptions never before doubted, raising issues never before discussed."

Here's to you, Jacques.

Who's the Black Sheep?

Larry Lessig points out a video remix of the first Presidential debate which will delight Kerry supporters.

p/s For you music fans out there, the audio is Black Sheep's "The Choice is Yours" (iTunes link)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Frankly, My Dear, You're a Distraction From Our Work in Afghanistan

We need to work on President Bush's pronunciation.

When he says terrorists, I hear a marriage of tourists and terse.

Also, it's clear that the last 3+ years have constituted a War on Tara.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Good Grades For Incomplete Work

Add Grade Inflator to the list of names you could call Robert Novak.

Novak (to me, he'll always be White House Waterboy Extraordanaire) is convinced that Bush won tonight's debate, giving Bush's performance a A-/B+ average (B on content, A on delivery). Although he provided no online commentary after the first debate, Novak claims that Bush seemed a "ninny" back in Florida... a debate in which Novak gave Bush a B/B- (B on Content, B- on Delivery).

As you can see, in Novak's world the line between winner and ninny is a fairly narrow one; however, what I find odd is that Bush's ninny grade is still higher than his Yale GPA.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wal-Mart: Its Own Private Bentonville

Congratulations, Wal-Mart.

In your relentless quest to homogenize the earth, you've just won permission from the Mexican government to build a discount store less than one mile away from the ancient and awe-inspiring pyramids of Teotihuacan. From the sound of it, most locals didn't like the idea, but those locals lost.

Sometimes I wonder why Wal-Mart insists on expanding into areas where they meet a lot of local resistance. Are they simply oblivious to the concept that a megastore might negatively impact a certain community?

I wonder this, then I search for "bentonville arkansas," the rural Arkansas town that is (quite incredibly) Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters. Wal-Mart is a very centralized organization. Big decisions, like deciding to build a discount store near ancient pyramids or to get Wal-Mart involved in local LA politics in an effort to build a superstore, are made in Bentonville.

Having grown up in rural America, I'm hesitant to culturally character-assassinate a place simply by virtue of it being located in a rural area, but look at Bentonville. Look again. Roughly 20,000 souls live in Bentonville.

Wanna visit Bentonville? Here are the closest major cities:
Little Rock, Arkansas is 214 miles away.
Kansas City, Missouri is 213 miles away.
Tulsa, Oklahoma is close. It's only 115 miles away.

I haven't visited Bentonville, but my experience is that the size of a community in the United States is a significant factor in determining the level of cultural diversity in that community. The other factor is distance from a major metropolitan area. People that live and work in small communities near big US cities encounter cultural diversity on a level akin to those who live and work in the city proper. On both these metrics, Bentonville looks quite rural.

My experience is that cultural diversity is the best teacher of cultural sensitivity. Here's what I'm wondering: If Wal-Mart's headquarters were located in a larger or more cosmopolitan community, would the organization itself be more culturally sensitive?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sometimes Dick Cheney Lies When the Truth Will Do

In his comedy act, Steve Harvey famously (and hilariously) noted a distinct quality of all men:

Every man in here... (long pause)


Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie!

OH GOD, we love to lie!

We will lie when the truth will do!

...we'll tell a lie anyway.
Our sitting Vice President is generally a master of the untruth, lying convincingly about matters of state both large and small.

Sometimes, however, Mr. Cheney is just off his game -- as when he told the all-but-pointless lie last night about never having met Senator Edwards. It turns out he's met Edwards on several occasions. (Of course, maybe Cheney's standard of "meeting" someone is just very high... I dunno, maybe it's like "knowing" someone in the Bible.)

It's a sad fact concerning this administration that a large portion of the populace just expects that they're lying when they talk. Jon Stewart knows this. Watch him catch the Vice President with his pants on fire (Quicktime link). (via mmeiser)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Faster, Cheaper, Built Ford Tough

Garth was on hand to take pictures of SpaceShipOne for Wired Magazine. That's super-duper cool.

I'd just like to point out that Burt Rutan's equivalent of the giant shuttle transport pad appears to be a Ford F-150 with a topper. This is one transport platform that I'm willing to bet somebody sleeps in.

Hey, hey. Ho, ho. We coeds want these dudes to go.

I've been on a name-calling kick since last Wednesday. Can't get our little social characterizations out of my mind.

A couple questions:

  • Isn't it astonishing that it is still appropriate (in many circles) to refer to a collegiate woman as a coed? Of all the epithets born in the last century, that's on the short list of those I'm surprised to see in use. It seems to be a newspaper word, one you're more likely to see in print than hear casually spoken.

  • Does anybody else out there think that the term dude has suddenly been stripped of its exclusively masculine charater? A woman who is one of my wife's best friends uses this term as a universal descriptor: Men are dudes. Women are dudes. I'm not sure, but I think pets might be dudes, too. Is this becoming the norm?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Geeks, Nerds, & Dorks

Geek. Nerd. Dork.

Somewhat permissible four-letter words. The Holy Trinity of playground epithets.

In my early 80's childhood, these were synonyms. The Tri-Lambdas were nerds, but they could have just as easily been geeks or dorks.

With the dawn of the NerdASDAQ, the spectacled set became awkward social overlords. Alex Rodriguez may make a lot of money playing baseball -- $25 million per year at the time of this writing -- but he'd have to make that salary for 192 years to have as much money as Bill Gates has right now.

As the keys to the kingdom now come in a nerdy box, people now use the terms geek, nerd, & dork with a greater degree of linguistic accuracy.

Geek now conveys a high degree of interest in a geeky topic. What's a geeky topic? Observe The Geek Hierarchy, grasshopper. (via Ann Maria Bell)

Being called a geek is no longer that bad, unless the term is used by others to describe you to someone you're interested in dating.

However strange it sounds, it appears that Nerd was a term coined by Dr. Seuss. Quite the schoolyard bully, that Seuss.

Nerd still retains some of its grade school nastiness; however, I've found that adults almost exclusively say it in a loving way, with a smile. The most frequent usage of the term is in the phrase, "You are such a nerd!" after you've betrayed a truly geeky personal interest. (Again, refer to The Geek Hierarchy to understand an activity's level of geekiness. You can examine the Frequently Paraprased Questions if you're still baffled.)

Dork is still bad, almost meaner than it was back in the day.

I don't buy Webster's definition, placing dork between nerd and jerk. Show me these jerk nerds. Besides, nerk or jerd would work perfectly well to describe these people.

In the linguistic circles I run in, dork is rapidly becoming the new jerk.

Anyway, none of this may interest you. That is, unless you're a nerdy geek like me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

What's in a Name? Cash.

Having tolerated a decade of 3Com Park, Bay Area sports fans were just getting used to the 49ers playing in Candlestick Park when the team decided to lease naming rights to Monster Cable Products, resulting in... ahem, Monster Park.

California Geology & Geography

I was tempted to blog today's quake the moment I felt it, but I resisted.

I cannot resist, however, blogging this quote from the first story on the event: "In nearby Redwood City, the quake delayed the murder trial of Scott Peterson after a juror reported feeling the tremors." (emphasis mine)

The earthquake was in Parkfield. As Yahoo! maps will tell you, Redwood City is 193 miles from Parkfield.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Why Phone Keypads and Calculator Keypads Differ

I won't say I've often wondered, but I've sometimes had occasion to wonder why touch-tone phones and calculator have different number layouts. Both devices have digits 0-9, laid out in three rows... yet, "1" is on the top of the phone keypad and on the bottom of the calculator keypad.

The Calculator Reference has 3 pundits weigh in regarding why these everyday devices differ in this subtle (and nerdy) way.

In a nutshell: The calculator was laid out first. There are many reasons why the phone's layout is different. Perhaps the strongest rationale for placing "1" at the top of a touch-tone phone was to make its layout akin to the number layout of the rotary phone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

If Bush Wins...

Silbakor points to various theorists pondering a world in which Bush gets reelected.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Something Amiss in the AdSense Algorithm


I don't mind sharing in the ad revenue from the Google AdSense program along the top of this page.

So far, I've made $.60 off of people clicking the ads (Please click 'em!). Apparently, they'll send me a check when I get to $100. I guess I'll see that check sometime in 2025.

Anyway, the ad they've put up there now is the first one to turn my stomach. Gotta adjust the settings so that doesn't appear again.

Special Licenses for Drivers of Giant SUVs

Navistar International apparently missed the memo on climate change and has started selling an SUV built from the same platform as the heavy truck maker's typical tow truck or cement mixer. Of course, in releasing an irresponsible vehicle that irresponsible consumers will buy, Navistar's just following the lead of Mercedes Benz's Unimog and the rolling diagnosis that is the Hummer.

It's time for urban & suburban environments to start treating SUV owners like smokers. It's time to force big SUV owners to get commercial drivers licenses.

I'd like to see anyone operating a vehicle with a GVW greater than 5,000 lbs having to go through an extra hoop at the DMV. Such a hoop would 1) potentially lead to more adequately trained SUV drivers and 2) inform these drivers that society is actively discouraging these embarassingly overmassive vehicles.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Who Doesn't Like to Read About Goat Medicine?

Captured by election fever, Sauntering has been a largely humorless place of late; therefore, I feel especially obligated to post the following:

Nonsensical, mocking Amazon book reviews bring a lot of joy. I really enjoy this reviewer's comments regarding the Goat Medicine book.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

My Wife Wants 3 Kids & Just Threw This in My Face

Having been raised in an Ehrlich-influenced, 2.0 child household, I was surprised to read this article, Why we're not having enough babies.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Broad Global Sentiment vs. "Damn the Torpedoes" Republicans

Even Matt Drudge is promoting a University of Maryland survey that shows broad and uniform global support for a Kerry Presidency. 34,330 people were polled in 35 countries, including China, Indonesia, Japan, India, Thailand, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, the Czech Republic, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Mexico.

Respondents in 32 of the 35 countries prefer Kerry to Bush. The only countries that preferred Bush to Kerry were Nigeria, Poland, and the Philippines.

So, what does this poll mean for November? For that matter, what does broad international discontent with US foreign policy mean for November?

Not much, I suspect.

In response to the global survey, I doubt that the Bush campaign will deny these numbers. They will say that the interests of the world do not necessarily line up with the interests of the United States. Ponder this answer, for it's an important one. Who gains when the world's most powerful country goes it alone? No one.

A handful of Americans don't agree with me on this last point. I'll call this group the "Damn the Torpedoes" Republicans. These are the 5% of the respondents to a poll said that Bush's top priority should be Values. The other choices were The War in Iraq, National security, and The economy -- and these people chose Values.

The din of NO BUSH will increase in the next 60 days, and I think Kerry will win in November -- but I don't think he'll win by convincing a single one of these hardened Bush supporters. They're in too deep.

Though each passing day brings more and more information to bear that suggests this Bush World is a dystopian fantasy, I doubt there's a shred of evidence indicting the Bush presidency that could sway Bush's torpedo core from its position.

For you budding social psychologists out there, torpedo support for the Bush campaign is approaching a study in intransigence.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Fear: Why This Election is So Meanspirited

People frequently quote or paraphrase FDR's inauguration address, but they choose to look at only one line. If they quoted a longer section, we'd be familiar with how the quoted line ends.

And we'd have a clue as to why the run-up to this election is so cantankerous.

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
To watch or listen to the RNC was to receive detailed instruction in fear: Fear the terrorists. Fear weakness. Fear the passive Democrats.

To watch or listen to the DNC was to receive detailed instruction in fear: Fear the reelection of this administration. Fear our further decline. Fear the Republicistas.

Sometimes moments of fear elevate one's character and sharpen the clarity of one's resolve. ...but that's momentary fear, the fear of fight or flight that arrives and departs in barely a moment.

When people are subjected to the kind of fear that has gripped our political parties during this election cycle, their sensibilities change, their judgment is impaired, their ability to change their attitudes is restricted.

I'm mortified at the prospect of Bush's reelection, but I'm much more afraid of what fear is doing to us all. When I watch Zell Miller completely flip his lid on air, when I hear of Republicans booing an ailing Bill Clinton, I feel as if fear is contributing to a radical breakdown in the machinery of social discourse.

The sooner this nation starts diagnosing its own fear, the sooner it will begin developing strategies to deal with this fear.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Narrow Field of View

Source: Yahoo/AP/Greg Bull

Will someone please remind the major web media outlets that a truly epic protest is currently underway in New York? Protest coverage seems unduly relegated to the below-the-fold regions of the web's major news sites.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sauntering is 1 Year Old

This week is Sauntering’s one year anniversary, and I’ll take this opportunity to share a couple thoughts on what I feel like I’ve learned during this great year:

  • On Writing

    Although regular writing’s therapeutic qualities came as no surprise, I’ve been surprised how quickly my attention has solidified around core topics, politics especially.

    Even though Sauntering’s daily audience rarely reaches double digits, the idea of audience nicely counterbalances the occasionally caustic quality of my unfettered opinion. In my cocktail party discourse, I’ve often closed ears by overstating my case – I hope that exercising some restraint in the written word enables me to similarly temper my real world dialogue.

  • On Visitors: Mark Saul

    Starting mid-January, I signed up for Site Meter – a website usage tracker that keeps general track of what people are looking at on Sauntering and occasionally what they’re searching for when they arrive at Sauntering. (BTW, I don’t password-protect these stats, so you’re welcome to check them out as well by click on the Site Meter icon in the right column or clicking here.)

    By far, the most frequently searched item I’ve ever blogged was my brief comment on September 23, 2003 regarding media coverage of the untimely death of venture capitalist Mark Saul. At the time, I was distressed by how his shocking end was covered in VentureWire, coverage that I considered gossipy at best and mean-spirited at worst. Since September, at least once a week someone has arrived at my website after searching for Mark Saul Sofitel (where he died), Mark Saul Obituary, or some such term.

    I don’t know why people search for Mark in this way, but I’ve imagined why.

    Back in January 2003, my wife’s great-uncle suddenly passed away. As he had recently become an aficionado of all things computer, I googled him to see if his writing or thoughts were online anywhere. I smiled when I saw him asking a few introductory questions on some decidedly techie Linux/BSD bulletin boards. I felt this last image of Uncle Dave was a fitting online remembrance of him – a man excited to learn new things well into life’s twilight.

    I think people google Mark for the same reason. To the extent that any of us has a real world identity out there online – an identity someone can google – each of us might imagine that this identity will be frozen when we die. I feel like those people looking for Mark look for this last image. Sadly, today’s web promises no lasting chronicle of any of our lives – a sad fact that only Brewster Kahle seems interested in remedying. Newspaper web pages come and go, disk space is recycled, the web has no memory. (How about diverting some of the Library of Congress’s budget to so that we can chronicle the web even as it changes before our eyes?)

    I hope that those who care deeply for Mark draw some comfort from knowing that people still think about Mark and that people still ask (via search) about Mark.

  • On Visitors: The Self-Google

    On a lighter note, I’m amused by how much people Google themselves.

    From time-to-time, I mention people’s full names: a photographer’s credit here, an article writer’s name there. Since I almost never mention the same name twice, these references are effectively buried in the search results for these people’s names, appearing on page 30, etc.

    Since would-be searchers are still clicking through on these hard-to-find links, I’ve determined that either these searchers are performing a CIA-level background check on these once-mentioned minor celebrities... or that the minor celebrities themselves are undertaking a bit of a self-investigation, clicking on any link that bears their moniker.

  • In Closing…

    All in all, it’s been a joy.

    In the last year, I’ve convinced a handful of my friends to become bloggers, and they seem to enjoy it as much as I do. Although a few people have indicted this style of writing as nothing more than a daily vanity, I encourage you to consider regular writing.

    From one vantage, the case can be made that regular writing makes you a better writer, even if the only feedback comes from your internal critic. From another vantage, regular writing lets you get those thoughts out there, to see if you think what you think you think and to leave evidence to your family and friends that you’re alive and thinking.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Fake Subway Map for RNC attendees

Ted Rall's much-syndicated column NYC TO GOP: DROP DEAD suggests that some protesters will be handing out altered NYC subway and street maps to add to RNC confusion.

I couldn't find any maps online altered for specifically this purpose, but I found a map designed by a subway enthusiast that will work just fine for so-inclined protesters.

Click on a map for a flyer-sized, printable version

The Real Thing: The Proud NYC Subway

Source: New York City Transit

The Ideal Thing: A special map for RNC delegates

Source: [...and Michael Calgano, by extension]

Since the T & 8 don't exist at all, I'd guide RNC members to those lines. Otherwise, a great number of the depicted stops are fictitious. Simply telling them to take the subway to Staten Island (where no subways run) would be fun.

Get out there and enjoy a little civil disobedience.

Borderline Pronunciation

Last weekend, I was in Mexico for about 3 hours.

Normally, a quick trip south-of-the-border with a rowdy bachelor party produces very little material that is both blog-worthy and blog-appropriate; however, consider this:

Based on how Gringos pronounce the city's name, I was surprised to learn that the city of 1.2 million souls just south of San Diego is Tijuana and not Tiajuana.

Just try and say it without sticking a little "a" in there. Funny, huh?

Monday, August 16, 2004

NBA Champs Should Be US Olympians

I like ESPN Motion's suggestion today that the And1 Streetball Team should represent the US at future Olympics.

As basketball becomes the world's second game, we should consider resigning ourselves to our inevitable international fate -- that we just aren't going to win every Olympic basketball gold. US streetballers could serve as much-needed US goodwill ambassadors, showing how basketball antics, athletics, and acrobatics can happily comingle into a non-violent version of Capoeria, the Brazilian fighting art/dance. So what if we wouldn't win? Dream Team IV is evidence enough that we're not going to automatically win just by showing up with a roster of superstars.

As much as I like the idea of sending Streetballers, some people are still going to go for the gold. Well, there is a relatively simple way to accomplish this. I'll just parrot what Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons said last week: If we wanted to win, we should have sent the Pistons.

The winning side in baseball's All-Star game gets homefield advantage for the World Series. Let's up the ante in the basketball finals by letting the NBA champs represent the US. Absentee players and Darko Milicic's can be replaced with other domestic All-Stars, but you'd want to keep the Piston's core intact.

I understand that if the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks (or Toronto Raptors, potentially) had won this plan would not be pulled off easily. If one of those teams won the NBA title, our Olympic team would look a lot like it does now -- a hodge-podge of middle marquee NBA names.

Since basketball success is so closely tied to team cohesion, such an option should have been the last resort anyway.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Don't Spend 30 Seconds...

...reading what I think about the election, President Bush and America's place in the world.

Spend 15 minutes reading what Norman Mailer thinks about it.

Sinister Dexter @ CD Baby

Dexterity is now for sale at CD Baby, for a little cheaper than it's available at

If you'd like to try before you buy, at CD Baby you can listen to samples of each song before you buy.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Up Sign Down

The public works people in Manhattan are really busy.

That's still no excuse to hang Walk/Don't Walk signs upside down.

Sinister Dexter @

My band's new album, Dexterity, is now for sale at

Why buy just one?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Reverend Al, Thrilling One Side of the Aisle.

This may be the rough transcript of Al Sharpton's speech, but it fails to capture the incredible fire that Reverend Sharpton brought onstage with him. We watched on C-SPAN, and I worry that the networks missed his speech entirely.

Powerful oratory has always made my eyes water, and Sharpton's delivery put a lump in my throat. It strikes me that the little guy will always have an advantage in public speaking, for his social standing permits him to nearly yell behind the podium. People in power can't bellow. Reverend Al can really bellow.

Go get 'em, Al.

9/11 Commission Report is Available for Free on iTunes

...well not all 600-pages; however, you can download the 61-minute executive summary here.

You'll need iTunes to make it work, which you can get here.

Only 97 More Shopping Days Until the Election

...and the Democrats are throwing a party.

Meanwhile, Ralph Nader would just like to remind the world that he's part of the problem, and tricky Dick Cheney gives a speech that can be summed up in one word: Boo!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The World Is Flat

I built a little map of the world, using my company's Honeycomb technology.

In the coming months, I'll throw together some similar views for data sets like the periodic table.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Cassini Star Wars Reference: Mimas

Normally, I'm not that amused by NASA mission website humor, but the caption to Cassini's photo of Mimas made me smile. (Warning: You need to have quite dorkily memorized large chunks of Star Wars dialogue for the previous link to be remotely humorous)

Now, if only Cassini could make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Old, New Thing: On-Demand, Public Domain Book Publishing

Yesterday, I had a tremendously disappointing trip to Barnes & Noble. No, it wasn't as part of my WiFi scavenging across New York -- I was actually in the bookstore to buy a book.

For a host of reasons (but mostly the feeling that I'm still working my way through the collegiate corpus) I'm drawn to time-tested works of literature. In search of the what amounts to Ye Olde Fictione section, I took the escalator to the third floor.

That's when I saw it.

Barnes & Noble has a Barnes & Noble Classics section, a row unto itself populated with rather inexpensive editions of some of the world's finest literature, published under Barnes & Noble cover. I grabbed a Chekhov, since I've somehow managed to avoid reading Chekhov up till this point.

As I departed the bookstore, the gravity of this purchase dawned on me. Chekhov is free. I paid a publicly-trade entity for something that I already own.

For those unfamiliar with copyright limitations, I'll tell you as much as I know. The US copyrights have expired on all works produced before 1923. Twain, Melville, the first jazz recordings, everything -- it's in the public domain. Everything after 1923 is still under protection (thanks to the utterly nefarious Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act), but I digress.

My point is that I paid $9 to have Anton Chekhov's work bound and distributed by Barnes & Noble, and to have a professor add a forward and afterward to a handful of Chekhov's short stories.

Many of my readers will be familiar with the politics of the eBook industry & how the major players in that industry (an industry with this issue firmly in its sights) were gobbled up and subsequently decimated by Gemstar. Absent a healthy eBook industry or electronic paper of breakthrough quality, I don't think a new computer presents a solution here.

Let's put paper books in local coffee shops & local bookstores

I want On-Demand Book Publishers to link up with Project Gutenberg and create a book printing and binding system that would fit in a kiosk that would fit in a bookstore or coffee shop. The kiosk would be directly linked to Project Gutenberg, and you could only print public domain literature.

I'll have a latte, a brownie, and The Brothers Karamazov.

Let's have the Gates Foundation (or Soros) write the check to get it started. Split the proceeds between Project Gutenberg and the local businesses.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

How Many Nodes Must A Man Walk To?

I am a hermit. A cave dweller. A migrant.

I have become... a wireless internet person.

Allow me to explain.

My wife is working in New York City this summer, and I'm visiting her for a couple weeks. Since taking a two week vacation is out of the question, I'm working while I'm here. I was out here for a long weekend back in June, and used my boss's T-Mobile Hot Spot account to log-in from a Kinkos & a Borders Bookstore.

In preparation for this trip, I signed up for a month-to-month Hot Spot account, figuring that I'd use it for the 10 working days of this trip. I've only weathered a few days Hot Spot hopping, but here are some of my observations.

  • Hot Spot of choice: Borders

    Unlike Starbucks or Kinkos, Borders doesn't open until 9 -- so you're not competing with the early bird crowd. Get there at 9 and be one of the first in the door and you're golden. Why am I worried about being first? Well, the ol' laptop doesn't exactly sip power, and only 4 tables have access to an power outlet. It's all about being near the plug-in. Sans plug-in, I've got about an hour of juice.

    On top of all that, talking on the phone in Borders is easy. Starbucks is too loud. Kinkos is too quiet. Borders is the perfect porridge.

  • I spent yesterday morning in the Kinkos near Bryant Park, seated at one of the laptop desks. I felt like I was stealing something. You see, Kinkos still charges people $6 an hour for internet access -- that is, people that aren't connecting through T-Mobile. I'm not paying Kinkos $6. I'm not paying Kinkos anything. The only nickels Kinkos makes off me are those sent their way as part of the T-Mobile deal.

  • ...which brings me to an important point. I'm nobody's customer. I'm not buying books. I'm not printing copies. At the Borders Cafe (my most frequent haunt), I feel obligated to buy a drink in the morning and in the afternoon, but would they kick me out if I didn't? Would I be a loafer if I was only using their wireless internet connection -- a connection that I pay another company to access? I don't see a posted policy. Should there be one?

  • Borders gets a lot busier in the afternoon, so you really can't get up to use the restroom -- that is, if you want one of those tables with access to a wall outlet. See, there are others like me: people dressed for business, typing on their laptops like Clark Kent shooting for a deadline. Also, there are some unfortunate souls who unintentionally saddle up to a table who aren't looking for a wall outlet.

    They are the objects of our nasty stares.

  • We mobile desk jockeys aren't quite clogging the cafe, but it's close. As work ceases to be a place and becomes an activity, anywhere with wireless internet is gonna be a like a bug light, drawing in these fireflies. But whose customers are we? Is Borders better off for providing this access, or are we detracting from the ambiance?

  • A great future cell phone feature for we techno-hermits: WiFi detection. Not necessarily the ability to do anything useful with the WiFi, but just to act as a WiFi divining rod, letting me know when an unprotected node is within reach. Since warchalking never really caught on, this is the best urban option. For optional humor effect, this feature would make submarine sonar noises.

  • Kinkos is a little depressing, since the business types working out of their computer center don't exactly exude success. I'd prefer to be among people thumbing through art books than grey suits between paying gigs.

Anyway, I'm here at the Borders on Park Avenue @ 57st Street. All the choice tables are now full, and the cafe has started to fill up. I clack away at my keyboard, one of the wireless internet people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Chief NASCAR Dad

Does it surprise you that our current President is the first Commander-in-Chief to invite an Indy 500 winner to visit him at the White House?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Tanned, Aged Face of Commodities & Discrimination

Pat Boone is not just an aging 50's rocker trying to make a payday. He's an aging 50's rocker with diverse interests trying to make a payday.

Not only does Pat Boone want to encourage you to buy gold,

Source: Swiss America

...he also wishes that our Constitution prohibited gay marriage.

Source: My Way

Nice jacket, Pat.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Beware, Pierre

According to the current headline photo at, Bin Laden is once again targeting...

South Dakota!


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Smart Money Says...

After trailing Bush since day one in the Iowa Electronic Markets, shares of the Democratic nominee are finally trading higher than our incumbent President.

Source: Iowa Electronic Markets

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Firefox vs. Internet Explorer

After my home machine fell prey to the remarkably nasty Virtual Bouncer malware, I'm experimenting with a transition to the open-source Mozilla Firefox browser. Experts far-and-wide cite that using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser on a Windows machine has become tantamount to inviting trouble, and the switch to Firefox has (thus far) been great.

I still will use Internet Explorer to error-check webpages that I build, but I think I'm done browsing with it. If you use Windows + IE, maybe you should consider making the switch.

I'll use the comments in this post to catalog any additional Firefox vs. IE thoughts.

Friday, July 02, 2004

America the Beautiful

Living in a nation currently/perpetually on a war-footing (with a warhorse national anthem) it feels quaint to think back to times -- the early 90's, the late 70's, the early 60's -- when various Americans proposed that we replace The Star Spangled Banner with America the Beautiful as our national anthem.

Keb' Mo's inspired version (iTunes link) has me meditating on the tune as we enter our national weekend.

Here's the third verse, each line worthy of reflection:

O beautiful for heroes
proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

These are the Days of Miracle and Wonder, This is the Long Distance Call...

In a number of scientific disciplines, the principle benefit of research is that successful research gives us a greater understanding of how stuff works -- an understanding that (we hope) becomes the next drug, the next procedure, the next policy.

Spaceflight differs from other engineering sciences, since whatever the benefit of the technical understanding it creates via research, its principle benefit is that it periodically reminds us of the mind-blowing wonder of the universe -- a universe in which we eke out a fragile existence, blind to the immensity around us.

Tonight, I'm completely awestruck that some of my fellow humans are bright enough to know how to send a spacecraft on a 2.2 billion mile journey to Saturn, and then put it in orbit around the ringed planet. Congratulations NASA and ESA!

Kerry/Clinton 2004?

It's a good idea to liberally apply salt when reading the Drudge Report. Matt Drudge is a John Birch charlatan, a reckless yellow journalist whose journalistic standards bear unfortunate resemblance to the Washington Times.

That said... his wild predictions can be fun.

Matt Drudge is predicting that Hillary Clinton will be John Kerry's running mate.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Free At Least, Free At Least...

I'm tickled pink that something resembling sovereignty has been handed over to the Iraqis, and I hope that conducting the handover a little ahead of schedule sucks some life out of the insurgency.

It looks like I'm not the only one who is excited about these proceedings. Look at the note that Condi sent to our President in the middle of the night -- and the excited comment he wrote on it (to whom?):


My question is this: Is Let Freedom Reign a Bushism, a garbled cultural mistranslation of Martin Luther King's epic Let Freedom Ring? ...or did W really mean to write that comment and coin that phrase?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Sinister Dexter at the Lost & Found Saloon

Sarah Garmisa took some beatiful pictures of my band, Sinister Dexter, at our show at the Lost & Found Saloon. I particularly like the shots she took of the band in L&F's basement, getting ready for the show.



Sunday, June 20, 2004


I keep a small stash of art supplies around the house, just in case the feeling strikes me to throw together a little project. I'm far from an artist, but I love the feeling of when an idea strikes and I can drop what I'm doing and just make something.

This afternoon, I had to drop everything to construct a project that suddenly occurred to me. 30 minutes later, I had:


I got into baseball card collecting in 1986 and discovered girls in 1991. During the time between those bookend dates, I purchased thousands and thousands of baseball cards. As my collecting approached obsession, I constructed a rationalization to convince my parents that spending all this money on pieces of paperboard was worthwhile: In the distant future, I was going to sell these cards to pay for college.

With college in my rearview mirror, I decided a couple years ago to pick up the cards from my parents' home in Nebraska. "Maybe," I thought, "I'll sell them on eBay."

Well, I should have realized that there are a lot of grown-up little boys who have flooded the almost-nonexistent market for late 1980's baseball cards; thus, my investment has not appreciated at all. In fact, a quick tour of eBay showed that the cards I spent so much $$$ on as a kid were worth less than when I bought them. For example, I remember very clearly buying Don Mattingly's 1984 rookie card for $24 back in 1987. Sadly, this same card is available today via eBay for roughly the same price.

Well, part of my collecting included leaving a handful of packs of baseball cards unopened. In 1987, I envisioned selling them at a king's ransom to some future speculator. Given the lack of a market, I've decided to turn them into art.

PACKRAT Close-up

I glued 14 packs to some black foam core, then used 9/16" staples to further affix the Score packs to the backing. I wanted to have a little fun with the capitalist hopes of a younger me -- these packs won't ever be sold, but I'll put them to an artful use.

There are so many items that I keep around me that I don't need -- that I'll never need. I keep books I'll never read, clothes I'll never wear again, other gear that serves no purpose other than to provide evidence of my bourgeois existence. These packs of baseball cards no longer need to worry about being shuffled from one box to another and eventually forgotten. They are now art, and in being art [even bad Andy art ;)] they are made great.

Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With a Single Trip to Goodwill

I do my utmost to attain emptiness.
Tao Te Ching -- XVI
About a year from now, Steph and I will be moving to Manhattan -- and from a 3 bedroom house to what will surely be a much smaller apartment. Today I begin a personal journey to get rid of stuff.

My goal: To get rid of at least 10 lbs. of gear every week for the next year. Ebay, Goodwill, Craigslist, recycling, trash, garage sale -- they're all fair game.

The first steps on this banal journey are fraught with danger: my wife is working from NY for the summer. I just know that I'm gonna toss something she wants.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

To Many, Osama Bin Laden = Cobra Commander

The standard American view of Al Qaeda is straight out of G.I. Joe.

Those of us that grew up with G.I. Joe toys, action figures, and comic books are familiar with Joe's shady nemesis: Cobra, an international terrorist organization led by the mysterious Cobra Commander. The motives of the Cobra Organization and its members were all but unknown from Joe's (...and our) point-of-view. For Joe, it was enough to know that Cobra was The Enemy and that it/they threatened American interests.

Since 9/11, an uncritical view of Al Qaeda has emerged that oddly parallels G.I. Joe's cartoon melodrama. Al Qaeda's leader and its members are portrayed as so utterly different from us that they are not subject to human frailties or impulses felt by the non-fundamentalist.

I bring up this simplistic view of Al Qaeda because the 9/11 commission has recently released findings that paint this foe in a more human -- but not a more sympathetic -- light. Since yesterday, the infighting among 9/11 hijackers has been widely reported. Moreover, it seems that Bin Laden ignored concerns raised by his advisors and by the Taliban that the attacks would bring a US military response.

As findings like these trickle into the consciousness of the news-aware American, the people and the press will find it easier to address more difficult human questions in a thoughtful way. 10 years from now, it may be that the majority of Americans will be able to describe how US foreign policy at the close of the Cold War played a role in arming Islamism and building a current enemy. Such a cultural awakening is only possible through baby steps that -- in our minds -- transform our violent opponent from automaton to human.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Wrong Answer.


Even with a front page article announcing that the 9/11 commission has found no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States, more than 30 percent of CNN's online poll respondents answered "Yes" to the question, Do you think al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated to attack the U.S. on 9/11?

A New Look at a New Problem

Just for grins, my company has connected its Honeycomb software to Google's search results. Now you can see 100's of Google search results on one screen.

The application would be a lot more interesting if Google sent over more interesting data with its XML feed. That said, I've still found it fun to play around with this tool. Google yourself -- you might be surprised by a result that would otherwise only appear on page 30.

FYI, you'll need Java turned on and your pop-up blocker turned off for the demo to work.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Underground Underground

In case you're wondering (as I have been on this trip to New York), the deepest New York City Subway Station is the 1/9 station at 191st Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. It's 180 feet beneath the bedrock that holds up New York City's sidewalks.

The deepest subway station in the world? That honor belongs to the Park Pobedy station of Moscow's Metro. Its platforms are is 318 feet below ground level.

If learning about New York subways is your cup of tea, you'll be blown away by the awesome stories and pictures available at Forgotten NY. No one does a better job detailing platforms below platforms to subway lines that no longer go anywhere.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

(from phone)
Flying jetBlue tonight. First night from SJC to JFK, so they're throwing a calorie-laden "cheesecake party" for the passengers.

I find it a little amusing that the cab from JFK to Manhattan is almost as expensive as the flight.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Bush decided to subtly incorporate Reagan's passing into his own re-election message.

Here's our President's official re-election campaign site at this very moment.

What Does Contempt of Congress Sound Like?

John Ashcroft decided that Congress doesn't get to learn about the process of determining appropriate (quasi)-torture measures for recalcitrant terrorism suspects.

I encourage you to listen to his testimony. (RealPlayer) Bear in mind that people don't just say "no" to Congress like this.

Disclaimer: NewsHour redacted the Senate Judiciary Committee's audio to reflect only those questions asked by Democrats, who are in the minority on the committee. Some Republicans on the committee were less confrontational.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

People Researching What You Already Knew

In a shocking discovery (gasp!), The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press have determined that American news audiences are increasingly politicized.

Some tidbits:

  • Republicans now trust Fox News more than CNN ( was the other way around in '00)

  • Almost as many people regularly listen to NPR (16%) as regularly watch ESPN (20%) (...a stat that I found surprising)

  • More Republicans (16%) listen to Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, than listen to NBC, CBS, or ABC Evening News (15, 13, & 15%, respectively).

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Yuck ...on so many levels

These days, without starting your own religion, it's hard to hit it big financially in the religious game.

On the other hand, diet business is big business, with companies like Atkins Nutritionals earning money hand over foot.

In an effort to bring some of these diet dollars under his steeple, Rev. George Malkmus has started the Hallelujah Diet. Malkmus follows in the footsteps of Dr. Don Colbert, author of What Would Jesus Eat? and Jordan Rubin, who penned The Maker's Diet.

Now if only low carb manna would fall from the heavens.