February 22, 2007

YouTube = the new CSPAN?

Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s blog — note how that rolls off the keyboard — has been putting up video of representatives floor speeches against the war. That’s fascinating enough but get how they are posting the video: via YouTube. Here is Pelosi’s own YouTube user page.

C-SPAN has been the place to get source information on video: watch and judge for yourself. Now YouTube can take over that role and not just for limited official events but for source video anywhere. [crossposted at PrezVid]

This really is quite extraordinary. I'm sure my friends are tired of me blathering on about the Craigslist generation or the YouTube election -- but here we are. We're more wired than ever before, with the Edwards campaign on Second Life and the first presidential commercial (thanks, Mitt -- we'll all stop "dithering now") popping up there for embedding nearly simultaneously with its entrance onto the broadcast airwaves. The fact that the Speaker of the House is posting speeches from the floor of the House of Representatives (or more likely, one of her aides) strikes me as a significant step towards transparency. In other words, YouTube is good for more than just macaca moments. Such engagement in new media might even grab the attention of those who have turned off and tuned out from network news and newspapers, nearly en masse. I hope so. There are so many important stories out there.

Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni

While trying to catch Patagonian toothfish (aka Chilean Seabass), New Zealand fisherman caught...this.

(AFP/National Science Museum/File)

450kg of giant squid. That makes it the largest squid ever landed.
Let the calamari jokes begin... While a true kraken has yet to be pulled forth, it's not hard to imagine a 30-foot long cephalopod like this absolutely terrifying Irish monks, Vikings or Maoris navigating in small coracles or dugouts.

February 19, 2007

Larry Lessig video articulates his vision for free spectrum and the Internet

Lessig remains one of the most brilliant minds I've ever encountered in print and now in video. Code and The Future of Ideas remain a turning point in my education in open source, DRM, copyright and intellectual property. Great stuff.

Geektastic: Gollum and Smeagol Sing a Barry White Duet

So funny and yet so deeply distubing. I love it -- and not just because I read LOTR half a dozen times before the age of 12. Thanks for the link, Xeni.

February 14, 2007

Unbelievable wheelchair halfpipe tricks

As someone who retired from skateboarding seriously at an early age (ask me about my fake tooth) these wheelchair tricks are slightly mindbinding. I love that these guys are still thrashing in any way that they know how -- and doing things I'd never imagined possible in a wheelchair.

Cartoony Gates vs. Jobs Goodness

Ok, so there's some inconsistencies and maybe twisting of the record here and there....but this is reasonably funny at the times to geekily inclined.

Video of Iguazu Falls

1.5 miles across. 13 million liters per second of water moving over the falls. Unbelievable natural beauty. Yep, this one's on the lifetime visit list.

February 12, 2007

WSJ Video: Natural language search

The Wall Street Journal has now hopped into the online video world in partnership with Brightcove. Notably, they've made it possible (and easy) to get embed code to place their content into, say, a blog. The selection isn't exactly wide nor deep -- but it's a start.

February 11, 2007

No Faustian Bargain Here

Harvard has named its first female president in its 371-year history, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian of the Civil War South.

While I can imagine that the task of taking on a university with 12 schools, a 30 billion dollar endowment and 3 billion dollar operating budget is surely a daunting task for the (former) dean of Radcliffe (80 employees), I bet she's woman enough for the challenge.

In the wake of Larry Summers, this is an especially powerful statement, and one that should confirm to the world that opportunity at the highest levels is increasingly, if not wholly, available to every qualified American.

4.3 miles

I haven't run as far, as fast or as long as I did this afternoon since last July. The ankle injury I sustained walking on the bottom of a lake in Maine has finally healed to the point of being able to go trail running. Shadow and I ran out and up to Arnold Arboretum, tracing the perimeter of the preserve far onto the JP side before looping back. 3/4 of the way up Peters Hill, I flagged, walking the rest of the way before collapsing down to let my heart rate return to normal in the winter sun. Shadow didn't approve at all of the layabout approach to exercise, so after an insistent whine, we jogged down to the orchard groves and I cajoled him into lying down on the cold grass. I managed to run about 50 yards before he ignored my hand motions, coursing over the ground past me like a black streak. He's lost a step since his prime but can still outrun me in a blink when he wants to. Shadow was pretty beat after we got home, flagging as we ran home. though to be fair it's been a long time since he's run 4.3 miles either.

February 10, 2007


I have no idea what the next 30 days will hold.

Now, while that technically isn't completely true, it's not exactly the converse, either. I've taken a faltering step in new direction, though the path is still unfolding.

I'd like to think that watching all Six Feet Under would have taught me that long ago, but here we are in 2007, more than a year since Sia's Breathe Me took us out of the final episode. That moment remains a sobering, beautiful resolution to a brilliant series, a reminder that we all die, sooner or later.

This song still chokes me up when I hear it.

It really took my uncle's passing last year to drive the point home, however. Memorizing the following words from the Bard long ago, in sixth grade, certainly didn't imprint that reality on my heart or outlook.

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

--From Macbeth (V, v, 19)

I suppose, at 30, I'm finally conscious of my own mortality.

February 8, 2007

Prank you very much for the viral marketing infection.

Inspiration strikes at the oddest times.

I spent a little over two hours last night after work pranking the open cubicles of the two coworkers who foiled me earlier this week.



I think most folks were pretty amused.

Both pranks will have to be disassembled tomorrow. I'll need to remember the cord for my drill, as only one battery is charged for the DeWalt cordless drills I used to assemble the frame. I'd hate to run out of juice at a crucial moment as I take down.

I'll admit, I was proud of myself. Months of apprenticeship actually paid off in efficiently designing, planning, shoppping, measuring, cutting and then framing the armature. I'd like to think the creativity was always there, as this is just the sort of somewhat outrageous stunt I'd imagine pulling at age 10. The difference is that I've got access to power tools, a car, ladder and 6-foot frame to haul everything about and put it together. The will was certainly always there.

I'm glad I got it out of the way last night, too. Today was an intense, on so many levels. You never know what life will bring, whether it's sickness in your family, natural catastrophe or a winning lottery ticket. Or, you know, an 8 x 16.3 foot plastic tent over your desk.

UPDATE: The quarantine victim managed to take considerably better pictures of the prank than I did, perhaps because my digital camera is nearly five years old. Go E!

February 7, 2007

Dancing Sushi People?

All I can say is that Japan is a very different place -- and I can't wait to visit. I'm not sure I'll ever look at sushi in the same way again.

February 6, 2007

Steve Jobs on DRM and the future of music

In the "Thoughts on Music" that Steve Jobs posted on Apple.com , the man perhaps in the most powerful position in digital media has weighed in, quite personally, on the DRM debate. He maps out three possible directions for the future of digital mediation and intellectual property protection.

1) Continue the status quo, with competing schemes from Apple, Microsoft and Sony.

2) License FairPlay (the Apple DRM scheme) and cede control over that proprietary encryption scheme.

3) Abolish DRM entirely. In such a world, "any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat."

What's the best direction? It's hard to see the major multinationals releasing their content in the way Steve describes in his utopian vision, though I cautiously agree that open formats would be in the best interests of both artists and consumers alike.

I thought the following facts were, if true, somewhat staggering, though of course he had asserted as much beofre in the keynote when he announced the iPhone. What follows the iPod sales numbers and purchases, however, is a much more interesting revelation:

Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats.

I can say that's anecdotally true. The vast majority of music in my collection is from the CDs, tapes, mixes, burned CD-Rs and LPs that previously constituted (and still do, to be fair) the bulk of my music collection before the iTunes store ever entered the picture. These days, on the Nano at least, most of the space is full of podcasts.

Guilty displeasures

Tonight was the last night of first round auditions for American Idol. I'm glad. I haven't seen it all this year -- not even close -- but the parts of it I have caught have far too much of the judges laughing at the contestants. I know that the system is rigged to filter for the far ends of the talent distribution curve, that the audience is tuning in for both the awful auditions and the transcedent ones. I like the latter -- I like thinking [damn, the girl/guy can sing ] -- but the bad ones veer far too close into cruelty. Eh. Like I said, I'm happy to turn my attention elsewhere.

I did notice an ad for downloadable ring tones of awful auditions, the first time I'd seen the promo. Ick. I can't wait to be around when those enter the teenage population.

February 5, 2007

Foiled at work

Best practical joke I've seen in a long time -- and it was played on me.

Retaliation is in process....

Update: Here's the complete set to admire on Flickr, posted by the perpetrators.

February 4, 2007

My favorite Superbowl spots, courtesy of YouTube

Go YouTube. This page of Superbowl ads is a thing of viral marketing beauty.

My favorites?

6. Snickers

5. Rock, Papers, Scissors -- Bud Lite
One of the first commercial was also one of the best.

4. Coca-cola

Give a little love and it all comes back to you. How Lennon.

3. Wittiest title nominee: Connectile Disfunction (Sprint Mobile Broadband). The commercial isn't otherwise remarkable but that initial cleverness sold me. Mostly.

2. The K-Fed National Insurance ad. Tough call, but seriously, what other ad is generating more buzz?

1. The Robert Goulet appearance in Emerald Nuts actually made me LOL. There it is.

The worst? I love Garmin products, but this was just a mindblowing waste of 2.6 million dollars:

Ditto for SalesGenie:

Like the 2000 Superbowl ad season but perhaps even worse.

Update: Gizmodo posts on the SuperBowl ads more extensively -- and with awards, no less. GizFunny. Of note is that the iFilms render and play much more smoothly, IMHO.

Update II: The lonely GM robot was sadly overlooked. Score another one for anthropomorphizing our machines.

Update III: Embarrassment descends. I've been given a scathing dressing down for overlooking the Blockbuster spot that has some priceless neoLuddite humor that provoked a belly laugh. I don't know how I forgot to include this....too much time fussing over crab cakes, clearly. I think I even prefer this over Goulet.

Sunday morning, over hard

A friend posted the first comment on digiphile this morning. Thanks! After writing back, I realized my response would make a perfect armature for a post.

My weekend has been very up and down. I saw Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" at the Huntingdon Theater on Friday and then went to Betty's Wok and Noodle, both of which were really wonderful experiences. I need to see more live theatre.

Saturday, I slept gloriously late and then worked up a sweat chipping the ice glaze off the steps, cars, sidewalks, end of the driveway and everywhere else it coated. I even managed to take the greyhound for a run in the arboretum afterwards, losing my wind 3/4 of the way up Peters Hill. I'm still getting back to decent shape, but I was glad to get some sun and break a sweat. Today, I accomplished that rarest of Sunday morning deeds, reading the NYT Sunday edition cover to cover. I have to admit, I skimmed some sections a bit (Sunday Styles?) but the feat stands. I never manage to do that anymore, though doing so brings me the warm and fuzzy glow of feeling informed, if only through the Grey Lady's lens.

Tons of great articles to note from today's paper, including:

  • "Sharp Bits," about how restaurant blogging is changing the industry. Great work, though it would have been funnier entitled "Sharp Bytes."
    This so doesn't below in the Styles section, though to be fair as section cover story it gets great play on the section devoured by status watchers dying to read the wedding announcements.
  • "Taking Books Far and Wide, on the Road Less Traveled By" about the important role of a bookmobile in the rural Southwest of the US, providing a kind of mobile library to isolated resident.
  • "You've Seen the E-mail, Now Buy the Art," which details how emailed JPEGs have let to art shows that sell out ahead of time in 3 minutes, not three hours, along with worthy questions about what this means for the future of art, speculation and shows in a digital age.
  • "Wireless Internet for All, Without the Towers," Randall Stross's latest essay on "Digital Domains." I hadn't read about Meraki before, which "contains a WiFi router-on-a-chip, combined with the same microprocessor and same memory that formed the heart a Silicon Graphics workstation 10 years ago" that allows the creation of a low-cost, ground-level P2P wireless mesh networks an alternative to muniWiFi or WiMax. Neat.
  • Finally, "In Elder Care, Signing on Becomes a Way to Drop By" covers the iCare, a product that represent a growing trend towards the inversion of the Big Mother concept, allowing family members to use digital technology to keep an eye on elderly parents. This trend can't be overemphasized, as we're well on our way to watching each other constantly with cheap webcams, portable GPS technology, remote biolevels sensors and browser-based monitoring systems. A brave new world, indeed.

In all of this, I'm reminded of the central role that great newspapers still play in our world. Bloggers, by and large, comment, link, critique and fact check like no other collective consciousness in history but have yet to produce anything like the smorgasboard of exceptional journalism I read today or linked to above. The Old Grey Lady may have her faults (WMD, Judith Miller and Jason Blair come to mind) but she's as relevant as ever, as long as this kind of writing makes its way onto her pages.

My foodie juices are about to get aflowin as I head over to Cambridge to prepare for a culinary bonanza with a friend. He's been brining his pork loin for days; I'm ready to prepare some authentic MD backfin lump crab balls (albeit with Thai crab, but whatever - I can't afford $45/pound) with a cilantro aioli (my grandmum would not approve), braised BBQ country style ribs and a shot at creme brulee, which I've finally got a decent blowtorch for...should fun, along with that whole "football" and advertising extravaganza thing...


NYTimes writers are getting pretty cute with article titles -- but then, we all have to these days. This "BrewTube" article from the pages of the Old Grey Lady's magazine is once again well calibrated to the moment. It will arrive on the doorsteps of readers preparing to watch the SuperBowl of ads (along with Da Bears and the Colts), at least one of which was completely crowdsourced.

Bud.tv, however, is neither cute not a joke, though there are funny things to be found there. In effect, Anheuser-Busch has created its own online cable network, though for now pretty interface houses commercials, trailers and little else -- promises of enhanced content and shows are still coming soon.

If this campaign works for them, I imagine this accelerate the trend of companies creating online communities of users, customers or clients as a means of building both brand awareness and loyalty.

I think it will take much more than this for me to prefer a Bud over a Guinness, Belgian or homebrew.

February 3, 2007

VIdeo: Web 2.0 neatly explained


Watch YouTube inside of Google Reader

Steve Rubel posted about an announcement from Google that he calls "significant." I think he could be guilty of understatement, but let his words speak for themselves.

Earlier this week Google made a significant change to Google Reader. You can now watch videos from dozens of sites without having to leave the reader. This means you can set up a RSS search feed, from say YouTube, and watch them all as a playlist in reader.

What Google didn't mention is that if you have the Google Reader widget on your Google Personalized Homepage you can actually watch all of these videos right within the page itself.

Page views? What page views? If no one is actually visiting your site, how do you monetize and sustain your business model? Creating meaningful social media metrics will be quite a challenge in this age of feeds, where content can be stripped of much of the branding, advertising or even authorship by a feed browser like Reader or Sage. I think it's about influence. At least, that's what some wiser blogging heads than I seem to believe.

Update: I subscribed to the most viewed feed from YouTube and then zipped over to Reader. Sure enough, the embedded Reader widget on my Google homepage now will pop up a window with a YouTube video embedded and playable within it. Cool.

Hubble's extraordinary eye

My uncle emailed me this story about the failure of the main camera of the Hubble telescope this week.

This video montage gives some small justice to the gift NASA and its scientists offered to humanity.

WorldMap Live Storm-Worm Virus Replay

This is really astonishing. I wish we could zoom in more to various areas -- Google Earth mashup, anyone?

February 2, 2007

Looking out at the vista

I should really start by apologizing for the title of this post. I've been completely saturated in Microsoft's launch of Vista this week and couldn't help the foul play on words.

That being said, I really do feel like I'm looking out over some extraordinary unexplored country, as I look out at the coming year. I've been rapidly and powerfully drawn to making and consuming online video this past week, both for work and for fun. As a result, I may have "cheated" more than a little bit by posting video instead of any grittier or more serious thoughts or comments on what I've experienced or felt recently.

There's just too much, really. Life just seems to accelerate when you're not looking. I can't believe it's already February.

At the top of the list should be the fact that I'm an associate now, with no trace of assistant anything in my title. I like that. I like that the word means much more than one thing. One can associate sounds with experiences, smells with memories or ideas with people. It's a fully loaded word. I'm a fan.

I caught myself describing my state of being to my mum on Thursday as "exhausted but high functioning." I've apparently absorbed too much psychobabble along the way.

That being said, it's accurate. I'm writing, editing, interviewing and reading as much or more than I have in a while, and generally at a much higher level. What a shock: I love being an editor.

I'm even starting to get back into better shape, stopping by the health club to check out the facilities on the way home last night and breaking out the free weights for the first time in months.

My only real complaint is that I wish I were reading more books and being more creative with photography, painting, poetry and woodworking. Blogs, magazines and newsprint seems to take up far too much of the bedside table and work downcycles these days. After reading Jeffrey Toobin's engrossing tale of Google's moonshot, however, I did head over to Google Books. I hadn't been there in a while. Seeing Dad's book was a reminder, however, of how much is lost on screen. The feel of the paper, the spareness of a poem on the printed page, even the smell of a new book is lost completely in the scanning. Minor quibbles next to the creation of the world's largest pool of information, of course, but I do enjoy slipping a thin volume into my pocket when I board the T. It beats reading it off my MDA, certainly, though I'd like get my hands on a Reader again for more than a few minutes.

It also bears mentioning that making new friends, in and outside of work, is deeply satifying. Many of them are now aware of this blog, so for once I'm picking more words more carefully. I think there will always be a part of me that will mourn the absence of former friends that I thought I might have for life, along with the cascading actions that led to the end of those relationships. It's taken me much longer than I care to admit to move on.

I'm kindly reminded by the friends I still have, thankfully, that it's out of my control. They've made their decisions. All I can do is try not to make the same mistakes and be kinder to others and, in the end, myself. Life is too short and bitterly unfair to do otherwise.

I think 2007 is going to be transformative, if the first 33 days are any clue.