Saturday, April 30, 2005

If A Boy Can't Believe His Mother, Who Can He Believe?

A decade or so ago, my mother -- casual birder but acute observer -- told me she was fairly certain Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were still alive near Haynesville, Louisiana.

She was born there in 1917, knew what they sounded like, and had recently heard one. Her yard man, the even older Bud Johnson, had heard them too. He called the bird a "Lawd God".

Turns out she was right.

They haven't looked in North Louisiana yet, but they wander through there, too.

Today, Saigon, Tomorrow Warshundun.

On the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, uh, Ho Chi Minh City, we pause to celebrate those who helped it fall.

Typical estimates for death tolls after the Communist takeover:
  • 65,000 executions
  • 250,000 deaths at sea of boat people trying to escape
  • a million sent to internment camps, and 165,000 deaths in those camps.
A visiting Vietnamese, on learning that I was a Marine Viet vet, said she was glad I'd survived. I replied that I was glad she had, too.

Next time you go out to that nice, little Vietnamese restaurant, remember that a quarter of a million boat people died trying to escape Uncle Ho's welcoming embrace. Four times that number succeeded. If it hadn't been for brave, self-sacrificing, heroes like Jane Fonda, you'd have to eat Mexican, or something.

Pot, si. Potholes, no.

Usually, blog postings focus on glamorous issues. Here's a refreshing change from David Aitken -- Life's Better Ideas: Potholes.

Honest political candidates are rare enough. (David's a former candidate for
Colorado Secretary of State.) Ones who get stuff done are even rarer. Nice work, David.

I suppose the Libertarian motto is "Legalize pot, not potholes."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Tsveyte Blog

To experiment with podcasting, I've started a second blog, "Dos Goyishe Kol."

Podcasting is sort of like audio blogging. It's Tivo for radio.

The address is, but going directly to it won't do you a whit of good. If you want to hear the entries, you need software that understands podcasts.

Luckily for me, that includes Bloglines, my web-based news reader.

I'm guessing that other news readers, like Sage, will work, too, but I don't know that.

If you haven't played with podcasts yet, here's a cartoon of how it works.

Start by adding a podcast to your list of news channels. As new broadcasts are added to that channel, they'll appear, newest on top, just like any other blog. Clicking on the link, however, launches your audio player, so it comes pouring out your speakers. Alternatively, it can pour onto your hard disk, ready for download into your MP3 player. Like, for example, your ipod.

Just like text blogs, it looks like you can either make the audio content yourself, or you can just link to other folks' audio content. Right now, I'm an essayist in my text blog, but a linker in podcasts. Go figure.

Ars Longa, Vita Meata Vegemin

On the heels of the last post, I just read a link in David Aitken's fine blog to someone else's blog post that leads with this line about Paul Revere:
Revere has been described as a silversmith. This does him an injustice. He was much more the artist than the craftsman.
Okay, he wasn't tortured. He didn't die in poverty. Bummer.

I'm no jeweler, but I've always thought of Paul Revere as the most famous silversmith in the history of America -- maybe of the world. Now, somehow, describing him as a silversmith does him an injustice?

"Silversmith" or "artist," choose one?

Like to be a true artist you have to pump out stuff as poorly crafted as Jackson Pollock?

To quote General Anthony Clement McAuliffe: Nuts.

Niche Art Markets

The banjo player Pete Czelmowicz -- whom I think of as "Pete C-star" -- takes pictures of cattle for a living. "See this bull? See all his kids? You can buy his sperm for the new, low, low price of ...."

I've seen his pics of people. I'm betting the cows look beautious.

I've spent a lot of time around artistes. Everyone else in my family but me is a professional artist. They all think, "Nice boy. Too bad he doesn't have any talent, can't get a real job."

From just hanging around them, I've learned there are two kinds of artists: the tortured garret residents who talk about how outrageous it is that their federal art grants weren't renewed, and the people who work for a living.

Into the latter category fall people like Bach, who's weekly questions were, "What can I do for this mass that people aren't sick of?" and "You're pregnant again?"

Doing art for a living is just like programming for a living. You look for a gig that pays okay and then try to show off. And you wear through a lot of shoe leather hunting for some niche that everyone else hasn't already gotten to.

With the opening "Hey, Ben, you like to paint", Ben Rathbone uncovers an unexploited new niche: data center walls.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

קצה - Never underestimate the data transfer rate of a snail on wheels!

Never underestimate the data transfer rate of a snail on wheels! - yossi vardi
Scroll down until you see the picture.

Cyrano Would Be Proud

This morning, bloglines presented me with a snippet from Ron Coleman's blog, pointing at The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.

Up at the top of that Amazon page, above the picture of the cover, is this:

The Second Coming of Steve Jobs
by ALAN DEUTSCHMAN "Andrea "Andy" Cunningham was so tired she got home from work that she went to sleep without checking her answering machine..." (more)
SIPs: two moguls
Everything after the author's name is in tiny print. The quote is the beginning of the book, and "more" takes me to the teaser -- a couple of pages from the beginning to entice me to read the book. But "SIPs"?

It's Statistically Improbable Phrases -- in this case, "two moguls" -- a feature I'd never noticed before. This phrase occurs five times in the book, and the link takes you to a list of other books it occurs in. The first book on the list after this one? Here.

Note that a second ago I was at Bloglines. Just following my nose.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Game of Telephone

One academic friends told me, gleefully, that some new slime molds had been named after Msrs Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. I sent him a pointer to this article:

Cornell News: Slime-mold beetle named for Bush

and noted that they were actually beetles, albeit beetles that live on slime molds.

Next time he saw me, he thanked me, but said that he was disappointed to learn, from reading it, that the naming was to praise these individuals, not slam them. (The scientists named other species, discovered at the same time, after their wives.)

Be interesting, sociologically, to trace how an explicit homage to the President got distorted, by the time it got to him, into something to be passed around as a derogatory remark. Maybe Ward Churchill could have one of his grad students do a scholarly study on it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Death of Blogging?

Business Week portends the death of blogging. Of course, even a stopped clock is wrong a few times a day, but tell that to Bob Shrum.

Juicy Studio: Readability Test

I love readability tests. David Aitken has found one that's a web-based service.


I'm enamored of little marks of typographical/technical thoughtfulness. Look for the elegant metamorphosis of "Ibid," in this edition of Best of the Web Today, into a back-link.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


This morning, the Colorado Daily left another "free paper" in my driveway.

They'd agreed, twice now, not to do this anymore. Today, I'll make another call. Last time, despite a phone message promising to return my phone call within 24 hours, it took three days of calling to get a response.

I think what's driving it is this, which I've written about before. Newspapers are desperate, and don't know what niche to go for.

(Note, also, this interesting chart on the cost-effectiveness of newspaper advertising.)

The Daily Camera was littering my yard for a while.

A series of polite phonecalls got apologies, but no improvement.

What worked was pointing out to Tim Siebert, at the Camera, that littering breaks both local and state laws. There are fines and jail time attached to repeated littering. It breaks local and state laws.

While it's glamorous to defend freedom of the press, it's tougher to admit to your journalistic colleagues that you've just gotten out of jail for littering.

I went on to explain that throwing someone in jail for repeatedly ignoring my requests not to drop junk in my yard seemed like overkill -- still does -- but I wanted to agree on some kind of consequence. His just promising not to do it again wasn't working.

Tim agreed to give me a subscription to a paper of my choice if it happened again within a year.

That stopped it. It's April, and the year will be up in September.

Will I need the same conversation with Zoanne Kabriel, at the Colorado Daily? Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Decreasing my Erdos Number

My paper with Paul.

HT: Barb Dijker.

Earth Day

Another Earth Day has come and gone. In the U.S., private wetlands are finally increasing, air quality is better than any time in recorded history, and New England forests are in better shape
than at any time since the mid-1800s.

Not bad.

In the late 1960's, I remember looking out the window on the 10th floor of Millikan library, at CalTech, and just being able to make out the tops of the palm trees two blocks away. That's smog. Two decades later, they'd put in mountains.

Bill Owens noticed the same thing about Denver's air, and Steven Hayward, of the Pacific Research Institute, has offered to bet anyone who wants to $1000 that air quality will be better in 2009, after two Bush terms, than it was a the beginning. No one is willing to take the bet, probably because it mirrors the famous Simon-Erlich bet that Paul Erlich lost so badly.

Over 70% of Americans surveyed say that they're now pleased with the condition of their environment. Anti-Bush activists are reduced to NYT-like, "fake-but-accurate" reporting about the Bush administration's environmental policies.

Good environmental news, I'd say.

This afternoon, I'm playing a gig for the University of Colorado Environmental Center. It'll be interesting to see what I hear.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Long ago, Jeff Garvey, city employee, explained it to me: people who stay in government aren't motivated by money -- they're motivated by power.

Now notes Glen Reynolds: "My historian-brother often says that one of the most interesting phenomena that he's observed is the cross-cultural willingness of people to trade away economic benefits for status. I suspect that this is one example of that. So, in a surprisingly similar way, is being a politician."

Thomas Sowell defines economics as the study of the allocation of scarce resources. Okay. That works.

May I See Your Voice, Please

I had my credit card stolen this weekend. This looks very attractive.

Google, Google, Google

Now google maps does Great Britain. We knew they'd expand beyond Great U.S. -- The United States and Canada -- so the fun question was who'd be first.

So who'll be next? Votes?

This one, however, is novel: Google will now, once I sign in, keep track of my personal search history. And in interesting ways. I'm looking forward to exploring this.

The sign-in works across Google services. For example, once I've signed in to Google's search history, I don't need to sign in to gmail. Unfortunately, I still need to sign in to

(I'd say "login," but Google's smarter than that. I'm told non-geeks think "logging in" is some weird thing only computer professionals do.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Almost half of all Americans have incomes below the U.S. median!

And in Scandanavia, everyone's much better off.

HT: David Aitken

Monday, April 18, 2005

Portrait Painting

My father, a portrait painter, would get pooh-poohed for doing representational art when it was as out of fashion as Gully Jimson's father. "Why would anyone want to just be a poor imitation of a camera?"

He once remarked to me that we've all seen photos that don't look like us, when, of course, they look exactly like us -- the camera can't lie. Making a picture look like the subject is more than just putting the right pixels in the right places.

The Volokh Conspiracy notes this here, in another twist on the "fake-but-accurate" theme.

Fittingly, the "accurate but fake" nature of the "Constitution in Exile" story is best illustrated—literally—by the unrecognizable morgue photos of Richard Epstein and Michael Greve—both would be completely unrecognizable to me had I not read who they were supposed to be—and the "Snidely Whiplash" picture of Chip Mellor.

Whoa Mule

There's photoblogging. There's weather blogging. The synesthetic Charlie Martin photo-weather blogs here.

The Devil in Mr. Jones

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: To play on a Chieftains' album.

You can hear it now, "Hullo, this is Paddy Moloney. I don't suppose you'd like to come down and be on my band's next album?"


Why would people like Sting and Lyle Lovett rush to record with a tatty folk group? Well,

  • They'll get to be on an album with no bad cuts.
  • They'll probably get a grammy. (So far, the Chieftains have six grammys and 18 Grammy nominations.)
  • They'll get to actually hang out with the Chieftains.

Paddy Moloney even got Tom Jones to do the "Tennessee Waltz." Backed by tin whistle and small pipes.

Carnival of Shysters

Hey, if Glen Reynolds can post links to carnivalia, so can I.

Blawg Review #2 is up, hosted by the hard-working Ron Coleman, "Der advokat mitn samet kol,"

And you thought he'd never top Beau Geste.


I predict that in 200 years, the two most famous American artists of my lifetime will be Norman Rockwell
and R. Crumb.

Readers who think this opinion marks me a member of the booboisie, don't know me very well. Or art either.

Anyway, here's a NYT article on Crumb (for the registration nonsense, use BugMeNot) and here's a pointer to the Crumb museum.

More Alarm-Clock Blogging

First, Clocky. Now this.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

loband - instructions

Text-based browsers, like links, are cool because they're fast. On the other hand, if the site is inherently complex, the browser still has to draw stuff. Moreover, you have to have a box that runs them. Links runs on either Linux or OS/2, for example.

MIT's been looking at server-side simplification, which is a great service both for
people in third-world countries who have low-end computers and very low bandwidth. Knowing about this also lets you impress women you date who still only have dialup connections.

From their instructions page: loband is a service that simplifies web pages, in order to make them download faster over slow Internet connections.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Q: What do you get when you cross Google Maps with a realtor?

A: A scrollable, two-car garage.

Cool Blogging

Now this is indisputably cool.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rip Van Daphnia

People who've never done science seem not to get excited by beautiful, unexpected observations that don't lead to new conclusions. Here's a good example: an article about someone who found a way to resurrect long-gone plankton and sees that -- yep -- their evolution follows the patterns you'd expect.

I read Scientist Urges Dormant Eggs to Life to Test Evolution and thought, "Holy cow! What could be cooler than this?" Most of my friends would read it and say, "Uh, so?"

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Building A Patent Portfolio

The first comment in this slashdot article suggests a lovely way to build my patent portfolio. Seems like a straghtforward hack to the original software, which is publicly available, might do the trick.

This Forbes article seems to me to say that with enough patents, I don't have to worry about what they say, as long as I have a very good lawyer or maybe two.

Newspapers Are the News

Editor and Publisher shouts Circ Drops at 'Boston Globe,' Some Gains at 'NYT' and McClatchy Papers.
Matt Drudge is more blunt: Boston Globe suffers big circ decline, NY Times flat...

For me, one of the most unexpected social changes of the new millenium has been the death of the newspaper.

The withering away of ABC/NBC/CBS was predictable, once cable appeared, and the suicides of CBS News and the BBC were just embarrassing implementation details.

In contrast, the withdrawal of the L.A. Times from the national market, the Jayson Blair/Howell Raines scandal, the misreporting of Afghanistan/Iraq, and the dive in advertising revenues, though, were much bigger deals than most people -- or at least than I -- noticed as they were happening.

Blogs and Craig's List seemed just to be there, one day. Remember how only geeks had computers and you went out for coffee and by the time you got home everyone was giving you his email address and "to
google" was a verb? Same feel.

It's as big and fanfare-less a change as the quiet death of radio. And, just as talk radio gave the medium a new life and new face, 50 years later, I'll bet that newspapers will be reborn in 50 years in some form that none of us can predict today.

Meanwhile, they'll have to find some niche market to keep them alive. Radio survived through Top-40 stations. What will it be for newspapers? The National Enquirer?

Meanwhile, it looks like the Boston Globe needs to be put on suicide watch, but the Wall Street Journal -- a paper that's business-savvy -- has, not only seen the handwriting on the wall, but is paying attention to it.

And, proving that he must be reading my blog, Craig Newmark, of, is thinking about the fate of newspapers, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I'm Going to Disneyland!

A new sport: Google Sightseeing.

The page subhead is
Why bother seeing the world for real?
It's hard for me to see that and not think, nostalgically, of the Magic Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Music To My Pixels

Sometimes I'll see something, smack my forehead, and say, "Goyishekop! Why didn't I think of this?" Here's today's: a Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers

Monday, April 11, 2005

Waiting for Electronic Weather

I'm blogging from a coffee shop in St. Louis, Missouri, listening to a webcast of Mary Cox, playing "Dixie," on

My band came out to play a dance. I was supposed to fly home yesterday (Sunday). Denver International Airport is closed. 30 inches of snow, winds blowing so hard that they closed the highway to DIA, and 1,500 people without power. United says they might be able to get me out on Tuesday.

I take my laptop down to a local coffee shop that has free wireless, open it up, and I'm blogging, listening to music through headphones, and exchanging email with Frank Lee, who's painting in North Carolina. If someone needs to call me, my cell phone's in my breast pocket.

Me, I'm living in the 21st century. The weather's still living in the 19th.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

See Dick Win. Pay, Defendant, Pay.

Nokh a mol for Ron Coleman. Oy.

Folks who redn a bisl Yidish are rare enough. And funny, too? Genug, shoin. I haven't added anyone to my blogroll for a while, but he's on.

The Library at the End of the Universe

There are now a handful of efforts that provide free, enterprise-level Linux releases -- releases that work for folks who don't want to mess with the bleeding edge, but don't have the bucks to pay lots of copies of fully-supported versions like Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Tellingly, these are being done with assistance from Red Hat engineers:
they're not competing, they're helping.

The recent announcement of White Box Enterprise Linux makes two charming points.
White Box Linux's initial creation has been sponsored by the Beauregard Parish Public Library in DeRidder, LA USA out of self interest. We have several servers and over fifty workstations running Red Hat Linux and were left high and dry by their recent shift in business plan. Our choices were a difficult migration to another distribution or paying RedHat an annual fee greater than the amortized value of our hardware. So we chose a third path, made possible by the power of Open Source.... White Box Linux.

First, necessity is the mother of invention, and the Linux community is performing some very active midwifery.

Second, take a look at where this inventing is being done. See how far you have to zoom out before you can figure out even where this is.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tata Sons, Limited. Tata Daughters, Not-So-Limited.

Hugh Hewitt recommends corporate blogging: company-sponsored blogs that provide information about topics that the company is an expert on.

For example? Likelihood of Confusion: a blog about intellectual-property issues by an intellectual-property law firm about intellectual-property issues.

Is this really a site worth visiting? Why, yes. Here, for example, blawger Ron Coleman brings to our attention a recent, successful defense of intellectual property in India. The winner's less-interesting press release says
A decision in favour of Tata Sons Limited has been rendered in an International Arbitration under the aegis of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) cancelling a pornographic website registered as This is an important decision in establishing the transborder reputation of the TATA mark.

Folks at Google remain busy, busy, busy.

Gmail now gives everyone two gigabytes of storage, and the same kind of text markup that Blogger uses. I knew these were coming.

I've predicted the text markup ever since they bought Blogger.

The space increase had to happen, too. Google started by giving users 1G apiece. I've been telling anyone who'd listen that this limit was token -- that they might as well have said they were giving us a terabyte. Disk capacities grow so fast that by the time anyone hits a gig, they'll be giving everyone ten. (Hitachi's making me look smarter every day.)

Deleting email is history.

And, as of today, Google maps has satellite pictures. I can see your house from up here. This was a welcome development; the Keyhole stuff has been, until now, confined to proprietary platforms, and I was worried because it was taking so long to appear for the rest of us.

High-resolution photos are still confined to the U.S. and Canada, but if you zoom out, you can scroll around the world -- literally. Go west and you end up where you started. Magellan would be proud.

Looks like the pictures are from the summertime. Greenland's a solid sheet of ice, but Alaska's mostly green.

Still no further progress on Google Mentalplex but the Greasemonkey Google Mind-Reading trick is almost as good.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Palindromedaries: One hump or two?

Helpful people keep sending me mail to let me know my blog's subtitle, "A man, a canal, Panama" is a mistake. The correct palindrome, they explain, is A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.

One of the oldest internet programs is finger, which gives basic information about the users on a system.

Something like "finger jsh@woodcock", might give you this:

Login: jsh Name: Jeffrey S. Haemer
Directory: /home/jsh Shell: /bin/bash

On since Mon Mar 7 11:32 (MST) on pts/7 32 minutes 57 seconds idle (messages off)
Mail last read Thu Jan 27 08:27 2005 (MST)
No Plan.
If you create a personal, ".plan" file, the last line -- "No Plan" -- is replaced by the contents. It lets you tell other folks what you're doing.

My ".plan" file has always said, "A man, a canal, Panama."

That's right: "No plan."

Oh, Hell Yes.

San Francisco wants to regulate blogs. To quote Glen Reynolds, "Of course they do."

We're also seeing blog-gagging in Canada, which, like S.F., has a top-down culture.

How do you get 50 Canadians out of a swimming pool?

"Okay, guys. Out of the pool."
(Trust me. Canadians think this joke is funny.)

Still, there are signs that some Canadians might could use a Maple Leaf Revolution.
SmallDeadAnimals is reporting that their sitemeter is overheating.

Update: Here's a nice collection of (American) blogs about the Canadian scandal. Hat-tip to Instapundit.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

How Are Popes Elected? Free Teaching Company Lecture!

I've liked the audio and video Teaching Company lectures I've used. Today, I learned from Glenn Reynolds that they have on-line lectures, sometimes for free.

Here's a timely pair: How Are Popes Elected?

If the Vatican just chucks this complex process and lets the Main Stream Media appoint Popes, it won't end up with any more dismal failures, like John Paul II, and will no longer have to contend with awkward problems like this one.

Now close your eyes and say "Pope Jayson."

How Tall Am I? (And What Will Tomorrow Bring?)

A mathematician and a statistician are arguing about who's taller.

The mathematician gets out a tape measure and has the statistician stand on one end. He pulls it out, reads off the statistician's height, and announces he's exactly two pi feet tall.

He offers the tape to the statistician. The statistician waves it off, and then asks the next 50 passers by how tall the mathematician is. This, the statistician explains, is better because it provides both a mean and a variance.

StrategyPage's Prediction Market is a site, which I learned about from the ever-interesting David Aitken, that uses economic games to predict the future.

Impressive track record, too.

There are other web-based predictors out there, too. While neither this site nor this one provide any data about past successes, I can't imagine how they could be wrong.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Web Connection Down For The Last 7 Years

The people who brought you the USPS have now completed and released a timely study on the Internet. No wonder the United Nations wants to pitch in and help.

No, these are not April Fools' jokes.

New, Cool Stuff at Bloglines, Gmail

Bloglines will now do Package Tracking of UPS, FedEx, and USPS packages.

A week or so ago, Yahoo announced that it was meeting Gmail's bid by bumping email storage limits to a Gig. Today, Gmail raised them to 2 Gig. Also, they seem to be importing markup facilities from Blogger, which they now own. You can adjust fonts, colors, etc., in your email.

I'm not sure how they're doing it, but the rich-text stuff just appeared on my account, and I've been watching my limit rise through the day. It's still hanging around 1.7 Gig, but I expect it to be at 2 by tomorrow.

Ain't competition a wonderful thing?