onLine weblog archive

Saturday, September 02, 2000

A while ago I linked to Earth from Space, "a dataset of selected astronaut-acquired imagery of Earth." Now I'm linking to something even better: Visible Earth, "a searchable directory of images, visualizations, and animations of the Earth." [thanks girlhacker]

Friday, September 01, 2000

Here is the solution to the puzzle I posted yesterday. Dave over at geeklife.com came frighteningly close to solving it; he knew he should switch doors, but only missed how exactly the odds change.

The puzzle is mentioned in Confidence Games: Why Your Self-Esteem is Probably Too High, an article from Lingua Franca (is that guy on the pot?) on why your intuition is not to be trusted.

I first came across the puzzle when reading "Ask Marilyn" a while back... JUST KIDDING!!!! I first came across the article in the Paul Hoffman book referenced in the article, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers. It is highly recommended by me and seemingly everyone else that has ever read it.

Thursday, August 31, 2000

Flameproof racism is an interesting article from Salon on a mailing list covering evolutionary psychology. I must say that the angle of the story ("Wow! An online discussion on controversial subject matter that has not degenerated into a flame war!") is a little bit silly, since the civil nature of the discourse is easily explained by the heavy moderation of the list -- the moderator approves EVERYTHING that goes out -- but it's still a good read.




If you follow baseball you probably know that Mark McGwire is not likely to play again this year. He't got a bum knee you see. Anyway, I'm not sure it's related, but Schnuck's (that's a St. Louis grocery chain) is selling McGwire t-shirts for a super reduced price of $3.25. So I got the tackiest one they had.
The best puzzle ever:
There are three doors on stage, labeled A, B, and C. Behind one of them is a sports car; behind the other two are goats. You get to choose one of the doors and keep whatever is behind it. Let's suppose that you choose door A. Now, instead of showing you what's behind door A, Monty Hall slyly opens door B and reveals... a goat. He then offers you the option of switching to door C. Should you take it? (Assume, for the sake of argument, that you are indifferent to the charm of goats.)
Solution to follow.

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

From the Making Money from Your Web Site chapter of Philip Greenspun's Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing:
"The guy with the Web site." That's how my friends introduce me at parties. I guess that says something about what a rich, multifaceted, textured personality I've developed by spending 17 out of my 35 years at MIT. Yeah. Anyway, the response from my new acquaintances is invariably the same: "How are you going to make money off your Web site?"

If they'd been told I'd spent $15 on a copy of The Forsyte Saga, they wouldn't ask how I intended to make money off that. If they knew I'd splurged for a $5000 Viking stove, they wouldn't ask if I was going to start charging my brunch guests $5 each. If I told them I dropped $27,000 on a Toyota minivan, they wouldn't ask if I was going to charge my dog $10 for every trip. Web publishing can cost less than any of these things; why does everyone assume that it has to make money?
Ben and I were just talking about this very thing yesterday. He wants to be an architect that works on his own buildings, not an architect for hire as is the custom in the field. He wants to rehab the building in which he lives, then the whole block, then the neighborhood. It would allow him to fulfill his own personal architectural vision with concern only for practicality of his plans, not the tastes and constraints of a client. He wants ownership.

It's funny, they talk about "taking ownership" of something in the world of the 9-to-5-ers, but it's obviously not at all meant literally. If you "take ownership" of a project at your place of work, it means you care about it, maybe control it; it's your baby. But unless you've got some stock options, you don't really own a bit of it, and even then your ownership is pretty abstract. Still it's a useful way to talk about that type of relationship that a person can have with his or her work, because actual ownership is what makes for the best workers. It is difficult to pour your heart and soul into a project that isn't really yours; it's easy to devote yourself wholly to something with your name on it.

I have more to say on this, but have to head out to band practice; I guess I'll pick it up again tomorrow. [continued here]
From Lingua Franca comes this excellent piece on Stigler's Law of Eponymy:
This law, which in its simplest form states that "no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer," was so dubbed by Stephen Stigler in his recent book Statistics on the Table (Harvard). An immodest act of nomenclature? Not really. If Stigler's law is true, its very name implies that Stigler himself did not discover it. By explaining that the credit belongs instead to the great sociologist of science Robert K. Merton, Stigler not only wins marks for humility; he makes the law to which he has lent his name self-confirming.
Today's Featured Photo is the mouth of one Aaron Belz. He wanted to be on glish.com, and he specifically requested the pink color scheme. I'm sure it is not lost on you that the 1024x768 size would make a nice desktop image.

Tuesday, August 29, 2000

I just made some upgrades to glish.com, most notably a listing of all featured images. I also refined the registration system a bit, adding a log on form to the site navigation to the right, and some behind the scenes stuff that will allow me to control access to the photo sets based on registered user rights (plus a little administrative interface so that I can manage user rights). I'm sure you care.
New best rant ever, from an Onion interview with Harlan Ellison:
So tell me how many ignorant jamooks you have to work with, and deal with in the course of a day... You say this same kind of crazy rant yourself! The problem is that the intellectuals, the people who really do have some sort of education, the atavists and elitists like me who do read, don't understand that they are surrounded by people who are bone-stick-stone stupid. Every time we have some lunatic run amok and shoot someone, when we have kids in schoolyards blowing each other's asses off, everybody says, "What was the reason? What was the motivation?" There is no fucking motivation! The world is turning into a cesspool of imbeciles! The genetic pool has been so hideously polluted, and we have condoned all of it--every bit of stupidity from bad movies and cheap novels and shit fast food to rap music to pretending that the gun lobby is not an evil and insidious operation that serves the gunmakers
My friend Ben just noted that the change from subjective to objective perspective between the photo (below) and Jon Haddock's screenshot is an important part of the effect of the screenshot. You jump out of the road and into the sky, out of the real world and into the virtual perspective.




Most everyone is familiar with Nick Ut's photograph of Vietnamese children fleeing a napalm attack (if you are not, read about more about it in this old slate article), and I can't imagine anyone is not moved by the terror apparent in the distorted expressions and stiff bodies of the children. Actually, I can think of a few people at MetaFilter who might find in it a good joke or two, but that's another story. The photograph's raw emotional power, its historical subject matter, and its vivid documentary feel make it the perfect photo to be given treatment in Jon Haddock's Screenshots exhibit.

By transforming the scene captured in the photo into an isometric video game-like image, it brings into focus the incredible disparity between the horrors of the real world and the cold, detached nature of the virtual world. When I first looked at the screenshot and recognized it as the Ut Photograph, my terror transferred over into my impressions of the screenshot. But it's just a game image, I told myself. But as a game image, it evokes all such images of war and destruction in all the 1st person shoot-em-ups I've ever played, and to feel actual empathetic emotion while looking at it is very odd, and I still don't feel like I've fully digested the experience.
Make sure your sound is up, maximize your browser window, and head over to nosepilot.com for a little "moon turkey nosepilot flash explosion strawberry slide." Maybe it's the beers talking, but that site is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever seen on the web. I didn't want it to end.

Monday, August 28, 2000

So we all know that replying to Spam with "remove" or "unsubscribe" in the subject line with the hopes of being removed form the spammers mailing list is a foolish thing to do, because it only confirms to the spammer that your address is "live," making your address more valuable to him/her both for sale to other spammers and for future Spam mailings. Ok, so now check out this ruthless Spam footer:
***************************************************
----This email has been delivered to you by the OPT IN PLUS
email delivery service. If you feel that this has reached you
in error please feel free to respond with "UNSUBSCRIBE" in
the subject line. We will insure that your email address is
removed from our database immediately. Should you wish to
include additional addresses for removal you may do so by
including these within the body of your document. Thank you
for participating in OPT IN PLUS! We value your membership.
***************************************************
I love the name OPT IN PLUS. Yes, it's an opt in email delivery service, opt in plus any other email address we happen to come across. And should you want to be removed from our list, don't be shy; send us ALL your email adresses. While you're at it, why not paste your address book into the email message and have all your friends removed from OPT IN PLUS!
Don't use Help, use Tips. From a 1996 User Interface Engineering article in "Eye for Design," Making Tips Work:
The basic concept: When you need to communicate to users, put a button [on] the screen called Tips or Hints. When users press it, you give them a couple of very specific pieces of information that help them use the product better.
The observations in this article certainly ring true with me. I for one avoid using an application's "Help" system because it is often so much work to find the info I am looking for. Contextual tips I could be tricked in to using.
suespammers.org, a legal resource for recovering from damages caused by e-mail vandalism.
For those of you that eagerly await video-on-demand, here's an article on the coming SDU technology which is likely to bring it to you.
... the company suggests you think of it this way: To download a 17.8GB digital copy of the science fiction movie The Matrix over a standard 56k modem, it would take almost two weeks of constant download time. Even a cable modem running at an average download speed of 1.5 mbps would take almost half a day.

If you used all the bandwidth available in the SDU, however, you'd be able to download that same film in only a little over a minute. However, if you were only getting 100 mbps--one of the eight "ports" on the SDU--that's still ten times faster than the fastest cable modem.
Please let it be more stable than DSL.
Suck turns 5 today.
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