Saturday, March 30, 2002

i had a dream that two of my friends stole a zebra from the st. louis zoo. granted, i have recently been to the st. louis zoo, but i think we all know that the zebra was love.
i posted the previous comment to this comment page in response to this call for comments about digital copyrights.
I am a content creator, provider, and user. I recognize that placing my own work in a publicly-accessible area makes it practically impossible to protect my work against unauthorized copying, just as I cannot speak in public and have any control over who might write down what I say and publish it without properly citing me. And just as the government can not possibly regulate the means of spoken communication, it is entirely impractical to attempt to regulate the means of digital communication.

Existing copyright laws are more than sufficient in prosecuting copyright violations when they actually happen, but the cost to the general public is far too great to attempt the impossibility of regulating copyright violations by making them impossible in the first place.

Friday, March 29, 2002

"El Cajon education officials have rejected a discrimination claim filed by a parent who argued that his daughter should not have to share restrooms or dressing areas with lesbian students."

why is it okay for women to share restrooms with lesbian women, but not with heterosexual men? the reasonable solution: unisex restrooms. it's wasn't until actually using unisex restrooms that i realized how ridiculous segregated restrooms are.
rumsfeld confirms suspicions he is mindless: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today defended the Pentagon's plan to keep some prisoners from the Afghan war in captivity in Cuba indefinitely even if they are acquitted in military tribunals.

To release them after an acquittal so they could return to the battlefield, he said, would be "mindless."

But he did say that some prisoners had already been released.
"

i'm not talking about his admission that he has done exactly what he said would be "mindless" (though i do find that humorous), but that he is clearly advocating the imprisonment of people who have been determined innocent by our own courts - and military courts at that. he has appointed himself judge and jury.

also, the blatant disregard for the geneva conventions ("Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners are to be repatriated to their countries at the end of a conflict."), i feel, is indicative of rumsfeld being an idiot.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

i found that quote using watson, a wonderful tool for mac os x. (anyone paying attention may note that os x could not possibly be running on my 132hz home computer - i'm using it at work.) with watson, you can check local movie play times (and see descriptions and trailers for movies), check local tv schedules, scan meerkat news, search (and reverse search) phone numbers, search (and reverse search) zipcodes, translate between languages, reference a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, quotes, shakespear, the bible, etc. search for images, recipes, ebay auctions, browse yahoo's entire directory (just like you might browse your local directory), check exchange rates, shipping rates, flight schedules, and stock prices. i like watson.

i said it scans meerkat news. this functions a lot like amphetadesk, only it doesn't give you choice over which news feeds you want. watson has an open API, which means anyone can make a watson tool. so i think i'm going to work on porting amphetadesk into a watson tool...just as soon as i get some free time.
"Peace is always beautiful." - walt whitman.
"Nobody is so brilliant they can create completely new music that everyone wants to listen to, and nobody can create software that does not use existing ideas."

the problem with the patent system is that it must assume either that patented ideas are entirely original, which is never the case, or that it is somehow possible to trace the lineage of ideas, which is also never the case. you can't own an idea because every idea you have is influenced by a countless number of other's ideas for which you could never properly account. anyone who has ever taught you anything even remotely related to your "new" idea rightly deserves a portion of your royalties. unfortunately, the patent system can only account for a small portion of these influences - specifically that portion who can afford to take part in the patent system (and the associated costs of time and money). the rest of the idea-producing world is assumed to have thought of nothing original.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

mark sent me an email regarding his feed: "This is now corrected."
on daypop, i'm now the top authority on amphetadesk, but i don't even show up on google. this is my first experience with any level of blog noteriety, and i like to watch how it works. blogging seems to make the process of finding relevant content (e.g. search engines) very organic, and i like to see how far this goes. is it more important that i mention a search term often, or that other people link to my blog? to what extent will the search engines present me as an authority on a topic about which i actually know very little?
our secret government: "OMB Watch is keeping a list of information removed from government websites." somehow removing information regarding nuclear weapons plants from government websites doesn't make me feel any safer. shutting down such plants and replacing them with renewable and safer energy sources would make me feel safer (and more economically secure).
the onion reports "Drugs Now Legal If User Is Employed." this is hardly news - not because it's satire, but because it's been true for as long as i've been alive. anyone who can afford the right doctors can buy prescription drugs that have the same effects as illegal drugs. drugs laws have little to do with the actual effects of drugs. if they did, drinking alcohol would carry a stiffer penalty than smoking marijuana. and if drug laws were created in the interest of improving society, they would emphasize treatment over punishment. the practical effect of current drugs laws is to ensure that large drug companies and criminal organizations maintain monopolies in the drug market, without doing anything to actually reduce that market.
alert reader eric writes: "as for the <p> tags - Actually, mark's feed has &lt;p&gt; rather than <p> which is why it's being parsed that way."

i wrongly assumed i was looking at the actual source of mark's feed, when in fact my browser had parsed it. amphetadesk does no such parsing, and as far as i understand the xml spec, it shouldn't:

"The ampersand character (&) and the left angle bracket (<) may appear in their literal form only when used as markup delimiters, or within a comment, a processing instruction, or a CDATA section."

i think mark is breaking this rule, but i'm certainly no xml expert. i just know something's wrong somewhere.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

in case you haven't heard: "More than 5,000 Afghans are thought to have perished in the series of earthquakes to have hit the Hindu Kush mountains while tens of thousands are believed to have lost their homes."

many people haven't heard of this. it's more people than died in the 9/11 events. where is the american compassion for the people of afghanistan today?

"The European Commission is working closely with one of its partners, the French non-governmental organisation ACTED which is already in the area, to send about 500 tents and 1,000 blankets to the homeless."
"In this society, there is no powerful discourse on love emerging either from politically progressive radicals or from the Left. The absence of a sustained focus on love in progressive circles arises from a collective failure to acknowledge the needs of the spirit and an overdetermined emphasis on material concerns. Without love, our efforts to liberate ourselves and our whole community from oppression and exploitation are doomed. As long as we refuse to address fully the place of love in struggles for liberation we will not be able to create a culture of conversion where there is a mass turning away from an ethic of domination." - bell hooks in outlaw culture
the one day when my blog has visitors in double digits and blogger goes down.
one more amphetadesk-related post and i'm getting back to reading my news (with amphetadesk). i believe i've found my first amphetadesk bug:

mark pilgrim's weblog (and this is the only i've so far noticed), escapes <p> tags and displays them as text rather than html tags (just like that tag is displayed in this sentence). i've looked at mark's rss feed, and it's valid, so the problem would seem to be with amphetadesk.

that said, i continue to recommend amphetadesk. i downloaded the code this morning, which i'm going to look at and see if i can help at all. i think this is the first open-souce project i've seen that is in a programming language i know, not way too complex for me (or maybe it is - i'll see), and something i'd actually use.
i did a quick edit of the blogthis bookmarklet from blogger, and placed it in my 'channel_item.html' template:

<A HREF = "javascript:Q=document.getSelection(); void( window.open( 'http://www.blogger.com/blog_form_pop-upE.pyra?t=' + escape(Q) + '&u=' + escape( '[$ item_url $]' ) + '&n=' + escape( '[$ item_title $]' ) , 'bloggerForm' , 'scrollbars=no,width=475,height=300,left=75,top=175,status=yes' ) );">BlogThis</A>

so now when i come across an interesting news item in amphetadesk, i just click the link and it opens a blogger post window for me. i should warn that i think the blogger bookmarklet i constructed this from was dynamically generated to fit my browser, so if you want to try this yourself, first go to blogger and get the bookmarklet link, and then make the appropriate changes. blogging was really the only functionality i was missing from radio.

currently, i can't select specific text and blog it (because browsers don't maintain selections when a link is clicked) so i just get the entire post, which i then cut away as needed. but selection should be doable with a combination of links and bookmarklets. the link would mark (within javascript) the item to be blogged, which would then be selected in part by the user as desired, and the bookmarklet would then open the actual window and insert the title, link and selected text, and off i go to blogging...

that's the theory anyway. i'll try it out in the next few days.
you'd think i was the first person to use amphetadesk. i made one comment about liking it better than radio, and i recieved a series of emails from the creator (nice guy, by the way), and a pointer from mark pilgrim. according to daypop, i'm currently the third leading authority on amphetadesk. i guess i should share more of my experiences with amphetadesk, if that's what people are coming here to find.

Monday, March 25, 2002

i happened upon google's university-specific search engines today. i've often tried to find some information on my university website by using their search page and come up without whatever i was looking for. google's search works much better. so why does my university use ultraseek? i started looking at what other universities use (because IT at my university tends to follow the pack), and found that harvard, stanford, and cornell are all using ultraseek. it must be free, but i couldn't find any information about it. in any case, it's using university resources and returns worse (and generally fewer) results than google.

i did some example searches:

biology
google.com: 493
iwu.edu: 115
argus
google.com: 61
iwu.edu: 21
wesn
google.com: 70
iwu.edu: 11
rundblad
google.com: 7
iwu.edu: 2
registration
google.com: 140
iwu.edu: 74
first day of class
google.com: 284
iwu.edu: 1797
(google automatically removes common words, such as "of", which returned 1720 irrelavent results at iwu.edu)
"may term"
google.com: 236
iwu.edu: 142
"college guides"
google.com: 65
iwu.edu: 60

so why aren't more colleges pointing to google for their site searches, when as far as i can tell it's obviously superior to ultraseek?
my friend emailed me: "i was wondering... do many people read your weblog pages? it seems like something that 1000's of people would do, but that not very many people would read. ...just curious."

i responded:

i get an average of four visitors a day on my weblog. i suspect that's about the average for weblogs in general. though some get hundreds of thousands a day, most probably get one or two. but i'd probably do it if no one read it. if nothing else, it's an annotated bookmark list. even if no one else reads it, i often go back and find something i thought was neat a couple of weeks ago, which i probably wouldn't be able to find if i hadn't weblogged it. and i think i clarify my thoughts a lot just by writing. but perhaps more importantly, i weblog because i think that's where the web is headed. it allows people with no technical knowledge to publish their ideas for the world to read. and for those few people who do read my weblog, they're mostly coming from search engines, and they're finding content that's more specific and relevant to their searches than they could anywhere else. and because i find weblog content more interesting than the alternatives, i read about ten weblogs daily, so if i'm at all representative of the "weblog community", there's still more reading going on than writing. all in all, i highly recommend weblogging.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

"marriage in europe becomes passe"

the whole gay marriage issue wouldn't even be an issue if marriage were not a government-sanctioned legal arrangement. of course, that would also require that things like insurance, taxes, etc. remove any special treatment for married people, and so it should be. one should be able to enter into such mutual economic arrangements with anyone. for example, i should be able to file taxes jointly with my friends (or even strangers, although i would be jointly responsible for their tax filings). this would encourage people to form relationships with a wider variety of people, and probably cut down on a lot of social problems, like racism, domestic violence, etc.