Re¢ently

  1. Homeownership

    brian on 2005.07.29
    at 11:27 am

    Yesterday Amanda and I signed approximately 3702 pieces of paper and we are now officially homeowners in the city of Medford, Massachusetts. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Medford is a northern suburb in the Boston Metro area. If you’ve ever heard of Tufts University, we’re about two blocks from that.

    It’s exciting and scary. Homes are so expensive (and we only bought a condo) around here that there’s naturally some trepidation in regards to the financial burden you’ve just put yourself under. I mean, wow, if we’re not firing on all cylinders, how will we pay the mortgage? They wouldn’t have OKed me for this loan if I couldn’t pay for it, right? And like many people in this housing market, we’re afraid we paid too much. I heard an interview on the radio the other day with an area real estate rep and she stated the Boston market still could not supply enough first time home owners with housing within their price range… in other words the market isn’t going down anytime soon. Other people say the bubble will burst. Based on our experience buying, I’d have to agree with the former… but then again, to part with the money we just did… wouldn’t we have to buy into that?

    Read on for much more on our first time home buying experience thus far

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    Posted in: Recent Events

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  2. Cell Phones are a pain. Verizon vs. Cingular

    jake on 2005.07.24
    at 05:15 pm

    Basically I am currently having an internal battle between two celluar companies. I’ve been with Verizon for four years. I got my first personal cell phone the summer after I graduated college. Two years ago I grabbed myself an LG VX6000 at a very good price because I renewed my two year aggreement. Now my agreement is up, and I’ve come up with a few new options.

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    Posted in: Technology

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  3. J.K. Rowling(.com) trips...

    jake on 2005.07.23
    at 12:52 am

    I’m still waiting for my brother to finish his copy of Half Blood Prince, he won’t let me near it till he’s done. In the meantime I’ll give some thoughts on Rowling’s “personal” web site.

    Zeldman has a lovely post about the flash side of JK Rowling’s web site. They just put out a new accessibility add-on to help visitors get around the site. It’s really top notch and I’m a fan of the flash portion of the site.

    The text-only version of the site is not quite so polished. In fact it’s pretty gruesome. It has a small amount of semantics, but no style. It needs a bit more structure. A while ago I started building a proof of concept but never got past the starting HTML. I planned on building a PHP app to grab the content and give it some more structure.

    Of course I’m not interested in getting lawyers sicced on me right now so I’ll just leave it be. At least till I get some inspiration to tackle it again.

    Posted in: Web

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  4. Judge John Roberts

    brian on 2005.07.20
    at 01:05 pm

    Here’s some information on President Bush’s nominee, Judge John Roberts

    • Roberts appears to want to limit the scope of the Endangered Species Act, and in papers he wrote while in law school he supported far-right legal theories about “takings” which would make it almost impossible for the government to enforce most environmental legislation.
    • He opposed clean air rules and worked to help coal companies strip-mine mountaintops.
    • Roberts worked to keep Congress from defending parts of the Voting Rights Act.
    • As a appeals court judge, Roberts ruled that the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to some prisoners of war.
    • Roberts argued that schools should be able to impose religious speech on attendees.
    • Roberts wrote that “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” He also weighed in on behalf of Operation Rescue, a violent anti-abortion group, in a federal case.
    • As a lawyer he argued (and won) the case that stopped some doctors from even discussing abortion.

    If that disturbs you, here’s a petition you can sign to ask your representitives to oppose his nomination as your lifetime proxy on the highest court in the United States. And by the way, since this links to MoveOn.org, just to mention, there’s been some talk that MoveOn is some sort of ultra-leftist organization. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Read their stuff and see if it aligns with your own. Don’t let some talking head on the boob-tube tell you what to think.

    Posted in: Politics · Recent Events

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  5. Guns Germs and Steel

    brian on 2005.07.16
    at 02:40 am

    If I make another PBS post, I may have to start a new category. I really enjoy watching PBS specials, but I get so hot and cold with it. It seems every other month they put on a bunch of shows I want to see… and then the next month it’s all British masterpiece mysteries… ugh.

    I tend to be more interested in their science, anthropology and nature shows. Some good travel and cooking shows, but I don’t TiVO those, just watch them if they’re on.

    Anyhow I enjoyed Jared Diamond’s Guns Germs and Steel. The first of the three episodes is showing this week. Here’s a snippet:

    Based on Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity’s journey over the last 13,000 years – from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

    Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality.

    • Why were Europeans the ones to conquer so much of our planet?
    • Why didn’t the Chinese, or the Inca, become masters of the globe instead?
    • Why did cities first evolve in the Middle East?
    • Why did farming never emerge in Australia?
    • And why are the tropics now the capital of global poverty?

    Go forth and view.

    Posted in: Media · Science · Television

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  6. Nerd TV

    brian on 2005.07.16
    at 02:19 am

    In my previous post I mentioned watching PBS content on their website. This post will be about a much less depressing topic.

    Nerd TV. My favorite general tech pundit, Robert X. Cringely, is going to have an entire series only for viewing online, starting in September.

    Check it out. I’m excited. Now for something completely random:

    I believe RXC is the same person as Food Network’s Alton Brown. All it takes is one great wig. Prove me wrong.

    Posted in: Media · Technology

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  7. Private Warriors

    brian on 2005.07.16
    at 01:54 am

    I just finished watching an episode of PBS’s Frontline called Private Warriors. It details what’s going on with the Pentagon’s use of contractors in its wars.

    The US has traditionally used contractors to ferry cargo across the world to it, or provide provisions, etc. But never has the government used so many contractors in so many positions. In fact, contractors are the second largest force in Iraq.

    There are tens of thousands of contractors in US war zones right now. Many carrying guns. But none of those gun-toting people have accountability outside of being fired. None of them have the intelligence or communications that soldiers in their positions would have. If someone dies, who is responsible when someone dies? Or kills an Iraqi? And if one of those contractors who is doing a very important security detail decides he wants to go home… can. A soldier cannot just decide to leave his watchtower without repercussion.

    Most importantly however, is the fact that an Iraqi doesn’t know who is a US Soldier representing the citizens of the United States… and who is an unaccountable contractor.

    Clearly there is a place for contractors, but perhaps when we take a look at who we have in there and what they’re doing, that maybe we should reconsider exactly what’s going on over there.

    You can go to PBS’s website and watch the entire episode, free. Well, since PBS is partially funded by your tax dollars, you’ve already paid for it. It’s a great resource and I would hope more of their episodes get archived there.

    Come to think of it… since many in the government are trying to cut the funding of PBS, perhaps they’re doing to good of a job. Get this info before they shut ‘em down.

    Posted in: Media · Politics · Recent Events

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  8. Thursday Night at Berkman

    brian on 2005.07.15
    at 01:09 am

    What follows is a first draft of my impressions of going to the Berkman Center Thursday night for their Weblog meetup. This post is subject to change as I am still trying to get my head around some things I want to say… but as someone once said… artists ship…

    This got very long, so I will invoke the rarely used, but exciting, Recently “Excerpt” mechanism…

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    Posted in: Web

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  9. Eject KR

    brian on 2005.07.13
    at 01:58 am

    If you think exposing an undercover CIA agent as political retribution is wrong, or maybe just treasonous, then perhaps you’d like to Fire Karl Rove.

    Personally, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of the unsavory things the current administration participates in as a matter of daily operations. The Bush administration in my opinion makes the Nixon administration look like a pack of Boy Scouts.

    Posted in: Politics

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  10. Watch le Tour

    brian on 2005.07.12
    at 01:40 pm

    Hey, if you’re in the Boston area and have Comcast cable, they’ve added the Outdoor Life Network so that you can watch Le Tour De France. If you’re in Brookline, you’ll find it on channel 62.

    Side note: Dear OLN, why bother having the official American lTdF website if it is going to be so dreadfully slow? You attempts to style and brand the site is one of the reasons your site is so handicapped… you’re sucking bandwidth. Your costs are going up and readership down. I won’t wait a full minute for your site to load through my fast pipe. I’ll get my web coverage from the Tour Blog and ESPN’s Tour Tracker.

    Posted in: Bicycle · Media · Recent Events · Sports · Web

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  11. Chai

    jake on 2005.07.11
    at 07:47 pm

    Well today could have been a lot better. It looks like I’m gonna be drinking a gallon of tea when I get home to relax.

    Naturally this segues easily into Xeni Jardin’s post about chai. She links to Hob Gadling’s complaints of how western culture has screwed up chai.

    The one thing he doesn’t point out is if you go to India and order chai, you are given tea. There’s no vanilla in it or anything. The spices are an accessory. He does give you a method for making the tea, which if you pay attention, does not include anything but black tea. And I quote…

    • Tea-bags (Black tea only, try Brooke Bond Red Label or Brooke Bond Taj Mahal available at your neighborhood Indian store. If you can’t get those, try Twinings English Breakfast)
    • Sugar
    • Water
    • Milk (Vitamin D is the best, you can make do with 1% or 2%.)

    So when you say, “I want a Vanilla Chai,” that’s fine, but if you’re saying, “I’d like some Chai tea,” you’re effectively repeating yourself. Thank you Starbucks

    Posted in: Rant

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  12. Charisma Development

    jake on 2005.07.10
    at 09:40 pm

    The other major link from Tom’s list is an article about research done on charisma. The research found that while charisma has innate qualities you can learn some of the traits that characterize it. I rather enjoyed the thee attributes they list.

    • they feel emotions themselves quite strongly;
    • they induce them in others;
    • and they are impervious to the influences of other charismatic people.

    Apparently if you have charisma you are immune to other charismatic people. I didn’t realize it was some sort of super power. ;)

    I found the article very interesting. But I found the comments a bit disconcerting. Reflecting redundancy and a general lack of understanding.

    Many of them talk about how the research is wrong and charisma cannot be learned. But the article says that not all of the abilities can be taught. It never stated there was going to be an “Idiots guide to… charisma” next year.

    Another weird group of comments was how charisma is a bad trait to possess. It is associated with arrogance and bullsh*tting. This is also a false generalization. While charisma can be used for negative means such as brainwashing people into joining a deadly cult. It also can be used by great men such as Martin Luther King Jr.. to bring about great social change.

    Part of this generalization is Hitler. I wish people would stop using his name so frequently. As seen on The Daily Show politicians use his name to bad mouth everybody they don’t agree with. It is an insult to victims of that monster to throw his name around with such loose tongues. Not to mention the fact that Hitler leaned on the tool of fear much stronger than his ability to sway people with charisma.

    It’s amazing how an interesting article can be butchered so harshly in the comments. Especially with the assumptions that you have to be cocky to be charismatic. The article even says to, “Let people know they matter and you enjoy being around them…” That doesn’t sound like someone who’s arrogant and constantly the center of attention.

    What are your thoughts on charisma?

    Posted in: Science

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  13. How to game Google.

    jake on 2005.07.10
    at 08:16 pm

    It's not what you think...

    Not a very busy day around here. I went and saw Fantastic Four, definitely a good superhero movie. Batman edges them out but mostly for it’s beautiful style.

    Tom’s linkdump from today has a lot of good content. I’m going to try and separate my thoughts on each one.

    The first is a page of pointers on how to get high Google rankings. SEO is a tricky thing. At least it seems like it is. In reality it’s pretty simple.

    • Step One: Have quality content. – No matter how much you try and push your content to the top if it’s all fluff to game the system it won’t matter.
    • Step Two: Don’t try to cheat. – It seems the biggest reason to game the system without content is to continually game the system in the future. Without content you’re in an arms race with Google. And they’ll win, by removing you and affiliated sites from their database.
    • Step Three: Build with structure and clean code. –┬áBy using good code and building with structure you are giving Google more to work with. The more junk, the less useful it is for their Googlebot.
    • Step Four: Don’t forget the technical. – While having good content and structuring it is the most important. It helps a great deal to also do the little technical parts too. Don’t use long urls with twenty variables. Keep it simple. Also using robots.txt can help too. For telling what Google to grab, and what not to. I also didn’t know that using “?id=” in your urls actually tells Google to ignore your pages.

    Finally I’ll leave you with a quote that hits close to home. I get regular calls at work asking if I’d like to pay someone to optimize our site.

    Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

    Posted in: Web

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  14. Citizens Respond to London Attacks

    brian on 2005.07.07
    at 01:41 pm

    In light of this morning’s bombing attacks in London, you may be interested in the web community’s reaction, and one place to look would be on Flickr. There is a London Bomb Blasts group with (at this moment) 200 pictures.

    It kinda sucks that a good number of the pics are TV captures and web page screen shots. But it’s the in-betweens that are golden citizen photographic journalism.

    One interesting pic that is a screen shot is this one

    Well, the picture is uninteresting, other than the BBC site is swamped… but the comments are cool… BBC employees are responding to the picture, and commenting on server load.

    You’re not going to get this on TV, radio or in newspapers.

    Update: See also WikiNews and WikiPedia for more outstanding citizen-based reporting.

    Posted in: Media · Photography · Recent Events · Web

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  15. Live 8, Uwe Boll needs a new job

    jake on 2005.07.05
    at 07:24 pm

    There were a couple things I wanted to actually post about, but I’m distracted at work and can’t get my brain around them. I’ll just leave you with a handful of links to peruse.

    • Andy Budd has a Live 8 Funometer – I was busy with my bros’ (yes that’s plural) graduation parties so I missed it on TV. Though from what I understand, MTV really stunk with their coverage, filling it with ads and commentary instead of listening to the music. Hell, they probably sent some group of morons to the show and it’ll be some new reality series in a few weeks.
    • Uwe Boll has been killing movies for a while now, sign this petition to stop him. Too bad it’s not that easy.
    • Jason Kottke really gets around.

    Posted in: Movies · Music · Web

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  16. iPod vs the World

    brian on 2005.07.03
    at 04:08 am

    As a follow up to Jake’s post about the Zen Micro I’d like to point our readers to this story by my favorite technology pundit, John Gruber, entitled “Shuffling” If you want to cut to the chase, skip down to the paragraphs that start with the heading “Simplification.”

    I imagine the engineers at Creative banging their heads against whiteboards listing all the features they offer that Apple doesn’t, while Apple’s market share continues to rise. It’s a cop-out to chalk this up to “marketing”, however.

    This is the major reason behind the iPod’s success: not because it has a lot of buttons, but because it only has a few, and they feel good when you press them.

    It’s not the feature set, or the wiz-bang. It’s the experience, it’s the whole, not the parts.

    (Sorry, couldn’t leave this alone ;-)

    Posted in: Apple · Music · Technology

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  17. Live 8 Lives on via iTunes

    brian on 2005.07.03
    at 03:45 am

    Only an hour or so into today’s mammoth Live 8 concert, iTunes was posting the Live 8 concert footage, ready for purchase, track by track with all proceeds going towards the Live 8 causes. [ITMS]

    Excellent.

    This is absolutely incredible. The DVD will be out in November but the songs are ready to download within hours of their performance. Does anyone doubt this is the future of music distribution?

    Anyone else think maybe AOL should have harnessed their Apple + iTunes connections and perhaps but Apple in charge of all the digital media for today’s event? But I digress…

    Posted in: Apple · Music · Politics

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  18. Live 8 is Over.

    brian on 2005.07.03
    at 03:25 am

    I worked today so I had to TiVO the event, and from what I hear, MTV made a commercialized mess of things.

    “The World’s economic model is strangling the poor, now here’s a message from Wal-Mart, sponsored by Viacom.”

    That aside, MTV does deserve some credit when it brings important issues to young people, but man, commercials during a charity concert to help solve African debt seems inappropriate and ironic. This says to the world, “Hi, we’re America and we don’t get it.” I’m pretty sure they didn’t interrupt Farm Aid with commercials.

    When I got in late last night, I pulled up the portion of the concert where the Dave Matthews Band played their set and managed to find two songs. One song they were interviewing some teenaged girls instead of listening to the music. Ugh. I suppose MTV hasn’t been about music in years…

    That said, if you missed it, or if you, like me saw/will see the MTV commercialized and filtered version, you’re in luck.

    AOL will be showing the concerts via its AOL Music OnDemand website for the next 6 weeks. CMT and VH1 Classic will air concert highlights the Sunday featuring artists geared to their audiences. Also, a DVD will be made available from the concerts in November tailored to each country. (hat tip)

    Right now, AOL is looping the rebroadcast, so that means you’ll tune into a streaming Windows Media feed, if you can get a feed working at all. This morning I tuned in to a stream using Safari, but later in the day they were saying Safari was “unavailable” but that I should use Firefox. Except Firefox didn’t work either. During my break at work, we had to Apple technicians trying to tune into the feed with no success. If we couldn’t connect, then we’re guessing pretty much no Mac user was using that feed at the time.

    Things are not without hope however. They also state “Enjoy the looping broadcast of the concert. Come back soon to watch the entire show, song by song, on demand.” Which means, if it’s like the current one-song video of Paul McCartney and U2 performing Sgt. Pepper, then we’ll be in luck: that video was presented in stunning high quality QuickTime. The whole damn thing should have been an MPEG4 stream that anyone could have enjoyed without having to hop through Windows Media hoops. Of course, AOL’s Live 8 streaming today was sponsored by… surprise, surprise… Microsoft Windows…

    Posted in: Music · Politics

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  19. Live 8 today

    brian on 2005.07.02
    at 02:58 pm

    Live 8 is today. You can watch any of the worldwide concerts online at AOLMusic or MTV and VH1 will be broadcasting a mash up from 12noon till 8pm (EST).

    While enjoying the music, please add your name to the list on Live8Live.com and visit the ONE Campaign online and sign the declaration.

    Posted in: Music · Politics

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