Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005
Social Bookmarking (this is a url, web address -- plug in browser address area and go, ok?) is a social bookmarking site. Who cares?

Why Social Bookmarking is a Good Thing
  1. Your bookmarks are stored on the Internet so they are available from any computer that is connected to the Internet (via your Web browser -- Internet Explorer, Netscape, Safari, whatever).
  2. If you ever decide to use a different brand of browser, you don't have to worry about your bookmarks because they are stored on the Internet.
  3. You tag your bookmarks and create your own sort of database of tags to find your stuff at the site. (There's even a new term for this tagging idea: folksonomy.) (And the tagging is really easy to do.)
  4. Your bookmarks are public and shared with the world or at least the portion of the world that visits (Opinions vary on this public aspect. I think it's cool. Some wish for more privacy.)
  5. You see everybody else's bookmarks. They are tagging their bookmarks too so you can see what they are bookmarking on the same types of topics that you're bookmarking and you will discover some new sites to visit with pertinent information.
  6. It's easy to use -- really, really easy to use. After you get your account, go to the About or Post section and read how to use and install the bookmarklets. If you have any trouble with this or any confusion, comment here and I'll try to help. (If you're too shy to comment, email me pfhyper@[take this part out]
  7. You can use in innovative ways like a collaborative account to store bookmarks on a particular project (or keep separate accounts and agree on a controlled tagging system).
  8. From the, you can see what's popular out there on the Web. At this moment, 796 people have bookmarked 11 Steps to a better brain at New Scientist.
  9. There's other data available like how many people have bookmarked a URL and what they are using for tags.
  10. The guy who started, Joshua Schachter, seems like a really nice person.
  11. You're helping to organize the World Wide Web! (All of us together can tag all of the pages of the Web and finally get it organized.)
  12. It's fun.
  13. For the geek in you, there's RSS feeds galore.
My collection is here.

If you're interested in the tagging phenomenom, here's a scholarly treatment by Adam Mathes.

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Monday, May 23, 2005
End of a Franchise Plus Wonderful French Film
Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith in which all is revealed and Darth is born.

I'm glad it's over. Long live the Sith.

Check out Lane's review.

Taste of Others

A French film by Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri. She is writer, director, and acts. He writes and acts. Parts reminded me of Altman; other parts of Woody Allen. It's about relationships.

Very well done. I wish it was in English as there is much in the language that I'm sure I miss.

I'm looking forward to seeing their current film, Look at Me.

Here's the NY Times Review.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005
Microsoft UK Has a Thought Thieves Film Contest
Microsoft is having a film competition about thought thievery. You know, like downloading stuff on peer-to-peer networks or bringing your camcorder to a movie theater and filming Revenge of the Sith, then burning DVDs and selling them.

Here's the blurb from the MS UK site:
Thought Thieves is about people stealing and profiting from your creation or innovation. Think about it: how would you feel if you saw your hard work being passed off as the property of someone else? What would you do?
I'd feel bad. Like if I made a film for this competition and I won and then Microsoft said that I must:
...formally licence on terms acceptable to Microsoft, all intellectual property rights in my film and agree to waive all moral rights in relation to my film if requested to do so.
Luckily Microsoft tells you upfront in the entry form that this is what you must do. And heck, you don't even have to win to have MS possess your intellectual property; you just have to be a finalist.

This seems a bit whacked even for Microsoft.

To enter your film go here.


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Books to Read Someday
Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.

From the Apr 11 (2005) New Yorker review by Louis Menand:
Ishiguro does not write like a realist. He writes like someone impersonating a realist, and this is one reason for the peculiar fascination of his books. He is actually a fabulist and an ironist, and the writers he most resembles, under the genteel mask, are Kafka and Beckett. This is why the prose is always slightly overspecific. It’s realism from an instruction manual: literal, thorough, determined to leave nothing out. But it has a vaguely irreal effect.

Peter Abrahams’s suspense novel Oblivion

A new thriller from an unheralded master of suspense (says Joyce Carol Oates).

Oates reviews in the Apr 4 (2005) New Yorker.
The protagonist is a forty-two-year-old Los Angeles private detective named Nick Petrov, who, at first unknowingly, suffers from a form of brain cancer ("glioblastoma multiform") whose symptoms he attempts to rationalize or conflate with the progress of his current investigation. ..."Oblivion" immerses us in Petrov’s assailed consciousness as he navigates his way through a Dali landscape of baffling clues, memory lapses, and visual hallucinations in an attempted reconstruction of personality that is simultaneously a search for a missing fifteen-year-old girl: "Find the girl and live."

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Short Fiction at New Yorker
Mallam Sile by Mohammed Naseehu Ali

Set in the Ghanian city of Kumasi, this is a delightful story of a man, Mallam Sile, at peace with himself and his world. Except at forty-six, he's still a virgin. The story chronicles, among other things, his quest for a wife. Ali gives us exceptional detail of an African Muslim community and the relationships between men and women.

Also recomended, same author, The Manhood Test.

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Book Review: End of Poverty
John Cassidy reviews Jeffrey Sach's End of Poverty in the Apr 11 (2005) New Yorker. Sachs has been an economic advisor in the developing world for the past twenty years. He is currently directing the United Nations Millennium Project which hopes to halve global poverty by 2015. Sachs has an interesting and sometimes controversial past and Cassidy's review is an interesting read.

MPR's Midmorning show interviewed Sachs on May 18.

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New Yorker Gains a Masthead
the New York Observer has emptied the scribbled-on scraps of paper and cocktail napkins from their pockets to piece together a nearly complete masthead for the magazine (to make up for the fact that they have none).
An interesting listing of editors, writers, artists, etc. on the staff with a few pictures (darn, no picture of my favorite political guy Hendrik Hertzberg). is host of the New Yorker Magazine Database too.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Blogs on TV
Blogs on TV are generally one of those really dumb ideas. Jon Stewart at the Daily Show comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Raiders Recreated
Two teenagers recreate Raiders of the Lost Ark over a span of seven years. This is an incredible story.

Sunday, May 15, 2005
Email Etiquette
ChangeThis, the manifesto place, previously blogged here, has an email etiquette manifesto called How to Be a Boor by Elly Markson. It's short and a good read.

He lists nine points. I would add a couple more about email subjects.

1. Your email needs a subject that somehow relates to the content. Don't leave it blank and don't reply to my last email to you and start a new topic without editing the subject.

2. Don't begin your email in the subject (with a sentence fragment) and then continue in the body.

Someone where I work does this. What I've discovered, at least about myself, is that I skim subject and sender and then jump to the body. It's jarring to jump to the body and find the three-dot ellipsis (...) and a partial sentence. Completely breaks the flow and I have to look up and start again with the subject.

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Intelligent Media
From the ChangeThis manifesto:
We're betting that a significant portion of the population wants to hear thoughtful, rational, constructive arguments about important issues. We're certain that the best of these manifestos will spread, hand to hand, person to person, until these manifestos have reached a critical mass and actually changed the tone and substance of our debate.

ChangeThis is a site for publishing manifestos including (maybe) yours. They have some well-known manifesto writers -- like Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and a regular New Yorker contributor. (Chris Anderson's Wired article, The Long Tail, about marketing in the new Internet age, is there too.)

You submit a 300-word proposal and if they like it, you write the manifesto (in Word) and if they like that, they publish it as a beautiful (really) PDF. (I question PDF as the sole format - give me web too - but they likely have a good reason. I just like to avoid proprietary if at all possible.)

If they don't like it or don't deem it worthy of publishing, they still toss it in the slush pile where visitors to the site are welcome to read it. If it gets read a lot, they might reconsider publishing.

(At this writing at least, I can't find the slush pile and the proposals area is empty. Is no one proposing?)

You can subscribe and get notified when new manifestos are posted and you can host a manifesto and they will publicize your blog. Manifestos also have trackback urls.

Tracking the Names
There's really not a whole lot to say about The Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager. You just have to go and play with it. It tracks name rank over the 20th (and into the 21st) century.

Then drop by Steven Berlin Johnson's post for more information. Read the comments too.

(Firefox 1.0.2 on the Mac won't display the Java. Safari 1.3 works fine.)

via Chris Anderson's Long Tail Blog.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005
River Barges
I live within walking distance of the Mississippi River. If I see a tow with barges, I always pause and watch it and often wonder what life would be like aboard one.

John McPhee must have wondered about this too as he decided to ride along with the crew of the Billy Joe Boling and write about them.

"Tight-Assed River" appeared in the Nov. 15, 2004 New Yorker. No free copies on the Web but you can buy the article here for $9.95 (price of the magazine was only $3.95 so see if you can order a back issue at the New Yorker site).

The Billy Joe Boling travels the Illinois River. Where's that? Well, according to McPhee, there's one in Oregon, another in Arkansas, and the third is actually in Illinois. McPhee's river starts near Chicago and descends 273 river miles to Grafton, IL, on the Mississippi forty from St. Louis.

It's a wonderful piece about the boats that ply our nation's rivers and the people who tend them.

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Angry Movies
Today we will showcase two films about anger. The first is about relationship anger; the second about revolutionary anger. I will leave it up to the discriminating viewer to decide which is worse.

Upside of Anger (2005)

Kevin Kostner and Joan Allen won't win an Academy but it's an OK love story. Does prove that Mr. Kostner should forget about the adventure/hero genre and concentrate on romantic comedy. Lots of drug use (mainly alcohol) with no clear message that maybe that's not a good idea although Joan's character does quit at one point.

Good date film especially for older couples (unless you're a reformed alcoholic).

The Interpreter (2005)

This is an intelligent thriller. Both Sean Penn (Tobin) and Nicole Kidman (Silvia) do well in their roles and the plot avoids cliches while twisting and turning. Most surprising: Tobin and Silvia don't have time for romance! First film to be allowed to use the UN as a location.

There are graphic scenes of corpses and injured but violence isn't over the top. Rated PG-13.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005
Serenity Screenings Sellout via Internet
Posted at Slashdot:
Last Wednesday, Universal offered fans of Joss Whedon's Serenity the unique opportunity to screen an unfinished version of the movie in ten cities. This was originally intended to pull both fans and non-fans into the fold, but the screenings sold out so quickly (less than a day for all cities to sell-out, but reportably just a few minutes in a couple of locations), it is clear that only the hard-core fanbase will make it in. This seemed to be completely unexpected by Universal, as ads were appearing in newspapers after the sell out, and incentives for the fans to promote the screenings were removed.
The MPA (Motion Picture Association) is lobbying for stronger protections against digital theft of movies via the Internet and one of their arguments is that movies cost like $100 million to make and every woman, man, and child that sees the film should pay a little to make up the expense.

So how much extra did these print ads -- which I assume were in major cities -- raise the cost of this movie? Because Universal seems clueless about Internet buzz and its power, the ads were unnecessary.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005
Movie Time
Quitting is a docu-drama and has the main star, Jia Hongsheng, playing himself. He was well-known TV-movie actor in China in the 80s and 90s who started using drugs and ended up with some pretty severe mental problems.

The film is really interesting in showing us the culture of modern-day China. The idea of TV and film stardom is certainly familiar to us here in the US but the familial culture of China still pervades. As Jia starts using more drugs and withdrawing from everyone, his sister and parents arrive from the country to live with him in Beijing. His father retires early from his job to do this. So here's this withdrawn, young (in his twenties), druggie movie star living alone in the big city and his parents just show up and move in to figure out what to do with him. So you can try to rebel in China but mom and dad are never far away.

I recommend this film for it's cultural highlights. It also has some innovative technique in breaking through the audience wall and revealing the sets a few times.

Jia's favorite Western group is the Beatles and his favorite song is "Let it Be" which somehow translates to Chinese as "Take it naturally".

Here's the plot summary from the imdb entry:
In the late 80s, a new film star, Jia Hongsheng, emerged in China. Labeled 'the thug idol,' he gained fame playing gangsters and heroes in a series of Chinese B-movies. Jia went on to star in a stage version of "Kiss of the Spider Woman" directed by Zhang Yang and soon became the actor of choice for Chinese sixth generation filmmakers such as Wang Xiaoshuai and Lou Ye. He had his first experience with drugs on the set of "Spider Woman." Jia's naturally fragile mental/psychological state coupled with his experimentation with drugs gradually led him into a state of despair. He stopped acting and cut himself off entirely from all his friends and family, locking himself in his apartment. This is the story of Jia's journey, from the cutting edge of China's artistic movement in the early 90s, through a period of conflict with himself and his parents, to a mental institution and finally on the quest to rediscover himself and his family.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Some Historical Background on Irag
Where Iraq came from and how T. E. Lawrence helped it get their.

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