Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Saturday, April 30, 2005
Backing Up Blogs
Backing up a blog hosted at (a Google service) is not trivial. Recent server problems with the blog service, doesn't give me any more confidence.

Not an issue for me as I host my Blogger blog locally.

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Earth Day
I know. I'm late. But check out Media Girl's Earth Day post.

via CultureCat

Technorati Tags:

Saturday, April 23, 2005
Enhancing the Browser for Web Dev
Chris Pederick's Web Developer extension (for Firefox and Mozilla) is awe-inspiring. If you dig getting your hands dirty with html and css development, you gotta get this tool.

Technorati Tags:
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Tag Maker
Eric G. Meyers has an online tag generator which I am going to put in use today. (Generate then copy-and-paste.)

via Future Perfect

Technorati Tags:

[Update. You'll see the tags in small text at the bottom of some of my posts. If you click on the tag, it will take you to the technorati site and show you all the recent items tagged with that tag. Tagging in this context is another way of integrating your post in the larger conversation and of categorizing.]

I'm starting to tag my blog posts. Today I tagged all the movie posts plus my Minneapolis library post on their RSS feeds (plus this one).

I hope to utilize the tags for categorizing. Does Technorati offer a way to look at tagged posts from one blog? I don't think so. should look at this too. Or maybe I write something on my own.

Udell Screencast About
Jon Udell has a screencast about the social bookmarking service, discussing how to choose just the right tag (by exploring what others are doing and also keeping track of your own tagging).

There has also been some good discussion on the mailing list about tagging as a collective vs. individual activity. Do you tag for yourself or for the community?

When I started my account, I tagged with every possible tag that would fit. As I saw my list of tags grow and got tired of scrolling up and down for tags with only a single entry, I began tagging conservatively. Then, I started thinking of the community and added tags that I thought would fit the bookmark topic well and make it easier for others to find the entry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Look at Me Reviewed by David Denby
David Denby at the New Yorker reviews Look at Me (Comme une Image) in the April 11 issue. It sounds like a delightful film. It's made by a husband and wife team: Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri. Bacri and Jaoui both write and act and Jaoui directs. Denby calls it "a modern-day fairy tale: cruel father, unloved daughter, young stepmother."

It's in my Netflix queue (although not yet out on DVD although the couple's earlier film, Taste of Others is.)

Recent Flicks
Ocean's 12. I liked the remake of Ocean's 11; the sequel got bad reviews but recently I saw that Mr. Ebert liked it do I got it and kept my expectations low. It was fun and had some great cameos.

Harvest Time. (M-SPIFF) Russian film about a family in the years after WWII. The father lost his legs in battle. The mother is the best tractor driver in the collective and goes nuts trying to win each year and thus keep the Red Banner of honor which the mice nibble on and she keeps repairing. One of two brothers (the younger one) is the narrator and it turns out that he died in the war in Afghanistan. (Mental note: research that war as to how it affected the people of the Soviet Union. How many people served and how does the number compare to our current Iraqi involvement?) The film was slow.

Smoke and Mirrors: A Geisha Story. Director Artemis Willis present. Kiharu Nakamura is 80 and lives in Queens (New York City). She is a former Geisha. The film tells her story sort of. It's really more about the relationship between Ms. Willis and Ms. Nakamura. It's a very nice documentary of a relationship and also about the life of a Japanese woman living in New York. There are also some surprises. (Mary didn't like this one as much as I did.)

The Big Bounce. Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard. This is the original from 1969 which I believe is much darker than the current Owen Wilson treatment. Good script and some good performances. The big problem is Ryan O'Neal as the protagonist, Jack Ryan. I'm sorry but he just doesn't fit this part which is sort of a James Dean type (but someone not quite as dynamic).

Saturday, April 16, 2005
Minneapolis Public Library RSS Feeds
The Minneapolis Public Library redesigned their Web site with CSS and dropped using tables for layout. Way to go! (OK, there are still some tables - notably holding the banner area together up top - but this is a very worthy effort and better than all tables for layout.) The new site opened a few weeks ago.

They added RSS feeds
Much applause and much cheering for this fine accomplishment.

Subscribing to the feeds was a bit confusing. Each one has separate .xml and .rss feed. The .xml link is live and you can connect to the page which is supposed to be formatted for MS Internet Explorer to read; the .rss must be copied and pasted in your aggregator to subscribe. I went to the .xml file and subscribed via Bloglines. This worked fine except for the event calendar feed which was a mess. I went back and changed all my subscriptions to the .rss files and all is well.

They explain the live bookmark feature in Firefox and that you will see the familiar (if you're a Firefox user) orange icon in the lower right corner when a page has a feed. You assume that you will see this icon on their pages but it's absent in two of the three because they're missing the auto-discovery <link> tag in the head of the documents (their web-links page is configured correctly). Maybe it's coming.

(They also mention that Apple's Safari browser can subscribe to these live links. That's a feature that won't be implemented until the next OS X (Tiger) appears on April 29.)

Another thing: the main aggregator link for "What's New..." at the library links to the library home page and not the "What's New..." page.

Finally, there's no feedback email address for the Web site. All sorts of commenting addresses but nothing for the Web site.

A Couple of Suggestions
  1. I would love a "new acquisitions" feed! Every book, CD, magazine, etc. would pass through it and I could link to my account and reserve it. Categories would be nice too: Fiction, Nonfiction, Childrens; then all the music categories.
  2. Move the selected web-links over to and join in social bookmarking.
Thanks MPLIB!


Saturday, April 09, 2005
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (M-SPIFF) is in full swing, mostly in Minneapolis but a bit in St. Paul. (The University of Minnesota campus has two venues within walking distance and a quick bus ride downtown to a third.)

Instead of making agonizing decisions based on reading extensive reviews, Mary and I just pick a time, read descriptions, and pick a film. It is very difficult to choose a film that won't rank equal or above current popular fare. And much of this work will never be seen in this area again.

Last night, I saw The Last Mogul, a documentary about the life and times of Lou Wasserman. Wasserman ran MCA which was one of the first big media conglomerates. What you learn from the film is how much of our media culture is shaped by decisions in a boardroom. Wasserman's group owned just about all the movie stars for a while and when TV came along, MCA was one of the only companies to see the potential and exploit it.

If you grew up in the fifties and sixties in the US, you likely remember watching old films on TV. As I understand it, most of these were owned by Wasserman's group and leased to stations because TV needed content.

There are rumors but no real proof, that Wasserman had mob connections. His group was busted at one point (by Robert Kennedy) for monopoly practice. He then got more involved in politics and did a lot to help Clinton. He was also best buddies with Ronald Reagan, brokering some very sweet deals that kept Reagan working in film and television even though he was, at best, an average actor. He also helped in getting Reagan elected as president of the Screen Actors Guild, the main acting union. If you're running the whole entertainment show, it helps to have your buddy as union president.

Given that Wasserman left no shred of paper behind describing his dealings and that his wife (who was very much involved with the business) was not interviewed in making the film, this is an excellent documentary.

Here's the blurb from the festival site:
The Last Mogul

DIRECTOR: Barry Avrich
CAST: Petr Bart, David and Helen Gurley Brown, Jimmy Carter,Larry King,and others

The life and times of Hollywood super- talent agent -turned -mogul Lew Wasserman is a textbook study of how Hollywood power brokers operate behind complex wheeler-dealer scenes even that even avid filmgoers fail to appreciate. Many key insiders come on camera to help draw the full measure of the stratospheric rise and the humbling fall of a person who represented the very stuff out of which Hollywood emerged to dictate film tastes of a good share of the world. Growing up on the tough streets of Cleveland's colorful Jewish section, Wasserman deployed skill as a music booker just after WWII when as agent for Music Corporation of America his contracts soon controlled 90% of performing bands in the country. His closeness to talent including such clients as Ronald Reagan and Hattie McDaniel ---brought him to Hollywood and access to the right levers to press. His getting Reagan elected as Screen Actors Guild president at the dawn of tv revived a waning screen career that ended you know where. The frank and engrossing doc offers lessons on how to gain power and control in the top executive suites of the industry and how it was finally lost to Japanese media in the Nineties. Veteran Canadian filmmaker Barry Avrich was born in Montreal, Canada in 1963. Aside from a vibrant career making films, Avrich is the President/COO of a leading advertising agency and author of two books including Selling The Sizzle: The Magic + Logic of Entertainment Marketing.

PRODUCER: Tori Hockin, Nat Brescia,Brian Linehan
EDITOR: Alex Shuper
MUSIC: Jim McGrath, Frank Kitching


SF Reading Material
Eric Rescorla at Educated Guesswork lists a few books he likes and that you might like if you like Vernor Vinge (and science/speculative fiction). Vinge deals with various types of artificial intelligence and an event he calls the Singularity. He's both a scientist and fiction writer.

This is all new stuff to me. The concept of the Singularity is a unique point where there will be a major acceleration of technological progress. Possibly AI. Possibly human integrated with computer. But once this Singularity occurs, technological change will be ever faster.

I am here
Saturday mornings finds Mary (the favorite wife) and I at the local Dunn Bros. Coffee Shop (that's the Google link if you want to find us) on the bank of the Mississippi. The Dunnies consistently have the best coffee in this area.

My Hometown
I was born in Virginia, Minnesota (US) on the Iron Range. The Iron Range supplied much of the iron ore for steel production in the US during the forties and fifties.

My dad and his family were in the grocery business. At one time, I think there were three Fleck grocery stores in Virginia. The El Dorado Bar on Chestnut Street is the site of the last store that my Dad owned. It went bankrupt in the sixties. (Curse the grocery chains!)

I don't think anyone in the family became a miner. Most of my generation wanted to get out of there as soon as we graduated from high school.

My Grandpa came to the Range before 1900, which was before the mines. He worked as a cook in a logging camp, even farther north than Virginia, in Ely.

Here is a satellite image of Virginia. It's the best I could find at Google. The large lake on the right is really an old mine pit. (This was open pit mining.)

Dylan Days
Hibbing, Minnesota (US) is hosting (Bob) Dylan Days, May 20 - 24, to celebrate Bob's birthday on May 24. Dylan was born in Hibbing, located on what's known as the Iron Range and a stone's throw from my hometown, Virginia, Minnesota (to actually throw a stone the distance between these two towns, you would have to be a Ranger).

It seems this has been an annual event for several years. First I've heard of it.

Film Notes
Saw A Life Without Pain on April 3, a documentary about people who have no pain receptors. It sounds kind of cool until you see how babies are able to chew their finger to a bloody pulp or scratch their eyes. It doesn't hurt. You learn a lot from the film about this condition.

Saw Land of Plenty by Wim Wenders on April 4. A meditation on post 9/11 America. I will post more on this film but for now I will say that it is a truly great piece of art and definitely worth seeing. He is in search of a distributor.

Starsky & Hutch
DVD night this week had me watching Starsky and Hutch with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Enjoyable and up to my expectations. The film pushed the gay angle more than the TV show. Cameos by the original S & H.

If you enjoy Stiller and Wilson, see it.

Sunday, April 03, 2005
What is a Blog?
From Wikipedia:
A weblog, or simply a blog, is a website which contains periodic, reverse chronologically ordered posts on a common webpage.

Saturday, April 02, 2005
Cheap Labor
Made in China may become a thing of the past. The New York Times has an article about labor shortages at factories in China partly due to low wages and poor working conditions. Since cheap labor is so important to the world's economy, the shortage could "benefit" places like Vietnam and Cambodia. In other words, these countries can have more low-paying, exploitive jobs to provide the US with essential consumer products like toy action figures. What's really sad is the jobs will likely pay more than the Vietnamese or Cambodians are currently making so viewed through some really cracked glasses, we can say were creating opportunity.

The Chinese interviewed in the story had some good comments about this. One young woman said that the job took so much of her time that she had no time left to study and improve herself.

The changes in China are partly due to mobile phones and the internet. Workers at these factories in the past were isolated (especially young woman who were preferred employees as they were thought to be docile). Now they text message and email with friends at other factories and share wage and benefit information.

Thanks to Ongoing for the pointer.

Film: Battle of Algiers
1965. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

Rialto Pictures site for the film including trailers from the original. Very well done.

If you're concerned about the US involvement in Iraq, see this film. Not suitable for children as there is some violence including scenes of torture (but it was released in 1965 so the scenes are not intensely graphic).

What is extraordinary about this film are the similarities between the war in Algeria and the US's current involvement in Iraq. So similar that the Pentagon has screened the film for discussion, inviting guests with this:

How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.
from Rialto Picture's film site, reprint of an article in the NY Times.

This is not your typical war movie. It portrays the insurgency against France in Algiers in the late fifties. Released in 1965 as something of an indictment against the US involvement in Vietnam, it is sympathetic to the guerilla fighters but does a good job of looking at larger moral issues.

There are differences with the current Iraq situation. France was in Algeria for a long time as a colonial power. They had no plans to leave.

France lost. Algeria became a free nation in 1962.

The film uses local actors. It's in a documentary style: black-and-white, grainy, lots of hand-held shots.

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