Life is a Mystery

29 May 2009 . Comments Off on The coming wave

The coming wave

I had my plans for this evening, getting to bed early, maybe watching an episode of The Wire. But no, I made the mistake of catching a blog post about Google Wave. On Google’s site I found this video from a presentation yesterday about this technology that has the potential to unite our disparate forms of electronic communication.

Yeah, one and a half hours long. But it will open your eyes to the similarities between our many modes of communication and the power unleashed when we pull them together. Google things big. In this case, they are thinking of replacing email, instant messaging, twitter, blogs, wikis, and more… all with a simple wave. A wave is a shared communication space. To make it ubiquitous enough to replace half of what we do on the net, Google is releasing the protocol, an API, and most of the source code for their own wave client. Protocol and API documentation are available now, source code should be available well before they take the project live by the end of the year.

The fly in the ointment: spam. I would hope that developing a new network communication framework from the ground up might give us an opportunity to design in the kind of tripwires and security that would prevent spam. Unfortunately, it sounds like the Google team has not really given spam much thought. Uh oh. It could be that the wave model takes away the free ride spam enjoys in some fundamental ways (for example, whatever system starts a wave seems to then host that wave long-term), but I have great faith in the ingenuity of spammers. How long before they spoil this party?

Now maybe I can get some sleep!

26 May 2009 . Comments Off on Blessed be the net, for it connects us

Blessed be the net, for it connects us

Ars Technica covering Catholic news? Surprises never cease. But then, when the head of the Vatican press office calls the internet “truly blessed!” how can the techies turn away. The internet connects us, and gives rise to “an omnidirectional flow of transversal and personal communications,” says Frederico Lombardi SJ.

But the Catholic eye toward the plight of the poor also reminds us…

The “problems” of the Internet are many, but Lombardi is particularly concerned with the way that something as vital as the Internet is distributed so unevenly. “From the Church’s point of view, leaving those with fewer possibilities on the margins is simply not an option,” he said. “For us, the poor and developing countries are at least as important as the wealthy, if not more.”

Amen.

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26 May 2009 . Comments Off on Making music

Making music

So you don’t think you are a musician? Give this a try. You may change your mind, or at least spend a fun hour trying! (Hat tip, who else: Andrew.)

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24 May 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: Media Temple

FFR: Media Temple

Media Temple looks like a vendor to consider for high-end web services.

22 May 2009 . Comments Off on Coping with Mary Jane

Coping with Mary Jane

I’ve never smoked a thing, much less marijuana. On the other hand, I don’t feel terribly judgmental about pot. If anything, I think it is probably on par with alcohol, redeeming social qualities in a package I just don’t happen to enjoy (I run from smoke). It amazes me we spend so much energy outlawing the stuff, that seems like a true waste of time.

Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish has spent a good bit of time covering cannabis this season. Today I noticed two posts that discuss the value of pot in taming the emotional outbursts that attend Aspergers Syndrome.

One reader of the Dish writes:

I first tried cannabis at age 17. I quickly found that when I was medicated, people around me coped far better with my eccentricities. Like many ASDs I have a violent and explosive temper and am often described, especially by women, as a “Scary Guy.” The cannabis increases my tolerance for interruption and also helps me be more extroverted and therefore social.

Another chimes in with:

Example: my morning routine is to wake up early, put on a pot of coffee, let the dog out, pour my cup of coffee, let the dog back in, stir in my cream, then sit on the couch and read or listen to my iPod until my coffee is done. If I haven’t been smoking regularly, and my girlfriend comes down and lets out the dog BEFORE I put on the pot of coffee, that will completely ruin my day if not my entire week. I’ll be irritable by the time I get to work, and liable to snap at the smallest provocation.

On the other hand, if I had smoked the night before, I will notice that my routine has been jockeyed, but it just won’t bother me that much. The same goes for my social connections; when I smoke, I reflect upon, and come to value a social connection, but it’s a cognitive process for me… It’s not something I do naturally, and it’s not something I’m inclined to do if I’m sober (my mind says, “THERES NO TIME, THERES NO TIME”)

Now I wonder, might judicious use of cannabis help, for example, Alex cope with daily life? What if it were available in a non-smoking, perfectly legal form? I get angry all over again that we spend out time outlawing something so benign as marijuana. What a waste.

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21 May 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: TimeGlider

FFR: TimeGlider

Another way to create timelines.

18 May 2009 . Comments Off on On with whose show?

On with whose show?

Mary points to a great summary of license terms for online video sites. It turns out that blip.tv appears to claim many fewer rights to your video than YouTube and Vimeo. YouTube and Vimeo say, essentially, that they can do anything they want with your video so long as you leave it on their site. And after you remove your video? They still retain rights to do anything they want for an undefined “commercially reasonable” amount of time. Yikes, maybe it is time to try bilp.tv?

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15 May 2009 . Comments Off on Fun for geeks

Fun for geeks

Ah well, I was not sure which movie to watch this evening, but Stephen Wolfram may have solved my dilemma. At 7pm central time the team at Wolfram will begin a live webcast of the process they go through to “throw the switch” and bring WolframAlpha online.

Watch live as 150 staff bring over 10,000 CPUs up to service thousands of queries. Will it melt down? Will the thunderstorms predicted for this evening throw a power outage into the mix? Can kakis and button down shirts outdraw black turtleneck and jeans on a webcast?

Gotta say: team Wolfram knows how to hype its product!

If you don’t know what WolframAlpha is about, make sure to peek at the screencast introduction.

UPDATE: It looks like wolframalpha.com is (more or less) up and running, give it a try!

14 May 2009 . Comments Off on Microformats and rich snippets

Microformats and rich snippets

Alex has been getting excited about microformats and just showed me a cool use of a people microformat for contact information on his blog. Today, Eric Childress brought Google’s newly announced “rich snippets” to my attention. Time O’Reilly points out an irony, though:

There’s some small irony that in its first steps towards requesting explicit structured data from webmasters, Google is specifying the vocabularies that can be used for its Rich Snippets rather than mining the structured data formats that already exist on the web. It would be more “googlish” (in the machine learning sense I’ve outlined above) to recognize and use them all, rather than asking webmasters to adopt a new format developed by Google.

Irony aside, microformats have been a growing trend for a while. I first became aware of them with the UnAPI proposal from the code4lib group. It is interesting to note that Google is hedging its bets for now, accepting two types of microformat: RDFa and a community microformat standards like hCard or hReview. RDFa feels like a very top-heavy libraryish standard to me, but it is well thought through and if widely adopted could leverage many other “semantic web” applications.

In any case, it looks like it may be time to really pay attention to microformats. Thanks, Alex, for getting the ball rolling!

13 May 2009 . Comments Off on Dear Mr. President, torture photos

Dear Mr. President, torture photos

I am disappointed with you today, Mr. President. I love so much of what you stand for, but today you stood between the American people and our full understanding of what our government can do if we don’t pay attention. Today you decided not to release the remaining pictures of the torture we inflicted on our prisoners in Iraq. Please reconsider.

I understand your desire to move us beyond recrimination, to protect us from international rebuke, to protect our soldiers from retribution. Your reasons are honorable. But you are wrong. We have already committed these acts, we should make sure we rub our own faces in our dishonorable behavior in every way we can. How else will we, as a people, learn the importance of vigilance? Our friends around the world already know how awfully behaved, being open about our sins is the best possible signal we can send that we have accepted responsibility for our actions. Doesn’t hiding evidence of our dark hour just prove that we still feel we can avoid the full cost of our errors? Those who condoned this activity and hid it from public view should be treated as war criminals and brought to justice. Is there any other way to defend our precious constitution?

All you have done with today’s action is postpone our day of reckoning a little bit longer. I am so proud of your administration, of what you are building in my government. But I must say, today I am ashamed all over again of my America, of our cowardice and our lack of faith in our friends around the world. Your action has brought on that shame.

Please: consider openness. Consider letting the light of the world shine on our dark decade. Let us pay the price now and be part of building a better world as the century moves on.

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Update: a very interesting analysis by Anderew Sullivan. Let’s hope he’s right.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org