'The snail! The snail!', they cry. 'How can we possibly escape!?. The problem being that the snail's been moving closer for the last twenty years one way or another and they just weren't paying attention. Because if we're honest, if you don't want or need to be first and you don't need to own the platform, it can't be hard to see roughly where this environment is going.

Tom Coates

 

On the suggestion of Phillip Torrone from MAKE, I've spent much of the past week adding groups to fastr. Previously, fastr only showed photos with certain pre-selected tags. This was a necessary restriction because so many tags are nearly impossible to guess. Using flickr groups makes otherwise difficult tags more guessable by adding some context.

I'm excited about groups because they make fastr more like what I originally had in mind, more open-ended. Because you can play fastr with any flickr group, there's no limit to what kind of game you might play. If you like birds, you can play the birds game. If you like cats, you can play the cats game. And of course, the reason Phillip was interested in suggesting this, if you like MAKE, you can play the MAKE game. The possibilities are endless.

In the process of creating the group version of fastr, I completely rewrote the whole thing. Most of the changes are in the background, making it easier for me to make changes in the future. But one major change you can see when playing is that you have to sign in now to play. You don't have to register (though you can), but you do have to choose a name first, which is checked for anyone already using it. This prevents name conflict and makes it more difficult to cheat, both of which I think improve the game. I don't like that you can't jump right in to a game now, but I think it's a worthwhile sacrifice.

After working out the new bugs I've introduced (I'm sure there are many), and upgrading the non-group version, I plan to add chat. I've avoided this previously because I didn't want to deal with the problems chat introduces, e.g. mean people. But now I can add chat only for registered users, and if someone causes a problem, I'll just delete their registration.

If you play the fastr groups and have any problems, I'd appreciate a note. If you play and don't have any problems, enjoy.

 

The Des Moines Register today published what must be their twentieth report on Iowa Governor and Democrats Looking Conservative chair Tom Vilsack's surprise Easter trip to Iraq:

The whirlwind trip with three other governors also gave the Midwestern Democrat, who is working to establish a command of world affairs, a key line on his resume as he looks at running for president.

I can see that resume already:

Foreign Policy Experience

  • Spent a day in Iraq posing for pictures and doing conference calls with press back in America.

"Almost subliminally, the governor is saying to activists, 'I have foreign policy experience,' " Sabato said. "There will be people out there who, without realizing it, check a box in their own mind that he understands something about the critical hot spot on the globe."

I know which box I've checked in my mind.

exploits war for personal gain

He hasn't even announced his candidacy yet, and I already want to vote against Tom Vilsack for President.

 

I typically refer to the man who lives next door as "the crazy guy." When I was moving in, the landlord said something like "the guy who lives next door is kind of crazy, but he's harmless." In my eleven months here, I haven't seen him harm anything living, but I suspect he's doing some damage to his apartment. I base this suspicion on the clothing I occasionally see hanging among the window blinds. I imagine the clothing is there because the closet is full of dinnerware, which had to be moved so the kitchen cabinets could be used to store hundreds of jars of peanut butter. Everything beyond the blinds is just speculation, but I know that's what I would do if I were crazy.

Maybe I shouldn't call him "crazy." He seems nice enough. Sometimes when he sees Jessica or I coming in or out, he'll interrupt his ongoing conversation with himself to offer some commentary on the state of our neighborhood. "You go in and out a lot," he'll call out. I generally just smile and think to myself that he's surprisingly perceptive for a man who never wears a shirt. Jessica sometimes engages in idle chit-chat. I think this is probably a mistake on her part, but I don't much care for idle chit-chat with sane people.

Today I rode my bike up and down the street several times while twiddling with what I believe is called the "shifter." I'm not familiar with bicycle terminology, but it's the thing that makes the chain move from one gear to another. It wouldn't previously move the chain from gear one to gear two, so I'd have to move it from one to three and then back to two when I reached the top of a hill.

When I bought the bike, they told me I would probably only ever use gear two, but they were wrong. Gear three is for when you're going really fast and want to go even faster, which is a situation I never face in my commute to work. Gear one is for when you're going really slow, but it's still too much work. I use gear one. They probably thought anyone buying a fancy expensive bike would be strong enough to bypass gear one, but they were wrong. I am weak.

My commute to and from work is roughly shaped like a half pipe. I start each trip going down and end it going up. I use gear one as I'm going up the hill at the end, and then I go to gear three and back to gear two at the top. Then I get off my bike and rest while my laptop starts up, forgetting that I need to twiddle with the shifter so I can avoid the one-three-two transition in the next trip. I remembered today, so I rode up and down my street several times twiddling.

A few of my neighbors were outside and watched me ride past several times. I didn't say anything to any of them because I don't much care for idle chit-chat. The crazy guy wasn't out wandering around in front the yard, so he didn't see me. On my fourth or fifth ride past the same neighbors, I wonder if any of them thought "he's a surprisingly capable bike rider for a crazy guy." I sure hope so.

 

Google hCalendar is a Firefox Greasemonkey script I made. It looks for pages with vevents and inserts a button to add each found event to Google Calendar. I'm still working out some time zone oddities Apparently many of the sites using hCalendar have improper time zone markup (e.g. every event is marked as UTC-7 at Upcoming.org), but it otherwise seems to work fine. Now I'm looking forward to my free book. Oddly enough, I'm actually working on another project right now in exchange for free magazines. You can keep your attention economy; I'm going back to bartering. Will code for interesting reading.

 

There once was an X from place B
That satisfied predicate P
He or she did thing A
In an adjective way
Resulting in circumstance C

Steve R. White, Generic Literature

 

For anyone a bit confused about the difference between concurrence and causation, I'm pleased to report that I took a bike ride this evening and did not almost die, reducing my near-death bike ride percentage to fifty for the year. I hope to have my N-DBRP (pronounced "nod burp") down to about two by fall, solidly debunking theories that bike rides significantly increase likelihood of death.

 

Your car alarm is ridiculous. Years of trigger-happy alarms have trained the public to ignore them, and nobody would care if your tastelessly noisy car got stolen anyway. If someone had driven off in it last night as the alarm was blaring, I would have applauded him! THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO MY SENSE OF CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY.

Dinosaur Comics

 

Actually, here is the analogy that came to me by way of good old Sesame Street. They once had a story about the King and the picnic, where the King kept telling everyone to bring the same item. After lots of samey instances where the entire kingdom brought potato salad (usually at the urging of the King, who said "you can't have a picnic without potato salad!"), the King learns how to delegate and a good time was had by all.

That, in a nutshell, is my problem with sweeping declarations like "markets are conversations" or "all marketers are liars" or "go Pinko". It's not a picnic without potato salad, but it's not a picnic with ONLY potato salad.

Ethan, on Burningbird

Mmm.... moderate amounts of potato salad. What a useful analogy.

 

Happy Daylight Savings! (M3U, via CD Baby) Okay, maybe not happy, but certainly the best Daylight Savings song I've ever heard.

 

Dave Rogers wrote:

But here's the thing, I kind of knew all this stuff before, it didn't really matter, did it? I think you could reasonably say I believed it, don't you think? I didn't disbelieve it. But it didn't matter, because even though I knew it and believed it, I still couldn't do the pose. If we say something doesn't matter, that's another way of saying it's meaningless, is it not? Look at a fixed point, focus on your center, that's just information. Believe it, disbelieve it, it's just information. It only mattered when I did it. It only mattered when I lived it.

After reading my Reminder: You Will Die post, my dad asked me something like "so if death helps you remember what's important in life, what's important in life?" I knew what I thought, but had trouble putting it into words. I think I said something like "living is important," which I think probably sounds like a hand-wavy zen statement after talking about the importance of death. I like how Dave phrases it, but even his "bring meaning to life" seems a bit vague.

And maybe a little wrong, too. I think life already has meaning — we just have to recognize it. It's like the difference between hearing to a song, and listening to a song. Anyone can hear whether life has a pleasant melody and go humming along to "You are My Sunshine," but you have to listen to catch the meaning. I'm sure "we have to listen for the meaning of life" sounds really trite, but I think that's because listening sounds so much easier than it is. I'd explain how to listen, but I'm not very good at it myself.

I think listening for meaning is what people are generally doing when they pray or meditate, but I'm hesitant to suggest anyone do those things. I've had too many people ask me if I pray when it's obvious they don't. They're asking if I sit with my hands folded and recite the same meaningless words they do. In that sense, I quit praying several years ago. And I've had the same experience with meditation. Though it does seem to be more difficult, I've encountered enough meditation evangelists — certain that if I only go to their meditation class with them, all my problems will be solved — to believe it's possible to meditate without listening.

And then I've met people who neither pray nor meditate, but are clearly practiced in listening for meaning in life. Some find it in music, some in words, some in photos, some in other people, some in themselves. We're not at all short on places to find meaning in life. We just need to listen for it.