Ramblings & ephemera

David Foster Wallace on TV, loneliness, & death

From Larry McCaffery’s “Conversation with David Foster Wallace” (Dalkey Archive Press at the University of Illinois: Summer 1993): One thing TV does is help us deny that we’re lonely. With televised images, we can have the facsimile of a relationship without the work of a real relationship. It’s an anesthesia of “form.” The interesting thing […]

Al Qaeda’s use of social networking sites

From Brian Prince’s “How Terrorism Touches the ‘Cloud’ at RSA” (eWeek: 23 April 2009): When it comes to the war on terrorism, not all battles, intelligence gathering and recruitment happen in the street. Some of it occurs in the more elusive world of the Internet, where supporters of terrorist networks build social networking sites to recruit […]

The watchclock knows where your night watchman is

photo credit: 917press From Christopher Fahey’s “Who Watches the Watchman?” (GraphPaper: 2 May 2009): The Detex Newman watchclock was first introduced in 1927 and is still in wide use today. &hellip What could you possibly do in 1900 to be absolutely sure a night watchman was making his full patrol? An elegant solution, designed and […]

Extreme male brains

From Joe Clark’s “The extreme Google brain” (Fawny: 26 April 2009): … Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox, which explains, using scientific findings, why large majorities of girls and women behave almost identically at different stages of their lives – while large minorities of boys and men show vast variability compared to each other and to […]

David Foster Wallace on leadership

From David Foster Wallace’s “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys And The Shrub: Seven Days In The Life Of The Late, Great John McCain” (Rolling Stone: 13 April 2000): The weird thing is that the word “leader” itself is cliché and boring, but when you come across somebody who actually is a real leader, that person isn’t […]

How right-wing talk radio works

From Dan Shelly’s “Former News Radio Staffer Spills the Beans on How Shock Jocks Inspire Hatred and Anger” (AlterNet: 17 November 2008): To begin with, talk show hosts such as Charlie Sykes – one of the best in the business – are popular and powerful because they appeal to a segment of the population that […]

Kids & adults use social networking sites differently

From danah boyd’s “Social Media is Here to Stay… Now What?” at the Microsoft Research Tech Fest, Redmond, Washington (danah: 26 February 2009): For American teenagers, social network sites became a social hangout space, not unlike the malls in which I grew up or the dance halls of yesteryears. This was a place to gather […]

Why cons work on us

From Damien Carrick’s interview with Nicholas Johnson, “The psychology of conmen” (The Law Report: 30 September 2008): Nicholas Johnson: I think what I love most about con artists and the world of scammers is that they’re criminals who manage to get their victims to hand over their possessions freely. Most thieves and robbers and the […]

Word of the day: Sitzfleisch

From Wiktionary: Sitzfleisch: From German Sitzfleisch, from sitzen (“‘to sit’”) + Fleisch (“‘flesh’”) … The ability to endure or carry on with an activity.

What happens to IP when it’s easy to copy anything?

From Bruce Sterling’s “2009 Will Be a Year of Panic” (Seed: 29 January 2009): Let’s consider seven other massive reservoirs of potential popular dread. Any one of these could erupt, shattering the fragile social compact we maintain with one another in order to believe things contrary to fact. … 2. Intellectual property. More specifically, the […]

Socioeconomic analysis of MySpace & Facebook

From danah boyd’s “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace” (danah boyd: 24 June 2007): When MySpace launched in 2003, it was primarily used by 20/30-somethings (just like Friendster before it). The bands began populating the site by early 2004 and throughout 2004, the average age slowly declined. It wasn’t until late 2004 that […]

Criminals working together to improve their tools

From Dan Goodin’s “Crimeware giants form botnet tag team” (The Register: 5 September 2008): The Rock Phish gang – one of the net’s most notorious phishing outfits – has teamed up with another criminal heavyweight called Asprox in overhauling its network with state-of-the-art technology, according to researchers from RSA. Over the past five months, Rock […]

Wikipedia, freedom, & changes in production

From Clay Shirky’s “Old Revolutions, Good; New Revolutions, Bad” (Britannica Blog: 14 June 2007): Gorman’s theory about print – its capabilities ushered in an age very different from manuscript culture — is correct, and the same kind of shift is at work today. As with the transition from manuscripts to print, the new technologies offer […]

ODF compared & constrasted with OOXML

From Sam Hiser’s “Achieving Openness: A Closer Look at ODF and OOXML” (ONLamp.com: 14 June 2007): An open, XML-based standard for displaying and storing data files (text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations) offers a new and promising approach to data storage and document exchange among office applications. A comparison of the two XML-based formats–OpenDocument Format (“ODF”) […]

My new book – Google Apps Deciphered – is out!

I’m really proud to announce that my 5th book is now out & available for purchase: Google Apps Deciphered: Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop. My other books include: Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox Hacking Knoppix Linux Phrasebook Podcasting with Audacity: Creating a Podcast With Free Audio Software (I’ve […]

But we’ve always done it this way …

From James Bennett’s “Let’s talk about Python 3.0” (The B-List: 5 December 2008): There’s an old joke, so old that I don’t even know for certain where it originated, that’s often used to explain why big corporations do things the way they do. It involves some monkeys, a cage, a banana and a fire hose. […]

Why American car companies are in trouble

From Paul Ingrassia’s “How Detroit Drove Into a Ditch” (The Wall Street Journal: 25 October 2008): This situation doesn’t stem from the recent meltdown in banking and the markets. GM, Ford and Chrysler have been losing billions since 2005, when the U.S. economy was still healthy. The financial crisis does, however, greatly exacerbate Detroit’s woes. […]

George Clinton and the sample troll

From Tim Wu’s “On Copyright’s Authorship Policy” (Internet Archive: 2007): On May 4, 2001, a one-man corporation named Bridgeport Music, Inc. launched over 500 counts of copyright infringement against more than 800 different artists and labels.1 Bridgeport Music has no employees, and other than copyrights, no reported assets.2 Technically, Bridgeport is a “catalogue company.” Others […]

If concerts bring money in for the music biz, what happens when concerts get smaller?

From Jillian Cohen’s “The Show Must Go On” (The American: March/April 2008): You can’t steal a concert. You can’t download the band—or the sweaty fans in the front row, or the merch guy, or the sound tech—to your laptop to take with you. Concerts are not like albums—easy to burn, copy, and give to your […]

His employer’s misconfigured laptop gets him charged with a crime

From Robert McMillan’s “A misconfigured laptop, a wrecked life” (NetworkWorld: 18 June 2008): When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued Michael Fiola a Dell Latitude in November 2006, it set off a chain of events that would cost him his job, his friends and about a year of his life, as he fought criminal charges that […]