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Month: December 2006 (Page 1 of 2)

Alameda Manzanita on Sobrante Ridge

alameda manzanitaSobrante Ridge Regional Botanic Preserve, on the site of a former cattle ranch, occupies a space more or less surrounded by the suburban East Bay community of El Sobrante. I wonder how many El Sobranteans are aware that this preserve houses a beautiful rare and endangered manzanita, only found in one other location.

Green pigs that glow in the dark

Just in time for the year of the pig, Chinese scientists claim to have genetically modified pigs using DNA from fluorescent jellyfish. “The scientists from Taiwan University’s say that although the pigs glow, they are otherwise no different from any others.” Story and a small picture here.

Do you like green eggs and ham?

Bay Area biomes

Land's End, San FranciscoI’ve completed a brief survey of Bay Area plant communities over at Frisco Vista.

The Bay Area topic suits me because I’ve accumulated a bunch of photos from around the bay over the years.

Zooming in on a snowflake

I don’t have much to say about this, except it’s, well, cool.

How to spend the night at Heathrow Airport

sleeping on the floor at HeathrowComing back from Belgium my flight to Heathrow was cancelled because of freezing killer fog. By hiking to the Bruges train station at 3:00 am, I was able to get to Brussels in time to catch a Eurostar train to London. But the Eurostar train was also delayed, and so were all the local London travel options to the airport, so I ended up arriving at Heathrow just a little too late to catch my flight home to San Francisco.

I thought of taking a room at the airport Hilton, but the cheapest room was 363 GBP, which is around $700, and I just couldn’t see it. I could have gone into town and looked for a hotel (not an easy task on the busiest travel day of the holiday season, especially since nearly 200 flights had been cancelled at Heathrow alone), but I was too damned tired. Besides, then I would face the problem of getting back in time for my rebooked flight the next morning.

So I spent a day at Heathrow. Man, they have got to lighten up on the nagging public address anouncements, which repeat incessantly (don’t leave your luggage unattended, don’t leave your car outside the entrance, don’t do this, don’t do that, nyah nyah nyah — the announcers, with their prudish chirping schoolmarmish voices, all sound exactly like Bridgit frigging Jones).

sleep in a restaurant booth at Heathrow airportAnyway, over the course of my stay I worked out a few strategies:

1. Get a luggage cart, even if you don’t need it. This is your equivalent of the homeless person’s shopping cart. It will serve as a footrest and a barricade.

2. The promised land is the boarding area, but you can’t get there because you don’t have a pass. Therefore, exit the departures area, which is crowded with hysterical travelers who, like you, have missed their flights, and head for the arrivals area. Here the carpet is slightly thicker and there are a few better nooks to hole up in.

3. One of the best nooks is near the men’s bathroom at the end of the hall (terminal 3), which is protected by a neglected storage closet and some little-used benches. This is where I crashed initially, but the guy shown in the first picture, above, stole my space when I got up for a little hike.

4. But ha! An even better space will open up around 11:00 pm, as shown in the second picture. There is a really bad restaurant in this area that closes at that time. Most of the restaurant is locked up behind a grate after closing, but because of this place’s peculiar geography, there are two booths, each with two approximately six-foot-long leatherlike benches, that will remain outside in the common area. This is where you want to be! Put your bags under the table where they will be safe and stretch out on the luxurious bench.

Ah!

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More Bruges photos

I’ve added a bunch more photos to my flickr set of pictures of Bruges in December.

I noticed that Photoshop’s “save for web” plug-in stupidly strips out the images’ exif (camera settings) data. I think that information should always be available, so I’ve done regular manual saves on this batch. Later on I’ll replace the earlier ones that had the exif data stripped out.*

*Okay, done — I did lose some of the comments and descriptions though, so if I obliterated your comment it was unintentional.

Pardon me?

Okay, here’s the deal. I conned the country into electing me, but I’m a crook, and the feds have got the goods and are looking to lock me up. You’re a plodding pol who could never get elected to this job. I know you want it. So I’ll resign, and then you’ll give me a full and unconditional pardon for anything and everything I’ve done. I’ll go build myself a big library and work on repairing my reputation. You’ll take some heat, but you’ll get to be president. But you’ll have to move fast — I figure I can hold them off for maybe three or four weeks.

Your reputation? Hey, no worries. We’ll call it “healing the nation.”

Zugzwang

Zugzwang is among several excellent words that come to us from the game of chess. Others … oh hell, I hadn’t intended to, but I might as well list a few:

  • en passant: taking a pawn even though it has seemingly sped to the square next to its captor by moving forward two squares
  • en prise: a piece being left open for capture
  • family fork: a knight attacking more than two pieces simultaneously
  • finachetto: placing a bishop on the second row (where it commands a lot of the board)
  • gambit: sacrificing a piece (usually in the opening) for later gain
  • luft: creating an escape square for a castled king
  • perpetual check: obtaining a draw by placing the king in a position where he can never escape check
  • zwischenzug: making a delaying move, often to force …

zugzwang, the situation where any move that can be made weakens the player’s position. This is a good word to know, because that’s where GWB has put us in Iraq — in the position where we’re screwed no matter what we do.

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Link: The Smirking Chimp on Zugzwang and Iraq policy

Instant Christmas Classic

I posted before about Christmas songs that don’t mention Christmas. For balance, here’s a song that mentions Christmas quite a lot — an instant Christmas classic from Eric Idle.

Drum Machine

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of flash animations. This one isn’t bad, though.

drum machine

The Ballets of Celine

The great (?) thing about press checks — as mentioned in previous posts I am currently stationed in Bruges on press for a book about Indian art from the kingdom of Mewar — is that it has intervals of idleness between forms. So I have used these to finally post my introduction to Celine’s Ballets Without Music, Without Dancers, Without Anything. Following my usual practice, I will put a link on the page back to this post so that readers can leave comments if they care to do so.

Packaged Goods Media versus Conversational Media

That’s the distinction John Battelle makes in an interesting piece. The “pillars” of PGM, he says, are

  1. Ownership or control of Intellectual Property by the corporation.
  2. Ownership or control of expensive distribution networks.
  3. Established business models based on highly evolved approaches to advertising and subscription models.

The attributes of CM, on the other hand, are

  1. Conversation over dictation
  2. Platform over distribution
  3. Service over product
  4. Iteration and Speed over Perfection and Deliberation
  5. Engagement over Consumption

Battelle writes

When I read traditional media interpretations of “user generated content” (last weeks New York Times piece proclaiming 2006 the year of “You Media” comes to mind), I feel extremely dissatisfied. These pieces focus on the wrong thing – they judge Conversational Media by the standards of Packaged Goods Media, then find themselves smugly satisfied that CM doesn’t measure up. However, it’s clear that CM is here to stay, so writers from the PGM world struggle to make it fit their worldview. “Now we have to figure out what to do with it,” The Times piece sniffs. “Ignore it? Sort it? Add more of our own?”

“A line,” Battelle observes, “clearly written by someone who doesn’t engage much in the world of Conversational Media.”

An interesting, well-balanced piece that respects the different character of both PGM and CM, and doesn’t try to assert that one is better than the other.

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Link: Packaged Goods Media v. Conversational Media

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Famous Last Words

famous last words

I should finish up the press check I’m on tomorrow and have Thursday free, or maybe I’ll just proof the cover on Thursday morning. God, I hope so. I’m about to go mad trapped in this industrial park just, frustratingly, outside the lovely city of Bruges.

But those aren’t the “famous last words” I meant by the post title. I was referring to my web page of that name, which made StumpleUpon‘s “buzz” page, bringing a bunch of visitors. So this is a place where people can leave suggestions for more “deathbed bon mots and strangled prose,” or make comments à son gout.

Lately 75 percent of my non-search engine traffic has been coming from StumbleUpon. I’m not sure what to make of that, other than to say thanks to the stumblers who have bookmarked my pages.

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Bruges, December 2006

bruges canal
Morning Reflections

This photo is part of a set from my trip to Bruges. Since I’m here on business I’ve only had a couple of hours to walk around. I might have some time later this week to stroll around some more, and if so I will add to this set, which can be found here:

Photos of Bruges, December 2006

Universal Google?

In D-Lib magazine David Bearman provides an abstract of the argument Jean-Noël Jeanneney (President of the Bibliothèque nationale de France) presents in his Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe (University of Chicago Press, October 2006). Jeanneney argues:

  1. Google’s selection skews “the world’s knowledge” toward English-language texts, especially those from the U.S. (For example, searches for Dante, Cervantes and Goethe find not the original texts but English translations.)
  2. Google snippets decontextualize texts, and the works presented so far are poor in visual quality.
  3. Google Books SERPS inappropriately rank results, perhaps with a bias toward results with commercial ramifications.
  4. There are dangers with the privitization of collective knowledge. Google has already shown a complicity with censorship in China.
  5. Google’s liberal interpretation of copyright laws may not fully respect the legal or moral rights of authors.

Bearman concludes his abstract by expressing his opinion that “Jean-Noël Jeanneney has done us all a service by reminding us to look under the hood and hold Google, and those providing content to it, accountable. In the two years since Google first announced its ambitions, I think the D-Lib community has largely given Google the benefit of the doubt; now that some results are visible and the implications are more clear, I think it’s time to publicly endorse open access to rights-cleared, high quality, scanned page images and reconsider the appropriate roles for academic and public institutions participating in commercial analogue heritage conversion efforts that don’t contribute to this end.”

this item first noted at if:book

In related news: a few months ago Google announced a new program, Google Purge, as part of “a far-reaching plan to destroy all the information it is unable to index.”

World’s Tallest Man Saves Pair of Dolphins

bao xishun
image via random good stuff

Bao xishun, at seven feet nine inches, is said to be the world’s tallest man. But that’s not the item. The item is that he was called in by a veterinarian to save a couple of dolphins that had swallowed some sort of plastic. Using his extremely long arms, Bao reached into the dolphins’ stomachs and retrieved the offending items.

UPDATE: Bao Xishun was married on 24 March 2007. I’ve posted a photo of the wedding here.


Back to Brugge

flemish dude

I have a feeling I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy with this, but I have to be in Bruges in Belgium next week — far from family and holiday preparations — on a press check. I’m printing a book about the art of the Mewar kingdom of Rajasthan with Die Keure there. This was a difficult project, and it was hard to make my print window. There was no flex because of the two short weeks around Christmas and New Years. Besides, the book is already late. Since I wasn’t sure I would make my deadlines, I had to wait to book my flight and hotel. Thankfully, that’s done now. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Adornes.

So we’ll see what Bruges is like the week before Christmas. (It’s likely to be nippy.) There’s a holiday market and an ice rink at the Markt. And the usual Flemish attractions of beer, mussels, frites, and such.

I took the image of the Flemish guy above — decked out for some sort of procession — during a previous trip, at about the location of this hotel in the quieter half of the city.

Another Volley in the War on Christmas

The Martrydom of Nicholas, by Francisco de Goya and Thomas Christensen

The Martyrdom of Nicholas,
by Francisco de Goya and Thomas Christensen

Top Ten Seasonal Songs That Don’t Mention Christmas

As a public service to those who will be entertaining Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Jews, and the like this holiday season, I offer this list:

1. Deck the Halls
2. Frosty the Snowman
3. Gloucestershire Wassail
4. Happy Holidays
5. Jinglebell Rock
6. Jingle Bells
7. Let It Snow
8. Pretty Paper
9. Sleigh Ride
10. Winter Wonderland

The list is alphabetical. If ranked for best lyrics, the award would go to “Gloucestershire Wassail,” for these stirring sentiments:

Wassail, wassail all over the town!
Our bread it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our bowl, it is made of the good maple tree;
From the wassailing bowl we’ll drink unto thee.

Come, butler, and fill us a bowl of your best,
And we hope your soul in Heaven may rest;
But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
Then down shall go butler and bowl and all.

Come here, sweet maid, in the frilly white smock,
Come trip to the door and trip back the lock!
Come trip to the door and pull back the pin,
And let us jolly wassailers in.

Wassail, by the way, is a spice punch drink. The name comes from the Old English/Norse “to be in good health.” I’ll drink to that.

Reg Kehoe and His Marimba Queens

marimba queens
click to view

via Spodinvark via Serpent Factory.

Speaking of SEO

Speaking of SEO, here is a list of the SEO-related sites that have feeds I subscribe to. (I’m just an amateur who got into this when my website got penalized.) Maybe I’ll actually use this someday. Am I missing any important ones?

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