<rant>

Whoever is in charge of posting Daily Show and Colbert Report clips to comedycentral.com should be fired. I’m subscribed to these clips via my Comedy Central RSS Creator feeds, so I see the various permutations they go through between when they’re first posted and the final, correct versions. In the past, there have been several problems of links pointing to the wrong clips. Some of these get corrected and some are left broken forever.

But in the past few days, the problems have compounded. Clips are posted with titles like "Interview part 1" or "Headline part 2", then renamed hours later with actual descriptive titles. Daily Show clips are posted under the Colbert Report. And it’s Windows Media, so it frequently just doesn’t work at all. That last one isn’t really the responsibility of whoever is uploading the clips, but it’s part of what annoys me. Can it really be that difficult to post the clips with the correct title, the correct show, and the correct clip? I notice the ads never fail to load correctly.

</rant>

 

I wanted to record this from Newsweek International:

Losing the War...Losing the War...Losing the War...My Life in Picture

Via MetaFilter

 

I’m done with Deadwood. I didn’t read until I had finished watching season 3 that there won’t likely be a season 4, which is disappointing. But it sounds like there’s still some chance they’ll wrap up the plot with a few more longer episodes.

Until Battlestar Galactica starts up again, I am lacking my staple one television show. I’ve recently had three different people whose opinions on TV I trust recommend, if only implicitly by mentioning that they watch, Veronica Mars. The first was Peter, I think via email, as I’m not finding it in his blog. The second was Dave Rogers. And then there was Dan.

So I watched the first episode with high expectations. It did not meet those expectations. The characters aren’t particularly interesting, and the plot of the first episode was pretty standard high school drama. But I talked to Dan and his wife about it, and they suggested I give it a couple more shows before giving up on it. I just watched the third episode tonight and while my opinion hasn’t substantially changed, I expect I’ll keep watching.

The individual plots of the second and third episodes were slightly more interesting than the first, but more important to keep my attention, there’s a more developed but still unresolved over-arching plot. Unfortunately the characters are still rather boring. The good guys are always good and the bad guys are always bad. Also, the kids are unbelievably mature. So maybe I’ll stop watching Veronica Mars in a couple weeks when Battlestar Galactica starts up again, but for now, it seems to have become my time killer despite these deficiencies.

 

My plan for BarCamp was to follow up the session on microformats by showing something specific and cool you can do with microformats in the area of geohacking and online mapping. Specifically, you can combine Technorati's microformat search for finding hCard data, my new Auto Geo proxy for geocoding addressed hCards, Brian Suda's geo-to-KML service for creating KML documents from geocoded data, and Google Maps, for displaying the data in a nify map.

The whole thing was going to be pretty cool. You could search for "Bob" and get a map of people named Bob, and all Bob has to do is basically wrap his address in class="adr". That’s much easier than making your own Google Map, which is about as easy as it can be, or looking up your latitude and longitude, which is still needlessly cumbersome.

And I’m still working on making this whole process run a little more smoothly for Bob and his once and future friends who want to find him on a map. But I will no longer be talking about this in any depth at BarCampMilwaukee. The planned leader of the microformats session can no longer make it, which left me with a sort of microformats 201 session missing a microformats 101 session. So I’m now leading the microformats session.

That will be easy because I could explain microformats in my sleep, and there seems to be more interest in the general concept of microformats than the geo stuff. But I am a little disappointed I don’t get to demonstrate and explain something I find more interesting. For now, I’ll settle for showing you where I live on a map created by running a page with my street address through three different web services. That’s actually several houses down from where I live, but you get the idea.

 

Talk Like a Pirate Day is a yearly event in which many people talk like a pirate, especially online. But not nearly enough people talk like a pirate, so for tomorrow's Talk Like a Pirate Day, I wrote a Greasemonkey script to force the entire web to talk like a pirate. An example with Browse Like a Pirate enabled:

New York Times Browsed Like a Pirate

New York Times Browsed Like a Pirate

 

Dan points out that Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. I had no idea there was such a problemm among Buffalo buffalo.

 

I decided today to attend BarCampMilwaukee at the end of this month. Because BarCamp requires participation, and because I’m interested, I’ll be doing a session on "Online Maps, Mapping Tools & Geohacking." I had a project in mind that loosely falls under this title, which someone else had proposed as a session topic, so now I just need to make it and talk about it in the next couple weeks.

I’ve never attended, much less presented at, a technical conference before. I think BarCamp will be a good place to start. I have presented at and attended other conferences before on topics such as linguistics, gay rights, and general academic research, and I’ve read a lot about BarCamp and other tech conferences, so I think I have a pretty good idea of what I’m getting into.

I seem to have done something recently that landed me on a to-be-invited-to-conferences list. I’ve been working online for ten years and hadn’t been invited to a single tech conference until a couple weeks ago when I was personally invited to a more prestigious and expensive conference. Among other problems, the conference speakers list didn’t include a single woman (though I was assured it was not for lack of trying), which didn’t sound very interesting to me.

But then this morning Pete Prodoehl sent me a personal invitation to BarCampMilwaukee. I looked at it and it seemed interesting, it’s free, and it’s not too far away, so I’m going. I’ll flesh out my session in more detail after I’ve written the code on which it will be based, which hopefully won’t take long. But really with a word like "geohacking" in the title, how could it not be interesting?

 

Five years ago I was driving my car from my apartment to my university when I heard on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I assumed it was an accident and didn’t think much of it until I walked by a room on my way to class or work (I don’t remember which) and saw a group of people watching the news. I watched throughout the morning until it became clear to me what was happening.

I had a few friends in New York, but I didn’t think first of them. My first thought was that this was Pearl Harbor and it was now the time to start preventing Hiroshima. I spent much of the next four years working to that end. I walked around campus in September 12 with the words "the other cheek" written on my face, in an effort to bring out the good in people and not the bad I feared was coming. I encouraged reconciliation and discouraged revenge. I helped organize multiple organizations focused on these goals.

I drew attention to the innocent civilians dying as we bombed Afghanistan. I loudly opposed our invasion of Iraq. I made the front page of newspapers. I made the TV news. I spoke on panels. I campaigned for politicians calling for peace. I campaigned against politicians calling for war. I compromised and voted for Kerry. I registered voters and served as an election judge to help others do the same.

None of this worked. I hope I made some small impact, but many more innocent people have died in the pursuit of vengence for the events of five years ago than died on that day. I didn’t hear they died on the radio. I didn’t see it on the TV. There is no moment of silence for these people. I don’t remember what I was doing when they died.

 

Buy Me an Ounce (MP3, lyrics) is my third song (one, two) with lyrics from a poem by e. e. cummings. I believe the poem is something about gender inequality, but I’m not as clear on the meaning as I have been with the previous two. In other music news, a couple weeks ago I uploaded a song to MetaFilter music, a cover of one of my favorite songs, XO by Elliott Smith, which was requested by someone I only know as "cortex" on MetaFilter. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing Theodore play twice. I went to hear them play Thursday night because my friend JJ is in the band, but I went to hear them again Friday night because I really like their music. Unfortunately their recordings are only available on MySpace, an awful website, and those recordings are all rather old and don’t sound much like the current band. But if you get a chance to hear Theodore (from St. Louis), I recommend you take it. If I end up moving to Carbondale, I hope I might be able to perform with them. Meanwhile, I’m writing songs. I have two more on my to-record list.

 

Because I live in Iowa and work at an agency that does advertising for various ethanol-related organizations, I often find myself in conversations about ethanol. Ethanol is an exciting prospect for a sustainable fuel source, but most people I talk to know this already, so I generally spend most of these conversations pointing out potential problems with ethanol.

We tend to overlook potential problems when evaluating something new that promises to solve existing problems, and I get paid to promote ethanol, so I want to add some balance to my own small impact and these discussions by pointing out problems, e.g. ethanol is not polution-free, not all cars can run on ethanol-heavy fuel, and so on. But with all these problems in mind, ethanol is clearly much better than oil as a fuel source.

The biggest problem seems to be that there’s just not enough ethanol to really replace oil. Whenever I point this out, someone asks me how much ethanol there is, and I say "I don’t know." Today, I found out. Someone on NPR said there’s enough corn-based ethanol to produce 15 billion gallons of fuel a year. That’s a small dent in the 140 billion gallons of oil we current use yearly.

I also mention in these conversations that there might be ways of making ethanol other than corn. And then someone asks me more about those alternate ethanol sources, and I say "I don’t know." Today, I found out this too. An article in the Des Moines Register says distilleries that can make fuel alcohol from crop waste, prairie grasses or trees rather than corn should be in operation within five years.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t say how much fuel we can expect those distilleries to produce. I expect it’s nowhere near the 125 billion gallons needed to entirely replace oil. But I’m a little more hopeful than I was yesterday that between ethanol, solar, other technologies, and reduced consumption, the transition to a post-oil economy need not be very painful.

 

I'm a 2nd Degree Decided, if I get kicked in the face by a yellow belt, that's my fault. Sympathy can be found in the dictionary between "shit" and "syphilis." So I got a bloody nose, and a reminder to pay attention.

Dave Rogers

 

I’ve added a simple math question to the comments. I don’t like inconveniencing innocent people to stop the guilty, just in principle, but I was getting really tired of deleting all the spam from my moderation queue. If you can’t figure out the correct answer to the math question, your comment doesn’t even make it into the queue now. But when you fail, it will tell you the correct answer, so it’s really more of a literacy test than a math test. If you’re able to read, you should have no trouble submitting a comment. And if you’re not able to read, well, you should go learn instead of submitting comments here.

 

Aaron Swartz, on Wikipedia:

When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site -- the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it's the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.

BoingBoing on Aaron Swartz:

Aaron Swartz, who is running for the WIkipedia executive, has done some data-crunching using a rented supercomputing cluster, against many Wikipedia entries to determine how Wikipedia entries get written.

Jaron Lanier on Wikipedia:

What makes a market work, for instance, is the marriage of collective and individual intelligence. A marketplace can't exist only on the basis of having prices determined by competition. It also needs entrepreneurs to come up with the products that are competing in the first place.

BoingBoing on Jaron Lanier:

It's an engaging essay to be sure, but much more thought-provoking to me are the responses … I have a hard time fearing that the participants of Wikipedia or even the call-in voters of American Idol will be in a position to remake the social order anytime, soon. … Claiming authorship is really just a matter of ego and royalties.

I find it interesting that two people saying pretty much the same thing met such drastically different reactions. I suspect the difference can be attributed primarily to framing. Jaron made the mistake of placing himself on the side of “experts,” in a culture that devalues expertise. Aaron was smart enough to place himself on the side of “the masses,” in a culture that values populism. But these are ultimately just different names for the same group of people.

In a follow-up after all the (deservedly) positive attention he’s received, Aaron writes:

Larry Sanger famously suggested that Wikipedia must jettison its anti-elitism so that experts could feel more comfortable contributing. I think the real solution is the opposite: Wikipedians must jettison their elitism and welcome the newbie masses as genuine contributors to the project, as people to respect, not filter out.

But Aaron’s opposite is just repeating the same argument with more appealing words. Replacing “experts” with “masses,” in the context of a project in which the masses are experts, is a meaningless distinction. But it’s very important nonetheless. Lesson: it matters how you frame an argument, and you can change framing without changing the argument. It would be nice if we could all recognize that Jaron and Larry and Aaron are all correct, but that’s just not how people work. We need our truth wrapped in a good story.