Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gone visitin'

Notes on travelling:

I decided to re-write and date this post because, honestly, it was emotionally false. It sounded peevish to me, and although I am often peevish, it doesn't really reflect how I am feeling about travelling.

Travel is broadening: It's true. I don't know who said it. But travel, all travel, not just to exotic shores, but stupid little jaunts to Cedar Point. I have written about how browsing is the one great act of mystery in life. Travelling, like shopping, and cruising, and surfing the net. They all offer direct, unfiltered access to the parts of the world. (Fri, Mar 30th)

I love travelling. Really, I love driving. I love getting in a car and going for awhile, just seeing things on the road, people in rest stops. It reminds me of things, like how I don't want to become a cartoon of my ideals, and how people use the gaudy and ephemeral to give themselves definition. I adore the gaudy and ephemeral. I will be a very tacky old man.

Because I have a poindextery, librarianish love of dates, I took rough notes on time of departure and arrival. We drove approximately ten hours to New Jersey, three chunks each day. It was nice and leisurely. We pushed a little more the first day, and traffic was clear. There was a huge mass of congestion on the east edge of Pennsylvania. Luckily, it was on the other side of the freeway.

Coming Next: Some travel writing: irrelevant hotel reviews, friendships made and lost, exotic sights.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cool Wikipedia Uses

In an earlier post about wikipedia, I wrote about how I like to check out comic book titles that I am unfamiliar with before I buy them. You can get rundowns of the plots of a whole series.

Another nifty thing I like about Wikipedia is that you can use it to find time lines. This is often handy when kids are doing school reports. For instance: "I have to do a report about something that happened in 1969." If you type a year, like 1942, into the Wikipedia search bar, you'll get an article about that year with events listed by month, lists of births, deaths, and events by other categories, I'm assuming as strikes the fancies of contributors.

In addition, there's a funky panel on the side that will lead you to macro and micro-topics: 1942 in New Zeland, in Art, in whatever. What a beautiful browsing tool.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Long Tail

I like the long tail idea because it is an expression of human potential. Basically, what the long tail idea says is that people's interests are far more individuated than the mass market has historically been able to support. So, for instance, if you have a big thing for blotter acid art, you're out of luck because ABC and Random House aren't going to do TV specials or publish coffee table books about the topic you love.

But now that computer storage and searching are getting so cheap, sub-cultural art and craft will flourish because you can find pages like this, which not only shows you pictures of blotter acid art, but will sell you posters made from it. You can see the applications on the web from conspiracy theory to toys. Nothing sells niche better than the web.

I was equally interested in this post by the long tail dude, that says bored people have lots of energy to do other things. It sounds common sense, but what it really means is that if you put even a fraction of your boredom into a craft, hobby, or personal interest, you are contributing to the advancement of the human race. It's a sort of cubical Christianity: bettering mankind through the harnessing of ennui.

David Brin
touches on the spare cycles thing in both The Transparent Society and Kiln People. In Transparent Society, he suggests that hoards of interested amateurs will help make advances in fields like astronomy. In Kiln People, he sort of literalizes the connection. Kiln people are time limited pseudo-biological copies of yourself that you can send off to work while you participate in hobbies. Spare cycles galore.

I like the energy and optimism of these ideas. What they mean to me is that someday in the not too distant future, lots of edumicated people will be able to make a living exploiting intellectual niches that they love, or at the very least get compensated for contributing to the culture at large.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No love for for the tops of malls

Every once in a while, we get an interesting question on the desk. By which I mean, not usual. Something that requires me to think about where I find the information.

I just had a guy call up and ask for an aerial photo of the local mall. After prodding a little bit, doing what we in the biz call a "reference interview," I found out that his kid, in school in ?Europe? needs it for some project or another. He says "It should be easy to find."

Strangely enough, my gut agrees, although my head is laughing. Easy? Ariel photo of a mall?

I fussed around on Google images for awhile. We have a collection of ariel photographs taken by a local dude, but I thought the mall was newer than the collection by several decades (I may have been wrong). I probably should have checked the mall website.

What I eventually did is talk him through finding the mall on Google Maps, using he satellite view, and then copying the screen into paint. I don't know if it will suffice (I imagine it would be rather hard to alter in a image program, for one, and the mall isn't very distinguishable from the surrounding parking lot for another) but he seemed happy, and the law of diminishing returns kind of made me feel like it wasn't worth pursuing.

I was happy to have thought of Google Maps. I'm surprised his kid didn't twig to it, personally. I was only thinking of it because I had an involved conversation with a co-worker about a senior center replacing a greenhouse in my neighborhood, which reminded me of a conversation I'd had with my friend Adam upon my moving out here. He'd been using Google maps to look at my new house, asking what that air plane hanger looking thingy was. It was the other greenhouse in my neighborhood.

It is funny that both the patron and I thought it would be "easy" to find aerial photographs of a mall. Why? Who cares about the tops of malls? Even if there is some kind of architectural need to photograph malls from the air, who would bother to collect the information? If it was collected, who would care enough to spare the time and effort to collate it on a web page, much less print it? What library would let a said collection take up shelf space if it were printed? It would certainly not been available in your average public library fifteen years ago.

In the age of the internet, we expect everything to be online. Everything. In fact, the roof of the crossroads mall is, to my knowledge, only online as an artifact of another resource.

Websites and other electronic resources, though they take up so little physical space, still take time and effort. There has to be interest, personal or financial, in gathering and collating the info. I'm still fussing around on the internet, looking for a mall roofs site, not finding it. Sad to say, no love for mall roofs. I doubt that even Santa Clause, the king of both mallrats and rooftop topography, cares enough to make a website.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

So, um.

Over the weekend, I put ads on my two blogs. This one and rosy rod of wonder, my Dungeons and Dragons blog. On that blog, I post magic items that I've created for the game. For those who haven't been exposed to Lord of the Rings or World of Warcraft or Harry Potter, when you play a character in a game like Dungeons and Dragons, he often collects magic items: rings or cloaks that make you invisible. Magic swords. Wands that throw spells. Stuff like that.

And ads started showing up.

They are curiously literal. I expected to get ads for RPG stores and massive multiplayer sites and stuff. I got ads for the site Motor City Pagans... which is for people of the neo-pagan faith. And, for people who collect knives and suchlike. And that's cool. Probably a lot of crossover between the role playing and neo-pagan communities. People who buy swords buy dungeons and dragons books. You know.

I'm a little uncomfortable with, and Those seem to be sites that promote magic as an answer to life's problems. I'm all for escapism. But in my real life, I'm a fairly bloody minded atheist. Paying people to perform miracles for you, or even encouraging them to wish upon a star for good luck, strikes me as... impractical at best. Chicanery if you are really making your living off of other people's grief and despair. If you are a skeptic of any sort, you can imagine my chagrin.

My chagrin being what makes it funny, actually. I have kind of a cruel sense of humor.

So, you know. I will wait awhile and see what ads show up generally. I'll see if I can find a way to block the "psychic hotline" style ads if they keep showing.

What I really worry about... see, what I really worry about is that the only two ads that have showed up for this estimable blog have been for insomnia products.

Like, dude. What does that say about my blog?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Kapture to America

A new survey from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, The National Poll on Children’s Health, has found that US parents rate Internet Safety as being a more serious health threat to children than school violence, sexually transmitted diseases, abuse and neglect.

From: Telecrunch


Get a GRIP.

That the internet is on this list at all is a little foolish. That it ranks higher than school violence is oddly savant. But, um, more than abuse?

One might as well include "riding their bike to the next block" on the list.

Scares me more.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

We're not unreasonable, I mean no one's gonna eat your eyes...

It's not the video, it's the song. It's really the first song that's made me want to buy an album for, let's say conservatively, five years.

"Someday you'll run out of food and guns and have to make the call..."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Blogs worth feeding

The joy of setting up an RSS feed is that you can check it every day and look at the posts that are most interesting. The problem is that the wealth of possible content can make you feel obligated to read every single post. The ideal is to find blogs that you can page through quickly, or update infrequently, and always have interesting material. I have a bunch of blogs that are more useful to me: hobby and work related blogs. This is a list of the blogs that I find most worthwhile: browsing them often brings me a little feeling of joy. They maximize the interest to volume ratio.

Bibliodyssey: This blog is for book, art, and history lovers alike. This dude posts pictures of old manuscripts that are both beautiful and informative. It is a window into the personalities of other ages. I made a PC desktop out of a page from an old alchemical manuscript, and would hang pages from the Islamic science manuscripts on my walls if I could figure out how to make posters out of them.

Indexed: Oddest web comic evar, I get a huge kick out of seeing graphs as cartoons. It takes some work to decipher the joke sometimes, but quite often, between the label and the graph there is a fun or charming joke. April 20th is simple and amusing. March 27th is pointed. And amusing.

Be not solitary, be not alone: I ran across this lady's blog at random. She is cheery, takes lovely , richly textured pictures of interesting things (bugs and ?Taiwanese? market places and tourist spots). Her posts are spotty, but always interesting to page through.

Jeff's Gameblog: I think this guy is one of the sharpest nails in the box, largely because he has a good idea of why people have fun playing games. Such as this rule. This blog is largely for uber tabletop gaming nerds.

Post Secret: Because it reminds me that, despite the professional or kewl facades that we show the world, there really is a wealth of feeling in the human animal.