Interesting Google Query of the Day

10.38.00 - Mark

bomb threat drill scenario

I'm the 23rd hit (as of me posting this), but higher up in the list there's some intereting planning materials. (ie, what to plan for, decisions to make on how/when to call an evacuation, etc)

Link | 0 Comments |


10.04.00 - Mark

I really need to stop committing money to BadBuy. Some of their prices on stuff I want have been amazing ($100 for an Apple iSight, $15 for Tripping the Rift Season 1) so I've been happy to send in an order, but grrr, they Backorder e v e r y t h i n g. I think it's their way of weasiling out of popular deals. I'll retract some of this statement if my currently backordered item ships in a timely manner (ie doesn't take them two whole months to tell m e they're not honoring their deal). Guess I can't complain too much because this order isn't costing me anything (gift card). Still why they hell can't they manage orders in a timely manner?

Amazon is a hell of a lot better. A few weeks ago I ordered a backorded item from them, expecting it to ship sometime this week, and they managed to get it out last week. I'll have that item by the time it was suppsoed to ship.

Amazon Good, Best Buy Bad, Mark Stupid (for committing funds, however free, to BestBuy).

Link | 2 Comments |


Paper or Plastic

17.56.00 - Mark

I just had to run out and collect a dozen eggs from the store. One (1) single item, that probably shouldn't cause a fuss. Only, somehow, it was an ideal example of total waste. It took two (2) clerks to ring up that one (1) item, and then ask what I wanted "paper or plastic". Huh? I was only picking up one item, one single, easily grip-able item that I was carrying with one (1) hand and exactly zero (0) shopping carts. If I walked up with it in one hand, why on earth do I need a (1) bag? Of corse in this sloth ridden, gas guzzling, completely wasteful society known as America this logic managed to escape those two (2) clerks, who on hearing that "I don't need a bag" each produced nice confused looks (2). Eventually they figured out what they're supposed to do when the customer doesn't want a bag, but some on what type of insane logic dictates that you need a bag for a single (1) item? Its almost as annoying as when they throw a gallon of milk into a bag I mean, come on, there's a handle BUILT IN.

Stupid, Mindless, Wasteful Americans.

Link | 0 Comments |

Watch, Laugh, Stay Subscribed

17.07.00 - Mark

Like nearly every alpha geek who has latched on to podcasting / vlogging, I love Rocketboom, I really love some of the crazier things they end up doing on Fridays. I've heard that they would love to not be the only regular show, well now they're not. Channel Frederator has piecked up on regular video content. I just watched the first show and it combined the best of Adult Swim with some excellent (and some not so good) cartoon shorts, ie Pixar-like animated shorts and Flash based cartoons that struck me as a remix of Rocky And Bullwincle's accidental heros and Wile E Coyote's rampant persistence and self-endangerment done by a host of animation veteran's (how can you not like it?) The not so good ones may have had a funny story to them, the first seemed like it could have been a Dogbert back story while the next to last lacked the full bodied story that makes great animation into a great cartoon. Fortunately they've implemented a voting system on the site to help them pick better animations, but the whole shebang, is crammed into 60MB movie file and placed nicely into a little RSS enclosure that downloads the clip for on-my-own-time viewing enjoyment.

I'm hooked, and if they keep up a better than 50% bating average, I may just add them to my short list of people deserving of money.

Link | 0 Comments |


Old School Games at Hi Tech Prices

16.45.00 - Mark

I'll see your wimpy controller and raise you a game cabinet and a TV screen. Coming to a Target near you in Novermber '05. via MAKE

Somehow I doubt it will out preform the xBox 360. (Which as a side note, I actually kind of want)

Link | 0 Comments |

Outsourcing Employeers

13.35.00 - Mark

North Carolina is being manipulated into giving Lenovo, (based in China) a company that now holds the assets of IBM's PC division, up to $8.4 million dollars in "incentives" to keep jobs that are already here. Considering how many of this states politicians denounce outsourcing, I find it ironic that they're more than happy to pay an over seas company to keep jobs. I don't know how hard it is to drop a 1800 employee facility from your corporate structure, but I have a feeling its not very easy or profitable. I'm not an economist or a politician, but the threat to pull out if they don't get "incentives" seems like a bluff and this kind of payoff reminds me of mob protection money.

I'll grant the state that these are closer to the sorts of jobs they should be focusing on, but at the same time they seem to be fooling themselves into believing that manufacturing is still a strong industry in the US, and the sad truth is that it isn't. No amount of "incentives" or passable legislation is going to change that.

Link | 0 Comments |

What you're worth

13.24.00 - Mark

There are a few bloggers/new mediaists out there trying to make a paid attempt at what they've been doing as amateurs (in this context, a unpaid individual doing professional level work) Kottke.org is a famous one. Less famously is Jonathan Coulton. Yesterday, John Gruber wrote about this direct support to a content producer from the fanbase/readership because he isn't getting his expected membership renewal. I'm not a member of daring fireball, and I don't really plan to be. I enjoy the occasional post, and I've been subscribed for a while (I'm not sure but it could be up to a year) but I don't get enough value from it to kick a few dollars his way. Of the three people listed, I've only paid for some Coulton songs off iTunes (DRM'ed files under Creative Commons, there's a contradiction for another post) and of the 300+ feeds I have, I've only trickled money down to a few, fewer still though a direct method (which is somewhat stupid on my part). Keep in mind I suffer from poor college student syndrome, but even if I did have some more cash, I would still be selective in where I donate cash to.

I don't have a fixed scheme, but as a rough guess, I have to like an overwhelming majority of you content, and there has to be a fair amount of it, once a week in the case of audio, or at least a couple well written posts each week. At least for the amateur things, like Dave Slusher, Escape Pod and DrunkenBatman @ DrunkenBlog would meet those requirements (I'll admit that my college student syndrome has prevented donations to the later two, but soon, soon). In the case of Warren Ellis and John Rogers I'm not so likely to donate to the amateur blogging efforts, but am more than willing to go out and buy professional works (Global Frequency rocks) and if I can (and remember to) circumvent the mass media middle man, and can give them a little more than just a royalty, I will.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but it seems like there is a strong old media marketing view point of eye balls = ad dollars. I don't think thats true. In new media the equation isn't that simple. Maybe value/eye balls * quantity = money is the equation we're working with in new media.

Maybe its 1:30 and I'm not thinking entirely straight.

Tangental side note, after a year of Adwords, while I haven't earned enough to cover hosting costs for all my sites, I have managed to cover the cost of all my domain names. I suppose that's fairly good. Certainly better than some.

Link | 0 Comments |



11.32.00 - Mark

This hurricane season has now reached Beta. I'm fairly sure there are a few geeky jokes/commentary in that statement.

Link | 0 Comments |


Spin Doctors

01.10.00 - Mark

Whoever wrote the latest Bush Approval Ratings Story was really trying to minimize the damage to the Anti-Bush movement. Choice line:

"However, all the numbers are within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, so it's possible that the public's opinion has not changed at all."

This is almost as funny as Fox's "Fair and Balanced Reports".

Link | 0 Comments |


Best Fark Headline

14.00.00 - Mark

I've been getting close to removing Fark from my feed reader, but then this came in:

Obvious McClellan: "Cheney is doing a great job as vice president". Given the past history of Bush Administration people who have been praised for their "great job", expect Cheney's resignation tomorrow

Link | 0 Comments |

Blogger Bugs

12.05.00 - Mark

I'm really getting tempted to screw template conversion/redesigns and jump ship to a real blogging system, blogger as a whole is getting really crusty. Its great for beginners but as a more experienced user I'm noticing some major problems.

Updating is a hit or miss proposition. Sometimes it uploads in a snap, other times it idles for hours before it stalls out

Management on any sizable blog is crud. I'm near or past 1300 and finding older posts I want to reference is tough to say the least. For something owned by a search company, you would think the search features wouldn't suck so bad.

Reliable feed. Blogger spontaneously updates unchanged items to updated in the feed. On blogs like this, Sience and Politics or Circadiana where there might be a couple dozen posts on the home-page, one occurrence of this blogger glitch means I could have an extra 100 unread items to sort out from the 4 or 5 new posts. I'll admit this could be a quirk of my newsreader and personal settings, but even sent though feedburner the feed can get borked.

splogs. Blogger is the easiest system to create a blog with, which means that some social lowlifes have written scripts that hammer out junk blogs filled with junk posts in a clear attempt to flood google with BS.

Interface. Simple is good, but how about an advanced panel. Google has tied on tons of functionality to blogger, how about making it easy to access.

Backup. I've seen blogger blogs disappear, and when I have 1300 posts I want a backup and recovery system. One click publishing is good, how about a one click backup in a standard format. (OPML?)

Link | 0 Comments |

One can hope

22.16.00 - Mark

Starcraft 2

Shame its only a mod. Part of what I loved about starcraft was the story line.

Link | 0 Comments |

Not for sale (donations welcome)

22.04.00 - Mark

The latest internet meme is what you blog is worth guesstimated by comparing technorati ranking to the Weblogs Inc. deal a few weeks ago. Surprisingly I'm not worthless:

My blog is worth $1,693.62.
How much is your blog worth?

I wasn't going to post this when I first came across it, but then I noticed how many of the blogs I read, and enjoy a lot, are well, worthless.

I don't think I'll be selling out anytime soon, but **censored by google** or a little paypal donation are always welcomed.

Link | 0 Comments |

I love the smell of molden solder in the evening.

09.56.00 - Mark

After abouta week of waiting, I recieved a palm III cable yesterday. Last night I spend about an hour and a half soldering and dremeling the connector to a USB plug. Now I'm among the legion of solder kiddies who have hacked a single use CVS digital camcorder into a multiple use digital camcorder. Pictures and or video coming sometime. Maybe.

Now that I have it, I'm not quite sure what I'll be using it for.

Instuctions I used for the cable
Original Hacker and software I'm using
Assorted fun things to do

Link | 0 Comments |


Double Plus Ungood

15.32.00 - Mark

Another Military Blog Silenced. Makes my recent government/school and blog confluence pretty trivial. I appreciate my freedom of speech, but military bloggers are putting their lives on the line to protect that right, only to have it taken away by those who, similarly, swore to uphold those rights. Welcome to America?

Link | 0 Comments |

You know its fall when...

13.52.00 - Mark

a city employee is driving a 3 ton vacuum cleaner down the street. Backwards.

Leaf removal. For some reason they don't like it when you burn stuff here.

Link | 1 Comments |


That's more like it.

20.39.00 - Mark

If you have a Mac and use broadband, Broadband Optimizer makes a significant improvement in download speeds. I'm not benchmarking, but I'd guess at least a 30% improvement, and probably more than that. My iBook seems like its downloading at least as well as my linux box. URLwell by the same group is also a real software gem. Before I got it I must had a few dozen temporary URLs floating around on my desktop, now they're all in a small menu. Both are freeware, but well worth a donation.

Link | 0 Comments |


Must have missed the memo

13.30.00 - Mark

I've had an idea for a collaborative news site that takes the elements of print media, blogs, and wikis that help filter echos on the web. I really started working on it in August but the whole moth of September threw me off. I'm back to working on my new system, due in no small part to things I was hearing up to during and after Converge South, stuff about tools, networks, and blogs. Something else I heard at Converge was Memorandum. I don't think I wrote it down, or if I did I know I didn't check it out promptly because it took a Wired Article to bring it back to my attention. It looks like it's a system that tracks the swarms around the latest story. I'm not sure if I want to embrace it as another Google News or Technorati, or if I want to curse passionately at it for beating me to part of the system I'm working on.

I'm leaning more towards embrace but I'll probably curse about it some regardless. Their system is all about algorithms. Which for the technically inclined is good. Everyone else tho...

I think there will still be room for my system, albeit, a slightly diminished one. Automated systems are great for collecting the news every 5 minutes, but there's a lot more to news coverage than simply spitting out what's changed in the last 3 minutes, and thats something is a processes computer scientists have yet to figure out.

Link | 0 Comments |


Apple Counting Problem

17.23.00 - Mark

I'm pretty steamed with Apple right now. I have a non-functional iPod shuffle on my hands, have for a week or so but I'm only now getting around to pestering Apple. I was motivated to get around to it because last night while trying to fix it, my iTunes Library did a vanishing act. Rather it became corrupted, and while the XML version of my library made it easy rebuild, it was a frustration I didn't need. So first I tried the online service request, entered all the info it wanted and after writing up the problem it comes up - "OUT OF WARRANTY". Maybe the 90 day warranty as I didn't get it from an Apple dealer, but it is certainly within the 1 Year Limited Warranty, and I can prove it. iPod Shuffles were released in January, about 9 months ago.

How can a product that has only existed for 9 months be outside of a 1 year warranty?!?!

Link | 0 Comments |


Things to do

11.36.00 - Mark

1) Go cycling.
The leaves are finally turning colors (a week too late for Autumn Leaves Festival) and the area is absolutly stunning. I really need to take my bike out and explore.

2) Go camping.
Its been over 6 months. I'm really joneing. I think there's a big event at the end of the month. Not ideal, but at least its out of doors.

3) Get off of blogspot
The content part of the interweb is going crazy because of slogs, most of them at blogspot. Now that the comment spam is starting to find me I don't have a good reason not to move. Domain, hosting, motivation. Well some motivation. I'm not thrilled about moving a 1300 post blog to a new bloging system, but for what I like doing, I need to get off blogger.

4) Catch up on the DVD collection.
I've got 4 or 5 DVDs that I own and have yet to watch. I blame new media. Too many podcasts/vlogs.

5) Sniff Solder Fumes
Its been all too long since I've build an electronics project. I have a couple neet ideas and some therotical circuits I've started designing. I should finish those and place an order at digikey.

Link | 0 Comments |

Broadband in America

14.12.00 - Mark

I've hashed this one many times but in America, when we say broadband, we seem to mean glorified dialup while we watch every other civilized country go screaming by with connections 10+ times faster than ours.

Salon's Take on the situation

Link | 2 Comments |


Fun with CSS

16.14.00 - Mark

Technically this was an assignment Realistically it was fun. If I get bored a little latter I may make the forms usable, tho' I should just sit down and do some more work on the personal site redesign or do some programming on one of my other personal interweb projects.

Link | 0 Comments |



12.41.00 - Mark

To anyone coming here because of the Mount Airy News column, here's some links to more information on Converge South: (links open in a new window)

Converge South Homepage
Technorati: Blogs tagged Converge South
Google Blog search for Converge South
Photos from Converge South

Greensboro 101 covers news events in Greensboro, has a good list of bloggers in Greensboro, ending about a week ago, links to a lot of outside coverage of Converge South.
NCBlogs.com tracks many of the active blogs within the state, as a whole as well as regions. It's a great example of how much blogging goes on in the state.

Blogger.com is a free blogging service owned by google, and is fine for anyone interested in starting a blog.

Anyone who has questions about blogs, podcasts or videoblogs, or wants some help starting a blog or a website (I've created several local websites) is welcome and encouraged to leave a comment on the blog, or to send me an email at mark@mountairync.net.

Link | 0 Comments |

Hello Wilma

07.23.00 - Mark

Tropical Storm Wilma has become this hurricane season's 21st named storm. We've got another 6 weeks in the official season, and not only has it used up all the existing names, tying the record for most active storms in a single season. Its battered the Gulf Coast, a good part of Mexico, one storm, Vince, even made landfall in Europe.

The next named storm gets the very uncreative name of Hurricane Alpha.

Link | 0 Comments |

Reckless Endangerment of Perfectly Good Cameras

18.57.32 - Mark

Camera Toss 1
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
I've been ooohing and aaaahing the camera toss photo pool on flickr for a few days. Last night the air was perfectly clear with a full moon glowing pure white, so I whip out my barely a month old Canon, set it for a long exposure click the shutter and start recklessly throwing it up in the air - then more importantly catching it. I shot about 100 exposures and some of them are absolutely beautiful. I posted 4 to my flickr account, and two to the cameratoss pool. The one to the right got a little more attention, rightfully so. It even got Link | 0 Comments |


Original Content

23.43.00 - Mark

This has been a weird week, between Converge and the FBI thing. I've posted several thousand words of original content, which I love doing, but it always makes it that much harder to slip back into the casual blog form. Partially because original content is so many levels above what I usual post, and partially because of the increase in traffic. I don't have perfect numbers, but in the last 8 days I've received more traffic than in the (approximately) 8 weeks before that.

I expect surges of traffic when I post and publicize a static write that up I may spend the better part of a day (or) getting up, but the few times that surge has happened to this scratchpad of a blog, where any given post has less than a 2 hour investment, well its tough to go back to the random mental exercises that make up most of the blog.

Link | 0 Comments |


Presidental Approval Ratings

16.50.00 - Mark

A lot of people keep bringing up the point that Bush's Approval Ratings are under 40%, and have been falling over the last few weeks. I am by no means a fan of the Bush Administration, but what does that really say. Several presidents have had their approval ratting dip below 40%, Nixon was around 25% when he resigned, and had been under 40% for over a year before he resigned. (source) Of corse he was in danger of impeachment, an issue that hasn't come up for Bush - yet. Harry Truman dropped to as low as 25%, and also stayed in for a year before his replacement was elected and sworn in. Carter stayed in for about a year and a half after he slipped under 40%.

While the fact that Presidents keep their heads low between that 40% mark and the end of their presidency is encouraging, look at the current alternatives. The only good thing Cheney has done as Vice President has been staying out of the office and staying in "Undisclosed Locations". The rest of the succession list doesn't look much better. With inept Democrats and all but non-existent 3rd parties, I'm inclined to let the Republicans screw themselves. Of course we'll see what the next year or so brings...

Assorted Sources
Bush Approval slips
Preelection approval ratings
Chart of Presidential approval ratings since Carter

Link | 0 Comments |

Deep Dish Pizza

15.06.00 - Mark

Deep Dish Pizza
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
There are many great things about North Carolina. The famous southern hospitality thing, the comfort foods, the diverse environment - Iowa never had mountains. But there is one thing I deeply miss about the midwest though, and that's Pizza. I would love to be wrong but I don't think there is such a thing as a great pizza south of the Mason-Dixon line. Sure there are some decent chains, but none of them started in the South, and the few local places I've tried are only marginally better. I've had pizza since moving here, usually Papa John's since its the only edible chain in town, and visited California Pizza Kitchen a while back, neither of those however, is able to come close to the nirvana induced by a Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. Not that thing chains try to sell as deep dish - I'm talking about thick crusts holding in a mount of chunky toppings at least an inch deep and swimming in sauce. That is pizza.

Pizza Country gets some blame for the craving, watching the pizza photos they've posted has been regularly causing salivation, but at least one of the tips they've posted helped me make the pizza to the right (plus two more). One of those, a couple bottles of cold Bawls, and some classic rock made for a great start to fall break.

Link | 0 Comments |


More stupid comments

11.07.00 - Mark

"No one puts any validity in comments" (online)

Considering my experiances at conversouth and watching the blogosphere since it ended, I can't put any validity in her lecture. Oh wait. I'm not. I'm looking at blogging stuff and buying a cable to do a CVS camera hack with.

Link | 0 Comments |

Stupid Security Practices

10.57.00 - Mark

The community college I'm taking classes at provides a free email account for all of its 5000 some current students. I think most of them are unaware of it, or simply don't bother (I've got 5 emails, who needs a 6th thats going to expire in 4 months) but the reason I mention this is that each semester they reset it, somewhat pointlessly, and give everyone the same password. last semester it was Jeopardy, this semester its resolute. Now a month after the semester started we're being told to "change our passwords so no one can access our emails and steal our account" That's from the people managing the distance education systems (email and user accounts) I wonder if the shear stupidity of the practices occur to her and the rest of the IT staff...

Link | 1 Comments |

Blog, Now Federally Questioned

20.27.00 - Mark

About 4 o'clock an FBI agent knocked on my front door. Of course, and fortunately for me, I wasn't home. My Mom was and must have promptly freaked out when she saw the badge wallet. Shortly afterwards I got a call from the same FBI agent wanting to know if I would be willing to answer some questions, after figuring out why he wanted to meet me I agreed to show up in about half an hour, the first instinct was public spaces, but he asked if we could just do it at the police station. I guess I knew that if this was serious trouble they wouldn't be calling me so agreed to go to the station and about 30 minutes later, did.

The agent, whose name I forget, was easy to spot - not many people stand outside the police station in a good suit here. So after showing me his ID we stepped inside and he told me more about why he was here, it's the blog - which I already knew from the phone call, and more specifically this post.

Someone at Surry, came across this blog, I'm guessing it was a first time visit by someone completely unfamiliar with me - I have some vague guesses as to who, but am keeping them to myself. I'm not political in class, but I think most of my teachers understand the way I think, and that I'm pretty vocal about things I think are stupid and pointless - like HTML meta tags and apparently school policy. But back to whoever my mystery reader is, they were jolted by the post, an intended reaction, and I think that they may have reached for the phone a little fast. I think it bubbled up at Surry, and like any good round of telephone, the message got garbled. As I understand it, the concern at Surry was "someone is going to bomb the school," where it should have been "there's a potential problem with our security". So Person X calls administration, administration, probably having not read the post, calls the FBI. Who then come to me (which isn't the hardest thing to do -, my name, phone, email, address are all online, and easily accessible).

I might rant about how this is a waste of national resources, like I did just the other day, and trust me I still think it is, but I'm sympathetic to the agents. They're just doing the job. I think that if it was his call, he would have stayed at his brach office, but because it was brought in, it had to be investigated, so a 10 minute talk with me provides whomever with some reassurance that if some thing happens at Surry they can at least say they investigated this part of it, and can be however certain they're allowed to be that I'm not a terrorist. If anything, I now have a higher regard for three letter agencies, at least the FBI. I'm sure there's plenty of fault in the bureaucracy of all of it, but I'm not calling them on it, at least not today.

If I have a problem with anyone, it's Surry and whoever thought that my post was a a call for an attack. From what I've seen so far - and like I said, I haven't talked to anyone at the college yet - they just blew it. I'm expressing my free speech, and the FBI is doing their job that doesn't leave much on the chain. I'm nearly positive the school called in the FBI, and I know that they were fully cooperating with the FBI (the agent had my course schedule), and I know that the agent is getting back in touch with the school tomorrow. But why didn't they look at the "problem" a little closer.

I understand why the school would have trouble dealing with the situation, at least if I was a real threat, approach me and I might do something, ignore me and I might do something, call the FBI and let someone else bother with it. However everyone I've talked to who has read the post, agreed that I recognized a problem, thought about the variations of the problem, looked at the existing solution, and seeing flaws, proposed a new solution that solves the problem as best it can. Nice simple critical thinking skills

Which as it happens to be, is the same process the school is trying to instill in students and staff. I wish the school would have done a little more thinking about the problem they saw with me, and I'm going to approach them about it, just like I would have liked them to approach me. Problems are solved though open communications, not by jumping though half a dozen hoops and at a more than insignificant cost.

I'll admit, not that I've ever denied, that I have posted a lot of harsh things since starting this blog. Most of them tongue in cheek, and maybe, occasionally, some not. Some of which, I might regret, but being familiar with the web, have no intention of digging up and trying - pointlessly - to bury. The web just doesn't work like that. I don't want anyone who has commented to bother taking off their content either. What will happen, and was probably going to anyways, is that I will be a lot more careful in my phrasing. I'm not going to make posts that start with the idea of shooting politicians anything but messages, and I'm going to be more mindful of saying things that could do really bad things to my reputation. I'm not going to stop making biting posts, or comment on how I would go about doing something, thats my way of thinking, my style, and thats not something I can change.

In the post in question I wrote "Now that I've outlined so much of this I'd really hate for it to come back and bite me in the ass", and now it seems it has. On the other hand, how many times have I said I'm waiting for the FBI to come knocking?

Link | 8 Comments |

Offshoring, off of our shores

07.20.00 - Mark

"The best thing a government can do is to avoid giving the impression that we can avoid these changes."

Why isn't our government thinking and talking like that? Change is inevitable - why act like we can stop it, furthermroe any company focusing on cutting costs - not increasing profits, is not a company you want sustaining your economy, and not a company you want to deal with (the difference in atmosphere at Walmarts and Whole Foods or Target).

Link | 0 Comments |

Pleasing the Voodoo Gods

14.35.00 - Mark

Calvin and Hobbes First Published 10/08/1994

Reminds me of the story about my friend and the consumer electronic gods.

Link | 0 Comments |


Converge South

19.22.00 - Mark

Temporary Edit: To anyone coming here because of the Mount Airy News column, and is interested in learning more about Converge South or about blogs in general, please see this post.

Converge was a great experience, so I'm extremely glad I decided to go. I had put off registration (which is why you probably find any mention of me on the converge site) until it was full, but when I saw that I could still go to sessions I literally ran out the door and made the trip to Greensboro a bit faster than I probably should have. One I was there everything was well marked and easy to find, which is a big improvement over Chappel Hill last spring. I arrived later than the official start time, but fortunately (for me) someone got lost and I ended up being right on time.

Political Activism and Blogging
Wikis and Mass Collaboration
Mmmmm... Lunch
Tools and the Future of Blogging
Post Conference
Wrap Up

Political Activism and Blogging

Most of the sessions were great. I tend to sit back and listen so I was quite during all of the sessions. The first two, Blogging and Political Activism (discussion led by Ruby Sinreich) and Wikipedia/Mass Collaboration (Talk by Jimmy Wales) went well together. Political Activism seemed to push towards just go out and do it. I find I can be political here, but maybe not so active. What I, and probably a lot of other bloggers, need to do is rather than rant go out and find more constructive things to say. Venting just adds to the echo chamber. If we want the current and next few crops of congress critters to pay attention to blogs in the same way they do to the small town papers - which can have similar readerships - the echo is exactly what we need to cut down on. On a similar note, one thing Ruby brought up that I wasn't really familiar with was the memo that led to the rathergate thing. When bloggers first figured it out, the first thought wasn't "lets nail them" it was "how do we correct them". I guess the final tone I got from the session was activism dose not mean radicalism.

Wikis and Mass Collaboration

Wikipedia Session
Originally uploaded by mark_w.
The wikipedia session was OK. As a lot of people have pointed out it was more of a lecture than it was a discussion. I prefer the discussions, but I found that I was fine with the talk. Wales brought up a lot of things I wasn't fully aware of in the wikipedia community. I'm sure I could have found it if I wanted, but there was one thing at the very end of his talk that really interested me. I think most people missed it but he said that he wanted to see a news/politics blog fused with elements of a wiki. Possibly like the LA wikitorial disaster, but rather than trying to create better editorials (which I think was the goal of wikitorials) the idea is to take editorials and boil them down to news articles. Journalism has this idea that a single person can be unbiased - which can be a nice line of BS, but I think that we're seeing those "unbiased" stories hit the web, and all of a sudden millions of people find bias. If we take several people with vastly different social, political and economic views and have they focus on news items we can get them to produce a compilation that becomes unbiased though a massive collection of biases. Like the idea of an open encyclopedia, its going to need new tools supplementing the right people in the right atmosphere.

Mmmmm... Lunch

Originally uploaded by mark_w.
Lunch was good. Thats actually the first time during the day I met up with Dave Slusher. He was talking to someone about the video blogging session and some podcasting when he noticed the Evil Genius shirt I was wearing. I had been eavesdropping on the conversation and eventually joined in. The great thing about these conferences is how informal everyone is. Just listen to a conversation for a while and then just jump in. But back to the conversation each of these new media arenas (text, audio, or video blogging) the technical know how is second to figuring out which content best fits the media. I can read a rant on a text blog much easier and with a greater tolerance than the same content on a podcast or blog. There are going to be exceptions to those rules, but they're all interesting fields. After the third person broke off Dave interviewed me with his hacked CVS one time use camcorder.

Group Session
Originally uploaded by NCBrian.
Lunch kept up for a while but I also joined a group of some well known blogger sitting outside talking about the conference, some others that are in the works, and things like O'Riley Media.

Tools and the Future of Blogging

The sessions started up again and I think just about everyone was in Dave Winer's session on Tools and the future of blogging. I'm not sure where that needs to go but everyone seemed to be focusing on what text blogging needs in terms of tools. I'm not sure if thats what it really needs. It seems to me that there is a much greater need to increase peoples awareness of blogs, both the writing and the reading. Some people in the room were begging for video tutorials on how to blog, or suggesting that it takes so much time they can't do it. I think both are false. If you just look at tools like blogger, which I'll come back to in a minute, they pretty much explain themselves. One text box, one text area, connect a bunch of words and press submit. If you can deal with hotmail, you're more than qualified for blogger.

There was also some discussion on how to find blogs and podcasts, and how to make yourself known. Honestly I don't know much of anything about making myself known, otherwise I wouldn't be referred to as the "guy wearing an Evil Genius T-shirt, don't know him" (edcone.com) I haven't cared much in the past, but maybe I will. The buzz I got (personally) when I was macslashed was great, I wouldn't mind if that was the case a little more frequently than once. I think podcasting does need some tools to make it more searchable. The directories out there just aren't enough, but with text, and to some extent audio/video, the more people aware of it and feeding back to the environment the easier it will be to find things you agree with. Humans make a great filters, but in large enough numbers they can do great things not only well, but effectively.

Thats not to say there aren't some things that need to be changed. This is being hosted at blogspot, powered by blogger, but as a blogger I'm currently in the minority of users that has more than 500 post. For the new user I don't think you could have a better system than Blogger and the tools Google has lashed onto it, add feedburner and you have a mindless system than can do 90% of what the vast majority of users want. I think a number of power bloggers also have blogspot blogs, because there just isn't a better product for a short term, low content, high traffic blog. However when you get to 500 some posts, blogger just isn't build to support you. I know there have been several blogger outages that have only effected those of us with hundreds of posts. I think it was Anton Zuiker who actually hit on the idea of making it easy to take the posts from one system (blogger or livejournal) and making it easy to feed that into a more advanced system. I know there are ways that I can migrate to another system, but I'm a geek and well - I don't want to deal with migration issues. If I don't want to do that, what is Joe Public going to do.


Pulling back to my point on the Winer session, make people aware of the medium. In the following session on podcasting, someone said that "blog" isn't a term kids are using. They think of blogging as blogspot, xanga or livejournal, because most of them aren't aware of the terms, aren't aware of the uses, and aren't aware of the consequences of the tools. To go onto the next session, Podcasting, you just read most of it. Of all the sessions I was in podcasting had the worst execution. It wasn't on community like the leader said, and we didn't actually do one, which we very well could have, all he did was talk about what it takes to get involved with podcasting, in his book at least. $300 in hardware and software tools, expensive servers, and god knows what else. I don't blame the audience for 1) leaving or 2) being confused/bored as hell. It takes exactly $0 to get started with podcasting. Step one start a blogger account, sign in with audio blogger, make a phone call, talk, hang up, and then set up a feedburner feed for the blog. I could have done it in 10 minutes and circumvented 2 hours of dull bullet points. If you have some webspace, and you have a computer with a mic, you're set, as Cory Doctorow has done with his first few After the Siege Podcasts (he gave in and bought a real mic after 4 or 5 episodes)

Post Conference

After the mind-numbing podcasting session I floated around in the lounge. Several people were there, Paul Jones, Anton Zuiker, Will Raymond, Ryan Irelan and a few others. We talked in the lounge for a while before relocating to Natty Greeneís downtown. It continued on blogging tools and the future. at different pointed people were rehashing what had been said in the sessions, but one thing that caught my attention was I'm not the only person thinking about a weighted RSS reader. Will Raymond is also playing with the idea, but in reverse of my ideas. In his concept, repeated stories, the memes and polls that get boring, sink to the bottom of the pile. In my idea, repeated items rise, with my preferred blogs coming up first, as well as the origin (most linked source) Its reassuring that a lot of smart people are think on very similar lines about what tools need to be developed. The question isn't is there a need, its whose going to get rich or famous for being the first one to do it right.

Rocketboom Dinner
Originally uploaded by mark_w.
The group broke up closer to 7 when the dinners were starting. I think most of them went to Winer's dinner, I opted to go to the Amanda Congdon/Rocketboom Vlogging dinner at Minj Grill. Met Chris Daniel there and ended up talking about a lot about what it was going to take for video blogging to take off, which I think is going to be broadband and system resources. We already had all the tools for audio, and people can handle those bandwidth requirements so its no wonder why its exploded in the last year. Video needs a lot more of those resources and tools, so we need to let Moore's Law run its course, but I think most of us there agreed that content isn't a problem. Some of the best stuff out there doesn't need to be highly produced by a major studio. Look at Monty Python or the fan films working their way into the media.

Wrap Up

Closer to 9 we moved to Solaris for the free concert. It didn't start until closer to 11, but there were some more great discussions. I think if it was mentioned during the sessions, it was rehashed and expanded on by the 10 or so bloggers who were still there. More on vlogging, podcasting, text blogging, tools, ideas, technology in general, sports, music, mass media, content distribution, and on and on and on until a while after 2am. Over all a great experience, by while I may have been dead tired when I got home, it was 22 very well spent hours. I've got some more blogs to look into, and some others to catch up on. I'm pretty sure I said it after the Chappel Hill Conference, but its worth saying again, I love these conferences, and I can't wait for the next one.

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The End of a Very Long day

I have been going all day, either getting to, enjoying, or returning from Converge South. It was completly worth it and then some, but right now I have every intention of falling asleep once I publish this post. Publishing notes, photos and commentary can wait from some much needed REM cycles. If I gave you this URL or you're coming here from some other Converge South Blog, come back in a day or two when I actually have that stuff up.

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Two things you shouldn't forget, but I forgot

First: Never forget the first three rules of troubleshooting electronics.

Is it plugged in?
Is it plugged in?
Hey Stupid stop saying yes and make sure the damned thing is plugged in!

My linux box has been having video problems this week. Turns out the video card became unseated (it wasn't plugged in)

Second: Never forget your headphones.

I've been watching Nerd TV on my laptop during my unwanted 2 hour break from classes on Fridays. I forgot to grab my headphones on the way out so I didn't get to watch it in a comfortable position and listening to music wasn't an option so killing two hours was more painful than normal.

Three: Never forget to stop at two items when you say you're going to post two items

Make of that what you will.

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What Can I possibly say about this one

other than that I for one, welcome our new segway powered robot overloards.

My little brother and I are both extremely fascinated with robosapiens (when we see store demo models we almost fight for the controller), and we are both too cheap to actually go out and buy one. I may be on the starving college student plan when the next generation comes out, but I don't see that really stopping me from getting one of them. Its got to be a lot cheaper than a segway...

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This is one of those days where I'm reading a whole lot of well written, insightful articles, so bear with me. Now that we've dealt with bad science, walmart, idiots in law enforcement, religion and the Bush administration, here's more politics. Don't know who the author is but its a good little recap of Libertarianism. Its also worth it to see the context of this quote:

Hell, this country was founded by religious nuts with guns. Who does Bill Clinton think stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock? Peace Corps volunteers?

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Don't Worry George, I Believe you.

Yep I Sure do:

President George W Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq

From the BBC

You know, there was another George who though he was talking to God. He wasn't too popular in America either.

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Reason 3,785 to avoid Walmart

Especially the photo lab.

Kid drops film off to be developed
Walmart Lab Tech doesn't like content of kids film
Lab Tech calls cops
Cops call Secret Service
Secret Service Calls Kid, School, and Attorney General
Walmart has No Comment

via Stay Free!

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Ig Nobels

Because everyone loves to laugh at science.

I could throw jabs at Bush, but they do much more than I could in the streaming video. I'm half watching the stream of this years presentation and its pretty funny. If you can't invest an hour or hour and a half to watch the video at least browse the site. I especially love the winner of the 2005 ig noble literature prize...

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Foreseeing the Future

Wired has a real brief article on professional Futurists, or rather the growing potential for them, and I got to admit, thats one job I would love to have. I'd probably be half decent at it to.

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What it really means

Scientists have convinced Dolphins to sing the theme to Batman, however said scientists have yet to decipher the actually meaning for this action.

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Stupid laptop battery. 12 months ago I was getting 3 solid hours of battery life, more if I wasn't doing anything more than text based stuff in memory, and for months I was getting somewhere around 2 to 3 hours. Sometime in the last month or so my battery life has dropped to virtually nil. I'm surfing, which means I was amassing a pile of browser tabs to be read after the news skimming and I get the battery life warning. OK I have 6 minutes left and even if I push that it will drop to sleep. Or so I though. 2 minutes later it shuts down. I loose all my open tabs (because some boneheaded engineer at apple decided that safari doesn't need to save sessions) and even Net News Wire, which is usually pretty good about these things, forgets the last 20 minutes of surfing.

I'm not so pissed off about the battery life. Its lit-ion which means the chemical breakdown is going to be pretty substantial after 12-18 months (which is where I'm at). I'm fine with that. My problem is with how its handling the low power. The normal behavior of sleeping is fine with me. Shutting down is not. Don't know what my final point is, partially because I've written this post in three parts, and partially because I don't have a suggestion on how to fix it, but its still irritating as hell.

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Comic Strip Philosophy

Wonderful Washington Post Article on Calvin and Hobbes. If don't know why I'm linking to it you clearly haven't been reading this blog very long.

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Ran across this link from some other post I was reading at the same blog. I'd do a deeper link, but the originating site is down for me. Something more to chew on.

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Business Oppurutnity? Ethics need not apply.

I want to become the American Distributer for this stuff. Not that I like beer (give me grape juice), or tobacco, (I detest nicotine), but despite my tastes, I'm not going to stop the abuse of either, so why not capitalize on it? I don't know if they're drink or chew it up but its bound to be as addicting as Tomacco

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Bush Wacked

I'm not thrilled about Bush's Supreme Court Nominations. I don't think any president with a less than 50% approval rating has any business making life term nominations that will impact this nation for the next 30 or 40 years. Yes they need to be approved by congress, but they're proven many many times that they are not above being bought out. I'm not sure John Roberts was put under enough scrutiny, and certainly should not have been allowed to pass associate and go directly to Chief. Harriet Miers is similarly concerning. At first look Bush is nominating a crony who has been around him for 15-20 years, and who has a lot more experience in the legislative and executive branches than in the justice department. Furthermore I'm not a fan of religiosity in government, Bush's description of her was full of it (disclaimer I did not hear all of it) and while her part didn't mention religion, it had a lot of that feel good stuff like love and family that gets to the religious types. I'll listen, but I'm not putting a lot of faith into either Bush nomination.

It will be interesting to see the blogs when I get home in a few hours.

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Corrupted Officials

If we were going to line up the politicians in Washington, and start shooting them, George Bush and Orrin Hatch would be tied to get the first bullet. Bush might have started a war, lied to the public, and done all manner of stupid things, but somehow I think Orrin Hatch, is just as if not more corrupt. Senators and Congressmen should probably be held to a higher standard that which ever dweeb the political system lets sneak into the oval office, because they're supposed to be representatives of the people. Now I know that I'm not in Utah, but this corrupted slime ball acts as the representative of every major lobbying group. RIAA, MPAA, BSA (Business Software Alliance), Wine (not that I have anything against wine) tobbacco, gambling, and who knows what else. While money isn't exactly a perfect indicator of ones corruption, its a good start. Its a good finish too when the money you're accepting goes against all your religious beliefs and doesn't come close to benifiting your state, as is the case with Orrin Hatch, a serious public enemy.

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