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Wednesday, February 28, 2001

A (not-very) short story. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but I figured I'd post it because I spent all this time reading it and because it has lots of cool mysterious and cryptic happenings set in Philadelphia. The first chapter deals with a kid who works for a Keyser Soze-like mastermind. Very eerie. The last two chapters shift focus to a medical examiner with a penchant for the works of Edgar Allan Poe. He has a run in with said mastermind. Interesting, but the ending is a bit of a letdown (its certainly not Poe).
Posted by Mark on February 28, 2001 at 08:50 AM .: link :.

Thursday, February 22, 2001

Trapped Inside the Box
In yesterday's exercise, we saw that thinking outside the box was important, but that certainly doesn't mean thinking inside the box isn't important. It is often useful to quickly classify someone or something based on a small set of criteria which may or may not give an accurate description of said person. Its very similar to the information filtering Umberto Eco spoke about in that interview I posted a while back. In certain situations, we absolutely must revert to simple mental models just to filter all the information coming in to us. It doesn't matter how imperfect that filter is, we just need something or else we won't accomplish anything. I'm also fascinated by the ingenuity of people who are forced to think within a box (and the ways they work around it). My favourite example is Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where those orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence except where such protection would conflict with the First and Second Law.
In Asimov's Robot Novels, he figured out all sorts of clever ways to work around those rules he created. In pushing the limits of the 3 Laws, Asimov was not only working within a box, but also making it an enjoyable experience for the reader. Of course, later in the series, Asimov begins to think outside the box and expands his scope a little, but that doesn't make his 3 Laws obsolete, just more impressive.
Posted by Mark on February 22, 2001 at 06:12 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Thinking Outside of the Pie
A simple exercise:
The circle to the right represents a pie. Your goal is to cut this pie into 8 pieces using only three lines. Have at it!.

Solution (swipe text below):
The trick to figuring this out is thinking three-dimensionally. First, quarter the circle with two lines (or slices, if you will). Then remember that there is a third dimension that cannot be seen in the picture. If you were to cut along that axis, you would have 8 pieces of pie!
Posted by Mark on February 21, 2001 at 06:30 PM .: link :.

Sunday, February 18, 2001

Better Living
DyREnet has some useful tips for better living. Samæl's extremely happy with his new Houseplant, while Spencer was let down by her Papermate-Comfort Mate, medium ball, black ink, click-action, writing pen after years of support. DyREnet also has some new and spiffy random taglines. Some of my favourites include: "Still legal in sixteen states.", "no Subliminal mEssages eXistant here", "We're not quite the downfall of man, but we're trying.", and "The masses have spoken; we just didn't listen." Keep it up, DyRE, and I'll have to kill you.

Uh, well, maybe not.
Posted by Mark on February 18, 2001 at 08:43 PM .: link :.

Monday, February 12, 2001

The Publius Enigma
Fans of Pink Floyd may remember a minor controversy following the release of The Division Bell. Someone with the handle "Publius" (Latin for "unknown" or "anonymous") posted a series of cryptic messages to a Pink Floyd newsgroup. He claimed to be a messenger sent to guide Floyd fans through an 'Enigma' burried deep within the pictures, words and music of the album. He promised a singular reward for those who figured it out. Naturally, fans were skeptical, so Publius attempted to prove that he was somehow related to Floyd by making an appearance in the lights at a Floyd concert and in a mini-CD booklet. The Enigma was never publically solved, but a tremendous amount of speculation has led to a plethora of well researched and detailed information and theories. Whether or not its true, it makes for some interesting reading (I just love how cryptic and puzzling the original posts are). Its amazing what a bunch of stoners and a lot of time can do...
Posted by Mark on February 12, 2001 at 12:42 PM .: link :.

Sunday, February 11, 2001

Ay Caramba
Hey, look! The media is finally brave enough to say what everyone's been saying for a year! Should The Simpsons be cancelled? Its true, The Simpsons has shown a monumental decline in creativity and humor during the past few years. Though it still offers occasional sparks of brilliance, the quality of the shows have declined steadily. While I admit those points, theres a part of me that hopes for a fresh infusion of humor sometime soon, but that could just be another manifestation of my naive optimism. Regardless, I'll still watch until it dies, though I hope it dies with dignity. Futurama (that show by Simpson's creator Matt Groening) shows much promise as well... [from camworld]
Posted by Mark on February 11, 2001 at 09:45 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, February 07, 2001

The art of being boring
Stories, whether they are fiction or non-fiction, need some structure to them. Relating this to weblogs (and its illegitimate sibling, personal journals and diaries), I wonder what kind of structure is needed? My life is boring enough, I don't need to hear about your boring day too. What is needed is a narrative flare; something that gives your daily events a fictional edge. Most weblogs I see are so disjointed and detached that I simply can't stand it. Even if nothing fascinating happens, it shouldn't matter. A good writer will shape seemingly separate and mundane events into a riveting narrative. I am not a good writer, so I end up pulling quotes like this:
"Writing that is ´┐Żordinary´┐Ż must be more than a mirror; it must also be a pool, deep beneath its shimmering surface. Seeming simplicity is an exacting art..."
There are some people who have the talent to make the boring events of daily life interesting, and I envy those people. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a unique perspective either. Torrez provides both a novel approach to life and that ability to make everyday events exciting. I've recently discovered some other sites that are so well written that its almost discouraging. So for now, I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing and hope I can connect. Maybe I'll even shape this monster into a narrative...
Posted by Mark on February 07, 2001 at 11:32 PM .: link :.

Monday, February 05, 2001

Death of a Community
I can't help but think of the ramifications of the Pyra beakup. Most of the Pyra crew have written about their experiences, and it makes for interesting reading: Matt wrote an article in VH1 Behind the Music mode; Jack Saturn and Meg Hourihan had more heartfelt sentiments. Jack had some interesting things to say; he likened the experience to being in a band that broke up. I agree;Blogger will never be the same. I'm sure Ev will be able to keep things afloat, and maybe even turn a profit once he starts charging for his hard work(Blogger Pro?). Blogger is a great product, and its a terrible shame to have lost such a great team.

On a lighter note, the first issue of Weblog Clinic has been released and I must say that I found it interesting, despite the fact that they had very little advice on weblogging.

Are Users Stupid? Maybe. Does it really matter? If you are selling something, stupid people should be your target audience, since only stupid people buy half the shit thats being sold these days. Personally, I rarely stick around a site long enough to learn the subtleties of its idiosyncratic design, especially if I'm trying to buy something. Jacob's law still holds true "Users spend most of their time on other sites."
Posted by Mark on February 05, 2001 at 01:15 PM .: link :.

Friday, February 02, 2001

Pulp Non-Fiction
Blood Lust Snicker Snicker in Wide Screen: Dennis Hopper interviews Quentin Tarantino while he was editing Pulp Fiction. It really doesn't seem like an interview; its more like two guys just chatting. Maybe its just Tarantino being garrulous, but I wish more interviews would turn out like that.
Posted by Mark on February 02, 2001 at 01:32 PM .: link :.

Thursday, February 01, 2001

1000 Journals
The1000journalproject is an independent, privately funded social experiment. They are attempting to follow 1000 journals throughout their travels, to see where they go, who adds to them, and what happens after that. They've dropped them off all over the world, and its actually fascinating reading (even though not much info has trickled back to them). One of those ideas I wish I thought of...
Posted by Mark on February 01, 2001 at 09:04 AM .: link :.

There Can Be Only One
Well, shit. According to this article on evhead Blogger no longer has much support from, well, anybody but Ev. Everyone at Pyra was actually laid off back in December but stayed on out of hope and faith. Apparently things have fallen through and since people have to eat, they've finally parted ways. I guess I'll just have to investigate Greymatter and hope Blogger will last for a little bit longer. I think its a shame, but it really doesn't come as much of a suprise. You really can't have 80,000 users of your software, charge nothing, and expect to make money. Hopefully Ev can get his act together and, as he cryptically mentioned at the end of his article, take it to the next level (making it...profound?).
Posted by Mark on February 01, 2001 at 08:53 AM .: link :.

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