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January 2001

Science and religion
Stephen Jay Gould exerpt from his latest book which asks why religion and God can't get along together. To summarise, the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what is the universe made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. To cite the old cliché, science gets the age of rocks, and religion the rock of ages.

Salon article: Online and Underground I actually hate when I see articles on the subject of urban exploration, but this is a good one. It links to some of the infiltration sites, and the culture. The culture of experienced urban explorers and experienced cavers is the extremely secretive. So secretive that some of the caves I've been brought to by experienced people I probably couldn't find if I went looking for them. OK, its been awhile, but they did take a few measures to make sure the location of these places didn't get around for the sake of public safety and the sake of the places themselves. The publishing of urban adventures and modern ruins undoubtly attracts newbies to this dangerous and illegal sport, but it does archive some amazing places and stories. Sites that document the Catacombs, The Chicago Tunnels , Weird NJ etc. illustrate the wonder of these dark and scary places. Hopefully saving them in some form before everything is condo-ed over. Don't miss Shaun O'boyle's Modern Ruins.

Stuff I need to check out
  • The Sundance Online Film Festival you have to register, but it looks like some interesting short films.
  • One Media Intersting articles on design.
  • Lovemarks How to make a brand people will love.
  • Living in the Attention Economy We operate in an attention economy because this is the age of over-information. To give you some idea of scale, it's estimated that one edition of the New York Times, contains more information than a person in 17th century England, would gather in a lifetime. How to get your idea across to people bombarded with information.
  • Publishing your pages BBC Webwise article on Web creation tools
  • Icelandic blogs

Science Stuff

"Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good" is a very detailed description of the American food flavor industry. While reading it you'll come across the word "umami" which is the fifth type of taste your tongue can detect. Its often described as the taste of MSG. For more read Taste of MSG from which has more good links about umami and the science of taste.

Topical Blogs
In my evangelical work to spread the word of the blog to both businesses and individuals, I often claim there's a blog for everything. Pretty soon that'll come true. I'm compiling a list. Here's a sample of well-known and not-well-known blogs that stick to a topic. All of these appear to be kept current with loads of links.
Some random knowledge
  • Murphy's Laws of Combat 1. If the enemy is in range so are you.
  • Boogie Bass Hack How To Make A Talking Fish Say What You Want It To
  • Quick Questions from the UN Its capital is Ouagadougou and the people speak French, Dyula, and Ful. What is the name of the country?
  • You know the scene in 2001 where the ape throws the bone into the air and it turns into a space ship? Well did you know it was a nuclear weapons platform?
  • Two women are "sailing" their way across Antartica. They've been at it for two months and are aproaching the south pole. They have a weblog.
  • The Texas Medicineman A Website dedicated to Competition Chili Cooks. I better bone up, I'm entered in one on Super Bowl Sunday. The site tells you how to run a contest too.
  • Tips on what to wear if you're biking in Chicago, in Winter not that I'm thinking about doing that.
  • STANDS4 The source for acronyms and abbreviations. Extensive but really stupid useless mouseover effect.
  • PSEUDOdictionary this is the place where all of your made up words, slang, webspeak and colloquialisms become part of the dictionary as well. Web Biz Example:
    colouring in monkey - Basically describes a web designer or perhaps more appropriatley the trainee designer earning peanuts who has the joyous task of wrapping a GUI around a pre-existing backend application created by design-blind programmers. ex. We've sold another one of those online campaign tracking appz, better get one of the colouring in monkies to re-skin pronto before the client looses interest.

Beer in Space
About a year ago I posted a New Scientist page about beer in orbit and why astronauts can't drink beer. Kegs don't work in zero gravity. Also: Astronauts aren't allowed to drink carbonated drinks in orbit, because the body relies on gravity to burp excess gas. No beer is one of the many sacrifices one must make for space exploration. Well, it looks like they solved the first problem - they've developed beer balls.

Ancient DNA
Trying to make sense of the Mungo man find.

Bulleted list of Web stuff
  • When Nielsen Speaks... Web Techniques' interview with Jakob. Also in this issue of Web Techniques is a good article by Neilsen and an anti-usability expert article by D. Dougherty from (Oreilly Network). Dougherty writes that gurus like Neilsen don't take into account that stupid users skew results of usability tests. By the way if you're in the business you should get the actual Web Techniques magazine (it's free to U.S. residents in the biz only). When I first starting reading it I couldn't comprehend most of the articles. Now at least I grasp most of them, even if it's a field I don't know anything about, like JSP. I'm not going to start programming anything complex, but this magazine's taught me quite a bit.
  • The Usability Toolbox This is awesome. It explains what a certain inquiry, inspection or testing technique is and how and when to use it. via elegant hack
  • PHP virus ? Totally useless article from the Register. I can't find anything else on it.
  • New Scientist follows-up on the glowing bunny story . The artist who created the GFP bunny is based in Chicago.

Information Poisoning
Salon Article: Information Poisoning. This guy's (Caleb Carr) opinion is so outrageuos, it's got to be a troll. The Web is poisoning people because its flooding our minds with bad data? "It is teaching them how to assemble massive amounts of information, of arcane minutia, without simultaneously teaching them how to assemble those bits of information into integrated bodies of knowledge" People are so dumb, that they'll swallow anything on the Web. What's his solution? The government should regulate all information on the internet. He concludes that since the Web is not just an entertainment or news medium, but an information source of many roles that "It therefore requires unprecedented attempts to assure the veracity of the content it purveys and to protect those who use it. And if that means suspending full First Amendment protection from the Internet, so be it." Yea that's what we'll do, we'll let the government regulate what information our kids should be getting so the Web will look like those High School History text books that only go up to the Korean War and the Science ones that don't teach the Big Bang and the Biology ones that don't teach evolution. Yea let's dumb down everything so our poor tiny minds won't get bad thoughts or wrong ideas. What would Carr think of Weblogs? Thousands of "unqualified" writers spewing opinions and information, unchecked by a government editor, tons of unlabeled, unapproved text spoiling the clean beaches of the American mind. The only editor needed is the one at Salon, who should have cut this rambling, trolling, thinly disguised book plug and let Carr publish his opinions on his own server.

I'm sure this is getting blogged all over - Dot Com Begs for Bucks, the Wired article on Blogger asking for donations for a new server. I don't use Blogger but do consider it when small clients need that sort of tool for their commercial sites. I'm glad they got the press from Wired and would hate to speculate on the state of the blogging community if they get into worse trouble. But than again if you can figure out how to blog with Blogger, you can probably do it with a couple of templates and an FTP program.

Note: For those readers new to the blog, 'Blogger' is a free tool that allows you to make post to your blog using a simple Web page-based form. A 'blogger' is someone who blogs (runs a blog).

Meteor Shower
Quadrantid meteors promise fireworks this week The Quadrantids officially began December 28, but should reach a sharp maximum on January 4 between midnight and 7 a.m. EST, with as many as 200 shooting stars visible per hour.

Chasing the newest science and technology links makes me forget just how much old knowledge is on the Web. Larkfarm reminds us by pointing to the Myths and Legends page, an enormous resource of links to epics, folktales, faeire tales, and bedtime stories from every culture and age. Gilgamesh, Paradise Lost, Russian Fairy tales, it's all here. So next time you're overwhelmed by Slashdot, XML feeds and the up-to-the-minute news on the latest IPO dive (did you hear the dotcomguy finally quit?), settle back with a nice Northumbrian Folk Tale.

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