concept to publication

Month: October 2006

It’s official

There’s no internet censorship in China. A Chinese official, at a United Nations internet summit in Athens, explained:

I don’t think we should be using different standards to judge China. In China, we don’t have software blocking Internet sites. Sometimes we have trouble accessing them. But that’s a different problem. I know that some colleagues listen to the BBC in their offices from the Webcast. And I’ve heard people say that the BBC is not available in China or that it’s blocked. I’m sure I don’t know why people say this kind of thing. We do not have restrictions at all.

So this is, I guess, a mirage. And that study by researchers at Harvard Law School that found 19,032 Web sites that were inaccessible inside China? All caused, apparently, by temporary server failures.

More Left Face / Right Face

Following up on my experiment of the other night, I’ve posted a couple more studies possibly revealing left brain / right brain features in some familiar faces.

One thing I’ve found, however, is that it’s quite difficult to find appropriate photos. Hardly anyone faces the camera straight on, and environmental factors can overwhelm the intrinsic qualities of the facial features.

The web: stasis and dynamism

In Teens’ Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year
IP Democracy

The web is constantly changing, evolving. It’s like ocean tides or the flux of massive weather systems. (In fact, the web metaphor itself may be played out — it’s more like a kaleidoscope than a web.)

That’s sort of the insight behind web 2.0, and internet entrepreneurs were quick to capitalize it. But then they got complacent and thought their work was done.

Not so fast. Writing in the Washington Post, Yuki Noguchi (first link above) notes that people are starting to move on from myspace, and IP Democracy (second link above) follows up with the interesting question “are hot web sites like hit TV shows?” An excerpt from the Noguchi article:

Teen Web sensation MySpace became so big so fast, News Corp. spent $580 million last year to buy it. Then Google Inc. struck a $900 million deal, primarily to advertise with it. But now Jackie Birnbaum and her fellow English classmates at Falls Church High School say they’re over MySpace.

“I think it’s definitely going down — a lot of my friends have deleted their MySpaces and are more into Facebook now,” said Birnbaum, a junior who spends more time on her Facebook profile, where she messages and shares photos with other students in her network.

From the other side of the classroom, E.J. Kim chimes in that in the past three months, she’s gone from slaving over her MySpace profile up to four hours a day — decorating it, posting notes and pictures to her friends’ pages — to deleting the whole thing.

Well, I don’t know if myspace is going down. After all, it’s got a long way to fall. But maybe web folks should think short-term — or if they think long-term they should think about spin-offs and adjuncts rather than simply maintaining whatever they’ve established. IP Democracy writes:

This meteroic rise and ultimate dwindling puts me in mind of hit TV shows. At their best, hot TV shows can dominate the cultural consciousness, generating huge (although that’s a relative term given the increasingly fractionalized) audiences and scads of ad revenue. . . . Moreover, hit TV shows can become the springboard for more money-making ventures, even when they fade (“Cheers” spawned “Frasier”). The trick for any given TV production company is to keep the creativity and business ingenuity going, and not rest on past successes.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine not remaining the top-ranked site on the internet (according to independent evaluators) into the foreseeable future.

More on feed readers

Newsgator has been either down or slow all this weekend. I like them, but I’ll starve if I don’t get my feeds. So I imported them into Google Reader, which has been getting favorable reviews. (Basically you just find the OPML file and upload it. GReader has instructions spelling it all out.) It bugs me having everything at Google, and right now the plan is to go back to Newsgator as soon as they fix whatever their current problem is. But since I now have all my feeds at both places this gives me a good opportunity for comparing features and performance — I’ll report back later. Anyone have any experience with these you’d like to report?

Left Face, Right Face

Check this out and tell me what you think: Left Face, Right Face. It’s a little experiment with the apparent effect of the sides of the brain on the features of faces of celebrities, politicians, and the like. I only have four cases up so far (Tony Blair, Robert Deniro, Bob Dylan, and Dick Cheney), but the results are interesting in a couple of cases. I really like to know what you think, and if you’d like to see some more examples. Thanks!

Specialized Web Searches

Google has released a custom search feature that’s supposed to allow customizing searches to produce better results. You can read about it over at Philipp Lenssen’s site. Supposedly this enables focusing results pertinent to a particular topic. I’ve set up a couple of test engines on a specialized searches page. Check it out and see what you think. Can you think of a better topic to perform a test on?

Copyediting Shakespeare

For an anthology I’ve been working on the publisher chose to copyedit some classic texts. It made me wonder how they would handle Shakespeare.

Getting Henry

I’ve finally posted my introduction to the Mercury House edition of Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom. I might have done this sooner but the original file had been lost. Rereading this thirteen years (!) later, I think it’s a pretty solid piece of work. Let me know what you think (or if you notice any typos!). Does it still hold up?

Alzheimers not projected to be a problem for Italian parliament

Following up on my earlier post about pot protecting against alzheimers comes this report from the BBC news that of the third of Italian parliamentarians who were governing while high most chose marijuana as their drug of choice.

I guess this topic is just in the air. So to speak.

Make no mistake, Jeb Bush was not in the closet!

Jeb Bush was in Pennsylvania to help raise funds for Rich Santorum. That’s mind-boggling and kind of creepy right there, but it’s not the item.

The item is that when the pair were in Pittsburg they were chased into a subway station by some citizens who, for unknown reasons, took offense at such Republican schemes as their ongoing effort to transfer all the wealth of the nation to the Bushies’ rich oil buddies.

Not anxious to confront the angry protesters, Bush sought “refuge in a subway station supply closet,” according to news reports.

For some reason (go figure), the Republicans are sensitive right now about allegations of being in the closet, so Bush’s main concern was this aspect of the story — he insists he was never in any kind of closet. No, it was a “boiler room.”

Gosh, that sounds manly!

Bush responds to the news of 655,000 deaths in Iraq.

“I’m amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.”

Rose Garden address, 11 October 2006

Google ranks third for search, according to Google

Search for “search” on Google, and who gets the top result? The answer is a bit surprising.

Marijuana compound may slow Alzheimers

Don’t tell the Restored Church of God (see previous post) but researchers at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, have released the results of a study indicating that THC appears to block the formation of the plaque associated with Alzheimers in brains.

In fact, the pot compound worked better than the standard drugs that are currently prescribed.

So if you know what’s good for you you’ll put on a little Bob Marley and get granny in the kitchen with those pot brownies while she can still remember the recipe.

Should teenagers and others express themselves through blogs?

That’s the question the Restored Church of God is asking.

The answer: “No one—including adults—should have a blog or personal website (unless it is for legitimate business purposes).” You see, “blogs are something youth should not be doing in any way.” Why not? Because “Jesus Christ and His Church have standards. Those who desire fewer standards should go to the splinters or to the world.”

So no excuses — now you know. Take down that myspace site this minute!

If you don’t believe me, you can visit their … well, their website.

The business of killing trees and putting chemicals on them

That’s printing, as overheard at the “Intelligent Printing” conference, Oct. 2006.

Are you incompetent?

I don’t know what I was doing in January 2000 when this article came out, but somehow it didn’t make an impression at the time. Now I saw it cited again, and I have to say it explains a lot.

How to create a custom news feed

Pay attention, class, we’re going to learn how to create a custom feed.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to assume that we’re interested in the great Argentine writer Julio Cortazar, and we want to keep up to date on any news about him. For this purpose we’ll use Google News, but the same principles apply in other scenarios. For example, you could create a feed of or technorati tags.

We could subscribe to a Google News Alert, but that would clutter up our in-box with an endless stream of e-mails. Instead we’ll collect all the news in one place that we can access with our browser.

Okay, first we enter our search term, Julio Cortazar, in the Google News search box.

step 1: the search box

On the resulting page we select the feed link (“RSS” or “Atom” at left; either will work in most readers).

finding the feed link

Next we copy the url of the feed page:

copying the url

Now we go to our feed reader of choice. There are plenty to choose from, among them Bloglines, Google Reader, Rojo, Pluck, etc. I happen to prefer Newsgator. There we select the “URL & Import” option (at right in the screen shot below), and we paste in our url:

importing the url

Once we import the url Newsgator will ask if we want to move it to a particular subfolder. This is handy because sooner or later your feeds will start to get out of control if you use your feed reader much.

Now we can view Julio Cortazar news and our other feeds simply by going to rather than having to navigate to all the different sites. We could also view blog posts through our feed reader, even if our workplace blocked them with something like Surf Control — a handy work-around for those who need to do strictly work-related research. 😉
viewing the feed

By the way, the new Firefox 2.0 browser has a feed subscription button built in that will simplify this process (specify your reader in preferences, click the feed button, bingo).

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