log (2005/03/04 to 2005/03/10)

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Clever input-box prompt:
Wednesday, March 9, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

A meme-mixing reader writes:

So, "AutoLink".

One more pointer on the kerfuffle: there's a great piece of conceptual art on the subject at the Better Bad News site. What's great about it is that it's a mirror; each viewer sees it in a different way. I thought it was a hysterical parody of the anti-AutoLink position (especially clever because it was composed mostly or maybe entirely of quotations from the people whose view it was satirizing).

"I want the freedom to mislead visitors to my page the way I want to mislead them, not the way Google wants to do it."

On the other hand, Dave Winer seems to have interpreted it as irony-free:

If you haven't seen the Better Bad News show on AutoLink, it's just 12 minutes, it's a classic, funny, and states the case so well. Pass it along, let's make sure everyone sees this.

Great stuff. *8)

I took a look at your site a couple of hours ago...
and I want to tell you that I'd really love to trade links with you. I think your site has some really good stuff related to my site's topic of steaks and would be a great resource for my visitors as it deals with some great aspects of steaks that I'd like to give my visitors more information about.

And speaking of taking weblogging too seriously, from Marginal Revolution we get to the very noteworthy story The Bubble in Economics Blogs.

Clearly government intervention is required to bring order to this sector of the blogosphere and prevent a blog boom-bust cycle from developing.

There are lots of economics weblogs out there (and would that I had the time to read more of them). But I think voluntary self-regulation by an industry consortium would be preferable to government regulation at this point, myself.

I was reading back issues of the log the other day (I know, I know), and I came across this:

I realized the other day that I've never in my life lived, for more than a day or two, within easy walking distance of a town.

The notable thing here is that that's completely wrong; for four years I lived on campus, within trivial walking distance of the town of Princeton, New Jersey. Not a town ideally designed to walk around in, but still there it was. I didn't remember it because we hardly ever went there, because the campus had the things that we needed (or that we thought we needed, in our innocence), and we were always so busy. In retrospect I do regret not having gotten to know that town better.

From Reason's weblog, we find the very notable Ask Ayatollah Sistani. More reasons to avoid organized religion, distressingly including:

Question:Is playing a chess allowed?

Answer:It is absolutely unlawful.

Apparently Islam as a whole isn't very fond of the game; it's even worse than backgammon! Although it's had its ups and downs; here's some historical background.

And speaking of religion,

For a time, God carried a pearl-handled revolver. No one knew where He had gotten it, but they knew better than to ask.

C as a scripting language!

From Zeldman, we find that

[the] NYPL Digital Gallery provides access to over 275,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more

which is pretty cool.

And finally, remember how we've always been tempted by the idea of putting a bunch of pages with completely wrong information onto the Web, but decided it'd be Wrong (and also too much work)? Well, as noted on MeFi, those thoughts haven't stopped some people...

Uncyclopedia is an encyclopedia full of misinformation and utter lies. It's sort of like Congress. It serves absolutely no purpose, so feel free to add to the misinformation right now! This is possibly the only factual page, before everything turns into a puddle of utter confusion and disarray. Savor it. And for the love of Mr. Potato Head, we know you like disarray, but stop adding confusion to this page to spite the disclaimer.

Cry "havoc", and let slip the encyclopedia entries of choas...

Tuesday, March 8, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

Daze Reader announces that he's going on hiatus (boo!); apparently he's actually been making money from his site (yay!), but recently began making significantly less money (boo!) and suspects that it might be due to some complicated Google exploit (interesting).

Speaking of Google and our comments Sunday about the AutoLink kerfuffle, a reader writes:

Your computer shouldn't be yours when you're using it to read my content.

Exactly! To be fair, unlike the RIAA and MPAA, the people saying that AutoLink is evil are drawing a distinction (I think) between what their readers can do and what the software that their readers are using can do. They would not (I hope) object to their readers intentionally doing various clever things with the content on their own machines; what they're worried about is the software that their readers are using doing stuff without the readers' knowledge and consent.

(And so since AutoLink doesn't in fact do anything without the readers' knowledge and consent, I think they're getting more upset than makes sense in this case; but there we are.)

(Speaking of Google, here's the official scoop on the "nofollow" thing that people can use to defeat the purposes of comments spammers and such. Logged mostly because I keep forgetting where it is.)

And speaking of a desire to control content, Medley (well, temporary Medley) points out the widely-logged story about the FEC cracking down on the Internet:

Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

Now this fits in entirely too well with my preconceived notions: campaign finance laws are really a way for the government to control political speech, and the government will of course abuse that.

On the other hand, here's an interesting counterpoint; this writer suggests that the right is intentionally pointing these laws at innocent targets, not in order to actually control the speech of those targets, but rather to get people to hate the campaign finance laws so that they won't be used against even the real bad guys.

This is an interesting point. Bribery (which is the plain ordinary name for what these laws should really be targetted against) is a serious problem, and we do need laws against it. I don't myself think that McCain-Feingold is a well-designed anti-bribery law, and I continue to think that the best solution to the general problem is to make government less powerful and thereby reduce the incentive to bribe.

But it's good to keep in mind that when some politician opposes a law that I also oppose, it doesn't necessarily mean that his reasons are the same as mine.

And also speaking of the desire to control content, here's someone who used an image of mine in their LiveJournal and actually thanked me for it! Good stuff. (Why is it always the "dusty piano keys" picture that these LiveJournal and Xanga folks link? I've got lots of other pictures.)

From Everything Burns, a great story picture:

The Hammer Comes Down

An authority figure very quicky intervened, loudly castigating the singers. "This is a supermarket. You can't do this here!"

He turned out to be an actor, but I had been fooled.

And also from there; I didn't even know that MetaFilter had tags.

Learn something new every day.

Sunday, March 6, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

A couple of readers have unaccountably similar reactions to Friday's entry:

did you perhaps pick up the wrong bottle of pills today ?

Today's entry sucks David. Are you taking Crack or something?

We can only assume that these readers have backlevel versions of the Secret Decoder Goggles or something. Remember, install all updates promptly! (Or just check "automatically install updates" on the Goggle Preferences panel.)

Commenting more subtly on Wednesday's entry, a reader writes:

So, "blogging".

Har! At first I assumed this reader was implying that, like I don't listen to podcasts, e doesn't read weblogs. But then I detected a subtle logical flaw in that conclusion.

This reader might enjoy this item (and the associated image). If, that is, e ever reads weblogs.

Also on Groovy Mother, we discovered the journal memorably named (at least at the moment) I Am The Lord of the Dance Settee, which name had me rolling in the figurative aisles. (The journal itself seems to be about stuff that I don't know anything about, but it's still a great title.)

And speaking of Groovy Mother and rolling in the aisles, I have no idea what you're talking about....

I finished listening to and wrote some I'm afraid slightly cruel notes on "Long Quiet Highway".

Kottke is trying to write in his weblog as a full-time job. Stranger things have happened.

A reader writes:

"This is a directory of 2160 online papers on consciousness and related topics."

Curse you. Philosophy of consciousness is one of my recent interests. I've recently finished Dennett's Consciousness Explained and am about halfway through Searle's Mind. Now I need to take a year off of work so I can read through all these online papers.

Nyeh heh heh.

(I actually got up the energy to add a pointer to that list to the Problems of Consciousness pages' Bibliography; I'm so proud.)

Here's yet another reparsed view of the weblog! Along with an amusing sidebar of "Top Related Sources" which seem entirely unrelated.

I found that via Scroogle, which is actually just a reframed Google. I found Scroogle while reading lots of discussion about Google's AutoLink; the latest Meme of Concern in Certain Quarters.

My reaction to this Concern is very much like my reaction to the earlier Concern about Gmail putting targetted ads into the mail client:

This whole "well, I wouldn't buy that myself, so it must not be sold to anyone!" attitude is part of What's Wrong With The World Today.

except that in this case no one seems to be proposing government regulation (yet?), and there's an extra element of "hey, don't mess with my stuff!", as in

I'm OK with reformatting and aggregating and all sorts of other things, but I don't want downstream software fucking with my words. Or my pictures. Or my links. A lot of us feel this way.

(quoted by Dave Winer, who says "Amen".)

So apparently a lot of us are against, say, text editors?

It occurs to me that what these folks really seem to want is some kind of DRM for their weblogs and so on: they want to be able to say "it's okay to reformat or aggregate this stuff, but you can't do this-and-such other stuff ('fuck with' it)". The RIAA / MPAA of weblogging?

Now I admit that if some browser or browser plugin was to take to rendering pages in ways that neither the page author nor the user wanted those pages rendered, that'd be a problem (a bug, a misfeature, whatever). If it was done secretly, and in a way that was financially or otherwise beneficial to the maker of the device, that might be something like fraud. But, as others have pointed out, Google's AutoLink is so far from doing that (you have to turn it on explicitly, it pops up a long explanation when you do, it doesn't change links that are already there, etc), that it seems just whiny (or attention-hungry) to call it "evil". (Rather than, say, writing in a few modest suggestions to the beta program about making autolink-generated entries look different or whatever.)

So that's Web Geekery for today. What else we got?

Fafblog Gets It on campaign finance "reform":

...how can there be true campaign reform when the spoken word goes unchecked? Every day, millions of Americans make unchecked and unregulated political contributions by making political endorsements on sophisticated verbal logs - or "verblogs," if you will - comprised of billions of currently untracked sound waves transmitted through the atmosphere. Until these words are properly tracked, counted, and restricted by the FEC according to the arbitrary limits of McCain-Feingold, American democracy will forever remain a prisoner of Big Speech.

From Amptoons, a good story about censorship in schools, including not only a telling personal recollection, but also:

In case you don't feel like clicking on that staggering link, allow me to sum it up: a high school student was turned over to the police by his grandparents and arrested for writing a short story about zombies taking over a high school.

The staggering link in question being to here. Potentially really idiotic stuff (although this version has a bit more of the other side of the story).

And from that same Amptoons item, a good piece on Intellectual Diversity at Stanford, from which I wandered to other good stuff on that same weblog.

So the other day someone sent me a note saying that a page on a site I'm vaguely associated with was out of date, and I wrote back asking em exactly which one, and e replied by sending me, not the URL of the offending page, but a file attachment containing a copy of the HTML contents of the page.

I thought that was kind of cute, if slightly inconvenient.

Friday, March 4, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

As regular readers are well aware, every Friday here at "World of Things" we examine the subject of Feet. Today's Feet Feature considers the feet of some celebrities from the early XIXth Century.

Emil Slanderkrase, father of modern shift-style tailoring, lived from 1793 to 1855, and was famous for his extremely average-sized feet. While he seldom went about barefoot (what with the rain and all), his shoes were perfectly ordinary, and while not particularly well polished, personages throughout the Empire remarked in hushed tones at the typicalness of their size (speculating, often accurately, on the corresponding sizes of the feet within).

But I digress.

Next November, if I don't change my mind, my Novel will be a series of completely (or at least potentially) disconnected short chapters, each exactly as long as I get around to writing in a particular day. If two of them happen to involve the same characters, or completely different characters who happen to have the same name, well that's fine.

We'll see how that works out.

Feet soaked too long in water become pale and crinkly.

Jonas Whemb, the Giant of Coral Gables, astounded all of central Florida (which was, in those days, sparsely populated) by standing on his feet for hours at a time.

When, in the courts of human events, it becomes necessary for one peapod to dissolve the matrimonial bonds which have up until that time bound it to something else, an indecent respect for the rights and opinions of other cassowaries obliges it to set down the whys and the whatfors that moved it to make the aboveforesaid decision about dissolving and stuff.

And so on and so on.

We hear some small noises from the other side of the raft. Very small noises, like noises made by mice. Or by very small harmonicas.


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