Carl Sagan, “A Glorious Dawn” featuring Stephen Hawking (Cosmos Remixed)
The PBS show “Cosmos” was one of my favorite things to watch with my dad when I was young. This remix just makes it 100x awesomer.
Romance Reader, Unashamed
Daily Kos contributor Laura Clawson examines the myths about romance novels (many of which I held until recently; and some of which I’m still having a teensy bit of trouble disavowing, but mostly just to tweak Velma).
The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most notable, interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.
Carolyn Davis Catering My friend Carolyn Davis (née Peters) has a new website, and although I didn’t design it, I heartily approve of its design: it’s great. Carolyn’s a fantastic chef, I’ve seen her at work at events she was catering and I can attest to her team’s excellence and her culinary brilliance as well. Hire her!
A Glimpse Ahead Courtesy of Microsoft Labs. A lot of these technologies and interfaces are actually already in development and there are even some real-world working examples of some of them. I expect we’ll see quite a few of these in the next five to ten years. [1:54 min]
Youngme Nowme A thread full of photos of people posed the same way, then and now.
Think Taste — Not Waste! My friend Laura Stec is featured on MSN’s Health & Fitness channel in this article and short video. She shows a quick tip for making soup stock from the detritus of your cooking chores, using mushroom stalks, pepper “skeletons,” carrot peelings, and more. This “food waste,” which you might otherwise throw in the garbage, causes our nation’s landfills to output more harmful methane (a climate-disruptive greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide) than all the livestock in the U.S. Buy Laura Stec’s book, it’s great!
San Francisco Bay Model Velma and I were thinking of going to see this last weekend since we were going to explore Sausalito a bit, but it’s only open until 4pm on Saturdays, so it’ll have to be another trip. The walk-through hydraulic model takes up two buildings and is apparently the size of two football fields. According to the guy in the video, it was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s to test an idea they had to dam the bay. I once saw an old map of another Army Corps concept they had in the ’50s or ’60s, to fill the entire bay with landfill except for a narrow shipping channel. Communities could then build all the way into the middle of the bay. I shudder to think of the Bay Area we would live in today if that had been allowed to happen. [3:51min] More about the Bay Model (yes, their site is awful).
Interview with sci-fi author John Scalzi I really enjoyed his book The Ghost Brigades, and I really enjoyed this interview too. It starts with this intro by interviewer Jason Henninger: “John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War took me by surprise. I picked up the book because I’d heard a lot of good things about him and decided I’d give it a one-page tryout. Either he’d grip me right away or I’d drop it. Twenty pages later I realized I hadn’t moved from the spot. OK, John. Grip achieved.”
My friend Jason can’t listen to music or anything when he’s coding. When I worked at Download.com, lots of editors and developers wore headphones and listened to music as they worked. I don’t know what they were listening to, but it was quite prevalent (and made for a very quiet workplace). Then again, when I moved to another group just 50 feet away on the same floor, almost nobody seemed to listen to music or wear headphones as they worked.
When I’m writing or coding, I like to listen to music. But I’ve found it very hard to concentrate on writing, editing, or reading words when the music has lyrics. It seems the language part of my mind has trouble concentrating on the words I’m trying to work with if it’s hearing other language in the background.
Velma just walked into the room and said something to me as I was typing that last sentence, which reminds me of another way language can totally derail my train of thought when I’m writing. But more about that another time : )
I find it a lot easier to write or code to instrumental music. When I want to be energized I often listen to up-tempo drum and bass or something, but when I really need to concentrate I usually switch to classical. This seems especially necessary when I’m trying to read and digest something difficult to understand, or I’m working on a particularly tough bit of code that just won’t work right.
Most of the time, though, rock music with lyrics playing in the background doesn’t seem to have much effect on my ability to concentrate on other tasks (it seems reading and writing are the ones affected most). I’ve worked this way for so many years (since 6th or 7th grade, at least), it seems I’ve become accustomed to it. And, fortunately, I’ve become aware of my limitations too, which is why I’m glad there is still a classical radio station in the Bay Area.
I’m curious whether other people have similar or different stories. Please comment!
A few lifetimes ago I was a marketing and communications specialist for nonprofits, most notably for Bay Area Action and its later incarnation as Acterra.
For a few years I wrote and/or edited weekly email newsletters and action alerts. I started doing this for the Headwaters Forest Project at BAA, then created a weekly EcoCalendar of events all around the Bay Area, and later founded Acterra's first general email newsletter.
During that span of about eight years, I also performed a lot of other communications functions, especially surrounding the Headwaters issue. For a few years my website and email list were the best sources for news on the controversies emanating from the North Coast, and I fielded inquiries from small and big sources alike, everyone from elementary school students to the big media outlets such as Time and CNN.
I spoke at events (the Green Party's state convention comes to mind) and universities (I presented to a Stanford law class once, which was a bit unnerving, but then I reminded myself they were just students), I did radio interviews, I fielded calls and emails and faxes from reporters all over the world, and my email list contained addresses from places as far-flung as Japan and Australia and people from the press, government, and even Hollywood.
Copy this, please
This all happened in a time when the migration of such information to the Internet was much, much less frequent, and a lot harder to do. Nevertheless, lots of people copied my emails and forwarded them along to others. Which is what we wanted. Unlike commercial material, for which one might have copy-protection concerns, we wanted this information spread far and wide. Granted, we didn't want people to re-edit the information, so I simply attached a footer to my email template that stated that permission was thereby granted to forward the email in its entirety, for non-commercial purposes.
And people did it. In droves. They forwarded it on to their friends and family, co-workers, whomever. Some maintained their own large lists of concerned citizens interested in environmental issues, and they sent my emails along to them. Others posted my newsletters and action alerts on their AOL and Geocitieshomepages, on university listservs, and lots of other places.
Here are a few examples, still archived in various niches of the 'net:
Later, as search engines became more adept at crawling and indexing the content of the web (this had all occurred before Google existed), I'd be doing Headwaters research on AltaVista or Yahoo! or Dmoz, and come I'd across some of my old emails and articles scattered across the web.
In more recent years I've noticed that Google's algorithm seems to be devaluing these old (nearly ancient in Internet time) posts, probably for fairly legitimate reasons (the HTML of those old web pages would not withstand semantic rigors of modern search technology), so they rarely show up in results, or if they do, they're buried many, many, many results pages deep. It's probably that a lot of those pages are simply gone now too, as people fold their old accounts or Geocities pages get closed down, or whatever.
When I first started noticing this, I must admit that it was a little sad, as it seemed almost as if my contributions were disappearing from the universe. I know this is not strictly true, but in a world where we seem to rely increasingly on Google to provide us with what we want to know (I'm certainly guilty of this reliance), it's disappointing that the content of those older articles is devalued in large part because the method used for archiving them did not use the modern HTML standards.
It's a little like devaluing the best encyclopedia in the (physical) library because its publishers have not yet made it available online. Perhaps the actual content contained in that encyclopedia is of better quality than anything published on the web, but most people would never know it because they'd never see it.
I'm conflicted about this on many levels. Partly because I believe passionately that people should have access to the best quality information (so I want people to go the library, or wherever they need to go for that single best source), but I also want that high-quality information to be much more widely accessible than that. Let's face it, the researcher in Prague seeking information on West Coast salmonids can't easily get the 700-page document off the dusty shelf of the tiny library of the Northcoast Environmental Center in California, can he? But what if it's the single best source, and it's not available online at all?
Technology will catch up
I believe (nearly) all of these documents will be available online someday. It may be a decade or more away, but it will happen.
And I will do my part. I have archived all my data from the Headwaters Forest years, and all my BAA articles and photos, and while they're not really in any usable order right now, I am confident that technology will continue to advance in ways that make the data easier to sort and publish. It's already been happening, with sites like Flickr making it easier to share photos, and tools like blogs and wikis making it easier to publish and collaborate.
Not all my contributions have faded away
Interestingly, search technology has more recently broadened to include the content of printed books too. Google Book Search began scanning the collections of several leading universities in 2004. While Google's tool is still in beta and it comprises mostly academic works, I was mildly surprised to see my name turn up with a few results. I was cited in Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash, by Brian Tokar, and Writing for Real: A Handbook for Writers in Community Service , by Carolyn Ross, Joseph M. Williams, and Ardel Thomas. I'd forgotten that I was also thanked in Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society, by my friend Randy Schutt.
Cool Radiohead video Made by Robert Hodgin using the open source tool Processing. You can read about how he made it on his blog.
Robert Silverberg At 73 years old, he has written nearly 300 novels and 600 works of short fiction, along with 100 nonfiction books. He has edited 100 anthologies and published in 100 magazines. And he’s only slowing down a little bit. www.sacbee.com
TrekPassions Oh, the shame.... Do we really need a personals and social networking community for complete and utter dorks? Here is an actual personal from the site: “Wanted: SciFi ‘partner in crime.’ Are you interested in Midnight performances of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’? Prowling bookstores for the newest arrivals. Do you find yourself debating ‘Kirk vs Picard’ or ‘Star Wars vs Star Trek’. Are endlessly watching reruns of: Alien Nation, Babylon5, Stargate SG-1, Firefly or Farscape? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above the drop me a e-mail and lets get...” www.trekpassions.com
What penis size is preferred by women? In case you were wondering. And you know you were. www.buzzfeed.com
Uh oh: Actual distribution of male penis sizes Looks like men aren't living up to women’s expectations in this realm any more than we do in others. www.buzzfeed.com
The Koepp and I (A Play in Two Parts) An interesting post by screenwriter Josh Friedman, who wrote the early script versions of "War of the Worlds," about how a completely different writer got all the credit. hucksblog.blogspot.com
Not Martha My favorites are the enews.org logo cupcakes! Well, that's not what they call them, but that's what I call them. www.notmartha.org