Joho the Blog » 2005 » July

July 31, 2005

Sunrise photos

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Salon reads your inner heart, and possibly inner thighs

I read an article at Salon about the New Age branding of airlines I thought RageBoy might enjoy, so I used the page’s handy “email this article to a pal” form.

The next day, I hear from RB that I’ve sent him a link to “The Hot Sex Handbook.”

Wow. That’s really not the sort of mistake you want a site to make with any of your friends, except maybe RB.


And while I’m being uncharitable about site mistakes made by my betters, what’s up with page 10 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?

The site, therefore, of Fudge stepping out of the fire once more, looking disheveled and fretful and sternly surprised that the Prime Minister did not know exactly why he was there, was about the worst thing that had happened in the course of this extremely gloomy week.

Site??? That’s the type of mistake I make all the time — I could sightsitecite lots of examples — but I’m not writing the most anticipated book of the year on which my publisher has bet the farm. They printed up almost 11 million copies in this country. One of the chains reported they were selling 200 copies a second (or so the rumor has it). You’d think they could put it through an extra round of proofreading…

Note: I can predict with 100% confidence that my next book will contain more and dumber errors than that. [Technorati tags: ]

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July 30, 2005

Comments have vanished

The comments on this site seem to have vanished. I have no idea why. I’m on “vacation” using dial up so I haven’t been monkeying with my site. But this morning, previously posted comments have disappeared. There are none listed in the list of comments I can get to through my admin control panel. I’m using Movable Type 3.11. Any ideas? TIA.

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King John

When Tina Packer, founder of Shakespeare & Co., asked the audience on Thursday night who had not seen King John before, I didn’t see a single unraised arm. Packer’s notes for the show—she directed it—say “I think King John is a rarely produced play because there is no clear answer” to the big issues it raises, which sounds like a director directing us away from her inability to make sense of the play. But Packer does make sense of it. I thought it was actually one of Shakespeare & Co’s most successful plays, and we’ve been coming to them for around 20 years.

Man, this is not a play that reads well, so I came in worried about following the action. Worse, you have to worry when the official synopsis parenthetically explains a character with the phrase “(also called Philip).” That’s a bad sign. But, it turns out that the twists and turns of allegiances are easy to follow, at least in this production. Credit Packer, the excellent acting, and the live music composed by Martin Best. The enunciation was bell-clear, as always, and the troupe uses Packer’s subtle gestural techniques to clarify who’s talking to whom about what. Plus Packer finds the humor in the piece, again as usual, starting with King John (Allyn Burrows) reading the line “Silence, mother” as a kingly shout of the first word and a second that, with a sly, conciliatory smile, acknowledges that the first went too far.

The play moves along until the intermission, but hits its emotional core in the second half. King John is undone more by fortune than by his own faults. Even his clearly evil act of ordering the death of young Arthur only drives him to ruin because the boy accidentally falls to his death, after Hubert has defied his king’s orders. Entire kingdoms hang on such events, in this play. It is a convincing and ultimately terrifying worldview.

In a disturbing final scene, we are left with King John dying in agony, poisoned by monks, as the crown passes to his young son who looks terrified at the prospect of being thrown into fortune’s maw.

The acting was overall terrific, but I particularly enjoyed Peter Macon as the bastard (the only character who has shown an inner constancy), Allyn Burrows as the king, Annette Miller as Eleanor, Robert Biggs as Austria, Kenajuan Bentley as Hubert, and Barbara Sims as Constance. The play runs July 21-September 3. If you’re in the Berkshires, see it. When else are you going to have a chance?

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Why the President of the United States gave the press the finger: A mutliple choice quiz

First: The video.

Second, the question:

1. He is cracking up as his policies fail and his supporters desert him.

2. It’s his inner frat boy escaping.

3. He’s led a life of assumed privilege, so when he doesn’t get his way, he acts like a spoiled teenager.

4. It’s his way of saying “America is Number One!”

5. We all know he’s thinking it, so why not just come out with it?

6. Because he’s the President, dammit!

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July 29, 2005

Palindrome that unexpectedly uses salami and lasagna

Go hang a salami. I’m a lasagna hog.

(Thanks to my brother Andy.)

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Hummingbirds

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July 28, 2005

Frankston on Gilder and the bcell curve

Bob comments on George Gilder’s promotion of the “intelligent design” idea in an interesting interview with Gilder in the Boston Globe yesterday. (My take on the article was simply that Gilder has made an admirable career out of being wrong in public.) Bob says that bell curves look like they were intelligently designed, too, but as the famous exhibit at the 1964 Worlds Fair shows every time it’s run — I was there and I remember it — when you drop balls down a set of pegs, you get a bell curve every time.

Bob’s right, IMO, but his example isn’t going to cut the mustard with someone like Gilder who comes to the intelligent design conclusion not on the basis of faith. (Those who get there by faith can only be moved from it by another faith.) Gilder et al. point to far more complex examples than balls forming bell curves. In fact, the entire argument rests on finding examples so complex that they seem impossible without an intelligent designer. So, Bob’s tactic of finding something simple to understand that looks intentional but isn’t can’t work on ID believers, for they will always be able to find an example of something complex for which we don’t yet have an explanation.

Here’s my point of view on the intelligent design argument. I’m not claiming that it’s a sophisticated point of view. It’s just what I think.

I don’t know if there’s an intelligent designer. It seems unlikely to me for a few reasons: As SJ Gould pointed out, much of life is rather haphazardly and ad hoc-ly formed (e.g., the panda’s thumb), not as elegant as you’d expect from an ID and not like the elegant examples ID believers point to. Also, if there is an ID, I can’t imagine that the two words we use to describe it — “intelligent” and “design” — actually are anywhere near to describing it; it’s got to so far transcend our understanding that those terms don’t really make sense. Also, a belief that nature was intelligently designed raises the problem of evil — why do bad things happen to good people? — that argues against ID. I mean, if it turns out that it took an ID to design an eyeball, then why the hell didn’t it build in a tsunami warning system so the eyeballs of millions of children wouldn’t be dimmed? ID solves an engineering problem but raises an insoluble moral problem.

So, I don’t know if there’s an ID. As I say, if I had to guess, I’d say no, but if I don’t trust my judgment about whether my subscription to PC Gamer counts as a tax deduction, how can I trust my judgment about the origin of the universe? So, maybe there is an ID. But if there is, we sure can’t look to our ignorance as proof, because historically we know not only that we solve problems that once looked impossible, but our understanding of the domain within the which the problems exist changes radically. For most of recorded history we thought nature only had a few thousand years in which to operate. We were stuck with real-time apparatus for calculating. We were stuck running experiments about physical events by using physical events. We lacked the tools for understanding complexity. Human ignorance evolves, so it is unwise to base any argument on its nature.

Personally, I find absolutely nothing objectionable about people who believe G-d is the architect of nature. (Why pussyfoot around this? ID=G-d.) For the believers I know personally, this is a way of contacting the ineffable beauty, orderliness and complexity of our world. It is a way of acknowledging our dark-inked ignorance, our fallibility, our humanity, just as the best of our knowing always has. But taking ignorance as an excuse for remaining ignorant or, worse, for using it as an argument against science? The believers I know don’t do that. It would feel like a betrayal.


Bob also has a terrific essay on the damage DRM will do to the marketplace and innovation…and to the long tail. [Technorati tags: ]

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More straight talk from Technorati

It’s no secret that Technorati‘s response time has been spotty as the site has tried to keep up with the number of blogs and with its own traffic. Dave Sifry this morning has posted what seems to be a frank report on Technorati’s atempt to improve search and index times. Or course, it helps that the news is good. Dave reports that the median time between the moment you post and the moment it’s indexed at Technorati is now five minutes, which is impressive. It’s also crucial to Technorati since the site has two, related benefits: It indexes weblogs and it gives you a picture of what’s being talked about now. So, congrats to the Technorati crew — still providing all this value for free — and thanks to Dave for living the transparent business lifestyle. (And, yes, I am hugely biased because I’m on the advisory board and am proud to count myself as a FOD: Friend/Fan of Dave.)

Also, Dave blogs that Technorati now filters by language, which should be a useful feature both for those using Technorati as a search tool and those using it as an analytic tool. [Technorati tag:]

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Vacation observation

Reading the New York Times while on vacation is fundamentally different from reading it while not on vacation.

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