Archive for August, 2008

Dimensions
The power of math and the power of the CC license and some smart folks with a great sense of beauty bring us a video that explains dimension, topography and complex numbers in ways that make sense and that are a joy to watch. You need not be a mathematician to enjoy Dimensions.

The creators says:

Nine chapters, two hours of maths, that take you gradually up to the fourth dimension. Mathematical vertigo guaranteed! Background information on every chapter!

Commentary in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
Subtitles in Arabic, Dutch, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

Film produced by:
Jos Leys (Graphics and animations)
Étienne Ghys (Scenario et mathematics)
Aurélien Alvarez (Realisation and post-production).

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Homegrown, Handmade: Art Roads and Farm Trails
What: Kickoff event for the Piedmont section of the travel guide
“Homegrown Handmade: Art Roads and Farm Trails”
When: Wednesday August 27 at 11 a.m.
Where: the Carolina Inn. 
Food: free ice cream from the NCSU dairy scooped by celebrity scoopers
Sponsor: NC Cultural Resources Department

The guidebook is the latest project for Homegrown Handmade, which is a project spearheaded by Cultural Resources and Cooperative Extension, through a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation. They are working to put tourism dollars into rural counties by using what they call”Agri-Cultural” tourism. The mix of art roads and farm trails is pretty
fun.

The guide is a great key for day trips in the Piedmont (yes, that’s where we are) of North Carolina.
Here for more on the guidebook.

Just added “celebrity scoopers.” One will be sure to give particularly big scoops to journalists and to SILS folks. Just identify yourself as a journalist or SILSist to the scooper in question.

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Elvis Costello builds on the old New Orleans conceit as heard in Dr John’s rewrite of Big Chief’s “Monkey and Baboon” and the Doctor’s great “The Monkey (Speaks His Mind)” by David Bartholomew (originally) who is name checked by Elvis. But even better that are a lot of bikinis and gorilla suits in the video! (via Brother Dave Burney and others).

Breaking gorilla suit news: Georgia Bigfoot is Big Suit on Ice

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I had a dream that I was in a conversation with a very wise man.

He was a circus clown, an acrobat with giant shoes. He had just finished his act: falling short of the trapeze several times before finally spinning four times and grabbing the bar then executing a double flip with a twist as he returned to the first trapeze. His final display had the whole audience standing applauding and laughing.

The rest of the troop was less pleased with his act than the audience. I was on the side of the audience.

The well-sequined straight acting acrobats had done a series of daring if slightly conservative and predictable moves. One had fallen. One had nearly slipped. None fell like the clown who had flailed like a plucked chicken and hooted at each of his falls and at his success as well.

The clown, an Emmett Kelly clone, looked at me sadly and said, “My colleagues don’t get it. They try really hard, but they never see that falling is the most important part of the act.”

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During our Bay Area visit, I made use of some of the newer travel tools on the net and discovered (late in some cases) a few more.

For organizing the trip, I used both TripIt and Dopplr. When I started out, Tripit’s strength over Dopplr was that it was great at scanning reservations, planes and hotels and cars, and converting those reservation emails into an itinerary. Dopplr was stronger in the social networking area and had the simpler interface.

Since then Dopplr has improved their scanning, so they say on their site, but I was already about done traveling so I haven’t tried that out.

I hadn’t used OpenTable before and now I can’t believe that I managed without it. OpenTable is Orbits for restaurants. It hooks directly into a great number of restaurants’ reservations systems so you can see what is available when and place your reservation directly from the site — no emails, calls or prayers needed.

But when it comes to reviews, Yelp has OpenTable beat. Yelpers are opinionated and very active and their opinions are valuable. Some place with a Yelp award on the wall is always worth a visit.

For maps, I used both Gmaps (of course) but also the Carrboro-based Schmap. Schmap has a very nice interface and a good city guide, the last builtin. But Gmaps on the new location aware iPhone is hard to beat when you’re out around town.

Speaking of the iPhone, Twitterific and now Twinkle make it really useful for finding your pals. Twittering our adventures in lead to a great talk with @cjobrien and @kthread in Union Square while we experienced all four seasons of San Francisco in about an hour. Twitter also helped set up meetings and drinks with a bunch of folks I hadn’t seen in a long time and several who hadn’t met each other. Tweeple also recommended restaurants and places to visit even as we were traveling.

I don’t know if I did them a favor by live-tweeting the Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference, but those who did read my tweets got a blow by blow of how I was taking in the conference.

We had our flight alert SMS set up but didn’t much need the alerts.

What other travel tools do you find useful?

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Spent today with NCSU’s Michael Rappa and Kathy Green looking over the new, and still under construction, Raleigh Convention Center. Finally a place in the Triangle that can really handle a conference like the International World Wide Web Consortium Conference 2010.

We’re just beginning the basic conference planning, but we’ll be looking for volunteers, sponsors and for ideas for the Late April 2010 conference in Raleigh. We’re planning around the themes of Green (we’d like this conference to be aware of environmental impact and plan with conservation and reuse in mind), Open (like the Web, like Linux and like several Triangle area companies and their products), North Carolina (yes some of the true Q will be served but more than that), and of course the Web.

If you have ideas and/or are you are interested, leave a comment, a tweet, a FB message or an email — or speak to me in person.

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This just in from CBS News:

“The idea that Obama was going to win in a blowout was always preposterous,” says former Nebraska senator and onetime presidential hopeful Bob Kerrey, an Obama backer. “A big piece of this, of course, is whether white people are going to support a black guy… If [Obama] is a tall, skinny white guy named Paul Jones it’s a different story.”

Thanks for the shout out, Bob!

Were you inspired by this campaign video?

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Thanks to Brother Dave Menconi for pointing us to this highly informed if not well performed review of BBQ by Rhett and Link.

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My friend and poet, Robert practiced a form of industry distinctly different from that of his wife. Sandy was and is a 110% person, active at the fullest while she is awake and prolly when she is asleep as well. Theirs was a marriage of opposites in which each struggled to understand the other.

One beautiful spring day, I called Robert to see if he wanted to hear a writer who was in town that night.

Sandy answered the phone. She was extremely anxious and worried. “Robert is in the backyard in the sun and he hasn’t moved in an hour! He won’t answer when I call him! I’m afraid to go out and touch him!”

Just tell him I’ll looking for a friend to go hear Bill Merwin read at Duke, sez I.

“He’s popped up!”

Robert picked up the phone. Sandy was chattering and scolding him in the background. “Sandy, she is lovely and lively but she can’t appreciate the healing power of boredom,” he said sleepily.

In today’s NYTimes Science, the understanding and appreciation of boredom is briefly explored in an interesting article by Bennett Carey “Boredom May Let the Brain Recast the World in Productive, Creative Ways”

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Much of traditional media gone to blog is asking: Where is the accountability and the responsibility in ABC News’ reporting on the anthrax scare/attack?

Dan Gillmor at Center for Citizen Media says “ABC has major questions to answer in anthrax story.”

Jay Rosen at PressThink has “Three Vital Questions for ABC News About its Anthrax Reporting in 2001.”

The two of them team up to ask you to ask ABC as well. Read their posts, inspired by two columns by Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, and if you agree that these questions should be addressed post a link to their articles and let them know.

Here are the questions:

1. Sources who are granted confidentiality give up their rights when they lie or mislead the reporter. Were you lied to or misled by your sources when you reported several times in 2001 that anthrax found in domestic attacks came from Iraq or showed signs of Iraqi involvement?

2. It now appears that the attacks were of domestic origin and the anthrax came from within U.S. government facilities. This leads us to ask you: who were the “four well-placed and separate sources” who falsely told ABC News that tests conducted at Fort Detrick had found the presence of bentonite in the anthrax sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, causing ABC News to connect the attacks to Iraq in multiple reports over a five day period in October, 2001?

3. A substantially false story that helps make the case for war by raising fears about enemies abroad attacking the United States is released into public debate because of faulty reporting done by ABC News. How that happened and who was responsible is itself a major story of public interest. What is ABC News doing to re-report these events, to figure out what went wrong and to correct the record for the American people who were misled?

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I agree with Phillip Rosedale! Not about the easy of use of the Second Life interface, but about innovation to productivity being the best path for a young company to take. Rosedale gets a lot of attention and quotes in Janet Rae-Dupree’s article in the NYTimes today (in print just above an article that upsets some of my tweeple about criminalsearches.com).

Also mentioned is Seth Godin’s book title, Small is the New Big. Rae-Dupree hints that Seth’s book is on smallness and agility; it’s not that’s in a lot of the essays that make up the collection of course but there is that one great and on the point essay from which the book takes its title.

Those who pay attention to my various speakings know that I’ve been using Seth’s essay (and book) to make that point about ibiblio and who we work there for the past few years.

Yes, small is the Future of Work — so Thomas Malone tells us — and ibiblio like Linden Labs is a believer or is that believers? (see my talks including a recent TriLUG video).

And thanks to the other Paul Joneses in North Carolina for keeping our joint criminal records info cloud clean!

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Really newspaper and department stores go way back and further forward, but some place I picked up a quote that seemed to explain so much more than appears on the face of the quote:

“The rise of metro newspapers followed the rise of the downtown dept store; the fall will follow the same trajectory.”

I’m not sure that that was the language but it was the sense. But who said it? And was it said based on intuition, observation or research?

I asked my colleagues in the J-School and I got some answers:

Andy Bechtel, a copyeditor, cited a newspaper and department store loving copyeditor:

You may have read it at David Sullivan’s blog, which is about those two very things and how they are connected.

Frank Fee had a great anecdote from Rochester, NY:

It’s also a theme I mentioned in a recent interview with a reporter from Connecticut who was writing a story for the 125th anniversary of his paper. In Rochester, N.Y., the acquisition of the locally owned department stores brought economies of scale that drastically curtailed advertising and contributed to the demise of the evening newspaper. In fact, it was said that only because Mrs. McCurdy had a fondness for the evening Times-Union that the McCurdy & Co. ad budget always included the T-U until May Department Stores acquired McCurdy & Co. in 1994. Overnight, the plug was pulled.

Oddly, but sadly predictably, news researchers went to the web and found only recent cites:

A news researcher from the St. Pete Times came up with this citation:

I’m seeing the following:
” The 20th century rise of the advertising-dependent department store helped create the modern newspaper, and their decline paralleled that of the newspaper franchise.”
in an article from Slate Magazine January 22, 2008 Tuesday

Another researcher writes:

Here’s a snippet of an article from Forbes: “If the newspaper company is not to go the way of telegraph and microcomputer companies, it may have to learn a lesson from department-store retailers, an industry of similar fragmentation and vintage to many American newspapers.

Once the storied names of so many Main Streets, department stores were devastated by the arrival of technologically savvy discounters such as *Wal-Mart Stores* (nyse: WMTnews). So many failed to adapt to the disruptive innovations of the big-box superstores, despite wave after wave of consolidation and cost cutting.”

But colleague and sage Phil Meyer had it dead on and as always teaches me a lot:

That would have been sociologist Leo Bogart in a report to newspaper publishers ca. 1970. Their response: “What we need is less sociology and more selling.” Leo tells this story in one of his books.

BTW Phil wrote Bogart’s obit in Public Opinion Quarterly.

Sure enough, Leo Bogart didn’t stop talking about the business of and the relationship to department stores and newspapers. He goes on for several pages with great supporting in Commercial Culture: the media system and the public interest (found on Google Books or in your library) beginning page 120 in a chapter called “Advertising as the Driving Force.”

“Department stores — once newspapers’ mainstay — had undergone extensive restructuring as a result of acquisitions and mergers.” Some very telling listings of failures, mergers and the like follow. This is a later book than the one Phil quotes but Bogart was definitely on the case early.

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