Site Upgraded, Possibly Buggy

I’ve just finished upgrading to the latest wordpress release. All functions appear to be nominal, but if you come across any bugs please let me know via comment or email.


I should link to muxtape, in part to celebrate it’s brilliantness as the best-yet incarnation of a potent concept, in part in appreciation for it’s effective design (design in the good sense) and in part to remind myself to make better use of it in the few remaining days I have umbilically ubiquitous internet connectivity.

Lincoln Had Holograph Technology

From Wikipedia’s article on the Lincoln Bedroom:

“A holograph copy of the Gettysburg Address is displayed on the desk. This copy is the only one of five that is signed, dated, and titled by Lincoln.”

What are the implications?

Two Things That Blew My Mind on Monday

Thing 1: In this episode of the CBC radio show Search Engine, they discuss the tens of thousands of “Chinese gold farmers” who “play” online video games to generate virtual gold to sell to western gamers for real cash. They are crammed dozens to an apartment, rotating between the computers and the sleeping mats in 12 hour shifts, playing the same game, killing the same respawning monsters, all day every day. Apparently it’s a thing that they don’t wear shirts. I’d rather do repetitive manual labour. What blew my mind was the researcher who claimed that in his interviews, some of the farmers claimed that they spend their off-hours… playing the same video games. I guess it’s the world they relate to.

There’s also a documentary in production about gold farmers, and a Cory Doctorow short story about a UK gamer who gets hired to raid online sweatshops to steal their gold and gets co-opted by an online labour organizer. And plenty of other exquisitely weird aspects.

Thing 2: Apparently V.S. Ramachandran was investigating the synesthesia phenomenon in which people experience certain colours in association with certain numbers, and had the smarty-pants idea to find a colour-blind number-synesthete. Colour-blind people’s experience of colour is limited by low-performing retinas, but there isn’t anything wrong with the colour-interpreting parts of their brains so, what happens when they see the number-induced colours? Turns out they see those colours (and only those colours!) as intensely as a normal person can perceive normal colour. The synesthete had the pet-term “martian colors” for them. Damn.

Casting Aspersions on Modern Matrix Math?

The S.O.S. Mathematics primer on matrix algebra leads off thusly:

Matrices and Determinants were discovered and developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Initially, their development dealt with transformation of geometric objects and solution of systems of linear equations. Historically, the early emphasis was on the determinant, not the matrix. In modern treatments of linear algebra, matrices are considered first. We will not speculate much on this issue.

Remembering Squamish and its Freenet

Looks like the Sea-to-Sky Freenet is finally getting a new website. I made the current/old one back in 2003, on a contract. I’ve written up that story in my projects page. Its fun to remember. Squamish was a good town, in its weird, pretty, grim way. That was a good stretch of life, in a weird, pretty, grim way. As part of the project, I put up a few old photos from Squampton.

paradise valley from tantalus

Michael Crook in Toronto’s Sewers

I keep thinking about this interview I read a while ago with Michael Crook. Crook is a urban tunneler. He explores the fringes of public space. The interview is mostly about sewers. He lives and explores in Toronto. The interview makes Toronto sing with life the way Michael Ondaatje’s books have. I doubt it’s coincidence that one of the named drainage systems he refers to is “the Skin of the Lion”.

Drains of Canada: An Interview with Michael Cook

I won’t try and pull any particular quotes out, the whole thing is amazing. And then there’s the photographs.

I haven’t spent much time on Michael’s website, Vanishing Point, but superficially it appears to be one of the best websites I’ve seen.

BoingBoing Hires God to Play the Organ

I’m a hardened addict. Sometimes I don’t even like visiting boingboing. It’s kind of like those people who live in lower mainland BC but are pissed off at the breathtaking scenery cause, like, what am I supposed to do about that?

Boingboing has just had a total site redesign. Ironically (?) I learned about the redesign from‘s RSS feed. It’s nice. I like it, although lots of people don’t seem to. Maybe the biggest deal is the return of comments. The boingboing gang of 4’s justification for turning comments off a few years ago was that they couldn’t effectively moderate them. So now they’ve hired somebody to do it. Who do you hire to moderate your comments if you are the most-visited blog on the internet, with a monthly readership approximately equal to Wired magazine’s and total monthly expenses of a few thousand in hosting fees? Teresa Nielsen Hayden apparently. Which is kind of like starting a new church and hiring god to play the organ. I imagine she’ll do well.

OpenStreetMaps: You Can Has Interesting Maps

As part of my series of ‘quality blogposts I will eventually get around to writing’ (see also further notes on making websites from open source CMSs and comparing music player software), I’m working on some hows and whys to make embedded website maps using open source tools. Inevitably, this isn’t that. But I did come across this website and I figured it was worthy of a shout out:


OpenStreetMap is a project aimed squarely at creating and providing free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive or unexpected ways.

Their mediawiki powered, cc-wiki licensed website is amateurish but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my estimation. Sometimes amateur websites suffer from poor informational design, but this is one of the better I’ve seen. The “I want to see maps; get out of my way!” link square at the top of the front page may be a bit cute but it does the job. The ‘lolcat of awesomeness’ they hand out to special contributors may be way too cute but well, it does the job. The whole thing comes off as active, friendly, and telegraphs how to get deeper in, rather than intimidating the new visitor by suggesting how much deeper in you would have to go to figure anything much useful out.

lolcat of awesomeness, I'm afraid

And they’re an open-access street map project. How cool is that?

In Fairness to Songbird

After damning Songbird with some markedly faint praise back there, I started to feel guilty. I should at least point out that Songbird’s stated central mission has always been “playing the internet”. Thats a cool idea, and one at which even the current preview-grade software is very successful. Loading a music blog webpage into your music player and playing it like an album or a playlist is actually a bit of a head-bender. Do it once and you might start convincing yourself that the songbird folks are on to something big.

For me it’s almost the ideal music exploration model. Music blogs are awesome, but they require your focused attention, whether each track is interesting to you or not. You have to download the songs one by one, and either download them all and queue them all up into your player, or else read over the musicblogger’s post about each of the them to choose which you’ll download. Then choose which you’ll delete. It’s a more natural experience to load the site into Songbird’s hybrid browser/player and leave it playing in the background, then read the report for just those songs that catch your attention. Songbird turns a static music blog into a dynamic experience that combines the best of music blogs with the best of radio… high quality music, chosen to a purpose and theme, with skipping and replaying and pausing, and commentary that is both comprehensive–every song is contextualized–and also optional if you aren’t interested in reading it for that song. I’m in in in.

There are also features for integration with online music stores and I believe streaming and network music sites, which is probably cool too. So let’s get this thing out of alpha and into beta or something.

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