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I started this journal on New Year's in 2002, so my renewal notice always comes up around this time. I just declined. I won't be posting here any further, and I may even go as far as removing all the content soon.

I'm using LJ Migrate to back up the content, and some of the better stuff may make it to my personal website someday. I'm not interested in DreamWidth or other systems that try to replicate the LJ experience. One day, maybe we will be able to have privacy controls like LJ afforded, in some more open and distributed system.

For those of you who are still posting on LJ, I will try to follow via RSS and so on, but it will be very sporadic.

For now the only ramblings I'm going to expose are over at @flipzagging on Twitter. If I start blogging again some links will pop up there.

Thanks for your comments and other kind assistance and support over the years. Happy 2010!
American Apparel brings back the 90s.

The 90s are when I was at the North American Aspirational Age (25) and thus, off limits for anyone else to plunder.

It got me thinking how people will be reviving, say, the early 2000s. I can't even think of any fashion cues or trends that really say early 2000s. Dot com crash? Invading tinpot dictatorships?

Oh I know -- geocaching. Yeah, in 2020 they'll be selling appealingly clunky GPS units, where modern models are probably going to be the size of dust particles and thus built into every hairbrush.

What else?
Ok, I just announced publicly that I'll be spending all my time on a particular art project, and then this came up.

Dance Dance Immolation is scheduled to run at Smukfest in Denmark in early August. Sadly one of the crewmembers just had to drop out for health reasons.

As far as skillset goes, I'm the nearest replacement. This particular job involves training a bunch of locals to help us run, so even if others have similar skills it's a time commitment they don't want to deal with. Plus I have the time and can afford to pay for the non-refundable expenses.

We are dealing with plane tickets that have to be purchased NOW NOW NOW so I have to come up with some kind of answer for the team pretty damn quick.

Most of this trip is spent in the woods of Denmark with long haired Danish rocker kids, but there will be a day or two in the cities.

I'm leaning towards going but that makes the schedule for my other art project really tight. I still think of that as my first commitment. raindrift argues that my other art project is easy to do, but he's raindrift and a veteran at knocking together bizarre hardware at short notice. This is my first time trying to do something more complex than IKEA furniture. Hm.

Never rains but it pours.
Fire Arts Festival is now a four-day extravaganza starting this Wednesday, July 15th, and ending Saturday July 18th. Interpretive Arson will be there with 2πr.

This is one of the most accessible and fun ways to see a lot of the fire art being done in the Bay Area, in just one evening. It's engineering! Art! And contributes to the warming of our planet. What's not to love?

This year it's held in a space 3x bigger than last year, and there's FREE parking and a FREE shuttle from BART.

Tickets get more expensive as the week progresses, and Saturday is a guaranteed sellout. So get your tickets now, now, now. I'd like to see some of my geek friends out there for once....
I will be leaving the internets for a temporary holiday in reality over Thursday-Monday. Enjoy your weekend!
Well, we've seen a few waves of important news breaking on social media just in the last week. Most notably the Iran election, but there was also the Honduras coup. Both were stories that happened to a lot of people at once, where even the central narrative was highly disputed, and the 'official' sources of information were all interested parties.

It would have really helped if there were clearinghouses that could determine what was true and what wasn't. Some tireless bloggers like Andrew Sullivan have tried. But I know of no one who is really succeeding with any kind of nearly-real-time truth verification system.

The mainstream media, particularly television, is basically an entertainment system now, and can only live off of predigested food. If it is not already in a press release they cannot process it. There are wonderful exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions. Forget about them. They're gone.

So what can take on the truth verification role?

Suspend practicality for a moment. Is it even theoretically possible that we can distribute this work? Might there be ways to break down a small unit of data -- say, a tweet -- into component claims, and then assemble evidence and confidence levels for each, finally producing a summary percentage of how likely the original statement is to be true? This might require also producing some reliable confidence score for every person who adds data to the system, too.

A generalized system of credentials might have side benefits for sites like Wikipedia, or distributed identity systems in general.

Or, if you think the work can't be distributed, is there some way to get the right expert skeptics (on whatever topic) to sift through the data?

Some people think prediction markets are the way to go, since people are willing to bet money in proportion to their own confidence. I doubt it. There have been protests against the use of such markets in relation to facts about human misery (it feels wrong to have people betting "for" wars or climate catastrophes). But more importantly, such markets only work when there is some crisp outcome to test in the short term. A question like "were the 2009 Iranian election results falsified" may not reach a conclusion for a decade, if ever, so the prediction market would be dominated by speculation -- guessing what other people are currently guessing.
Helped microgravity with her Cnideria project yesterday. The work involves latex gloves and rubbing long cylinders and little crevices with lots of lube, and squirting gluey liquids. We of course kept the conversation clean and decent. She says she has enough people now, but if you've already signed up then do make the effort to get here, it's been a lot of fun.

(Here = yes I am at NIMBY, because I am stupid and forgot my laptop here last night.)

I read some of Nature magazine in a cafe this morning. This is a magazine for actual scientists. It was full of glossy advertisements for products I couldn't even understand, using words that I didn't think went together. Like, advertisements for antibodies in bulk and "most reliable cloning apparatus on the market!". Can you imagine opening up the equivalent of People magazine in 2050 and seeing advertisements for home versions? And that's nothing compared to the articles. The 21st century might suck as far as jetpacks go, but in the bio labs, we are living in the future.

The public announcement: I am remaining unemployed for the time being. I actually got a very good job offer but decided it wasn't right for what I want to do now, and besides, I wasn't in a good frame of mind to begin working. Apparently it takes me about six different job interviews over the past month to figure that out.

Of course this complicates things with my visa status, but there isn't actually a law against being a layabout, as long as I'm not taking jobs away from Americans. (I may need to exit the country and return.) For now I'm going to stay in the Bay Area and try working on personal, not-necessarily-remunerative projects, something like full-time, at least for the next little while.

(I wouldn't say no if something perfect came along though, and I guess I'm going to continue "networking", whatever that means.)
I checked out the demo of Google Wave earlier today. Interesting stuff.

It reminded me a little bit of how we used to interact on a former team. Half the team was in New York, and Google Docs was the hot new thing, so we would chat using cells of the spreadsheet. (Once you have ported document editing to the web, by definition you have figured out asynchronous client/server editing, so real time collaboration comes almost for free.) The Google Docs team noticed that too, and their reaction was to add a sidebar for chat. But discussion right in the document had its merits, too, as Google Wave shows.

I think that misuse of technology is interesting. It tends to point the way to a potential new product.

For instance, I've noticed that whenever I have a pressing need for something, I write scripts to automate searching Craigslist or eBay or whatever, and so do many of the geeks I know. There must be some way to make that pattern universal.

What technologies do you misuse?

Now that I'm in love and gone all soft on you, can anyone recommend any romantic comedies? Got a weird urge.
8:00 AM May 5th from TweetDeck

no, no, no... I'm talking hardcore Meg Ryan type shit. Let's DO this!
8:08 AM May 5th from TweetDeck

Now we're getting somewhere! Music & Lyrics- Hugh Grant AND Drew Barrymore. So hardcore it should have a warning label! (via @thatcesareguy)
8:29 AM May 5th from Tweetie

I'm no longer working for Flickr.

I'll be at Zeitgeist around 8pm. Sorry for the short notice, I already tweeted the interbook.

If being sad over beers in an area not unlike a prison yard isn't enough to entice you, I have it on good authority that Reverend Dan Catt will show up and that guy is friends with unicorns.
I'm not going to do that.
She has no influence over me.
And neither do you.

Young woman, talking on her cell phone, in a crowded bus. A, clear, level tone of voice, without anger. Swathed in black, squarish glasses, long brunette hair framing her face. She continues:

And you can't tell anyone.
No. Nobody.
Because it would be embarassing.

I start to pull out my phone to Twitter this, until I realize that three people around me are doing the same thing.

jwz just posted on this eccentric character from early San Francisco, the King of Pain.

One link led to another and now I am obsessed with the actress and performer Lotta Crabtree, "The San Francisco Favorite" of the 1850s-70s. Why favorite? I think this picture says it all.

...Collapse )
Going out for a long walk, armed with new podcasts. Maybe I'm a few years late to this trend but I find I now get antsy if I don't have my daily dose of NPR or whatever.

Owning modern electronic devices means never having to be alone with your own thoughts. Now you can be alone, with someone else's thoughts!

Of course the book always did that, but not while you were actually walking around and performing tasks.
Snipped from an email discussion at work. ...Collapse )
Goldsworthy Spire the transamerica pyramid

Originally uploaded by
This is exactly how I feel about SQL and PHP. Two fists pummelling me.

I just had a great lunch with redshrike and friends, and we got onto the topic of made-up words. (Shrike has just invented to-jazz, meaning "stuff to do".)

The neologism is one of my favorite topics and it's why I often use 'flipzagging' as an online handle. ...Collapse )

Funny, in the last couple of days I've been relaying advice to travelling friends about what they should be doing and how. One of those strange experiences that's only become possible with ubiquitous email.

The last really long trip I did was in 2002. Been a long while since I got on a plane to go somewhere that I really *wanted* to go...
Find the bug.

#!/usr/local/bin/perl -w

use strict;

my %mappings = ("a" => "i am an apple",
                "b" => "i am a banana");

sub findMapping {
  my ($input) = @_;
  while (my ($code, $fruit) = each(%mappings)) {
    if ($input =~ /^$code/) {
      return $fruit;
  die("could not find a fruit for $input");

print findMapping("arthur");
print findMapping("andy");
print findMapping("alice");

And if you run it, you get:

$ perl ~/bin/
could not find a fruit for andy at /home/neilk/bin/ line 15.
i am an apple

answer...Collapse )

More tales of urban collapse and urban renewal from Detroit:

For Sale: The $100 House.

[...] The run-down bungalow had already been stripped of its appliances and wiring by the city’s voracious scrappers. But for Mitch that only added to its appeal, because he now had the opportunity to renovate it with solar heating, solar electricity and low-cost, high-efficiency appliances.

Buying that first house had a snowball effect. Almost immediately, Mitch and Gina bought two adjacent lots for even less and, with the help of friends and local youngsters, dug in a garden. Then they bought the house next door for $500, reselling it to a pair of local artists for a $50 profit. When they heard about the $100 place down the street, they called their friends Jon and Sarah.

Admittedly, the $100 home needed some work, a hole patched, some windows replaced. But Mitch plans to connect their home to his mini-green grid and a neighborhood is slowly coming together.

Wow. I am not nearly resourceful enough to take over a place with no wiring, especially in a place with severe winters. But... I know some people who are, and I've seen much more unlikely enterprises come together with just a few dozen volunteers, a few weekends, and cheap Chinese goods from the hardware store.

Is it wrong to feel strangely drawn to this urban disaster area? I read tales of people bicycling down totally vacant four lane highways and something in me goes hey, that's pretty freaking cool. I guess I am a child of the 1980s, always expecting the apocalypse. And the experiment in local semi-anarchy seems to be working out not too badly.

I mean, no matter how bad the economy gets, it's never going to get Detroit bad, everywhere. If this represents the nadir, and life still goes on, maybe there's nothing to fear. Maybe the artists who moved to those places will be highly in demand as urban renewal consultants in 10 years.

(via four)

ggb sunset
Originally uploaded by flipzagging
I read something interesting outside the Golden Gate gift shop on Saturday. When do you think the Golden Gate Bridge was built?

The financing began almost exactly as the Great Depression hit. The Wikipedia article seems to suggest that they initially tried raising all the money as capital, and only later tried a bond issue. This delayed the start of construction until 1932, when a buyer for their bonds suddenly arose: the newly-formed Bank of America.

I'm not sure if this is a hopeful story or not. It shows that great things can still be accomplished even very soon after a great crisis, with sufficient commitment and government support. But they are definitely put on hold. And even then, it took until 1971 for the construction bonds to be retired.

Can we even imagine starting a project today that won't be paid off until 2057? Even rebuilding at the WTC site, during an unprecedented economic bubble, will have taken longer than it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge, including the Great Depression hiatus in the middle.
This link is making the rounds today: images of Sacsayhuamán, with walls of massive stone blocks that fit together so perfectly it is astonishing.

All the speculation I can find assumes that the Incas must have had some amazing technology for fitting the blocks together on the site. Has anyone considered that the blocks didn't start out that way? They look to me more like cells which somehow adapted to each other over time. ...Collapse )
All you Reverend Dan Catt fans will want to read his latest post on the Flickr blog, about the new Panda APIs.

It's Serious Business.
  1. hummingbirds fighting over who gets the chance to bathe in a small stream. It seems like it's the season of love and all the males want to look slick for the ladies. I crouched down nearby and did get some photos, with hummingbirds buzzing all around me like basso profundo bumblebees. But only with my iphone, so it's mostly little orange blurs. Oh well.
  2. a pet cemetery. It's not a sad or somber place at all. With pets, people feel free to express their affection, and make each grave marker personal. Every pet in the cemetery was loved, which isn't the case in a human graveyard.
  3. this totally awesome-looking bridge. Have you seen it?
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