On summer footwear

I can't decide what I like most about flip-flops: their comfort, their convenience, or their sound.

Essential software

Following Mark Pilgrim's meme...

My computer usage is somewhat unusual. I have a Linux workstation for my job, an Apple Powerbook for remote productivity ('remote' usually being my couch, a coffeeshop, or a meeting room), and a Windows desktop for videogames. To keep my digital stuff synchronized across my three different computers (and OSes), I'm prejudiced towards using web apps over desktop apps.

Web/OS-agnostic apps

Linux workstation

  • RedHat Enterprise Linux (Cornell has a site license, so it was "free". If not for that probably debian or Ubuntu)
  • Cyrus-imap for my mail server: keeps all my work email and a backup of my personal email
  • Emacs for programming/development
  • Bash, and a ton of aliases and shell scripts to save my fingers undue wear and tear

Powerbook

  • iTunes + iPod Nano (yay for NPR podcasts)
  • iChat
  • TextMate

Windows Desktop

  • BitTorrent (for downloading, um, linux distros?)
  • World of Warcraft Kicked the habit. No more skipping social events to wipe on C'Thun
  • SimCity 4
  • The Sims 2
  • Second Life
  • Call of Duty 2
  • FarCry

High fashion's communist agenda

Quoth my mom:

I want to see that new movie, um, The Devil Wears Pravda.

I'd much rather see that movie.

Bush "Sunday Bloody Sunday" mashup

Via PinkDome

Kitten vs. Frontrow

Via Gizmodo

Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner

YouTube has videos of Stephen Colbert hosting the White House Correspondents Association Dinner: one, two, three (it's presented in three parts). Update: YouTube removed the videos for copyright infringement. But you can watch the video (streaming RealPlayer link) on CSPAN's site. Colbert plays the same character at the dinner as he plays on his show. And it's devastating. While the crowd can't laugh for fear of jeopardizing their careers, we were howling on the couch.

Props to Crooked Timber for the best blog post title: Speaking Truthiness to Power.

Update: Distler joins the Colbert like-fest adding a downloadable clip of an interview with Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard.

Résumé filename pet peeve

When sending documents to people, consider the utility of the filename in the recipient's context. We're hiring student employees for the summer, and if I had a nickel for every email attachment called "resume.pdf", I'd have at least $0.60.

Naming a file "resume.pdf" makes plenty of sense for a student, who likely only has one such file on their machine. But for potential employers, the name is almost meaningless. "kirby-mcsmartypants-resume.pdf", on the other hand, will make me think "Kirby's a smart guy (assuming Kirby's a guy, Kirby could  be a girl's name) for naming his résumé in a way that's useful for me." Also, Kirby McSmartypants is an awesome name.

Personally, I don't care if you put the acute accents on or not. I can swing UTF-8 or lower ASCII. Definitely don't put accents in file names though. That breaks stuff.

Tip o' the hat to Joel's résumé rant and Kathie.

Generation gap

An older librarian in my office reads the New York Times on her computer and knows I like weblogs. Whenever there's an article about weblogs, she prints out a hard copy and puts it on my desk.

We make small talk about the article for a minute or two, and I act flattered that she bothered to give me something she thought I'd appreciate. But while we're chatting I'm thinking: "Why don't you just email me the link?" (or better yet, "Why don't you bookmark it in del.icio.us and I'll subscribe to your feed?")

But I don't think I should ever suggest that. While I'm optimizing for efficiency (fewer interruptions, less wasted paper), she's doing it for the human interaction and small talk that often segues into how youth culture is so technological, and her daughter, who's about my age...

Lightbulb joke

On Merlin's tip:

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The fish!

arXiv.org mirror mentioned on Boing Boing

It's not every day my work is showcased on Boing Boing (albeit tangentially): More 'net xxx: Los Alamos physics preprint archive.

Note that xxx.lanl.gov is the original URL of arXiv.org from when it was hosted by LANL. In 2001, Ginsparg brought the 'LANL e-Print archive' to Cornell, and the site became arXiv.org. xxx.lanl.gov remains as one of our 17 international mirrors.

Deep thoughts

I wonder if one can become addicted to eye drops, like one can become addicted to lip balm.

An infinite number of sports fans with typewriters

From NY Times:

Mike Breen, a mathematician at the American Mathematical Society in Providence, R.I., said the chances of being one of the people who correctly picked the Final Four in ESPN.com's contest this year were about 1 in 750,000. Last year, he said, roughly 1 in 700 brackets included the correct four teams.

Note that there are 69,632 (= 16^3 * 17) possible combinations of Final Four teams. If you picked your Final Four bracket randomly, you would be ten times more likely to get it right than the folks participating in ESPN's contest.

Of course, last year the random strategy would have sucked.

Feed reading and my desire for summaries

Most feed readers have an inbox-like user interface. The user scans through a long list of new items that, once read, are moved out of the inbox into a less visible place. In the following discussion, let's think of an individual user as the consumer, and the weblogger or journalist as the producer.


The inbox metaphor works well for supply-limited feeds. In my case, Boing Boing, my del.icio.us inbox, and Marginal Revolution are supply-limited because I would read more blog posts if they were created. I at least skim every post, and most of the time I think the post is interesting.


The inbox-style feed reader also accommodates rarely or periodically updated feeds, such as software upgrade announcements, personal friends' photoblogs, and TV bittorrents.


But this interface suffers for high-volume, demand-limited feeds, feeds where there are so many new items that I don't even want to skim them. They pile up in my feed reader until I select them all and mark them as read. In my case, that means newspaper feeds and political weblogs.


The thing mainstream news media (specifically newspapers) and political weblogs have in common is that they cover events that I ought to care about, but only occasionally do. Foreign elections, raised interest rates at the Fed, things blowing up in the Middle East, and commentary on said events are examples. Reading this kind of news is more of a chore I do so I can consider myself a responsible global citizen.


Subscribing to feeds like the NY Times, CNN, Instapundit, or The Huffingon Post is like trying to drink from a fire hose. There's too much noise. For news sites, I generally only want to read a few top stories on a given day, and all the back stories piled up. For political weblogs, there are many posts tracking ad naseum the online debate of some policy, and I only want to read the final post that sums up the discussion.


The syndicated news sources that I love come in known, small quantities: the NPR 5-minute news summary podcast and the WSJ What's News. Each news item receives about 45 seconds or 50 words in those feeds. I win because I'm not deluged in news, and if I'm interested in a topic I know where to find out more. (The content producer wins because I'm consuming at least some of their content.)


My suggestion is that blogs and news organizations that may conceivably lose readers due to the volume of their content should produce summaries of their content catered to people who only want low volume. The unfiltered HuffPo, Instapundit, Volokh, and TPM are too much, so how about 100-word hyperlinked summaries of the daily punditry?


There's a niche to be filled.


Update 6/26/06: HuffPo filled that niche with their Editor's Picks rss feed. Sweet.

Democratic talking points re: Card's resignation: Use nautical metaphors

From NY Times:

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York called the shuffle "simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," according to the Reuters news agency. And Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said, "If the White House is looking to change course, they picked the wrong person to toss overboard."

Mr. Durbin, you don't change course by throwing someone overboard. Mr. Bolten seems to know the ropes. So while while Andy Card walks the plank, Dick Cheney can scuttle the remaining dignity of the Administation. At least Bush is going down with the ship...I'm spent.

One feed to rule them all

Putzing around with feeds, I discovered how to conglomerate the feeds from my weblog, del.icio.us, digg, and flickr into just one feed.

Here it is (in ATOM format), the Aaron Suggs uber feed.

Aaron Suggs uber feed

(If you're not down with syndication, you can view the feed rendered by Google Reader

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